The Bitternut Homestead (named after the Native American Haudenosaunee word Otisco, or Us-te-ke, meaning "bitter-nut-hickory") is a 4 bedroom home in Syracuse's Near West Side (NWS) just off of downtown. Syracuse is a city of 145,000 people, and the NWS is an urban community with high racial, but low economic, diversity - a median income of $25,653 exists in the bottom 3.5% of national zip codes. The house at 717 Otisco St is a 100-year old renovated Victorian purchased in 2010 for $1 from Home Headquarters (HHQ), a local non-profit housing agency. The house had been vacant for 3-4 years at the time of purchase and required new plumbing, electric, heating, hot water, structural repairs from water and animal damage, and major interior and exterior finish work. For instance, all window glass was broken and was replaced while preserving the original wooden frames and sills. There was also no front porch, it having rotted away and been demolished by HHQ during holding of the property. Residents of the Collective live together, a primary strategy for creating community. Shared chores may include cooking, shopping, cleaning, trash/recycling, gardening, and other tasks including a spring and fall cleaning day, and a spring and fall gardening day. The grounds are landscaped according to Permaculture principles & design, the original owner Frank Cetera being a local Permaculture educator and designer who received his PDC at Hancock (NY) Permaculture Center in 2010. The Homestead also houses the operations desk/office of The Alchemical Nursery, a non-profit organization working to create "Regenerative Landscapes and LIfestyles" utilizing strategies from the realms of Permaculture, mutual aid, eco-socialism, social justice, & ecovillage philosophies & methodologies. Natural building materials & simple living are also strategies being utilized. Heating is currently through electric baseboard heating for instance. Although electric heating is initially more expensive from the supply side, it was chosen because it is less expensive to install, allows zoned control in each room, can be supplied by solar panels and to keep natural gas out of this "Anti-Fracking House". Since original renovations, a Vermont Castings cast iron wood stove has been installed for primary heating in winter, with the electric baseboard taking on a secondary heating role. Other techniques include interior natural clay plastering and homemade paints, hugelkultur garden beds made from downed woody debris, hand-finished floors (scraping, sanding, treating with linseed oil & beeswax). We are passionate about our Food-Focused Mission Statement which you can read in full at

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