When Chrissy Lee-Manes’ ancestors first settled in the 1850s in the area now known as The Hill, Boulder was just one of many towns that sprang up along the foothills of Front Range to support the mining industry that exploded during the Gold Rush of the 1850s.
And these early settlers, including the ancestors of Lee-Manes, were to be self-sufficient. They built their own furniture, grew their own food, raised their own bees for honey. They were homesteaders in the truest sense of the word: they owned land and worked to make it productive so that they could sustain it.
Today, more than 150 years later, Lee-Manes and her husband, John Lee, are working to redefine what homemaking can be and who can participate in this independent, self-sufficient way of life. Seven years ago, they turned their DIY lifestyle into a business called Homsted. They sell products suitable for the DIY lifestyle and offer classes to help people learn DIY skills. After opening their first retail store in Glenwood Springs, the couple opened a second retail store in Boulder in August – right up the hill, just down 13th Street from where Lee-Manes’ ancestors hailed. installed for the first time.
“It was kind of like coming home,” Lee-Manes said. “They lived that lifestyle there.”
In its retail stores, Homsted sells products ranging from personal care products and tinctures, garden tools, grow kits, seeds, food, cleaning supplies, loose herbs and ingredients. natural. All of their products are homemade and all of their ingredients are either native to the region or easy to grow.
Homsted’s classes include lessons in skills such as how to research and identify plants, how to make herbal remedies, how to build furniture, and how to grow and store food for personal use.
“I believe there is an innate and deeply rooted sense in people who find satisfaction in creating things on their own, out of their own craft,” said John Lee. “Once you get in there, once you start cultivating it, it starts to spill over into other parts of your life. It permeates all aspects of our way of life.
They are not alone. According to a June study by market research firm The Farnsworth Group, the frequency of DIY home projects increased by 60% during the COVID-19 pandemic, with people taking over tasks ranging from gardening to plumbing. Young homeowners were by far the most likely demographic to adopt a DIY lifestyle, and more than half said they would continue this lifestyle even now that the pandemic has ended.
And Homsted isn’t the only organization helping people make this transition in Boulder. The local nonprofit Resource Central has run hands-on conservation programs since its inception in 1976 to help residents save water, conserve energy and reduce waste. Its offerings include lawn removal programs, landscaped native plant gardens, material reuse training, and a tool library to give people the equipment they need to complete their own projects without spending money. sums to buy their own equipment.
“If you are going on this journey, one of the most important things is to make lasting change,” said Jenny Steel, Marketing Program Manager at Resource Central. “A huge transition that doesn’t require constant attention. These one-time changes in behavior are the most important things you can do. “
In 2020, Resource Central helped Boulder residents save over 128 million gallons of water, clear over 100 lawns that have been replaced with low-water native plants, and distribute over 5,200 plant gardens. natives at low water.
For Lee and Lee-Manes, their goal, beyond selling property and offering courses, is to redefine what homestead can be and who can live on it. Before starting to live a DIY lifestyle, they lived a typical suburban family life. When they thought of homestead it was in the traditional sense, like what Lee-Manes’ ancestors did when they first settled in Boulder. They assumed that in order to own a home, people had to have acres of land and a farm. But what they realized when they started exploring the modern homestead way of life is that anyone, anywhere can do it. And that’s the message they want to get across.
“One of the most important things that we try to let people know is that you can do it anywhere, in a house, an apartment or a suburb,” Lee-Manes said. “The original definition of homestead was to have land and acres of land. We want something new and modern.
Living in a suburban house, for example, means that a backyard garden is possible. Some municipalities also allow backyard chickens and beehives. Residents of the apartments can cultivate a small garden in the kitchen or on a balcony. Lee said many apartments are also starting to allow beekeeping on balconies.
And no matter where someone lives, they can learn to identify and search for plants. They can make their own medicines, soaps, body products and cleaning products. They can keep their own food.
“Really, space is not an issue,” Lee said. “There is the historical aspect of family ownership which involved a lot of land, but also today I think there is a rather glamorous idea that people have of social media, with chickens and pigs. and large extravagant farmhouses. We are trying to break up and develop that. “
Getting this message across, that anyone can embrace a DIY lifestyle, regardless of their means or living situation, is essential, especially in an age when people can see extravagant properties on social media. and assume that’s the only way to do it.
“I think a lot of the misconception is that it has to be all or nothing,” Steel said. “Our world today is pretty extreme with all the opinions. The climate crisis is also scary, and that can make that intimidating. I think it stirs panic in all of us.
“For us at Resource Central a big part of what we do is meet people where they are, because any effort is great. “
At Resource Central, the group aims to provide the tools to help make these transitions as easy as possible while making people aware of the impact that each choice can have. It can be as simple as buying local supplies for a DIY project, Steel said.
“When you buy lumber for your home project, you’re not just buying a piece of lumber,” Steel said. “You buy everything that was used to produce and transport this wood. “
Another great program from Resource Central is the Canned Garden, which they sell to help residents replace their lawns. Gardens contain native plants which use much less water than lawns. If removing their lawn is too much for someone, Resource Central also recently launched a service where they do it for homeowners.
Going forward, Resource Central is expanding its reusable materials facility to provide DIY enthusiasts with even more materials for their home projects.
“We are investing in our site so that we can store more materials and be there for the community,” Steel said. “We also have to adapt to everything. “
For Homsted, the future is to expand its retail businesses to offer recharging stations for their home cleaning and body products, as well as a tea bar for its medicinal teas. Lee and Lee-Manes also plan to expand the courses they offer by bringing in guest instructors to teach people tasks such as beekeeping and raising chickens.
“We’re just trying to reach people with the message that homestead is not about square footage, it’s about making your own hands,” Lee said.