Since going public with our Urban Homestead project in 2001, we have received hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages from all over the world. Over time we have collected some of the most frequently asked questions and noted some of the misinformation. Yes, it’s true. Don’t believe everything you read or hear!
How do you pronounce your family name?
The (Belgian) family name of Dervaes is pronounced as if were spelled “Dur-VAYS.” Old family records have shown that original spelling of the name had a uppercase “V” — “Der Vaes”.
The amount of press you’ve gotten is impressive, have you been paid to appear on TV?
With the exception of being used as a location for two reality shows (VH1’s “You’re Cut Off!” and FoodNetwork’s “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills”) we’ve HAVE NOT been paid for any written or news appearance about the Urban Homestead project. Yes, despite popular opinion, Oprah did not pay us to be on her show.
Your website is beautiful and well put together. Who did you hire?
Thanks! This site, started in 2001 was the first of it’s kind and have gone thru many revisions. Not only is it a “labor of love” is an example of our family’s philosophy of “do it yourself.” If you want something done and you don’t want to spend a fortune, then figure it out yourself. Over the years, we have taught ourselves all aspects of website design, coding, graphics, content and maintenance.
I want to put in edible landscaping in my yard. Do you offer on site consultation?
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.
You feature interesting gadgets (solar ovens, clay pots, hand-cranked appliances) on your blog. Where can I purchase them?
You are in luck! We now feature many of our favorite products online. 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.
How do you keep animals in the city?
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).
Can I drop by for a tour?
The Urban Homestead project is a viable working homestead not a public showcase – and our home! We apologize, but we are not able to handle tours for drop-in visits/visitors or during workshops or events. Unfortunately, because of the project’s popularity we are unable to handle all the tour requests – sorry! For classes, schools and all other inquiries, please use the contact menu navigation to submit your request.
Do you give talks, lectures or presentations?
Yes, we are available (scheduling permitting) to share our knowledge & 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 homestead.
Do you accept volunteers?
Many hands make light the work” So, yes, we are always on the lookout for a few good “Homestead Helpers.” Think you’d be willing to get your hands dirty? Check out our Volunteer page
Do you live “off the grid”?
No, not completely. We live in one of the major metropolises in the country so that means we can’t do what rural homestead counterparts do – like dig a well. We rely on city water, but with conservation efforts we try to re-use or limit our water demands.
As for electricity. Back in 2003, we self-installed 12 solar panels on our garage roof. The City of Pasadena solar rebating us 2/3rds of the cost. This was something that we couldn’t pass up! They made solar affordable to common resident. By producing our own green power, it was one more step in making the our city homestead more self- sufficient.
With our energy use being at 6.5 KWH a day, the solar panels are able to produce nearly 3/4 of our energy for the year. For the other 1/4, we opted to pay the few extra cents for the city’s green power program. Meaning our home’s energy source is either sun or wind – both renewable.
I live in the Los Angeles area. Can I buy produce from you?
I don’t live in So. CA where you can grow food year ’round. How can I be as successful as you are in providing my own food?
When we first moved here, our soil was really bad – adobe like. It took years 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.
All we can suggest is that you grow something. Write down the produce (veggies, fruits and herbs) that you do buy and see if you can grow a plant or two. If growing your own is impossible, then support a local farm/farmer instead.
How big is your garden?
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.
Do you grow all your food?
No, we live in the city so we don’t have “a back forty” to plant staple crops. That means we have to purchase items like flour, rice, sugar and a few other pantry supplies. These bulk supplies purchased mostly from a food co-op. We grow all our herbs, vegetables and some fruit. If we don’t grow what we eat – we swap with neighbors or farmers in the community.
We live directly and indirectly from our land. What we grow we eat and or sell and what we sell we use the money to purchase staples and other necessities.
I’d like to start–where and how do I begin?
To be honest, unlike TV extreme makeovers, your home will not be transformed overnight. You can’t “buy your way” to a more sustainable life. Each element towards a more self-reliant life takes time, and we suggest you take it one, baby, step at at time. Every one’s home/yard is different due to climate, location and elements. Start small. Don’t “bite off more than you can handle” Besides mining this website for ideas, if you are local, sign up our workshops.
Have you written a book?
Not a print one. We like to think of our “blog is our book.” This opensource “blook” has been online since 2001, recording our journey of turning our ordinary 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”
See article Dervaes Family Blogs On For A Better Future
You live in a residential neighborhood, how are you able to conduct a produce business?
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. Pasadena’s Code Compliance
In 2010 “the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a motion that instructs the city attorney to amend an old and ambiguous city ordinance to allow for the on-site use and off-site sale of flowers and fruit grown within city limits.” -LAist
I see you are closed on Saturday. Are you Seventh Day Adventist or Jewish?
Neither. We don’t like to be pegged into any religion box. We observe Saturday as our Sabbath, a observe the 7 Biblical Holy Days and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.