NEW BEGINNINGS

A new year, new beginnings

It’s been a busy week for us—a mixture of work and pleasure.  On Monday we took some time to enjoy some hot cocoa and homemade goodies at our neighbors’ home (thanks D & K for your hospitality!).

On New Year’s day, we helped some friends of ours move to their new home (with a backyard yeah!).  Another friend had invited us to her New Year’s day party, but we couldn’t do both.  Thanks for the invite L – maybe next year!

Looking Back

I hope you have been enjoying posts here at LHITC this year — (over 3/4 million pageviews worth ) . For 2009 I only hope they get better. We are planning on, once again, overhauling the journal for better search optimization – so stay tuned for improvements!

Like most people these days we’ll highlight our tracks of 2008.

Kicked off the year with the 100-Foot Diet Challenge, but not only did we just throw the challenge out for our readers to participate in, we challenged ourselves to see if our little 1/10 acre garden could produce 10,000 pounds of produce.  Well, the weather had other ideas, and we’ll just barely make our normal 6,000 pounds tally (I’ll post the year’s tally soon)

A few months later, we added the Harvest Keeper Challenge and Save Our Seeds.  LHITC blog exposed the underside of the seed industry; encouraged people to ‘Say Ahhhh’; Liberate their Lawns, be a ‘Conscientious Consumer‘ or the change they wish to see with IMBY and listed our weekly homegrown, homemade menus; and much, much more.

We also had a little fun with flash from the pasts with Flashback Friday & ‘I Didn’t Know Any Better’

And there was certainly plenty of eye candy from cute animals, to luscious gardens, to colorful harvest.  So much in fact, it could fill an entire book with pictures and stories!

One, if not the biggest, highlights of the year was the launch of the first-ever social network for modern day “victory gardeners,” FreedomGardens.org.  And boy has this site grown since its launch this past summer!  FG stands at over 1,930 and growing strong with new & experienced gardeners determined to dig their way towards a free and secure future.

Towards the end of the summer, we hosted the first Freedom Gardens meetup and have plans for these meetups to spread to other cities across the world.  We are working on the details as we speak – along with a million other things!

PTF was very active in the community in ‘08.  Not only did we host a few successful film screenings and delicious potlucks,  starting with the screening of The World According to Monsanto in June, but also gave presentations at quite a few venues around So Cal— Sustainable LA, All Saints Church, Ten Thousand Villages, Smith & Hawken, National History Museum on urban homesteading and a couple at UCLA on food security.

Not to mention that our urban homestead was featured on  Chow Magazine, ABC’s Nightline, The New York Times Magazine, CNN, Living Green Channel, PBS’s California Heartland and in an insightful documentary by Robert McFalls, HomeGrown.  Also PTF and LHITC have been featured and referred to in hundreds of blogs and websites throughout the world wide web.  If you have link to our site from yours, thank you.  We appreciate your spreading the word of our project.

Our little in-home video, Homegrown Revolution, topped over 130,000 views on YouTube and was selected to be screened at the largest environmental Film Festival in the USA.  After the premier in next week we are considering making it available to purchase online … so stay tuned for details.

Here on the urban homestead, not only did we feed ourselves, produce our own electricity and fuel, some of the highlights this year were harvesting 25 lbs of honey and filling all our kitchen pantry with homegrown, home preserved canned goods.

Because of the economic down turn and lack luster harvest summer season we tighten our belts – making do or did without.

There’s definitely more, but I think I just about covered a few of the highlights from 2008 and now 2009…

Looking Forward

We will continue to bring you real life experiences from our daily life here on the urban homestead and do our best to inspire and promote change.

Having been invited to premier Homegrown Revolution at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, and PTF to be featured in Mother Earth News in February we are already starting off this year at a full-out gallop.

What you can look forward to in 2009 is continued upgrades to the FreedomGardens.org website,  another attempt at organizing LHITC, and a new and improved PTF site, where we plan to highlight steps we have taken in our journey and the 10 elements of urban homesteading.

There are also two other social networks (one for urban homesteaders and the other for backyard poultry and livestock enthusiast) which we hope to launch after we work out all the kinks with Freedom Gardens.org.  These new ventures are going to require a lot of work but like a friend so wisely put it,  “most importantly you know where you are going and have, like the pioneers of old, staked your claim so now it’s just a matter of slowing working all all the details.”

