Frequently Asked Questions

Since going public with our Urban Homesteading lifestyle and adventures in 2001, we have received hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages from all over the world. We do our very best to answer each and every one and over time have collected some of the most frequently asked questions.


Blogging is often confused with reporting; and there are now cases where people have engaged in a negative blogging campaign aimed at discrediting the Dervaes family. Whereas professional reporters substantiate their news before publishing stories and are careful not to make slanderous statements, bloggers have no editors and often demonstrate little or no interest in supporting their claims with fact. As a result, irresponsible or malicious blogging can cause harm to people and businesses.

No threat was made against anyone's first amendment rights.

The Dervaes family project is known as the Urban Homestead. While they did not come up with the name Urban Homesteading, they defined its current, specific application. Desiring to safeguard that description of their daily life, Dervaes Institute applied for and received "service marks" for the phrases used in reference to their non-profit work. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, a service mark "identifies and distinguishes the source of a service" and is used interchangeably with "trademark."

The family requests that level heads prevail and that people take time to step back, be informed about trademark policy, and search out the truth.

See press release

In Pasadena, we are allowed to operate from our home as a home business provided we get a business license and a home occupation permit and we have both.   Additionally, we set appointments for our customers for picking up their orders to comply with the City's ordinance for pedestrian and automobile traffic in a residential area.  See  Pasadena's Code Compliance link

Yes, our "blog is our book." This opensource "blook" has been online for 10 years, recording our 25 year journey of turning our home into an urban homestead.  Much of what you would need to know can be found in our blog called "Little Homestead in the City"  which we consider our online book of urban homesteading as defined by the 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading

See article Dervaes Family Blogs On For A Better Future

Yes.  Dervaes Institute, established August 18, 2006, is an earth-care ministry and a California Corporation Sole under California Corporations Code Section 10000-10015 and is tax exempt under IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A). On October 30, 2010, it submitted IRS form 1023 in order to receive its determination letter as a private foundation under IRS Code § 501(c)(3).

Wikipedia defines homesteading as "a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency." This is what the Dervaes family has been attempting to achieve since the 1980s. Many people have tried to do this, but few have documented their adventures as the Dervaeses have. After ten years, their website, www.UrbanHomestead.org, is now the largest and most comprehensive Urban Homesteading website, with several million hits per month. They believe that their family's real-life experience is what makes the site unique. Anais explains, "We aren't just writing about the latest eco-practices and products; for more than two decades, we have been living the revolution." On the site's blog, readers can witness first-hand the family's daily struggles and joys, defeats and successes on their pioneering journey.

What the Dervaeses do is to promote Urban Homesteading as a lifestyle. The objective of acquiring the trademarks was to avoid confusion on the part of the general public and users. In the attempt to maintain the reputation and integrity of the trademarks, Dervaes Institute has privately informed, to date, a total of 16 organizations, publishers and businesses about the proper usage of the registered terms.

No threat was made against anyone's first amendment rights; yet, there has been a heated argument in the media against what should have been the Dervaeses' normal rights to protect their trademarks.

Resources :

Trademark Basics

We are extremely supportive of members of our online communities; fans of our websites and others who help to spread information regarding sustainable living.

If you are a  Urban Homestead(er) blogger and are simply documenting your life or sharing your journey or information, sure!  In fact, we encourage it. 

However, we must also guard against the unauthorized use or exploitation of our intellectual property for commercial gain. From the beginning, our work published online and in other media has been copyrighted and trademarked. By protecting intellectual property we are better able to ensure that our work is presented accurately and contributes to our sustainable living projects and educational initiatives.

If you want to label a for-profit endeavor or business with the term, we ask that you contact us first. 

Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual  property rights. If you have been supportive of our ten-year online work in  the past, we appreciate very much your continued support.

If you have any questions regarding the use of Dervaes materials or trademarks, please contact us at (626) 795-8400. We would be glad to provide you with more details.

To be honest, unlike TV extreme makeovers, your home will not be transformed to an urban homestead overnight.  Heck, it took us 20 years complete with succcesses and failures.  Each element towards a more self-reliant life takes time, and we suggest you take it one, baby, step at at time. We recommend that people begin with growing some of their own food. Besides mining this website for ideas, sign up for Freedom Gardens to connect with other homesteaders and gardeners.

The front and back garden areas are about 1/10th of an acre or roughly about 4,350 square feet (approx. 66' x 66').

The entire lot is about 1/5 of an acre (66 ft. x 132 ft. or 8,712 sq. ft.). What we did was subtract the square footage of the house, garage, and concrete areas to derive the area of the garden: about 4,350 sq. ft.

We do have the layout of our yard on paper and we are constantly updating it.  Every planting season (at least twice a year), Justin writes down on this schematic what he planted in which bed and how the entire yard is laid out.  After many years of doing this, we have created an invaluable resource of record-keeping.    However,   the layout of our yard and this information his isn't available to the public.  Not that it won't ever be, we just need to figure out how to release this information in book form.

