It’s been recently proposed that the animal enclosure be expanded to possibly make room for a dwarf goat. Jules is busy sketching out ideas for a new feeding stations for the chickens, ducks and bunny. Jordanne is busy thinking about ways to improve the duck and chicken house and looking forward to hatching some chicks in the incubator that was bartered for.
The lodge pole arbor is scheduled to be moved from one side of the back yard to the other. All this re-landscaping is making our heads spin. Once we come up a new idea we end up kicking what’s been there for years. We then have to find a new, growing space for that. It’s all fun, but a bit overwhelming to bring in the new and keep the old. Making it harder is the small amount of space we have to work with, but we have taken up challenges before. This just adds a new chapter in the history of the ever evolving urban homestead.
THE HARDEST PART
I picked up the recent issue ofDelicious Living Magazine, free, from our local Wild Oats. One of the article featured a few conscious folks, one of them being Julia Butterfly Hill. She puts into words what I think many of us are feeling right now:
“So often we are conditioned to run from the uncomfortable and difficult and numb ourselves from them or fight them. None of these are life-affirming places in which to stand. What is more powerful is to look at these opportunities rather than challenges — each opportunity for growth, clarity and power.”
Julia Butterfly Hill’s favorite green habits:
Bring reusable containers everywhere you go. “When we use disposables, like coffee cups, paper towels, and to-go containers, we are literally throwing our planet and future away.”
Shop for clothes at thrift stores. “Or when I buy something new, it is only from conscious companies that use organic cotton or hemp and pay good wages to workers.”
Clean up your beauty routine. “I only buy products that are free of animal products, were not tested on animals, and contain no parabens or petroleum derivatives.”
Support small, local farmers. “I do my very best to shop at farmers’ markets. I also do my best to support cooperative stores, even when on the road. These are a vital part of a healthy body, community, and planet.” continue article>>
This journal hopefully, provides not only a place for us to convey our our success, failures, hopes, judgments, dreams, frustrations and joy but a unique opportunity for growth.
Every day is a struggle and each night we hope to have learned from the struggle.
It’s our mission that we aren’t just writing about the latest sustainable practices that you should incorporate in your lives, instead, it’s our hope that we share with you sustainable steps that we have implemented, slowly put into operation or will put into action our lives.
The ripple starts here, we can’t just tell others to change if we aren’t, ourselves, the change.
We hope to continue to be conscious consumers and not post too many links to products, books, etc., tempting one to buy more other that what we have ourselves purchased in the past, present and future.
TAKING IT TO THE LIMITS
We received another wonderful, detailed email yesterday from another traveler who lives in an apartment complex in South Pasadena, just a few miles from us. If he can make such changes in his what I would call “not ideal” situation, change is possible anywhere. What a truly, truly inspiring letter, makes us want to accomplish more — let’s push the limits.
Hooray for folks like this couple.
Hello Dervaes Family,
Just wanted to give you a small update regarding our progress. I wrote you last summer seeking advice about a garden that my wife and I and were creating in our apartment complex, with two of our neighbors.
Maybe you remember? We were attempting to work with what we have, which is a space between two parking garages that is shaded for much of the day. You suggested a few leafy edibles for us to try, such as chard, lettuce, collards, etc…
Well, we followed much of your advice and the garden has been a success! Leafy vegetables grow without any problem. We got a late start last summer, but were still able to grow plenty of salad fixings before the cold weather hit. We started with two planters 8ft x 4ft and a small compost pile. Believe it or not, despite the small amount of light, we even got tomatoes to grow.
We had to try and it worked! We also grew some carrots. Some of these veggies were a little stunted, but still more tasty then the store bought stuff. (maybe it is just pride)Well, the success was encouraging. We decided to attempt some winter crops. The leafy stuff still did just fine, but mostly anything else just flat out failed! I guess It doesn’t hurt to try. We did get the broccoli to flower, which was surprising, and were able to harvest six small plants three times. Just barely enough for three meals. Sure, it was a little leggy, but actually tasted fine.
