Institute of Urban Homesteading
January 2017

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Happy New Year from frosty Oregon. It is really winter here, with temperatures below freezing on a regular basis, and as of this morning, snow, even here in the river basin. It has been a record year for precipitation here in Southern Oregon and we now know where the many low spots are on our land. Our pond is tripled in size and currently home to flocks of Canadian Geese. Being a Bay Area kid and having lived in the moderate coastal climate most of my life, thinking about pipes freezing, plants surviving and frozen critter water bottles is not something I have ever had to worry about….

It has snowed in the mountains around us several time already this season, but today, Jan 1 2017 we have our first snow here in the river basin

snow on our propagation pots

We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy (on living and learning curves)
The last month has been nothing but humbling as the fog of excitement has cleared into the reality of stewarding land. While on the surface everything was quite shiny, the folks before us did everything at half mast, the cheapest fencing (4.5 foot T-posts for a 4 foot fence, really?), a tin roof improperly attached so that every nail hole leaks in a storm, a crazy maze of unusable irrigation line….and that is the short list. Shopping for good land is difficult (should you ever attempt it) as real estate listings rarely talk about water, soil, fencing or any real land issues and the good properties go too fast for real due diligence. I have learned that while water rights are fabulous, they are not much good if you have no functional way to use your water. Our water is pumped from the river, almost a mile away and flows through a dirt ditch, taking two hours to get here. The previous owners used a low tech system of cinder blocks and plastic garbage bags to flood irrigate about 1/4 of the pasture and fill the pond. But the pond pump is only barely sufficient for the acre of lawn right around the house, so what do we do with the other 15 acres? We are living and learning as we go, and this over achiever is trying to slow down and appreciate what there is to celebrate: the critters are healthy and happy, the wood stove works great and the house is well insulated. Taxes are low, local raw goat milk is only $8 a gallon, and manure is free for the work of shoveling it. May your 2017 be fertile with a living learning curve and lots of good compost!

lowland swamp

IUH News— Website, Spring Schedule & Transitions Update
There has been a short delay development of our new website and the release of the Spring schedule as Ms Becca has had to move digs. After learning there was no way around a steep rent increase on her North Oakland digs, she jumped on a special opportunity to steward and develop a large urban lot in East Oakland. This triple sized lot begs for urban farming and will be the new home base for IUH classes. The Spring calendar should be posted by the end of January, and classes will start the end of February. We’ll send an announcement when all that is available. Our wonderful new admin director Becca Wetherby, a wonderful and skilled homesteader will be taking over teaching some of our core curriculum including topics in gardening, heirloom kitchen skills and urban animal husbandry. She will be communicating with you through a new mail program and email address as well. I will be moving my communication to a blog format and will let you know when that happens in case you would no longer like to receive my posts.

January Class Offering ~ Fermentation:The Works
I am coming down to the Bay Area the third weekend in January for the scion exchange and will be offering this class while I am there. Please join me as this may be the last time I teach this class in the Bay Area! I will however be back one weekend a month in the first half of 2017 to offer some of my popular classes. Register at

Brain in the Roots
January is time for the garden to rest, to put it’s “brain” into the roots and gather energy for the coming growing year. For us people, who have a hard time stopping to rest, January is a great time to research plant varieties, mark up seed catalogs, read about different fruits and berries to see which ones thrive in our region. It is the time to make maps of the garden and think about what to plant where, to juggle things around from last year and to plan for improvements. And it is time to rest, consider and cogitate. At IUH it has traditionally be a time to plan and work on infrastructure, to consider what worked well in the past year and plan for an exciting new season of classes! We’ll be back in touch soon with that!

Outsider Art? Irrigation Insulation? Creative Reuse? Or All of Above?

Using bubblewrap left over from moving, some of the copius single use plastic bags that grocery clerks push on us here, burlap and bailing twine we have creatively wrapped the janky irrigation pipes.