An urban homestead 1

IMG_20141220_152701164_HDRGabor Lukacs has been to a supermarket only once this year. He grows much of his own food, hauls his water from a well on a bicycle, and heats his house with wood. Yet he lives only a half mile from the center of Amherst, enabling him to get by without owning a car.

“It takes work, but it’s work that most people find to be fun and involved with nature,” says Gabor, who is 48 and a native of Hungary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn this season, the center of his house is the hearth. He burns three cords of wood a year; he used to burn four before putting in new windows and insulation in the 1,700-square-foot house. Atop the stove there’s always about 15 gallons of boiling water, which Gabor uses for cleaning and mixes with cold water for his 16 chickens. A long horizontal pipe from the stove gives him cooking space, and he uses the warmth to dry clothes as well as food.

IMG_20141220_153055499_HDRThe roof of Gabor’s house has solar panels that provide one kilowatt of energy, which would be enough for his needs if he lived alone. But he shares his house with others, so he takes some power from the grid. He doesn’t trust the purity of Amherst’s drinking water, with its chlorination and fluoridation, so he uses a well on a neighbor’s land. He’s attached a specially designed trailer to a bicycle that enables him to transport eight five-gallon jugs of water at a time the quarter-mile to his home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGabor commutes to his job as a computer programmer on a bicycle 12 months a year. He loves to tinker with bikes and share his knowledge with others. He says he doesn’t like cars, and maintains that anything that can be carried in one he can carry on a bicycle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside, the one-acre lot provides ample space for growing vegetables and fruits such as peaches, plums, pears and apricots. The chickens have ample space to roam and produce 14 eggs a day in summer, three a day in winter. He sells some of the eggs at the All Things Local store in downtown Amherst. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany of the surplus fruits and vegetables are dried near the stove or in a solar dehydrator he made out of an old glass door (shown at right).

He has an apple cider press that produced 16 gallons last fall, some of which gets turned into hard cider in a brewing area near the stove. Gabor also likes to make sauerkraut, and has done public demonstrations of his large cabbage-shredding tool. He also grows bamboo, which makes good trellises, and sells it at All Things Local.

Gabor spoke about his homestead on Saturday in the first of a series of talks at the Winter Farmers Market at the Regional Middle School. In An Urban Homestead 2 just after Christmas, I will relate Gabor’s reasons for living the way he does, and include the schedule of weekly speakers at the farmers market, on topics ranging from beekeeping to growing mushrooms  and tomatoes to measuring your carbon footprint.


6 thoughts on “An urban homestead 1

  1. Fascinating. Does he lug water on the bike when there’s snow on the ground, too, I wonder? Looking forward to hearing more about his motivations for choosing this lifestyle.

    • Hello Alexandra, yes I do. I wait with hauling water for at least a few days after a snowstorm, and by that time the roads are cleared. Or I use a 3-wheeled contraption with a big box, so I don’t fall when slipping. However I can keep transporting myself by bike in all weather as there are studded tires for bicycles as well, to help with not slipping on ice.
      As for motivation in Western Massachusetts we have had storms, that shut down electricity for a week, and many people weren’t able to heat their house and lost the content of their fridges. We take for granted many other parts of our life in the US, but still can easily end up poor and unhealthy from lack of moving and eating highly processed food. Not to say what we do to our environment. With not being so attached to comfort in the moment, I counter not only the so general lack of health and money, but create an emotional stability in and around me. Who wouldn’t want to do that, right?

  2. Nick, this is Dave. I’m new with the Gazette and am covering a bunch of your old beat – I’m also friends with your son Alex. Hope to visit with you sometime to chat if you’re available. Can you send me an email and we’ll set that up?

  3. Pingback: An urban homestead, Part 2 | Adventures in the good life

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