Roof update

The guys spent most of the past couple days trying to finish the last bit of plywood on the roof eaves. First, they lifted up and leveled the eaves with some 2″‘x3″ lumber and then put down the plywood. So now, the front porch and northwest side of the house are finally finished!!! My room, which was an addition, and the damaged eaves on the southeast side are the only things left to do. However, before they can put the 12 sheets of plywood on the addition, they’ll have to add 8 more rafters because the original ones are 32″ apart.
As I mentioned before, normally for metal roof installation you usually do not have to put down plywood; however, with the ~90 year old redwood rafters and purlins of all different sizes and shapes, we felt better putting up plywood. Plywood helped tie everything together and also give a brand new base to attach the metal roof to. It is interesting to say the least to work with an old house. There are all sorts of surprises – one example is the rafters should be about 24″ on center- however, ours range anywhere from 29″ to 22″.   Boy, if the roof wasn’t so messed up, crooked, wavy, slanted and sagging we would have been done a long time. ago. OK, it was nice to vent a little, but I wouldn’t trade this old redwood house for a new one.

A friend of ours was thoughtful to consider how hot it must be on the roof – working in such heat that we had! He bought us each some ” solar powered”presents THANKS very much.

Bike Blender

We received Nate “top secret prototype bike blender” yesterday that can be mounted on any bike without having to buy theXtracycle. Justin has already sanded and painted one old bike that will be used to power the bike blender. Photos will be posted after everything is put together.

CAFAM Exhibit
Email from one of the curators:

For the exhibition catalog, we will be doing xeroxed and stapled 8.5 X 11inch paper (real diy- the cover will be one color, the guts another.) it’llbe double-sided on recycled paper.We are asking the artists to contribute “how to” pages.
(deadline Sept 30th)

Yikes, not much in the way of lead-time! So far we’ve got (with help/references from various online sources)


Harvesting Herbs

Herbal Vinegars

Handwashing Clothes

Home Canning Basics

Pedal Power – bike blender

Line Drying – ‘letting it all hang out’

Pedal Power – harnessing human energy

Reusing Graywater


Powering Down

Seed Saving

Of course, we don’t have time to write such information, but thanks to reference on the internet I think we’ve put something together that’s informative.

Q & A
A reader writes:

Q. What is the purpose of the goats, the turtle, the ducks, and Quinn (its a bird you have I just don’t know what it is called)? I saw that you feed them leftovers then compost their poop, but couldn’t you just compost the leftovers?
A. Our animals not only provide us with companionship, they are vital to the holistic structure of the urban homestead’s ecosystem.

  • The chickens and ducks provide us with eggs (we call them “sunshine
    eggs”) which are much more healthful than any eggs you can buy at the store
  • Duck and chickens also are good at turning over soil in our raised beds
    at the end of the season and eating the “bad” bugs. Our property is so small
    that we let the chickens and ducks loose in the garden sometimes (under
    supervision, of course – because they can get carried away) .
  • There are movable “tractors” that you can build. Google “chicken
    tractors” and you’ll find plans, I am sure.
  • Ducks and turtles love snails (and slugs!) which are a menace to any
  • The goats will one day provide us with milk
  • These backyard barnyard animals are great composters and give
    nutrient rich fertilizer. We like to call the animals our pet organic
    compost system. Why? You are right, we could just compost the
    leftovers but the animals take the kitchen scraps and instead of waiting for
    months for the leftovers to break down into soil, they turn the food scraps
    into organic fertilizer and compost in a matter hours. Very efficient.
  • Chickens and goats can be used as a method of weed control
  • We are vegetarian so we don’t eat our animals, but if you were to eat
    meat these animals would provide you with a protein food source.
  • Each of the animals (yes, even chickens!), has its own different
    and unique personalities. We jokingly tell folks ” we don’t have cable tv, we
    have animals.” They provide us with hours of entertainment – they are fun to
  • Goats are great pets – you can train them like dogs. We take ours for
  • We don’t “compost their poop” their poop can be immediately used in
    the garden (no composting necessary). The soil of our animal enclosure is
    now rich, black dirt thanks to all their droppings.

    Q. I want chickens, I’ve seen that your family doesn’t buy a lot of
    stuff so I’m assuming you make chicken/duck feed some how. How do you do it?A. We feed the chickens primarily with greens from our garden; however, to be
    healthy and lay eggs and because of our restricted space, they do need
    chicken food as a supplement which contains needed grains (with more land
    you could probably grown enough grains for your animals). For that we are a
    part of a local co-op where we can get 50lbs of organic chicken and duck
    feed/grain for $15. This will last us a few months. We also supplement their
    diet with scraps from the kitchen – they love rice, spaghetti, fruits,
    beans, and even cheese.

