I’ve written here about my plan to start urban homesteading at my San Francisco home. I’ve got an ad running now on Craigslist.org, and I’ve met some fascinating people who’ve responded. Since the ad will come down once the house if full, and since I’m proud of the ad, I’m posting it here for posterity, and to make it easy to find the next time there’s a vacancy. Here’s the ad, in its entirety. Note that on Craigslist the pictures are located at the bottom, and are small. For this post, I interspersed the photos with the text, and made them larger.
I started shopping at Rainbow Grocery on Folsom Street around the start of this year. Rainbow is an entirely organic, vegetarian coop, and it changed my life. I’ve lost 30 pounds without trying, and am back to the weight I was in college.
I started on this path after reading Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, the famed New York Times writer turned author. This book changed my life more than any other book, as it changed how I eat and how I feel, as a result of eating better. I’ve gone on to read lots more books about sustainable, healthy eating and living, including Farm City, by Noella Carpenter. She used the vacant lot behind her gritty Oakland apartment to start a community vegetable garden. Eventually, she began raising ducks, chickens and even two full size pigs. The book is fascinating and heartwarming and really moving.
That leads me to this advertisement. I want to turn my huge backyard (nearly a quarter city block in size) into a city oasis of farming. My backyard is on a South facing hill near UCSF and Golden Gate Park, so it’s in the path of sunlight all day. It’s already partly terraced. Here’s what I envision:
Renting out my three spare bedrooms to people interested in making an inviting home that takes daily advantage of the bounty I’m confident my yard can produce. I want to try my hand at so-called ‘urban homesteading’, but I don’t want to do it by myself. So I’m looking for likeminded people to participate.
I’m a good cook too, and love having dinner parties. I’m hoping that once I put this household together that we have group roommate dinners a couple of days a week, with everyone pitching in to make them fun.
Here’s a list of what I hope to have us do together in the big backyard:
1. Grow vegetables and fruit trees in the dirt
2. Set up a green house and practice so-called ‘aquaponics’ which is where fish and vegetables are grown in close symbiosis. A tank of fish contains a lot of fish poop, and the tank water is used to flood a grow bed of vegetables mounted over the tank. The roots of the vegetables draw up the fish poop and cleanse the water in the process. The newly clean water is released back into the fish tank, in a cycle that repeats 24 hours a day via a pump and timer. The vegetables grow 600% faster than in dirt, and the fish grow 200% faster than in the wild. Both the fish and the vegetables can be consumed. There are few weeds to deal with as the vegetables grow in a gravel base, not dirt, so there are no stray weed seeds in the soil to contend with. The fish are safer than wild fish since there is less chance of them encountering pollution. I have the equipment to set this up, but it’s not set up yet, so I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve read enough about it that I’m convinced it will work. High end restaurants in New York City get their produce from barges on the Hudson Bay that grow on board using aquaponics. The technology dates back thousands of years I’ve read.
3. Raise chickens.
4. Raise ducks.
5. Raise and milk two miniature dairy goats. Goat milk tastes better than cow’s milk, but at $16 a gallon at Rainbow Grocery, it’s too expensive for daily drinking. Having my own goats will help solve that problem.
I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t buy industrial meat. I shop at a local butcher shop and eat only grass-fed beef and well treated chickens. Yes, this costs twice as much as industrial meat, at a minimum, but the taste is better and I feel much better about it. Micheal Pollan’s description of what happens to industrially raised livestock is so disturbing that I haven’t bought any industrial meat at a grocery store since I read his book.
My last three housemates, who just moved out, were all vegetarians, so I don’t object to vegetarian housemates at all. I eat little meat, just a few ounces per main dish. I definitely don’t cook steaks or ribs or hamburgers. I do put meat in the great Chinese and Indian dishes I cook up. I’m a good vegetarian cook as well, since I did the cooking for the household group meals we have had here.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what the rooms for rent are like. The smallest room is 10’ x 11’ and I’m asking $775/mo. The middle sized room is 10’ x 12’ and I’m asking $825/mo. The master bedroom is 11’ x 15’ and has its own full bathroom. I’m asking $995/mo for this room.
There is a large furnished living room, a dining room and kitchen. There is also a 12’ x 12’ food redwood deck off the living room, and this deck is on the second floor, so the view is particularly spectacular. There is a water spigot and electrical outlet on the deck, and there’s a tiled workspace and a charcoal Weber grill.
