British Columbia

Urban homesteading fits easily inside small apartment says author

"The Urban Homesteading Cookbook" author and scientist Michelle Catherine Nelson says anyone can produce food, even if you live in a small city apartment.

Raise rabbits and eat weeds for sustainable living says "Urban Homesteading" author

Michelle Nelson says it's possible to raise livestock such as rabbit and quail in a one bedroom apartment. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

There was a time when pioneering folks raised livestock, grew crops, and foraged for food at home.

But living in the city doesn't mean you can't be a homesteader too, says scientist and cookbook author Michelle Catherine Nelson.

Her book "The Urban Homesteading Cookbook: Forage, Farm, Ferment and Feast for a Better World" offers practical

If you become familiar with a few edible invasive species, you can do your part in conservation by literally eating the problem.- Michelle Catherine Nelson, author "The Urban Hometeading Cookbook"

advice on DIY projects like raising rabbit and quail, brewing your own beer, foraging for plants and animals, and growing edible pond greens—all within the confines of a small apartment.

"I've always been interested in food and food production, and how it affects communities and the environment," says Nelson, who has a PhD in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture.

She says a recent rise in public interest around local eating and artisanal production, combined changes in municipal bylaws, inspired her to fulfil a lifelong dream to grow her own food in the city.

"I thought, 'I'm just going to start doing it, even if it seems weird to keep rabbits in your one bedroom apartment," laughs Nelson. 

The experiment blossomed into an ambitious program of personal food production, and ultimately her cookbook. It's a collection of how-to's and inspired recipes made with sustainable ingredients such as cricket flour, eggs from apartment-raised quail, and foraged edibles — including weeds such as Japanese knotweed and purple loosestrife.

"If you become familiar with a few edible invasive species, you can do your part in conservation by literally eating the problem," she writes in her book.

Nelson, who now lives on Bowen Island, says anyone can be an urban homesteader. "Start small. You don't have to do everything," she advises. "Whatever you're into...maybe it's home-brewing, maybe it's that thing and you'll see that it's actually quite easy."

Tree Tip Syrup (from The Urban Homesteading Cookbook)

Makes 4 cups (1 L)

Nelson says the soft, bright green tips bursting from the ends of spruce, pine and fir branches taste bright and citrusy. She uses this easy- syrup on pancakes and waffles, in coffee and even to make toffee.


  • 4 cups (1 L) fresh evergreen tree tips
  • 3 cups (710 ml) brown sugar


  1. Remove the papery coating from the tree tips.
  2. Layer about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of sugar ont he bottom of a clean 4-cup (1 L) glass mason jar, then add one layer of tree tips, then cover in sugar, then another layer of tree tips and so on.
  3. Put a lid on the jar and place on a shelf until the sugar dissolves, about a week in total. after the sugar has started to turn to liquid (about 1 or 2 days) shake the jar once a day or so to mix.
  4. Once all the sugar has dissolved, strain syrup to remove the tree tips.
  5. Store the syrup in the fridge for 4 weeks or more.


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