And yet another

Q. You’ve written a bit about installing a metal roof. Can you explain the benefits?
A. There are many benefits of owning a metal roof. Here are just a few to consider:
Energy Efficient

Metal roofing is on the leading edge of technology with a wide variety of finishes, designs and colors that provide greater energy savings compared to most other non-metal roofing products on the market today.


Metal roofing is sustainable. It contains significant recycled content. It lasts much longer than most non-metal roofing products. It is 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life.

Low Life-Cycle Costs and Durable

Metal roofing has been proven to be more durable than most other roofing systems available. As a result, metal roofing has low life-cycle costs making it the choice of many school, government, commercial, industrial and institutional building owners.

Fire and Wind Resistant

Metal roofing is extremely fire resistant and can be designed to withstand strong winds.


Due to its light weight per unit area, structural savings can be realized in a building when compared to using heavier non-metal roofing alternatives. For re-roofing projects, metal roofing can often be applied over the original roof, saving removal and disposal costs.
(Also most metal roofs are safe for the collection of rainwater!)


Q How did you construct your recycled concrete patios and walkways? The circular shape of the concrete pieces creates such a nice flow – much different from standard pavers. Do you need a lot of masonry experience to make them?

A. We rented a jackhammer from a local building material store to break up the ~20’x~30′ concrete slab into a variety of shapes and sizes. We were able to ‘make’ two sunflowers out of a couple of sections.   We’ve had no formal masonry experience – just a “good eye” for design.

Q. I have been reading up on raising chickens for eggs in a backyard(urban) setting and I came across an issue that is not answered well by the meat eating author: Since egg production of chickens drops off as they get older, what do you do with the older birds? We are vegetarian and I could never bring myself to kill anything, let alone one of our pets just because they got to old to lay! Will you let your hens grow old in your coop and just hatch new chicks to eventually replace them? Also, have you ever had trouble with rats eating your eggs or bothering your chickens?

A. Good question. Our hens are already nearly 5 years old and their egg production either has stopped completely or has slowed down. We are vegetarian and consider them as pets and we couldn’t kill them so we are letting them retire and live out their lives; however, if you decide to have a much larger flock (than we have) and if you have limited space you may have to consider giving them away for adoption as pets, find a farm in the area that will let them live out their retirement years in peace or have someone who would know how to humanely and reverently kill the chicken for meat for their family (last resort!)

Depending how much eggs you need, 4-6 hens are sufficient for a small household (depending on how much eggs you eat) Along with our two ducks (Khaki Campbells who are steady egg producers and don’t get broody!) we can supply eggs for our family’s needs.

No, we don’t have or have had any trouble with rats eating eggs or bothering our chickens. We do occasionally have problems with rats eating the chicken food. We had wanted to hatch chickens this year to expand and bring to replenish our diminishing flock; however, we just got too busy. So, hopefully, in Spring!

still another

Q. Your pictures are awesome. I wish I could zoom in and see things better. Hint, hint. Would that kill your bandwidth?

A. Yes, the larger pictures would increase our bandwidth, but I promise to add some of the latest yard shots intophoto gallery so you can see in better detail.

and yet another

Q. Curious if you would be interested/able/willing to offer the “how-to” booklet you’ll be providing at the Craft and Folk Art museum on your site?

A. We are submitting one page documents which the curators will then have bound into a booklet/catalog form. I’ll keep you posted on if they will be made available.

More From the Inbox

I read your list of this year’s accomplishments. Somehow you modestly omitted putting on there the inspiration you (and your family and your very public way of living your Path) are to the rest of us. When I saw the “100 mile potluck” on there I knew I had to write.We held a “100 mile potluck” here in Westchester (LAX area of L.A.) in August, modeled after yours………….. I was tickled to read how your garden gave little in the way of cucumbers this year, because over here, I had lemon cukes coming outof my ears – such a harvest of cukes I have never had. We’ll have to write it up to microclimes!
Los Angeles

I hope I didn’t give the impression of being happy in one of the journal posts when we were informed of other gardeners also having tomato trouble. Yes, “misery loves company” but there’s a fine line, for sure. Of course, we were relieved to hear that we were not alone in our struggles, but we weren’tthrilled by the fact that other gardeners were having a hard time – especially those urban and rural farmers who (like ourselves) depend on the earth to provide them with their daily bread and annual sustenance.   Just wanted to clear that up. 

Here are some more emails we have received : (thanks to all for writing, we love hearing from fellow travelers along the path!)

