Independence Days

Independence Day Independence Update

It’s been a while since I did an update on our Independence Days project.  Over the last few weeks we’ve done a lot.  But mainly I made up for a bit of garden neglect this weekend.  We pulled lots of weeds.  Lots and lots of weeds.

Rick has been working hard over the last few weeks at digging out the tree stump.  It’s such a big project, but this weekend he got through the last of the big roots and even the tap roots underneath.  He moved it a bit with our 4Runner, but we still need to get the trunk hauled before we can really move the stump anywhere.

I’ve been consumed with baby things lately as I realized last week while finishing up the nursery that we had NO baby clothes.  I mean none.  We thought we were done after Emmett, and since the house is small, we didn’t keep anything around.  Whatever I didn’t sell I donated.  So I did a lot of shopping this weekend.  But it was fun.  Rick and I went together, and I realized that it was the first time that we actually bought baby clothes together.  :) And now, the baby will have something to wear when he or she gets here.

Here’s the update…

Plant something – okra, two varieties of sunflowers, and sad to admit, but beans and squash just went into the ground.  I hope we get something?

Harvest something –  eggs, lettuce, garlic scapes, peas, thinned carrots and onions, got a few (a handful) of raspberries!

Preserve something – quiches and some grilled chicken in the freezer… mainly things for after the baby comes.

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling.  Planned meals for 24 weeks straight, but then I missed last week, and our budget showed this.  But I have a plan going for this week, so I’m back on the wagon.  25 weeks planned this year so far.  I used some scrap wood from the garage to make a trellis for the grape vine, and I sold the gas-powered mower and set the money aside for a new push-reel mower.  It’s been raining a lot so we’ve just been watering the gardens and the lawn by hand as needed.  Also consolidated the freezers and unplugged the upright for the summer.

Want Not – Got new shoes for both boys (again!) – this time from the resale shop.  Got lots of neutral baby items this weekend second hand, and re-purposed a sturdy shelf to be the new changing table in the nursery.  Thrifted some pictures frames for the baby’s room too.

Build Community Food Systems – While my cousins were in town, our CSA started distribution.  This led to a few conversations about food – local, organic, non-GMO, etc.  I was super excited that when she got home, she went shopping and sent me an email detailing out her changes – she went for all local and/or organic produce, natural meats, organic dairy, etc….  !!  I know it’s not building MY community on this one, as they live in Tennessee, but it was really encouraging!

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day!  We celebrated by working outside and of course watching fireworks.  ;)

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Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Independence Update and A Weekend Off

So as tough as it was for me, I took a weekend off from garden and household projects.  It was good timing, since there was a lot of rain this weekend and we had some family obligations on Saturday.  But normally that would have been no obstacle and we would have squeezed out the time for another project or two anyway.

But really.  I needed rest.  And I think Rick did too.  We didn’t do any work on Sunday.  We had a lazy morning and then went to the museum to see the Pirate exhibit.  We ordered a pizza on Friday night, ate out for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday (whoa!!!) and had left-overs Sunday.  That. Never. Happens.

The rest was good.  I know I needed it.  My back has been hurting more the last few weeks, and I feel surprised by it.  I never had any back pain with my other two pregnancies, and although Rick says it’s because I’m doing more, I’m not convinced.  I mean I was a month ahead of this with E and working on the farm. ??  Well, who knows?

Things have been going well with the big unplugging of the fridge.  Actually it doesn’t really seem that big at this point.  It’s been a fun topic of conversation though, and I’m keeping track of the lessons we’re learning in these weeks to share with you all.

I’ve also been thinking about some little changes on the blog.  Nothing major, but I added a “recipes” category and tried to find all my old posts with recipes to put in it.  It needs a better name though… not something that boring.  I’m thinking “Homegrown Grub” or “Fresh to the Feedbag” or some other thing that’s witty, but to the point. Any suggestions??

I know it’s also been a few weeks since I wrote up an Independence Days update.  Here’s the latest, and it covers the last few weeks, so it’s not really as big as it seems.  :)

Plant something – leeks, onions, beets, kohlrabi, carrots, watermelon, corn, eggplant, basil, tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, peas, cucumbers… can you tell the danger of frost finally passed here?  ;)

Harvest something –  eggs and spinach galore, mint, radishes, lettuce, asparagus.