Anyway we got the bug and started to utilize the colder weather to make some additions to the garden.A couple of the neighbors decided that they too wanted to compost, and began saving food scraps. One neighbor even collected bags of dried leaves for us. She made an arrangement with the gardeners at her work and started taking leaves home every day! We explained the process to those interested, and quickly realized that we would need more bins. We added three simple chicken wire containers to keep everything looking clean for the management. We also began looking on “craigslist” for free items that could be useful.
One thing that is always being given away is broken concrete pieces. We decided to build an herb spiral. We don’t have a truck, so we made multiple trips to many locations in our Honda Civic with the seats folded down. We must have looked a little crazy when we were loading it up! Crazy is a relative term. We collected enough to finish the spiral and to build a retaining wall at the base of the (evil seed dropping) palm tree, which kept washing out anytime it rained. We planted comfrey under the palm tree, which grows so fast it is incredible.
We also collected a couple of old pallets which we are now using as makeshift table tops for more containers and seedlings.Realizing the importance of SUNLIGHT, we began to brainstorm options for expanding the garden where there is more light, so we can grow heartier crops that will actually feed us.
We came up with many ideas, most of which were just not practical or would not be allowed by the apartment complex. Ultimately we ended up buying six large containers (the kind designed to hold kegs of beer – plastic which gives us a little guilt – but in our price range at $6 each verses $20 for metal) We put these in front of our cars in our parking spots. Many of the other neighbors keep bicycles, and storage bins, and other junk, so why not planters?
No one seems to mind, so far. Watering will not be easy, but this is what we have to work with at the moment.Our balcony also gets lots of light so we decided to utilize it for more than just hanging out (though having comfortable space to entertain is still important) So far we have a dwarfed orange tree, and a fig tree. Both seem to be doing great. The warm weather put buds on the fig tree sooner than expected.
Don’t know if these trees will do well enough to give us fruit, but we are confident and hopeful. We also built a worm bin for the porch for additional food scraps and things that can’t go in the compost pile but will make the worms happy. We are looking for other ideas for the porch, but are taking it slow rather than forcing ideas…there are plenty of other projects to maintain, and with working in the movie business, we don’t have as much time for projects as we would like.The gold line runs right behind our apartment, and their is plenty of dead space on Hawthorne street next to the train. We decided to guerilla garden some raspberries, blueberries, and a few other perennials.
We aren’t really that discrete about the process and have decided if anyone asks us what we are doing we will just tell the truth. We have even come up with some ideas about how we might get other neighbors on that block interested and involved, and possibly even getting the city to sign off on putting in some fruit trees and other edibles in. It seems likely that in the future, people will have to get involved when the oil runs out. Right now everything is doing better than expected in these areas, despite the fact that the soil is rocky and full of clay.
Again…it doesn’t hurt to try! We do not have time to organize the neighbors right now, but maybe it will be something we will pursue in the future. Even if we move away completely, hopefully someone will be observant enough to find the berries and harvest them.The best news of all of this is that we got a call yesterday and found out that we now have a space at the El Sereno community garden. It is in L.A., but only a short bike ride from our apartment in South Pasadena. It is a relatively new space (they built the garden within the last year or two), but we have been on a waiting list for about five months. I actually had forgotten that we had ever applied, and didn’t have much hope since the guy in charge had told me that they were hoping to have El Sereno community members before surrounding neighbors from different cities.
Luckily my wife is persistent and had written several letters expressing our interest. I guess it is true that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” because they decided to give us a plot. It will only cost us $40 for the year, and will provide us with 100 square feet of actual dirt! We are very excited. Now we will be able to grow what grows best in the apartment space, and other more substantial crops only a mile or so from our apartment. Lucky for us, the garden has rules that you can’t use pesticides or synthetic fertilizer. We met some of the gardeners at a monthly meeting and everyone seems really nice. We’ll be working on prepping our soil this weekend. The previous tenant apparently didn’t do much to their space (probably the reason they aren’t participating anymore) so the soil is dried, cracked, exposed and unhealthy. It will take a little time, but we’ll get it into shape.