There’s another huge event that Farmer D will be attending in March –details will have to wait.  One thing that I can say is that it’s not in California but down South, as in “Dixie south.”

One of our other projects that we have been working on is a new venture and campaign, FreedomSeeds.org Not only has there been hours of research put in, but the initial investment to purchase the seeds has us worried and wondering if this is such a good investment at this time.  Why the hesitation?  Well, we are wondering if we can count on our readers to support this new venture of ours.    Having been busy these last we months, we are behind (really behind) especially if we expect orders this planting season.   We are still not certain if we can pull it all together before everyone starts ordering their seeds – and many of you have.

But no matter what we would like to hear is comments from you – would you be willing to support FreedomSeeds.org a ‘homegrown’ seed company that will feature not only safe but secure seeds (varieties that aren’t owned by Monsanto)?   So with that and the uncertainty if we can pull everything together in time for the seed ordering season I guess FS will have to be another one of our “WIP projects” for 2009.

Of course, stay tuned for more events, daily urban homestead life, challenges and more! Well, that’s what our plans are, but you never know what might be in store for us.

Also a tremendous thank you to those few who supported our grassroots outreach efforts this year.  With our operating expenses at nearly $10,000 a year for our organization we truly value and appreciate your support.   Although we fell short of our donation goal of $10,000 for 2008 we hope that next year, er this year, will be better.   I promise to do my part in keeping the donations flowing if you promise to do yours.

Growing On From Here

Now that I gave a run down of highlights (and there were certainly our fair share of low lights but we are keeping this a positive toned post), it’s your turn.  Speak up about what this site has meant to you and let us know your thoughts on the direction we hope to go in 2009.

If you are a lurker or a long time reader, here’s your chance to let us know what you think.  We would like to hear your thoughts, so speak up!  What’s your favorite part of the LHITC, what keeps you coming back day after day.

To our longtime readers, thanks for sticking with us through the our success, progress, failures and setbacks over these last 8 years.

Here’s to another year of homegrown solutions!

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Psalm of Life, Longfellow

Comments(20)

  1. Ellen says:

    I’ve been following your site for a couple years now and wanted to let you know that you are a huge inspiration. We have two acres in rural Vermont. While we don’t come close to being as productive as you are, we’ve made some huge steps. I love reading your site. I’d love to see more recipes (of course) and more on your day to day life. I’d love pictures of the inside of your house and some of the things you do there to be green/frugal. Keep up the great work!

  2. Stacy says:

    Thank you all again for all you do – the inspiration here and at PTF, the facilitation of community through FG, the dissemination of data – it’s all amazing, and I’m so grateful to have found you.

    I messaged Farmer D with my thoughts on FreedomSeeds via FG, so if he hasn’t seen it, let me know and I’ll resend/cc to you guys. I second Ellen’s commentary about a cookbook… I’ve been keeping it in the back of my mind since it was first discussed here. I’ve had several friends sing the praises of blurb.com for home publishing lately (hint, hint). If you want ideas on what more to do or where to go, I’m a big fan of More Detail – sketches and figures and plans and detail pictures and measurements and instructions… but that’s my engineering side talking. On the other hand, being too specific lets people be too lazy about researching what would work best for their specific circumstances. It’s a tough balance.

    My goals for this year are to not only improve my homestead here (some projects inspired by you, others stumbled upon following tangents inspired/informed by you, etc.) but also increase my value to the local homesteading community, be it through trades, emotional and informational support online via FG, or volunteer time/contributions to this and other projects that encourage increased sustainability. Thank you again for all you do, and I hope this year provides the resources and opportunities for me to help repay you better than this year did!

  3. Melissa says:

    Wow, what an amazing story. You all are great. I definitely haven’t found anyone else who compares to the quality of hard work and ideas you all continue to put out. Actions definitely speak louder than words and you all have proved that, thanks!

    To answer your question about your FreedomSeeds.org, I would definitely be a supporter!