Preserve something – chicken soup, broth too, asparagus, quiche.

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling, still planning meals (18 weeks in a row!), used wood chips to mulch garden, built the hugelkultur, made some calls about getting the tree trunk milled into lumber when it comes down.  Realized the changing table has seen better days (after the known 4 kids it’s been through, plus some??), so I let it stay in the spare room as a shelf.  Will find a substitute to use for changing table.  Used up half a gallon of left over paint (an old living room wall color) on a wall in the spare room.  Donated a carload of stuff to the Goodwill, took a box of the boys’ clothes to be sold.

Want Not – tried to make yogurt.  It tasted good but was thin.  Going to keep trying though – it’s so easy and even the “mistake” was tasty – H loved it.  Got new shoes for both boys and new underwear for H – they are growing like weeds already.

Build Community Food Systems – some of that planting was in the neighbor’s garden.  Also helped a friend start their first garden.

Eat the Food – Well.  Lots.  We’re getting to the end of the stuff we saved over the winter.  It hurts buying some things, like tomatoes (canned) and onions.  We will definitely be working to save a lot more this year, if we can.

Categories: Hugelkultur, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Getting Ready to Unplug

I’m not crazy.  Really.  I’m not.  I just read a lot of green-type articles and blogs, and I think .  I think a lot.  When I mentioned my latest idea to Rick, he became very quiet.  You know, the kind of quiet where someone clearly thinks you’re off your rocker, but is trying to figure out how to say so and if it’s really true?

Perhaps it’s because he’s experienced with my “thinking episodes.”  He calls it a ‘wild hair,’ or my ‘latest project.’  But I know he hasn’t forgotten how those nagging little thoughts of mine plague me until I drag him and the rest of my family into some project or other that the rest of society at large would consider crazy.

Consider for example when I started thinking about chickens.  In our back yard.  In the city.  Or when I started thinking about bees.  BEES!  Now we have a coop, eight hens, and an empty bee hive waiting for a second try with a new swarm.

Then there was the time I started thinking about the microwave.  I’m pretty sure this is what Rick’s mind flashed to when I mentioned to him this latest “wild hair.”  You see, lately I’ve been thinking about our fridge.  I’ve I’ve thought about it a lot actually over the last few years.  Our fridge was here in our house when we moved in.  So we knew it was at least 8 years old… and recently, I can’t seem to stop thinking about how much energy it’s using.  As the appliance that consumes the most energy in American homes, the refrigerator, running 24/7, I have been concerned about all the kilowatts leaching out of our meter.

I called the manufacturer of our refrigerator, model and serial numbers in hand.  I was surprised to learn that our fridge was not as old as I thought.  Made in June of 2001.  But I was dismayed at the big 863 kWh that it was consuming.  New refrigerators of the same size and style are consuming less than half than that.  Ours is consuming more than the old 15 cubic foot chest freezer from 1984 in the garage – that consumes a whopping 601 kWh, nearly fifty-percent more than what a similar modern freezer consumes.  This seems like a big problem to me.

Initially I thought the solution to this problem would be for us to get a new fridge and a new freezer.  See that was my first thought (i.e. not crazy!!).  But we don’t really have the $600 to shell out for a new freezer, let alone $800-1400 for a new fridge.  Then I started paying attention to what our fridge was actually doing.  The freezer on top usually stores the frozen CSA veggies and random meats brought in from the chest freezer for the current week’s dinners.  The refrigerator only really contains our eggs, dairy, condiments, and an excess of greens and celery.  Sometimes there are left-overs in there for a day or two (max, we’re good left-over-eaters around here).  I defrost foods on the counter the day I need them.