I’m an entrepreneur by profession, in the dot com world. I like having the house full of interesting people, which is what has me so interested in this project. I have a strong interest in the environment and my dream is to start a company manufacturing homes so green that they don’t need to be connected to the grid, but if they are they could send excess power back to the grid. In furtherance of this dream, I’m building a demonstration eco-home to test some of the super energy saving ideas I’ve read about, including a green aquaponics roof system.
Sadly, my house is not particularly green yet, so utilities historically have come to $75/mo per person when there are four people living here. I have the records on a spreadsheet to demonstrate this.
The house has a 6 meg per second DSL WiFi connection. There are cable TV, Ethernet and phone jacks and separately adjustable wall heaters in each bedroom. There is a real wood burning fireplace in the living room.
I’m looking for housemates that WANT to garden, experiment, raise livestock and share group household meals. You don’t need to have experience doing these things. I don’t have much experience gardening, but I can do anything I put my mind to, so I have no fear. I hope you’ll pitch in with taking care of the animals, since goats will stop producing milk if they are not milked everyday. I can’t keep up that schedule personally, since I sometimes travel for work and pleasure. But I’ll do my fair share and more, happily. I think this group household idea holds real merit, and that we’ll all benefit in many unforeseen ways from helping each other out. Our food bills should decline, and our food quality should go up. If you can’t see milking a goat, that’s OK. I’m sure some people will be able to help, and I don’t think the goats need four people to milk them daily. Even if I just find one housemate capable of milking the goats, that will be enough. Note that San Francisco permits chickens, ducks and miniature goats provided there’s space, and I have the space, so we don’t have to sneak around to do this project. Even so, we’ll be neat and considerate, since there are neighbors, who I’m good friends with.
I would expect you to help buy gardening supplies. I’ll provide the capital for things like setting up the aquaponics system and green house. But I can’t commit to buying all the consumables if I’m sharing three-quarters of the results… I hope you understand.
I’m not proposing getting free labor from my housemates. I’m proposing that we work together to take advantage of the huge backyard that’s sitting idle right in the center of San Francisco for the benefit of all of us. This is San Francisco and I’m sure there are hundreds of people who share my ideals of clean, green and self-sufficient living, but can’t do too much living in an apartment. I have enough space here we might be able to grow enough food to entirely live on. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect we could.
If you have an interest in raising bees that would be particularly great. I am someone afraid of bees so I don’t think I’ll pitch in on that project, but I LOVE the concept and I love honey, so I would be very supportive.
The rooms are all available immediately. I am willing to rent on a month-to-month basis, but I prefer that you have in mind to stay a while since it’s hard work finding compatible roommates. But since this situation is more collaborative than most shared housing situations, I recognize things could not work out, so I won’t try to tie anyone down with a term longer than a month.
I’m pretty clean, and so were my past housemates. We kept the common areas clean, and didn’t let dishes sit in the sink. Our rooms were a different story though, and I expect and am fine with rooms getting somewhat out of control. But that doesn’t mean you can leave pizza boxes around your room either… lol
Sorry, but this house doesn’t allow any smoking, inside or outside. There is a huge forest of eucalyptus trees in the backyard, and if they were to catch fire, the whole hillside would explode in flames. Also, please, no drug use or excessive alcohol use. While I want a group household with shared interests in eco interests, I don’t want a house of drug using partiers. I’m easy to get along with, and my roommates told me they loved living here. So I’m looking for kind, respectful and non-irritable people to share this special San Francisco oasis with.
To apply, please write a few paragraphs introducing yourself. In particular, please describe why you are interested in this shared housing situation, to make me certain you didn’t copy and paste your reply and actually read this ad carefully.
The three roommates who just moved out were all female. It was a totally cool vibe in the house. I’m a straight guy in my 40s. I’m open to both men and women living here, in whatever combination naturally happens. My past housemates were in their 20s and 30s, so if you’re younger, please don’t ignore this ad because I’m older. I’m definitely young in spirit, and I’ve got some fun, approachable hobbies. I’m a photographer and painter, for example.
The 36 MUNI bus stops right in front of the house, and there is plenty of free, unlimited time street parking by the house. You’ll rarely have to walk more than a 1/4 block from your car if you drive. It’s a 15 minute walk to the 9th Avenue and Irving Street shops, restaurants and bars.
I’ve never tried to put together such a collaborative household before, so I don’t know what to expect. But I’ve thought about this for a long, long time, so I’m definitely motivated to make this work. I look forward to your thoughtful replies.
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