    Thanks again. 🙂

  4. Lori from Michigan says:

    Hi Anais,

    Happy New Year to you and your family. I look in often to see what you are doing, and it is such a breath of fresh air. My husband and I are currently on the unhappy American treadmill of full-time work in unsatisfying jobs, stressed about life, the economy and what is happening in the world. My young daughter is a dedicated consumer of trendy goods and the empty wasteland of pop culture.

    We just have a small summer veggie garden in our yard, but whenever I take a peek at your website, things start churning around in my head. And I spotted my husband looking at your site the other day, so I think you’re getting to him too. Your way of life looks so ethical and satisfying.

    If you have time, I’d love to see you make a DVD of home canning techniques and other methods of food preservation. I would also like to see a book of your recipes. I’d buy both!

    I look forward to seeing what you do in 2009. You unsettle and disturb me. This is a good thing. You’re helping people to break out of the trap.

    Oh yes, more pictures of Blackberry please. She’s got the most adorable little face, and my daughter just loves her!

    –Lori

  5. Lorie in NJ says:

    I have been following your story for a couple of years. Thank you so much for all you do. Freedom Seeds is a GREAT idea! I would love to get my seeds from a trusted source.

    I agree with all of the above about a cookbook. I would also like to see a recommended books list. For example, Jordanne’s favorite holistic animal books, Farmer D’s favorite bee keeping resources, etc. (Unless this is already somewhere on your site and I missed it)

    As I read your new beginnings post and reflected on the changes I have made this past year I realized your family’s inspiration has been life changing! Here are just a few of the things I have done on my city lot as a direct result of your influence: Liberated 1/2 of my lawn for vegetables, removed useless shrubs and planted edibles, planted 7 fruit trees, rain collection, started an organic bulk buying co-op, joined a local eco-friendly organic dairy co-op, started a flock of “city chickens”, began canning and created a nice sized larder, I’m sure there is more.

    Please keep the inspiration flowing.

    My new year’s resolution…support PTF.

    God bless you guys, you’re the best.

  6. Donna says:

    We have really enjoyed reading your journal this past year.

    Can’t wait for the documentary to be available for purchase.

    We’ve been gardening for many years now, and have received great ideas just reading your blog. We plan to add ducks this year as our youngest daughter has an allergy to chicken eggs and can only eat duck eggs. We just can’t find them anywhere around here, sooo….we’ll raise our own.

    There’s a set of three DVDs titled Homestead Blessings that you might enjoy–just a mom and her three daughters. My daughters have enjoyed their DVDs on candle making, soap making, and bread baking. You can purchase them at http://www.franklinsprings.com/films/hsb/

    We would very much be interested in your seeds. We currently purchase through Seed Savers and Seeds of Change and would welcome another source.

    Looking forward to what you’re bringing us this year.

    Donna

  7. altadenahiker says:

    I was hoping your new venture had to do with seeds. Count on me.

  8. girlgroupgirl says:

    We are so excited that Farmer D is considering the big event South of the Mason Dixon line! My friends and I are eagerly awaiting the day tickets go on sale!

  9. anita says:

    Morning Anais,
    LHITC is my daily inspiration. I love to read your daily posts while I sip a cup of tea. Then, I’m out of my chair and into the garden and make use of the little time I have before work, to take in the joy that my little garden brings.
    I look forward to hearing of your new projects and wish them every success.
    Anita
    Melbourne Australia

  10. Sinfonian says:

    I come here every day or so to catch up on the LHITC. It is the most updated blog I know. Ok, it’s more than a blog, but similar.

    LIHTC is so diverse in your postings, and that is my favorite part. I would get tired of seeing your menu every day, but once a week it makes me ponder future meals and hungry if I haven’t eaten recently.

    I guess if I could get anything more out of your site, it would be more garden pictures. I love seeing garden tours and plants growing. You provide many pics, but I would enjoy more.

    As for the seed company, that is a ton of work. Researching what grows best where, the properties of the seed, testing he viability consistently. There is a reason Territorial Seed (for instance) has close to 3,000 employees.

    I’m not sure when most of the seeds are sold to small gardeners, but there must be a reason catalogs go out right after Christmas. I know I have been putting together my order this weekend.

    I would definitely look to you as a trusted supplier, though. It is VERY difficult to get specific information about whether or not a seed is owned by Monsanto. I’ve got conflicting information on Early Girl and Yellow Pear tomatoes. Some companies say they’re Monsanto and some not. And correspondence with seed retailers is spotty at best. A west coast supplier that I didn’t have to question would be great. Baker Creek is way over in Missouri.