In other words, we’re not really using much space in the fridge, and some of the things we have in there don’t really even need refrigeration.  Eggs are shelf stable for quite a long time, and in Europe, they are even sold on the grocery shelves unrefrigerated.  Many condiments are shelf stable as well, despite warnings to “refrigerate after opening.”   And, around our home, lots of them get used up way before they’d ever spoil in the cabinet (peanut butter and jelly, soy sauce or sesame oil, for example).  So my second thought was to look for a smaller fridge.  An apartment-sized or even a dorm-sized fridge.  But I found out that they consume a lot of energy as well.  Nearly what a large fridge consumes.  And they have a pretty hefty price tag, even on craigslist.

Now I was questioning what we really needed.  For basically just storing our milk, yogurt, half and half, and the occasional bowl of left-over noodles or extra head of kale, what did we need?  Do you see where I’m going here?

I’m thinking about going without a fridge.  Let me say it again, so you know it’s not a typo… I’m thinking about going without a fridge.

So you can see why I was surprised that Rick didn’t immediately pass out when I mentioned to him a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about the fridge.  I have to give him a lot of credit.  He silently listened to my idea.  I explained my idea, talking fast because I could hear the doubt oozing through his silence.  We have coolers and I had an idea about using the top freezer portion of the fridge as sort of an ice box.  His next question, an incredulous statement really, was “you really expect me to run out to the freezer during the freezing-cold winter to swap-out ice packs because you don’t want to use the fridge?”  but he had answered his own question.  In the winter it would be cold.  We could keep things outside the back door on the patio.

As what I was suggesting started to sink it, I think I heard a muttering or two of “my wife really is crazy” and a sort of stifled laugh.  But there was some weird resignation coming through the phone.  I broke the news to him while he was at work, you see.  Safer that way, I figured, and it would give the idea a little time to stew in his head before he got home and could really talk about it. I was afraid he’d dismiss the idea out of hand.

When he got home I had my argument all ready.  It would be an experiment.  For just a month.  One month.  And we’d keep the freezers.  And it wasn’t as if we couldn’t use refrigeration… the ice box idea was just a old-fashioned, lower energy form of that.  I promised that we’d only unplug the frige for now, and if it wasn’t working we could just plug it back in and bag the whole thing.  Rick asked surprisingly few questions.  He sort of shrugged.  I asked if he told his co-worker of my idea, and when he admitted that he had, he told me his coworker’s response was, “Do you encourage her?”  I think he must have confessed that he does, so he really didn’t have a lot of argument against it.

After a few minutes, he asked about the summer, when the CSA is in full force and we have more veggies than we know what to do with.  Won’t they all just wilt and go to waste without a fridge to keep them in?  I had thought about this and confessed I didn’t have a total solution… yet.  But my tentative plan was that since I wasn’t going to be working on the farm this year or driving an hour each way every week, I’d have six extra hours and a lot more energy on farm day to get veggies washed and put up properly before anything wilted.  We’d put the things we were going to save for the winter in the freezer the day they came into the house instead of waiting a day or two, and we could use coolers for the melons.  Rick eyed me suspiciously.  But he said I could try it in May if I wanted.  We’d tackle the summer if we decided to continue the experiment.

I have read a bit about going without a fridge in the past, and since deciding to embark on this project.  Proponents like Sharon Astyk and Greenpa give me a lot of hope.  I’ve read the arguments that Deanna at the Crunchy Chicken makes against unplugging the fridge too.  But I think that this really can work for us.  Sharon Astyk has a fairly simple system going that I plan to emulate.  No, we won’t be drinking gallons of milk in a single day.  We’re not the first to try something like this.  And if things work, we’ll probably unplug the fridge for good.  We’ll turn that space into a pantry area to store our canned goods, and we’ll save money for a new, energy-efficient freezer.

Crunchy asks if it’s cheating to use a freezer in your effort to not use a fridge, but the truth of it, at least in my eyes, is that it’s not.  I see them as two different tools.  (You really should read  all the comments on that thread, by the way – you might just get converted by Sharon & Greenpa).  Rick hunts and that is the greenest, healthiest, most organic and humane way to get meat.  Not to mention most economical.  But it would be a waste if we couldn’t freeze it.  The CSA share provides more local, organic veggies than we can eat in a summer.  But local fresh veggies are a rarity here during Colorado winters, and what ever you can find is usually very expensive.  So canning, drying and freezing summer’s excess is another economical, practical, and efficient way to eat well all winter.   And, sadly, even our very out-of-date freezer is running more efficiently than our less out-of-date fridge.

