Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne have been farming their yard in Los Angeles for over a decade. In addition to a mini orchard and extensive veggie garden, they have all the instruments of an urban homestead: chickens, bees, rainwater capture, DIY greywater, solar fruit preserver, humanure toilet, rocket stove, adobe oven. But they don’t like to talk about sustainability of self-sufficiency, instead they prefer the term self-reliance.
“I don’t like the goal of self-sufficiency, I think it’s a fool’s errand to chase that goal,” explains Knutzen. “I think we live in communities, human beings are meant to live, and trade and work together. I think self-reliance is okay, in other words, knowing how to do things.”
Knutzen and Coyne share their tinkering, DIY and small scale urban agriculture experiments on their blog Root Simple and in their books “The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City” and “Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post Consumer World”. They believe in the value of shop classes and old-school home economics (back when you learned how to make things, not shop for things).
For the couple, their true goal with all of this self-reliance is freedom to live as they please. By growing their own and canning, pickling, preserving, freezing and baking their own breads and beans, they live frugally. They also only own one car (plus a cargo bike), one cellphone and no tv. “I think a lot of it has to do with our overdriving ambition to be free,” explains Coyne, “makes being cheap fun, because it means you can be free”.