Before / After

Greening the Urban Landscape

When we moved into this house back in 1985 it was obvious the previous owners liked concrete. Concrete was everywhere since they had poured a huge ~40′ x ~30′ slab in the middle of the backyard which we finally removed 90% of it by hand in Fall of 2005.  

Beside that behemoth patio slab,  there was the 100′ long concrete driveway which channeled precious rainwater down to the street.   The entire property is finally now more permeable than ever with very little, if any, rainwater leaving the property– if and when it does actually rain– thanks to the fact the driveway now has a 3′ strip in the middle where we planted low growing herbs and drought tolerant clover.  

PTF pumpkin, tomatillos, beets, urban homestead kitchen counter

Goings On

– summer’s bounty is upon us. Harvested over 100 lbs of veggies yesterday
– brewing 25 gallons biodiesel bringing the estimated total to 1,000 gallons brewed in three or so years since we started.

4′ 5″ ft high eggplant, baby corn, cukes and onions, new bed of beans

Call To Arms

In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest, one that can-and will-overturn the corporate powers that be. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world-we change ourselves. – Jules Dervaes (2001)

We chatted this morning, remarking that if we were blessed with a good year (unlike this year where we experienced the coldest and driest winter ever), and if all of the “to-do” projects were done, like the greywater system, gutters, rainwater cisterns (which we are still waiting for!) etc., plus a few other garden projects, like new trellises and so forth, we could break our back to back harvest record of 6,000 lbs from our 1/10th acre garden.

How can we say that?  Our garden soil is getting better and better each year, plus with less container plants (since a lot of concrete has been removed). In addition, we have more sunlight (less shade cast by the neighbor’s trees) and the fruit trees are maturing.

How much could we break it by? That depends on a lot of variables (like which crops we grew) but preliminary estimates of 4 Tons (8,000 lbs) have been talked about and are not far fetched. How about 5 tons? It is possible…..  This brings me to mulling over the verse “by their fruits you shall know them” or “actions speak louder than words.” Wouldn’t it be something to really explode the  misconceptions of growing food in the city. We may not be writing “the book” or going on tour and teaching folks, but we are certainly working hard at getting our hands dirty and showing by example by actually doing.     Who knows maybe one day we’ll have the time to see if the estimates would be a reality as we use our hands as weapons of mass creation.   

Prius Preening {Slate}

Is my hybrid turning my kids into eco-snobs?This is a problem that can arise in many contexts—nationalism and religion spring to mind. There’s a fine line between pride in one’s identity and unearned moral superiority. But environmentalism has particular pitfalls. One’s salvation from sin doesn’t depend on anyone else’s salvation, not directly. But one’s salvation from global warming does. My air conditioning is cooling off my house and heating up your planet.
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  1. d'Heat says:

    A question for Justin about tomatoes: assuming you grow indeterminates, what do you do to keep your vines confined to a specific area? Do you train each plant to a singe vine? Best regards

  2. James Kniskern says:

    On writing the book. You have written the book on growing food on such a small plot of land. You have shown what can be done, written about it, and lead many towards that path! Thanks,

  3. Ginny says:

    Thanks for the wonderful pictures. I love what you are doing. On my blog, I have a recipe for refrigerator pickles, if you are interested. I like the fact that they are still basically raw. I am also making sauerkraut and not canning it this year, so I don’t kill it. If you are interested:

    I look forward to more of your posts. 😀

    In Christ,


  4. Joanne Poyourow says:

    what “low growing herbs” did you put in that lovely driveway strip? I know you park the biodiesel Suburban there at times – don’t you worry about drips from the car getting on your herbs? Perhaps biodiesel is less toxic than conventional (but I thought Justin said it was caustic) and probably the Suburban has lubrication and fluids which include dino-oil. Also, is the herb strip just down the center, or does it have any places it cuts across the drive to capture that rainwater runoff? I’d love to do a strip like that in my drive (we had a concrete-happy prior owner too!).