When we first moved here, our soil was really bad [ check out the pictures ]. It took years (20 plus) to build it up to the semi-fertile ground you see today. Yes, we have a long growing season, but we also are at the mercy of the weather. Southern California isn’t the land of milk and honey – we have hot summers and not much rainfall. One year, we lost almost all of our tomato crop (and, thus, major portion of our summer cash intake). It’s a tough climate, and the water crisis is only worsening.

 Most of our produce is sold to local restaurants and caterers. However, when we have surplus, we do sell to individual customers. Sign up for our DerVaes Gardens' mailing list to be notified when produce is available. You can then place your order and make an appointment to pick it up. We are not able to accommodate drop-in customers.

Yes - ours!  But unfortunately it hasn't been written yet; at this time, our website is our book.  It's chock-a-block full of information, beautiful photos, and it's FREE. If you still would like to consult a book, see the selection available on Peddler's Wagon.

Our site does not rely on ads or sponsorships to generate revenue. Instead we''ve set up a non-profit organization that allows you to send tax deductible donations. Or you can support our work by purchasing from our online stores PeddlersWagon.com and FreedomSeeds.org. See our Support page for more information.

We are not set up for a commercial biodiesel operation. If you want to research how to make your own biodiesel, purchase the Biodiesel Homebrew Guide booklet.

For garden work - no (hey, that''s our job and we enjoy it!). But for events or other tasks such as web work, video, and writing, we are always on the lookout for good help and because none of us want to be stuck inside doing all the paperwork and computer work. Go to our Volunteer page

Yes, we live at home and love it. Not only are we reducing our carbon footprint, but we are acquiring the skills and knowledge to pass onto the next generation. Like any family, we have our arguments, but it takes a family to work the Urban Homestead's microfarm and, in doing that, we have a common goal. Sure, we are looking for that special someone to share our lives with who has the same interests and values. There is one thing we don't have to worry about with living at home, is mortgage insurance. You could do us a favor--if you know a single someone looking, then send them our way! :-)

Yes, we are available (scheduling permitting) to share our Urban Homesteading lifestyle and experiences with the community. If we cannot make it in person, consider setting up a remote video connection via Skype to hear from us "in person." We''ve also produced a short film, Homegrown Revolution, which gives you an inspiring look at how we transformed our ordinary home into an extraordinary urban homestead. See our Invite Us page

The urban homestead is a viable working project not a public showcase so we are not set up for drop-in visits.  Unfortunately, because urban homesteading is gaining in popularity, we are unable to handle all the tour requests, so we have focused on bringing the urban homestead to you with thousands of photos and dozens of videos.   If you are a private individual, there is an extensive waiting list.  For all other inquiries, please visit our contact page.

Over the years we've gotten seeds from various sources; however, due to the looming threat on our food supply from genetic manipulation and corporate control, we started our very own seed company, FreedomSeeds.org, which offers safe, secure seed grown by the people for the people.

We gross under $40,000 a year from the following sources (this last years of 2008-2009 will be down in income because of the overall economic downturn and our new ventures):

Dervaes Gardens / sales of produce Peddler's Wagon / sales of eco-goods through online store Freedom Seeds / sales of non-GMO and open-pollinated seeds Community Events Donations to the non-profit Dervaes Institute

Pasadena code allows Pasadena residents to keep certain fowl and goats; however, there are certain restrictions, of course.

We are fortunate not to have any residential neighbors on three sides of our property - which is quite unusual.

We’ve had several city officials tour our place and not one of them voiced any concern over our animal situation. We basically consider our few “farm” animals pets, and they are not raised for fighting or breeding purposes. They are not a public nuisance (no rooster helps), and the animal enclosure is properly maintained - cleaned every day (cleanliness is a MUST for citified animals).

You are in luck!  We now feature many of our favorite products online, and you can purchase them via PeddlersWagon.com. Any profits from our online store help support our non-profit outreach (including this website), which has inspired thousands worldwide to be the change by living the solution.

Although we'd love to help, our garden keeps us pretty busy as it is.  Don't despair, you can certainly find a lot of good ideas from our blog which you can implement into your edible transformation.

Path to Freedom was the very first urban homesteading website online and is an example of our family's philosophy of "do it yourself." We''ve been taught that if you want to do something, then figure it out yourself.  Yep, over the years, we have taught ourselves all aspects of website design, coding, graphics, content and maintenance. These days, in order to save time, we occasionally hire out certain pieces of the work (we would much rather design than code), but, overall, we still do a majority of the tasks.

The family name of Dervaes is pronounced as if were spelled "Dur-VAYS."  Old family records have shown that original use of the name had a big "V" -- "Der Vaes".  Don't worry if you don't get it right off.  We aren't easily insulted by that.  People with unusual names tend to get used to the whole hullabaloo of repeating their names over and over.  In fact, the whole family has come to answer to anything sounding similar.... if you at least start with a "D" and botch the rest, well, we get the point! 

Jules Dervaes was divorced from his wife in 1986 due to personal differences.  However,  she remains in Anais, Justin and Jordanne's lives and sees them regularly. She generally supports the family's homestead and routinely assists with some areas of our endeavors and with the occasional overload of paperwork and emails.