While we re-organize for the new PTF site (with more information and better navigation), we thought it neat to have a “journey timeline” for readers to get a sense of where we came from and how this urban homestead project came about.

The journey for our family has been one of getting back to basics, living off the land, and living sustainably as best we can. Step by step along the path to self sufficiency.

A reader recently commented:

… a big baby step for me is learning patience. I want to be further along in my journey to sustainable living. I don’t want to have to still rely on grocery stores. I have so many plans and I want to implement them NOW! But I know it all takes time and patience. I’m not God and I can’t create my universe in 6 days! I just have to work with today and hope I make choices that will positively impact my family, me, and our world tomorrow.  – Beth

The Pasadena urban homestead universe wasn’t transformed overnight.   The journey started long before I was even born and even before Farmer D decided to share our urban homesteading project with the world in 2001.  With readers seeing what/where we are today it’s hard to imagine what we started with.  It’s been a 20 year long organic process at our current location- turning a ordinary city home into an homestead.  Patience, purpose, perseverance and passion is what got us here in the first place.  With those four P’s in your pocket you can change your world for the better.

Here’s a overview “draft” timeline.

1969 Began searching for a meaningful and more natural, self-sufficient lifestyle; lived simply without air conditioning, clothes dryer; dishwasher; wanted to return to eating whole, non processed foods and natural medicines.

1973-75 Homesteaded in New Zealand: Beekeeper, sold honey/successful honey business/hand-cranked honey extractor/drug-free bees; self-installed rainwater system for homestead water supply; planted fruit trees/vegetable garden; kept chickens, ducks and goats for eggs and milk/sold chicken eggs; hand chopped firewood for heat/hot water and cooking in woodstove; built honey shop solely by hand/no power tools; outdoor toilet; outdoor laundry room with copper basin and fireplace for heating water; wringer washer/outdoor clothesline; primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally butchered chickens/sheep for food; no phone or TV; cooked from scratch; home entertainment and developed some additional homesteading craft skills; purchased an old Morris “hand cranked” car; experimented with humanure composing.

1975-84 Lived on 10 acres in Florida: hand –cleared palmettos for mobile home/out buildings, garden and play area; dug trenches for water pipes for well and septic tank opening/ self-installed electricity; beekeeper/bee supply and honey business/drug-free bees; planted huge vegetable garden; milked goat; various building and DIY projects; no air conditioning, no dishwasher, no clothes dryer/used outdoor clothesline; used alternative medicine; began home schooling children; in later years disconnected hot water heater; had a large worm composting bin; small nursery business.

1985 First year in Pasadena house: furnished home with items brought from Florida and donated second hand items/stove and fridge from the church; kept 10 drug-free beehives and sold honey/hand-cranked extractor; composted; planted vegetable garden; heavily mulched backyard to improve soil; no air conditioning, no clothes dryer/used outdoor clothesline.

1989 Became totally vegetarian.

1990 Edible landscaping and farming in the front yard; smothered front lawn under newspaper & mulch to kill the grass: planted wildflowers, vegetables and herbs.

(1991-92) First DIY cardboard solar oven made for cooking baked potatoes and cookies/experimental; recycled grey water from sinks and tub to water the garden to conserve water during water restrictions.

1993 Started crafting business; lived without use of refrigerator on and off for several years; experiences in extreme simplicity; roof began leaking—tarp put on.  Exploring local mountains – several hiking and camping expeditions.

(1994-95) DerVaes Gardens started —home business of selling edible flowers and herbs grown in front and backyard to restaurants and caterers; alternative homegrown medicines use increases/herbal medicines preparation.

1996 Increased use of food preservation and began eating with the seasons from the garden; worm composting; learned how to repair and fix bicycles for ourselves and the community.

1999 DerVaes Gardens edible flowers sales scaled back and more heirloom “gourmet” vegetables planted instead. Learned, self taught survival skills and wild edible forging.

2000 DIY Constructed a large plywood solar oven on wheels and began using the sun for cooking more of the meals and for hot water for dish washing.

2001 Decided to take a proactive approach — do what we can, where we are with what we had.  Living our  protest 24/7 by urban homesteading fulltime; recorded amount of harvest; used term “urban homestead” to document journey to self-sufficiency online at; made raised beds and self-watering containers; first media article written about PTF’s urban homestead; used city rebates for energy efficient computers, vcr, and tv; installed energy efficient light bulbs; bought gas lamps and various hand-cranked/unplugged kitchen appliances; first urban homestead blog entry.