So, let the experiment begin.  I hope you follow along with me in May as we try unplugging the fridge.  If anyone out there has done something like this in the past I’d love to hear your experiences.

Categories: Food, Independence Days, Simple Living, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Catching Up to Life!

I’ve been a bit behind this week, so here’s my attempt at catching the blog up to our lives!  The hens were not laying in the new nest box, so on Friday I reused some pieces of the old nest box and some left over plywood to modify the new box and make it bigger.  It’s now 11×17 and the hens are much happier.  We’ve been collecting eggs left and right again, which makes us all glad.  We do still suspect an egg eater – I’m pretty sure it’s one of the red heads, so we’re working out a way to figure out who is the culprit.  You may see a post about our first-ever adventure into home chicken processing soon.

Saturday  we finally planted the spuds that we ordered in the neighbor’s garden.

We’re all excited about this gardening thing this year – you know the thing where our neighbor is working together with us to grow this (in his newly made bed) and where we plan to share our crops.  He’s been getting as excited as me, and every time someone comes to our house, Rick jokes about me showing off my new vegetable bed as he motions over the fence.  ;)

This is our first time with potatoes and we planted two varieties – La Ratte fingerlings and Dessire red potatoes.  There were some extras that didn’t fit into his bed, so I might try another potato growing system in our back yard as well.

We’ve been enjoying our spinach and I’m so happy about those volunteers that came up early, since we’ve been able to eat from the garden so much earlier this year.  I need to make sure to let the spinach go to seed from now on before we pull it for later crops!  Woohoo!

Sunday’s forecast last weekend was for snow, but there wasn’t any.  In fact it was pretty nice out.  Rick’s been chipping away at the tree project, hacking a limb off here, cutting a branch there.  We’re about to the point where we can no longer go at it alone and we’re going to have to bring in extra help to finish.

Our neighbor did get a chipper for us.  It wasn’t in working order, but he and Rick think they can fix it with just an inexpensive part.  It won’t do the bigger stuff, but most of the smaller branches can go through and it’ll be nice to have around to put the yard waste through before sending it to the compost bins.  And bonus, it was free!

We also visited two garden centers on Sunday.  We picked up seeds for the things we plan on direct seeding (the ones we didn’t order), got some onion sets, and I was a sucker for some savory and basil plants (three varieties!) that I plan on sneaking into our flower beds this year.

I was really tempted to pick up some tomato seedlings, but Rick convinced me to hold off a few weeks more.  I think he knows how good I am not at keeping plants alive indoors.  It’s so close to “when the danger of frost is past” planting, I can almost taste it.  We’re on our last bag of frozen tomatoes from last summer’s garden.  It can’t get here quick enough!

What have you been up to in these last few rainy April days?

On a side note, this here blog was just entered into the Circle of Moms Top 25 Eco-Friendly Mommy Blog contest.  There are only three days left to vote but you can vote everyday.  I’d love a vote from you!  CLICK HERE to vote!
Categories: Chickens, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Independence Days: Spring Fever

So this week, I’ve been bustin’ out projects left and right.  We built the chickens the new nest box on Saturday.  Rick cut another big limb off the tree Sunday morning, but the weather quickly turned too cold and snowy to do anything else outdoors.  Instead we did some decluttering in the former office, and started some major basement reorganization.

Rick picked up more stone for our future patio, and I’ve sort of been on a baking kick too.  Not to mention the serious, and much needed hose-down Rick gave the high chair (I don’t remember H getting it so dirty?), the copious amounts of laundry he got off my plate this weekend, and the serious scrub down in the kitchen.  What would I do without him??

Rick says I’m nesting, but I think it’s a bit of spring fever.  I am just so happy that warmer weather is here, to get a little vitamin D, to get some dirt under my fingernails again.  It was a long winter for me.

This week’s report…

Plant something – more spinach, more leeks

Harvest something –  24 eggs, spinach enough for a couple omelets.

