Ralph Waldo Emerson may have written the book on self-reliance, but Sarah Sailer lives it. The 37-year-old Loveland mother of four began subscribing to the idea of urban homesteading—a philosophy that celebrates becoming more independent via organic gardening, canning food, and raising livestock—almost four years ago in part as an attempt to reduce her grocery bill. Now Sailer’s backyard is filled with chickens, rabbits, and an array of fruits and vegetables, and she visits a grocery store once a month at most, spending half of what she used to—a fact that helped earn her a nod as 2014’s Mother Earth News Homesteader of the Year. Get your start on becoming self-reliant with these urban homesteading tips from Sailer. thriftygoodlife.com

Plant one thing you love
Find a sunny spot, prepare the soil, and plant something. Start by planting one or two foods—and pick something you’ll actually eat. When the crop comes in, have a grown-from-my-garden feast with friends and family.

Clip ‘n’ Save
Put grass clippings, leaves, and food leftovers in a pile or circular tube made of chicken wire. Wait a month or two, and then mix the decomposed material with your garden soil.

Mulch, mulch, mulch
Always cover your soil with a protective layer of material—leaves, straw, or wood chips from a local arborist. It creates nutrients, maintains soil moisture, and helps keep weeds at bay.

Consider chickens
Chickens will eat your extra garden waste and turn it into manure for your compost pile. They also help till your soil in the fall and provide fresh eggs. In Denver, city ordinances allow residents to keep up to eight chickens.

Save for later
Preserve your harvest by canning excess tomatoes or fruit and blanching and freezing string beans or corn. Follow recipes closely to prevent contamination. For that, Sailer recommends The Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book.

Study Session

Learn more about urban homesteading and view demonstration gardens at the NoCo Urban Homestead Tour on September 20, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. fcgov.com/gardens