2002 Started raising chickens (5 hens) from day old chicks; rabbits (2) opened up urban homestead to the public – first tour of urban homestead; used city rebate to purchase energy efficient refrigerator; built solar food dryer.

2003 Self-installed solar panels using city rebates; constructed solar-heated outdoor shower; installed solar tube light in garage; raised day old baby ducks (2); started replacing old appliances like refrigerator, etc; city rebate for energy efficient/water saver washing machine; James Washer hand operated washing machine; LA Permaculture Guild first Permaculture Class visits the urban homestead on field trip.

2004 Constructed biodiesel processor to make fuel for diesel car; purchased a used 88′ Chevy diesel; hosted various “Self Sufficiency Series” workshops at the urban homestead—soap-making, spinning, biodiesel making, hosted guest speakers; started using EM.  Exhibited our urban homestead and farm project at Fritz Haeg’s Garden LAb at Art Center College of Design.

2005 Constructed earthen (cob) outdoor, wood-fired oven; broke up and removed 30’x30’ concrete slab in backyard and reused it for hardscaping; wind blows off more shingles on roof; first installed clay pot irrigation; pedal powered grain mill.

2006 Purchased two goats (miniature and dwarf); revamped solar shower; expanded animal enclosure; added more raised beds; more “small” improvements made to the overall urban homestead; installed Jotul wood stove for heat/free wood from local tree trimmer for burning; bike trailer; toilet lid sink for water conservation in bathroom; DIY arbors installed to take advantage of “upscale growing space”; pedal powered blender.

2007 Installed eco friendly metal roof for future rainwater collection; raised and sold chickens and ducks for fellow LA backyard poultry enthusiasts; increased our backyard flockery with more chickens and ducks; installed solar attic fans (rebated by the City of Pasadena), replaced driveway with more “permeable” Hollywood ” strip driveway; captured “wild” bees as a swarm; purchased space saving rain barrels for rainwater harvesting project.

2008 – the urban homestead project continues growing both in our backyard and globally with improved websites and interactive challenges… stay tuned for more!

No Comments

  1. Alida says:

    You all inspire. That one choice ! One action can make a huge impact. I was talking about your project to other relatives today. Its inspiring.

  2. Jorge says:

    I thought I read once that there were other members of the family, are they just shy when it comes to pictures and interviews?

  3. Regina says:

    I am a new “fan” and I have to say that you are very inspirational, even if I can only start out by doing very simple things to become more sustainable.
    Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge with us!

  4. jengod says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s a nice reminder that it takes time for everyone. It makes it easier to wait for the trees that need to get strong before they are ready to fruit…

  5. Beth says:

    Wow. What a journey! So inspiring! And I’m honored that you quoted me! You all are such an inspiration for me!!

  6. Ken says:

    Your journey is inspiring, the courage to make one change at a time and to live it out day by day.

  7. Perri says:

    I just discovered your blog. Soooo inspiring! We are a long ways from self-sufficiency, but making progress… I really appreciate seeing your timeline.

    Also, your yrban homestead makes me think I could cram a lot more into our rural yard!

    How do you support the goats? Do you purchase hay or grow/produce food on site?


  8. Sinfonian says:

    Wow, I “knew” the basics, but boy is it cool to see the progression. Looks like most of the more “radical” lifestyle changes and self sufficiency took off only in the last several years. There is hope for us yet. A true testament to baby steps. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Yvonne S from Sweden says:

    Very interesting to read the progress your family have done and thank’s for the inspiration you give me!


  10. HIVE MAINTENANCE | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] D started beekeeping in the early 1970’s when he immigrated to New Zealand and started living off the land.  His first forays in beekeeping was when he captured a swarm at […]

  11. says:

    This really is a bio of the Dervaes family, and an excellent one at that. Subscribing to their blog via RSS, joining the Freedom Gardens site, and visiting their other websites I am reminded what freedom really means and taught about self sufficiency, the way our ancestors all lived. Our grandparents and great-grandparents never had fast food shoved in their face by mass media, GMO veggies with zero flavor or nutrients, homogenized milk, and on and on. The Dervaes are a get back to the basics, self sufficient, and beloved family, not just in the US, but worldwide. They truly are a role model for all.

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