Preserve something – some pork gravy Rick couldn’t bear to throw out.  ;)

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, etc.  Lots of recycling this week.  ;)  Listed three chairs on craigslist to make more room in the little house.  We sold one on Monday.  I hope the others sell, we could use the money and the room!  Also still haven’t missed a week of meal planning (yay me!).  That’s 12 weeks straight now.

Want Not – Built the chickens a new nest box, got more stone, been scouring craigslist for everything lately, including a new camera and a picnic basket.  Haha.

Build Community Food Systems – nothing major or even interesting here this week.  Do you hear the crickets chirping yet?

Eat the Food – The usual – stuff from the freezer, another jar of jam, elk, etc.  Made some really yummy potato soup-turned corn chowder from frozen corn this week.  Recipe from my head:

3 slices of bacon
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped (I cut mine into various sizes so some break-down and some don’t)
corn from 4-5 ears
salt and pepper
shredded cheddar and/or pepper jack cheese

In a large pot, cook the bacon until crispy over med-high heat.  Remove the bacon to drain, and reserve 3ish tablespoons of the grease in the pot.  Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.  Add the flour and whisk until there are no lumps and the flour is cooked but not browning.  Add the milk, whisking, a cup at a time until all the milk is added and there are no lumps of flour.  Add the potatoes and corn.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the milk doesn’t scorch, the reduce heat to a simmer.  Continue cooking about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the smaller pieces begin to break down.  Meanwhile, crumble the bacon and shred the cheese.  When the small potatoes are broken down, serve with cheese and bacon pieces on top.  Serves 6 (ish).

Categories: Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 4 Comments

Sticks and Stones

What work!  Last weekend, after getting started on the tree, there was quite literally a yard full of limbs, branches and sticks.  So Saturday we went outside to tackle that before we could continue with any more tree removal.  We had also posted an ad on craigslist looking for free red flagstone for the patio we want, and someone responded saying if you come take it, it’s yours.  So Rick headed over there to check it out.  He returned three times with our neighbor’s truck with loads of awesome big, thick pieces of sandstone.  Perfect pieces.  And enough to do the patio!

Notice all these branches? They are now in 11 neat piles.

At the end of the day we estimate that Rick moved a ton and a half to two tons of stone, twice (once loading and once unloading), by himself.  And I had cut up all the branches and sticks into piles – eleven piles, all around the yard.  We’re only about a third of the way done with the tree yet.  Yow.  I so wanted a picture of all this to show you, but our camera, I think, is finally dead.  So it’s getting added to the list of things to buy before the new baby arrives.

Sunday, as you might guess, Rick and I were both stiff and sore – it was a lot of work.  Rick told Henry that he carried [the equivalent to] two elephants and Henry’s eyes turned into saucers and he was speechless.  Wow.  We decided to take it easier on Sunday.  No adding more branches tot he ground.  Instead, we scavenged the business park by Rick’s work for pallets, built a second compost bin and put the pedals back on Henry’s bike.

All in all, a great weekend.  Here’s the stats for the week…

Plant something – started some leeks inside, got seed potatoes in the mail, but not in the ground yet.

Harvest something – 21 eggs, a tiny bit of spinach.

Preserve something – nothing

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Rick also scavenged some parts for the grill.  We were driving through the industrial area by his work on Sunday and there was a grill out on the curb for the trash.  He looked inside and was able to take the ignition, burner, heat plate thingy and upper rack – all parts that had not been working properly or close to wearing out on our own grill.  He’d actually been to several stores last summer and searched online for the burner and the heat plate thing and was unable to find them… so score!

Want Not – Made a second compost bin out of scavenged pallets.  Also, after the bin was built, I peeked into the current (full) pile and found it to be HOT and doing it’s thing!  Yay!  And the stone of course.

Build Community Food Systems – Neighbor asked us about helping him build a smaller, barrel type compost bin.  He’s totally converting.  This makes me glad!  ;) Otherwise, arranged to sell some eggs.  That’s all.

Eat the Food – ate some black bean tortilla soup using ingredients from the freezer.  Elk twice this week too.  Lots of greens from the store though – I’m so ready for our own!

What did you do on your homestead?

