Just for the record, I rely heavily on others.

I don’t grow my own food; I buy it at my local grocery store and at the occasional farmers’ market. I tackle light DIY projects around my apartment but I’m mostly allergic to toolboxes and prone to calling my super. And although I try to live the lowest impact life as possible and maintain a low carbon footprint as a city dweller, I’m totally on the grid.

This is why I'm fascinated by modern homesteaders. These self-reliant pioneers take the DIY mentality and stretch it as far as their living situations will allow whether it’s raising backyard chickens or completely unplugging from the grid and living a pared down existence. There’s something fearlessly old-fashioned about modern homesteading that I find refreshing. I’m also a bit jealous. Sometimes I wish I could find a plot of land to call my own and turn down (or completely off) the buzz of modern life. 

This isn't going to happen anytime soon which is why I’m thankful for all the current reportage on the modern homesteading movement, particular when it's about going back-to-the-land in urban areas. In October's Popular Mechanics, “The Self-Reliance Issue,” there’s an excellent article by James Vlahos that profiles three average citizens that may appear to be just like you and me but when they go home they do things like go hooky bobbing, harvest honey, or scoop llama poop. 

The three off-the-gridders profiled by Vlahos live vastly different lives in vastly different places but with each the bottom line is self-sufficiency and sustainability: Urban blight goes bucolic at Novella Carpenter’s vibrant organic farm in a rough section of Oakland; Tierra Hodge calls a community of rural homesteads in Surprise Valley, California, home, an area that the author describes as “replete with mud, solar panels, semi-clothed children, and chickens;” Architect Thomas Beck lives in the lap of low-impact luxury in a massive Colorado spread that’s nearly completely powered by the sun and the wind – propane is the only utility that he pays for.

It’s fascinating stuff and worth a look. If feeling inspired after reading about the lives and homes of these exceptional folks, check out the below items that aspiring urban homesteaders and Thoreau junkies, particularly those in urban and suburban areas, might find handy. And even if you're not looking to go off the grid, isn't it time you invested in a triangular dinner bell?

Canning Set @ Target ($49.99)

Ergonomic Trowel @ Clean Air Gardening ($17.99)

Shaker Style Pine Bucket @ Cumberland General Store ($52.95)

Camo Tool Box @ Alice Supply Co. ($60)

Rome Chuck Wagon Triangle @ Homesteader's Supply ($21)

Worm Factory Home Composter @ Gaiam($109)

Solar LED Flashlight @ Lehman's ($49.95)

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2010 Classic Edition @ Almanac.com ($5.99)

Eglu Chicken House @ Omlet USA ($495 w/out chickens, $530 w/ 2 chickens)

Foxgloves Original Garden Gloves @ Foxgloves ($20)

Photos: Dustpanalley

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Going (home)steady
Popular Mechanics explores DIY at its most autonomous and agrarian: Modern homesteading. Plus, 10 homesteading must-haves.