FAZ {English version}

The LA Hillbillies, Photo Courtesy FAZ/ Chris Kelly

The Pumpkin Revolution or The Revolution of the Squashes [FAZ-Germany]

Critics of Globalization and Capitalism are demonstrating in Heiligendamm.The Family Dervaes on the other hand lives a life apart from the consumer society – and that in the middle of the Big City Jungle of Los Angeles.If Jules Dervaes steps out of his house door, he stands in a jungle: man-tall artichoke plants with gigantic violet leaves stretch themselves tall under banana and peach trees. impressive cucumber and squash vines knot themselves into a tightly-knit leaf-weave. Tomato plants, bean stalksand grapevines frame the beds of herbs and lettuce. Beyond the curious complaints of two dwarf goats one notes a droning sound-the freeway. For Dervaes’ house lies not in the remoteness of a pastoral landscape, rather right in the middle of the City, between two eight-lane main arteries of Greater Los Angeles, in Pasadena, California.Exactly here, in the much-maligned Babylon of America, in a hundreds of miles stretching ulcer of concrete and steel where the air conditioning runs even in seventy-degree weather, where “Carpool” means an automobile with more than one occupant, where unconscious comfort determines the lifestyles of the rich, the beautiful and the thoughtless, here stands the “urban farm” of Jules Dervaes. The presence is not large: between two schools and a church community snuggles a parcel of land comprising barely 800 square meters with a small house from 1917, an equipment shed, animal enclosures and the garden which serves Dervaes and his three grown childrenas their source of nourishment and income. 2700 kilograms of fruits and vegetables were harvested by this family the year before last on four hundred square meters. A large part covered their nutritional needs, with the profit from the surplus one buys what one doesn’t (yet) produce: milk products, [dried] beans and grains.
to be continued
{more to come…. rest of article still need to be translated from German into English}

Behind the Photo

A little background behind the FAZ photo: The editors of the German newspaper weren’t too thrilled with shots taken of ordinary life on the urban homestead and lack of “pretty” garden shots due to the freeze (the writer and photographer came in January right after the infamous “deep freeze”). They wanted something artistic and controversial and sent the photographer back out again to get “the shot.”   The photographer drove around LA looking for a spot. After finding “the spot” at the corner of Third and Flower, he came by to pick us up and requested we bring some items from the urban homestead. Jordanne brought our bantam chicken, Clementine, Justin a pitchfork, Jules a pumpkin and trowel, and I a basket of fruit.   He then asked that we dress in our most comfortable outfits – for me that was a second hand prairie skirt and bare feet, Jordanne in a second hand Patagonia skirt (thanks Kelly!) and boots, and the guys in their gardening clothes.   We were amused by the whole experience

We certainly made fun of ourselves afterwards making off-the-wall comments about the whole experience. Jules jokingly dubbed himself “Cinderella Man,” and we had a good laugh about that.   The photographer wanted us to look “mad” — show that you are “mad at all the cars on the freeway beneath your feet,” he remarked. Well, one really can’t be mad if one’s holding a chicken… or pumpkin for that matter.

No Comments

  1. Claire says:

    I really like this picture. It’s sort of like an urban version of “American Gothic”!

  2. nika says:

    You do look somewhat angry tho it could also be taken as squinting from the sun. What an odd photographer! I hope that the article will spur greening of the urban landscape in Germany.

    I have been slowly making my way through your awesome site(s). We are setting up our homestead (tho its not urban – we are in the boonies but its not terribly arable land so we use similar strategies). I look forward to learning more from you all!