 

This post was part of the Food Soil Thread blog party!
Categories: DIY, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , ,

Starting Something Big…

We have a big locust tree in the back yard.  Rick has wanted to cut down it for a long time, pretty much since we moved in.  I liked the shade and I wanted to put a patio under the tree though, so I wouldn’t let him cut it down.  But last summer the roots and the ground around the trunk of the tree really started heaving, making putting a patio there a bad idea.  And then, last weekend when I was cleaning up the yard, raking up a million stupid bean pods from that tree, I suddenly switched sides – this tree is a pain.

Every fall it was dropping pods, usually after it snowed and was too late to clean them up.  They fall behind the chicken coop and under the lilacs and are nearly impossible to reach.  They make a huge mess everywhere.  And it was ruining my patio plans.  The tree provided a highway for squirrels who use it to steal chicken food and torment our dog.  And the squirrels built a nest in our neighbor’s roof, so anything to ruin their plans is a bonus in our minds.

So I sat on the couch Saturday morning daring myself to say out loud what I knew Rick would be overjoyed to hear.  Let’s cut down the tree.  But on one condition… that I could have my patio there with a pergola and grapes.  He agreed.

And he was overjoyed.  Rick immediately went for the ladder and the tree trimmer.  I wasn’t so sure about tackling this one ourselves – it’s a huge tree and we have power lines running along two sides of our yard.  But he was determined to get started.

It was pretty windy on Saturday, so he didn’t get much done.  But on Sunday it was really nice and the neighbor, Mike came out to help (hooray!) and they got really far.  I plan on tracking the progress of this project for the next couple of weeks until it’s completed.

I already had plans for reusing the trunk and the bigger straighter limbs, but I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with the rest of the branches.  I asked the now 6300+ people on the Taking Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page and got a lot of responses and great advice.  We are going to employ multiple suggestions.  Thank goodness I asked too.  Look at what we have to clean up after just a day and a half of trimming:

Some of those branches will become bean poles and trellises, some will border garden beds.  And some will become a huglekultur (more on that later).  The rest will become mulch for garden paths since we finally made permanent beds. Stay tuned for more tree progress over the next couple of weeks.

Here’s what else we did this week:

Plant something – nothing new in the ground since last week, but the lettuces, spinach and radishes are all poking their little sprouts up!

Harvest something – eggs

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Building Community – decided to finally sell some eggs – A friend is buying a dozen every-other week right now.  :)  Also all the neighborhood kids piled into the driveway while Rick and Mike worked on the tree Sunday.  We had the play kitchen out and the neighbor’s kids picnic table.  There were eight of them running amok with bikes, sharing lunch (fruit, pretzels and cheesy torts).  Fun times – I wish I had gotten a pic, but the camera was acting up.

Eat the Food – dried tomatoes, peaches, elk, duck, green beans and corn all from the freezer.

What did you start on this weekend?

Categories: DIY, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Blog and How I Became an Urban Homesteader

Four years ago, at the beginning of March, I started this blog.  At first I began tentatively, not sure who would ever read what I had to say, unsure of if I even had anything to say at all.  Unsure of what my blog was about (I hadn’t even really read other blogs), I titled it “Journeys and Adventures” and just sort of typed whatever came to mind, the latest happenings in our lives, reviews of articles I read or documentaries I watched.

I quickly noticed a theme.  I wanted to be a farmer.  But I lived (live!) in a city.  During my first month of writing I covered the garden or buying our first chicks in at least every-other post.  I did not know anything about “urban homesteading” or that people called themselves this or that other people we like me at all – playing farmer on little patches of earth, where ever their feet had landed them in life.

There were lots of Monday morning posts chronicling the progress of our garden over the weekend or the construction of our chicken coop.  And I began to understand that this was therapy – the gardening, the chickens, and the writing about it.  I took more pictures, I squeezed more into the dirt we had.  I found more dirt and eeked out more spaces to grow things.  I dreamed of a bee hive.  But this space remained a sort or personal journal.

