Hipster Homesteaders Year One in Review – Getting Started

We founded Hipster Homesteaders in late 2021 to chronicle our somewhat different approach to urban homesteading on our ~0.13 acre lot in Pittsburgh. 

Our goal here is not to be 100% self-reliant on food grown in our yard, but rather to maximize our urban gardening as best we can while supplementing it with local produce (via CSAs), local meats (via area farmers), and cutting out intermediaries when supporting other non-local businesses (such as buying seafood direct from fishermen in Alaska over factory farmed products in the grocery store). 

Now that we are winding down our first proper season after launching this site, we thought we'd review everything we have added to our homestead in the past year!

What Was Existing at The Start of This Project

Figs on Fig Tree

When we began Hipster Homesteaders in late 2020, the garden side of this project was mostly the existing containers on our deck (for produce like tomatoes, herbs, peppers, and cucumbers), three fig trees planted on the upper level of our hill (one one-year-old tree and two cuttings rooted in the fall), and a few young raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry plants as well.

In our kitchen, we had a wide array of unique tech like sous vide and coffee roasting equipment, plus more conventional tools like water bath canning equipment, pressure canning equipment, a dehydrator, and other preservation tools. We also had one indoor grow light to start vegetables from seed which we acquired at the start of the pandemic to build a garden without having to venture out to nearby nurseries. 

In our first full year, we went a bit crazy to expand our gardening capacity and some fun new indoor tools worth discussing.

What We Acquired for Our Homestead in Year One

Container Garden

On the container garden side, we expanded with one new raised bed planter on the staircase on the side of our house for carrots and root vegetables and a smaller raised bed planter on our deck for cucumbers. Our capacity increased by about 10 square feet up to a total measurable container garden space of about 50 square feet.

In addition to annual container gardening, we added a few fruit trees and plants that are permanently container bound and brought indoors for half the year. These include a key lime tree, a Meyer lemon tree, and a passionfruit vine.

Black Raspberry Vines

On the hillside garden side, we tested direct plantings of melons and onions (which animals mostly ate as I did not protect them well enough), planted three more blackberry and six more raspberry bushes from wild cuttings, five grape vines from cuttings, planted ~100 ramp bulbs, acquired roughly 10 rooted black raspberry bushes, two blueberry bushes, one kiwi vine, two more fig trees, one peach tree from stored seed, two pawpaw trees from stored seed and one purchased, one cherry tree from seed, and one unknown tree (likely apricot) from seed as well.

We also expanded our capacity to grow from seed with the addition of another modular grow light as well as clip-on grow lights for larger plants outside of these racks.

Our first batch of strawberries came in, and we were fortunate enough to get well over 100 berries over the season. The strawberries sent out a ton of runners as well to double our patch size and we successfully transplanted a dozen or so to be cover crop for our fig trees (which only produced a couple ripe figs this year).

Rain Barrel

On the infrastructure side, we also added a composter and rain barrel as well. Reducing waste and water consumption for the win!

Honey Frame

We also received a permit for beehives this year, and installed two of four hives that we are allowed to have. This one has been a fun learning curve despite one hive failing and the other being so successful that we produced just over six pounds of honey for the year!

Next year we intend to add two more hives to get up to full capacity and start our push towards 300-400 lbs of honey a year.

Sparkling Water Maker

On the kitchen side, we did not add too much to our homestead this year if only because we already own most of the tech we want. The only notable addition was a sparkling water maker and a kioke for fermentation.

That being said, we are in the process of preparing for a full kitchen remodel which we will then (hopefully) have more room to acquire some much-desired products next season!

Phew, what a year!

A Running Inventory of Our Homestead to Date

Strawberry Cuttings

To date, our homestead has the following plants and other food-producing items. Some of these are producing fruit and others are still growing for future production:

  • Container Garden: 50 square feet
  • Two (2) beehives
  • One (1) Meyer Lemon tree (container)
  • One (1) Key Lime tree (container)
  • One (1) Passionfruit vine (container)
  • Five (5) Fig trees
  • Three (3) Pawpaw trees
  • One (1) Cherry tree
  • One (1) Peach tree
  • One (1) Apricot tree – likely, exact fruit not known
  • 100 ramp bulbs
  • ~50 strawberry plants
  • Four (4) blackberry vines
  • Six (6) raspberry vines
  • Ten (10) black raspberry vines
  • Two (2) blueberry bushes
  • One (1) male kiwi plant

What We Hope to Achieve in Year Two

Apiary at Home

While it would be my dream to fully terrace the rest of our ~4,000 square foot hillside in 2023, which is primarily covered in knotweed, it does not seem like that is going to be feasible for the time being.

Instead, we'll focus on some modest expansion plans in our hillside and container gardens if only because most of our money will be going into the full kitchen renovation as previously mentioned. (So step one, finish kitchen renovation.)

Ideally, we will be adding one or two more raised bed containers on the steps at the side of our house for more plants and building two in-ground planters out of cinderblocks to increase our available gardening area by another 70-80 square feet (more than doubling our capacity). Likewise, we will be adding two more beehives in our apiary to increase our production from there as well.

I'll likely try to propagate more berry cuttings from wild bushes to fill in some of the gaps in and around our deck (worst case buying more vines if that doesn't work), buying two female kiwi plants to go with the male that I acquired this fall (they were out of stock at the time), possibly planting three or four more grape vines from local cuttings if they survive winter, and I hope to grow five or six kinds of hops up our deck to eventually brew beer with. We will then take inventory of what fruit tree seeds germinate and maybe get one or two more in the ground with the last bit of space we have before the hill begins to at least give those a fighting chance to start producing fruit in the next three to five years.

Inside we are going to wait until our kitchen renovation is finished before thinking of any new equipment simply because we don't have a great understanding of how much extra space we'll have available. If we can pick up a few more kiokes and another level for our grow light setup we'd be pretty pleased there. Likewise, I have dreams of buying a few more tropical plants to have in permanent containers (avocado and mango in particular), but I need to see how well the existing plants survive indoors during winter before committing on that end.

Overall, I don't expect too much on the harvest side of things for 2023 as most of our plants are quite young, but if we can get an appreciable harvest of strawberries, black raspberries, figs, honey, and a few citrus fruits beyond our conventional annual gardening plans, I'll call that a win!

What do you think we should add to our homestead in year two? Comment below to share!

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