Yes, in My Backyard

Petaluma author offers inspiration for urban farming


Petaluma resident Rachel Kaplan wants to help us “live ecologically in the city.” Kaplan, 47, is co-author, with K. Ruby Blume, of Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living (Skyhorse Publishing; $16.95), a guidebook that on the surface is a manual about growing food, but at its core is a deeply uplifting guide to experiencing a more comforting, fun and abundant life, from self-care to spinach beds.

“We eat really well, and we make a lot out of a little,” Kaplan explains. “This isn’t about scarcity or being a martyr; it’s about creating joy.” Kaplan and Blume suggest there is a lot more to their concept of homesteading than simply achieving a good crop of vegetables.

“This is a book about overcoming a culture of apathy, fear and cynicism,” Kaplan says. “We’re all taught that what we do doesn’t matter and that the problems we face are too big. But that’s not true. We can make a difference.”

Homesteading doesn’t take a lot of space or even an owned property. Kaplan grows food in her rented yard and at a friend’s place across town; her chickens are kept at another friend’s place. A lot of bartering makes this system work, and friendships, as well as food, are abundant. The many side benefits of homesteading are included in this richly beautiful book.

“My collaborator and I are artists,” says Kaplan, who practices somatic psychotherapy in west Petaluma. “So we wanted it to be beautiful, and to go beyond the other homesteading books out there. We didn’t want to kill trees to no avail.”

I’d say Kaplan and Blume have exceeded their goals, creating not just a set of instructions, but rather a sensible and soul-nourishing guidebook for our times.

“The things we do matter, and we can change our lives in big and small ways to make a difference,” Kaplan tells the Bohemian. “I work with Daily Acts, a nonprofit in Petaluma, and a lot of what I’m saying is supported by their mission. They are really great.”

So is the book. I highly recommend Urban Homesteading.

Kaplan will be at Petaluma Bounty Farm’s plant sale on Sunday, May 1 (55 Shasta Ave., Petaluma; 10am; 707.775.3663), followed by a signing at Copperfield’s Books (138 N. Main St., Sebastopol; 3pm; 707.707.823.2618). On Thursday, May 5, Kaplan and Blume appear at Baker Creek Seed Bank (199 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma; 7pm; 707.509.5171) and on Sunday, May 15, at Book Passage (51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera; 7pm; 415.927.0960). For more information, visit