One day, as Rick was reading, he asked why I didn’t make the blog public, since only friends and family had access to it at this point.  I thought about it for a while and decided I was afraid to put myself out in the open to any and everyone.  But he encouraged me to do it, convinced that people would like what I had to say, and enjoy reading about our crazy adventures in playing at urban farming.  So I did, and I decided to change the name of the blog too, so that it would reflect more of what it was now about.

I thought about the name change for a long time, mulling over terms like green, dirt, crunchy, city, suburbs, farming, etc.  Through lots of reading, I discovered the term urban homesteading and found it described what we were doing.  I still thought we virtually were alone in doing it, but I knew the phrase was the right one for our family and our journey.

A search engine led a writer for the Denver Post to my blog, and he contacted me, wanting an interview for a story he was doing on urban homesteaders.  Because I was skeptical (hey! I didn’t know this guy), I refused to be interviewed without Rick home, so I missed my chance.  Timing was off and he couldn’t come on the day Rick could be here.  But I was so excited when the article came out.  I discovered we were NOT alone.  There were people in my own neighborhood doing this.  People all over Denver!

Now look:

There is a reason I’m taking the time to write this trip down memory lane.  It’s not because it was my blog-iversary. It’s because today is the third Day of Action for Urban Homesteaders across the internet.

Back in February of this year the Dervaes family of Pasadena, CA trademarked the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading.”  I am not linking to who the Dervaes family is, but in short, they are a father and three grown children growing lots of food in a small area in California.  They are a family church, with the father being the pastor and to my knowledge, the children are the members.  A church of what is pretty unclear.  From what little I know of them, they’ve done a lot with their space and many in the urban homesteading community admired them.  I never really read much about them until now.

So the big deal?  They sent out cease and desist letters to bloggers, businesses and organizations (even a library) who were using the two trademarked terms.  They want credit with links every time the phrases are typed.  I’ve seen the letters.  They sent one to Denver Urban Homesteading, our local indoor farmers market, and had their Facebook page (and main marketing tool) shut down.  Problem is they don’t have the legal grounds to do this.  They didn’t invent the phrases, nor were they the first to use them.  And their trademark does not give them the right to restrict the use of the English language in the way they claim.  I know this because I know the owner of Denver Urban Homesteading.  James, the person I worked with on Denver’s inaugural chicken coop tour (with the Denver Botanic Garden’s) last year, and the one I helped to make the Free the Chickens video with, also just happens to be a lawyer.  Apparently the Derveas picked on the wrong homesteader.

Bloggers and urban homesteaders across the country have been outraged by the actions of people who were supposed to be leaders within our community.  A Facebook page was created and quickly grew to over 6000 fans supporting the canceling of the trademarks and begging the Dervaes family to, at the very least, help us understand.  There have even been claims that the Dervaes’ are plagiarizing others‘ work (some of it used to support their claim to the trademarked phrases?).  But the D-family closed all the comments on their many blogs.  They temporarily took down their facebook page.  They refused to answer email and letters.  The only communication was denial of any wrong doing and to claim they were being persecuted, they were under attack.  They did not (and still don’t) approve of the fact their letters were put out in the open.  A quick Google search will lead you to the letter if you want to read it.

Through all of this, over the last month-plus, I’ve stayed silent.  All this uproar literally struck fear into my heart.  I called my mom, nearly in tears.  I told my BFF.  I temporarily changed my blog name.  I followed fellow bloggers as they posted and united in two previous Days of Action (read my favorite post on all of this here, from Northwest Edible Life).  But I was afraid.  This blog holds my heart.  Like I said it is my therapy.  And it’s my personal journal.  And it holds videos of my boys’ first steps and first words.  I don’t want to loose any of it.  Not over words.

But I’ve collected my thoughts.  I’ve decided I can’t be silent because all of this is too important to me.

So, today, on this Urban Homesteader’s third Day of Action, I’m asking for your help.  Please go to Change.org and sign the online petition to Cancel Trademarks on Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading.

This petition is addressed to Jules Dervaes, and despite fears that he won’t listen to this community, the petition can be used to help support our cause in other ways.  It is a petition, a protest, and a plea to the Dervaes family.  Whether or not they listen, legal actions are also being taken.  Because like all the others, I too, am an Urban Homesteader.  Thanks.

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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