There are still a few projects we want to concentrate on. The biggest is some sort of water storage system. We almost got our hands on six free water barrels, but that fell through. We are hoping to eventually collect rain water at the apartment. There are a number of gutters that go into the garden and it is just a matter of finding water barrels. We haven’t broken down and bought them yet, because we are convinced we will find them for free. Another idea we have been toying with, is to develop a crude grey water system. Our friend in Flagstaff (who attended your Bio-diesel workshop with me) has been collecting grey water simply by bringing a bucket into the shower. Sounds silly at first, but…whatever water goes into the bucket is then put through a sand filter which goes to a storage container. That water is then used to water his garden!
Kind of different, but not a bad idea when you are a renter with no control of your plumbing. The other major item on our list of things to do, is to get to know more of our neighbors. We are going to throw some potluck dinners in the courtyard, and hopefully share some of our veggies. Getting to know your neighbors is tougher than it looks, especially in L.A.
We have been talking about this for a while, but we’ve been waiting for warmer weather.Well, I guess that is about it. I wanted to let you know all of this, because you have been a vital part of our inspiration, and even though I have thanked you before, I wanted to thank you again. What you are doing is very, very important. You are creating a ripple effect. Your actions have helped to create my actions, and my actions are creating positive actions in others. Not only have some of my neighbors become interested and (somewhat) involved in our project, I helped convince a co-worker and his sister to take a permaculture workshop.
We didn’t even know what permaculture was until I met you met you and saw what you were doing! Thanks again.Press on!Guy
Flying is Dying by (George Monbiot)
” if we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop traveling at the kind of speeds that planes permit. This is now broadly understood by almost everyone I meet. But it has had no impact whatever on their behavior. When I challenge my friends about their planned weekend in Rome or their holiday in Florida, they respond with a strange, distant smile and avert their eyes. They just want to enjoy themselves. Who am I to spoil their fun? The moral dissonance is deafening.”
Weird, I just wrote something along those lines of thought when I wrote on February 27th that:
To be truly self-sufficient one has to spend a better part of the day doing chores that will help one make it to the next. So much for time-off and vacations – right. One day, besides food and energy, even vacations will have to be localized. No more jet setting to places thousands of miles away.
Campaign Against the Plastic Plague
Plastic bags are everywhere! Everyday, we are handed countless plastic bags: when we go to the grocery store, retail clothing store, book store, restaurants, etc. Yes, sometimes, plastic bags are convenient, as they are water resistant and light and inexpensive compared to paper bags. Most of the time, plastic bags are superfluous and avoidable. It seems as though store clerks are often eager to hand out plastic bags for any and all kind of purchases. Sometimes, a plastic bag is just not necessary for that apple you are about to eat or that soda you are going to drink right away. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves whenever we are handed a plastic bag:
This simple act of bringing your own bag, can make a difference. It been more than a year now that we have religiously (except on a few occasions) used canvas shopping bags.
When shopping, especially at Trader Joes when I fill a shopping cart full, I end up bagging my own groceries to keep from holding up folks in line (who, on occasion, can get down right antsy if the line isn’t moving fast enough for them). I get this feeling that the workers are intimidated by using such green bags – why? Are they that difficult to use?
Yeah, they don’t stand up straight and stiff like paper bags, but isn’t it like using a plastic bag?
CALLING ALL READERS AND LURKERS
Wow, there have been some lengthy post lately and now another. Hope you readers, don’t mind. Trying to clean out the “to post” draft folder where I have jotted down thoughts and observations.
What would you like to read more of on this journal, how can we improve or are we doing just fine? Your thoughts, suggestions, comments on how we are doing (good, the bad) insights would be greatly appreciated.