YOU GUYS ROCK!!! I finally found a real family to lend me inspiration. CONGRATS to you-your website is my new bible.

… you are the most amazing and inspiring family we have met in a long while.We lived in rural Montana for three years (I partially grew up on a ranch in MT, divorced parent) and meeting you all was such a relief, as we hadn’t been around organic farmers who cared for the earth and themselves and others for a long while.It’s a tough place here in many ways. But it’s a good spiritual challenge as well. Took us a while to get back on our feet and recoverfrom the glitz of LABut the nice thing is their were folks here that inspired and continue to inspire us.(We) thank you all for just being yourselves and trucking right along. We are continually inspired by you and all the work youdo.
Los Angeles

Dear Mr. Dervaes,I discovered your website quite a while ago and ever since I have been thinking about contacting you. After reading your backgroundinformation I was intrigued by your story: “he became increasingly disillusioned with the American way of life… he began a search for amore meaningful lifestyle” All that sounds pretty familiar to me and something I can relate to. I’m in my early twenties and during thecouple of past years I’ve been studying miscellaneous subjects at my local university here in Finland, but the future looks bleak. Thispath I’m on seems to be leading towards the rat race, meaningless nine to five jobs in cubicles, boardroom meetings, living out your dreamsonly after retirement at 65 etc. So lately I’ve been looking into alternative ways of life and surfing endless web pages aboutself-sufficiency, ecovillages, frugality, simplicity and permaculture. It’s all very interesting, but I’m not completely reassured. Oneuseful piece of advice I found was to consult someone who has more experience.

I have certainly been inspired…I am only 23 and have been married for almost three years.  I do not have children yet, and live in an apartment in the Fingerlakes Region in New York State. My husband and I are striving to live a more self-sufficient life, and I stumbled upon your website this evening. I am so speechless, I just had to email you just to let you know that I found it! I will email again once I finish reading it!  I perform many of the same practices that you do, however, again…I am too speechless to go on….thank you for putting your life story out there- I feel strangely connected to you in a communal sort of way. It’s touching and deep…thanks.New York(yes, I run my own “one room school house” out of my apartment, where I encourage my students to live green and to live self-sufficiently…and yes, we also have our own small garden…only 22 x 26 though.)
Hello Dervaes Family,What a wonderful website. I visit it religiously everyday to read any new updates in the journal. Can hardly wait for Part 2! I think what you are doing is so fantastic, especially in the middle of a city! You truly are pioneers of our time.I to have a dream to be able to live like you do, and maybe someday it will become a reality. Everyone tells me that I was born in the wrong era, I should have been a pioneer (I’m 32 and have felt this way for most of my life).
…. I imagine you hear from a lot of people around the world. Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that you are an inspiration to me. Keep up the great work! The earth thanks you!Take care!A kindred spirit,CanadaP.S. I love the quote “A step backwards is progress.” Jules Dervaes


Researchers: Homes have more TVs than people {CNN}

The average American home now has more television sets than people.That threshold was crossed within the past two years, according to Nielsen Media Research. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people, the researchers said.
read more

The religious war on bottled water {TheGlobeandMail}

Church groups decry profit-fuelled crazeBottled water has never gone down smoothly with many environmentalists, who view it as an extravagantly wasteful way of quenching a thirst, but the product is facing criticism from an unexpected source — religious groups.Some churches in Canada have started to urge congregants to boycott bottled water, citing ethical, theological and social justice reasons. Bottled water, they argue, is morally tainted and should be avoided.
read more

When genetically modified plants go wild {CSMonitor}

Even advocates of these crops were shaken recently when GM plants ‘escaped’ from test areas.
read more

World ‘warmest for 12,000 years {BBC}

Earth has warmed by 0.6C (1F) over the past 30 years, research shows The world is the warmest it has been in the last 12,000 years as a result of rapid warming over the past 30 years, a study has suggested.
read more

No Comments

  1. Wildside says:

    You’ve got an excellent price there on feed… I’ve finally found some (in another town but thankfully near hubby’s work), but they don’t always have it in stock when I need it and it is $25 per lb.

    Have only read 1/2 of your blog posting today — love the part on urban animals, but I see you may have more info on metal roof –thank you — and will have to come back later to finish my read…

  2. Kosh says:

    I love the portion of the post that includes the email questions and your responses. great to read that 1 on 1 type of info.. Others have said it and i agree, someday (when you have time!) your family should write a book.. actually you all could write several.. family autobiography/how-to… i know i’d be one of the first in line to buy it!


  3. gerry medland says:

    There is only one path to freedom!Thanx to your hard work and unceasing efforts,we the fellow travellers are in good company!