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Loving the ‘City’ in ‘City Homesteading’

Goshen Indiana is a small midwestern city – a town really compared to the cities I lived in before. But it was my “city” for quite a number of years.

Now I find myself living in much more of a city with a much larger population, though, by many standards, Albuquerque is still considered a small city.

I’m feeling quite at home. This feels like a very familiar setting – a third floor apartment near downtown, within walking distance to stores, brewpubs, restaurants, coffee shops, two branch libraries, and on a major bus route.

Though I can no longer consider myself a “city homesteader”, since I have no homestead anymore, I still love living in the city.

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‘Cause you belong to the cityYou belong to the nightliving in a river of darkness,beneath the neon light You were born in the city Concrete under your feet It’s in your blood, it’s in your moves You’re a man of the street, Glenn Frey

On my profile description, I say that I dream of one day having a five-acre sustainable farm. While that is true, I must admit that I love living in a city.

I’m a child of the city. I grew up in a suburb that was just across the western border of Chicago. I spent countless hours and days with my family in the city: traveling to downtown on what is now the blue line, shopping in downtown Chicago, seeing the Christmas window displays every year, visiting museums, going to the eye doctor on a school day morning and then having lunch and spending the afternoon at Marshall Field’s with my mum.

After college, I studied in New York City for a year, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I loved the ceaseless activity in my neighborhood, including the fruit and vegetable open–air markets that were selling produce all day and all night. I loved walking from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side on a Sunday to visit all the vendors that were selling their wares.

I loved being able to travel by bus or by subway just about anywhere that I wanted to go. I snacked on typical New-York-style thin-crust pizza while walking down the sidewalk and bought hot roasted chestnuts from street carts on cold winter days.

Then I moved to Evanston, just north of Chicago, and rediscovered Chicago as an adult, going to places that I had never been to before. My first job after graduate school was in downtown Chicago, working at an options trading company.  Every lunch hour, I would quickly eat my lunch and then go outside for a walk in the Lower Loop to window shop and people watch. I loved being able to easily live without a car; I commuted to work by train (the “L”) and walked to neighborhood grocery stores.

My next job took me to Seattle, where, once again I lived in an apartment in the city. Again, everything was relatively close or easy to get to using public transportation. Work was about three miles away, but I had a lot of options for how to get there: usually I rode my bicycle, sometimes I walked, and, if I was feeling tired, I could take a bus. There was a grocery store just a few blocks away that Pete and I always walked to, packing our groceries in the shopping cart I purchased in New York City. Downtown Seattle and Pike Place Market were just down the hill from where we lived, a little over a mile away.

In 1998, we moved from Seattle to the “city” of Goshen. I must admit, after living in large cities, Goshen seemed more like a small town to me, rather than a city. We looked at houses and property out in the country, but ultimately chose to live in town. The main reason for choosing to live in town had to to with reducing our carbon footprint. After living in cities where I either did not have a car, or chose not to use a car for daily activities, I had no desire to live someplace where I had to drive to work.

And I have no regrets about choosing to live in the city. I can walk, or ride my bicycle, to work, to church, to the library, to downtown, where I can go shopping, for clothes, shoes, hardware, books, groceries, bread and fresh produce. Downtown also has many  places where I can gather with friends, over a meal, for coffee or ice cream, to play trivia at my favorite bar, to listen to live music. First Fridays brings a hubbub of activity and plenty of opportunities to window shop and people watch.

It is great to live in a city, even a small city like Goshen. I am fortunate to have the conveniences of city living, with almost all my activities within walking distance of my house, and still have a large enough space where I can do some pretty good gardening and grow my own food.

Maybe that five-acre farm will never come to be. It is more likely that I will eventually end up in a large city again. But that’s quite all right. For now I can have the best of both worlds. And that makes me happy.

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