    Thanks for all you do and best wishes for 2009!

  11. Ron Delaney says:

    LHITC is also my daily inspiration. In fact, many times a day!

    While your upcoming seed venture would seem logical, it may be limited,
    as Sinfonian eluded to. I buy mostly from Northeast seed suppliers and would be unsure about buying seeds centered from Pasadina California (major differences in Upstate New York climate and then there are the shipping costs).

    Your following is wide and diverse (in fact, worldwide). You have a message to send in our troubled times and you need to send it NOW (to include making a solid living
    for the Dervaes family). When you referenced the Victory Gardens of World War II, you are offering the exact advice what this nation needs to return to. From small backyards to apartment balconies, you need to show us how!

    Soon to be appearing in Mother Earth News (I have the first edition safely tucked away)
    WOW – You’re my kind of folks!

    My advice is this:

    1) Be the new hosts of PBS’s Victory Garden ( the new(er) shows are a joke). Go back
    to the times of James Underwood Crockett and show us how instead of this fancy
    groomed gardens of the rich. We need food!

    2) Again television, do an American version of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” which is
    currently running on the Sundance Channel.
    See here: http://www.sundancechannel.com/series/thegreen_inebg
    They even have their own great book. Your turn.

    3) It is all possible. Look at the up and coming Patty Moreno – The Garden Girl
    Here: http://www.gardengirltv.com/
    It can be done, in fact you’re already there.

    4) Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot:
    Sundance Channel – The Green
    Discovery Channel – Planet Green TV (a whole channel dedicated to green living)
    http://planetgreen.discovery.com/
    FitTV – Get Fresh with Sara Snow for example

    Let HOMEGROWN be the pilot movie for a television series that follows the Dervaes family:

    HOMEGROWN follows the Dervaes family who run a small organic farm in the heart of urban Pasadena, California. While “living off the grid”, they harvest over 6,000 pounds of produce on less than a quarter of an acre, make their own bio diesel, power their computers with the help of solar panels, and maintain a website that gets 4,000 hits a day. The film is an intimate human portrait of what it’s like to live like “Little House on the Prairie” in the 21st Century.

    I’ll tune in!

    Best for 2009

    Ron

  12. Mary Hysong says:

    OOOh more seeds! Yeah! Especially some of those really different things you guys grow like that giant squash thingy 😉 I’m always looking for new and different stuff. i order from a lot of different places like Bountiful Gardens, Seeds of Change & Seed Savers but not everybody has everything, that is what makes it all so much fun.

    I have loved your site for years. You inspire me all the time, tho I am jealous of those Dec tomatoes…..I’m working on how much can I harvest this coming year too, maybe a few hundred pounds, maybe more, we’ll see. Please keep going forward, your work is awesome.

  13. Judy says:

    Awesome post! I loved the recap of 2008. You and your family are so inspiring to so many of us “want-to-be’s” — I’m try my best to follow your examples. And I’ve learned so much from your blog.

    I would also love more specifics on so many different subjects… organic pest control, crop rotation, planning, recipes for cooking the garden harvest…. I know that all of these requests take time and I really don’t know how you have time to accomplish everything that you are already doing! And here I am asking for more…. I do want you and your family to know how grateful I am for the information that you do share.

    You mentioned something before about having a PayPal donation button and if all the readers committed to donating even $1 per month, how much that would help your family’s outreach efforts. Now would be a good time to let readers sign up and commit to donating $1 or $5 per month (or whatever they could)…. I for one would definitely commit to a monthly donation. The information that you provide is invaluable!

    I am very excited about Freedom Seeds! A couple of us has been talking about just this same topic… We would love a seed company that could guarantee us Non- Monsanto seed! That is awesome! As Sinfonian said, even if you ask about a variety of seed, sometimes it’s hard to really get an answer. And there are so many varieties that many of us are confused if they are Monsanto seeds or not.

    Keep up the great work Dervaes! And here’s to an awesome 2009!

  14. Susan Smith says:

    hi: I am in awe of how much you accomplish. I am on the food security committee of our small town on Vancouver Island and we are hoping to encourage more urban farmers as the Island has only 3 days worth of food in the stores should there be an emergency. I know you have loads to do but is it possible to give an idea of the percentage of your time spent gardening/at the computer/caring for the house/ preparing food etc. Historically, when people had big gardens and preserved food, there was usually one adult home full time and I see time as a big factor for people to use as an excuse not to try. Thanks and happy growing this year. Susan

  15. redclay says:

    “South of the Mason Dixon” is still a really big area. Hopefully Farmer D will be close enough for me to drop by.

    Regarding the seed store, perhaps you could leverage the FG network to create seed savers…you could be the store-front (like Bountiful Gardens).

    Keep encouraging everyone just to start growing something. That gets the ball rolling and pretty soon you’re like me…laying awake at night thinking about the sunshine requirements for the new seeds they just got and when to plant them.

    I would love to get more information on how the fresh ingredients all come together to make the amazing dishes that you cook. OK, the salads I can figure out but things like sauces are harder. I keep waiting for the “kitchen” tab on FG to come alive. I keep looking for that missing link between the raised bed and the dinner table.

  16. karenhenks says:

    A definite yes to freedom seeds: i would gladly support you in that endeavor. I never know where to buy seeds that are both organic and not owned by Monsanto.
    That said, your website is an inspiration to me to continue my efforts in food producing; however humble. My personal goal last year was to grow all of the lettuce and greens and fruit we needed. We did about 95%. (Watermelon was just too tempting in the grocery store during the summer, and we didn’t grow any.) This year we will continue, and also try to improve our tomato harvest, which has been dismal. We would like to improve our canning efforts, and also get 2 suburban chickens for eggs. Thanks for all you do.

  17. gerry medland says:

    FEAR of failure is False Evidence Appearing Real,to overcoms FEAR,we need to ACT,because ACTION CONQUERS TERROR!A LOT OF FOLKS, myself icluding did not know if we could transform our lives when setting out on the path,several years on, our lives are enriched for having the courage to take those first steps.For me personally,PTF and its tireless devvotion to the mission has truly filled my life with blessings beyond compare.
    Thank you all,
    Gerrry m

  18. Kristi says:

    I’ve been following you for quite a while now. You’ve certainly been and hopefully will continue to be an inspiration to me for a long time.

    I’m excited about your “down in Dixie event”. I can’t wait to hear details. Gardening is really taking off here in the New Orleans area since Katrina and thanks to you and your family for all of your help to the area.

    This year I have planted numerous fruit trees, built a fairly large raised bed garden with plans to add, eliminated much of my front yard with a huge perennial bed, cut our grass less and built chicken tractors to allow our new chickens to graze.

    We have three acres and I am very interested in the “food forest” concept. I really would love to know Farmer D’s opinion on “food forests”.

    Thank you so much.
    Kristi

  19. Jan says:

    I would absolutely purchase seeds from your family when there are available. I for one am very hesitate on buying seeds from anywhere right now.

    I love what your family has taught me, not only about gardening but about myself. I am able to do more then ever, by my self , and also my husband is on board now. AGAIN THANK YOU FOR BEING A GREAT INSPRATION.

  20. Moxie says:

    Your family is simply amazing. Hearing about your day-to-day adventures and experiences inspires both my husband and I to one day be able to produce our own food as well. Currently we’re running the rat-race, living in a high-rise apartment with no good sunlit windows or a even a balcony, so gardening for us isn’t an option. However we’re hoping to change that later this year with a move to a place where we can at least get a balcony or a little plot to plant food. 🙂

    In the meantime we have made the switch from processed foods to whole, natural foods and have started going to farmers markets to support local farmers as well. We’re losing weight, getting healthier, and feeling better as a result, so your family (even just through this blog) has already made a significant positive impact in our lives. 🙂

    I would LOVE a “Little Homestead” cookbook, we’re always looking for new ways to cook meals in a good, wholesome way. If it were organized seasonally to take advantage of the season’s harvest it would be even better. Sometimes those of us who are just starting out have a hard time understanding what food is harvested during what seasons and how to incorporate that into our cooking… I know that ya’ll are extremely busy with other projects but it’s an idea for the future.

    THANK YOU for all that you do. 🙂

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