Path to Freedom’s urban homestead featured in LA Times BRAND X supplement (pg 12)

A Green Path by Jessica Hundley

First, there is the study in opposites; sprawl of concrete meeting a spread of fecund growth, white picket fence lining city street, the roar of freeway competing with the screech of a hen celebrating the laying of the morning’s first egg.

Path to Freedom is itself a dichotomy: a farm in the city, a “peaceful” revolution.  It’s an oasis, an example and a subtle confrontation.  It is simultaneously, an “urban homestead,”  which existed before the term, and also one family’s quest to find “freedom” amid the chaos of city life.

Jules Deraves and his three children began building their 1/5 acre Pasadena family farm over a decade ago, but it is only recently that the world has caught up to them.  Both a renewed interest in sustainability and a sour economy has transformed what once might have been deemed “kooky:” into a undeniable enviable independence.

“There was a time when we were the crazy people on the block, tearing up our lawn and planting things,” says the youngest Dervaes, Jordanne, 26, ” and suddenly I look up 20 years later and we’re cool.  I don’t know when that happened, but I do know we’d be doing this – whether it was cool or not.”

Establishing the first “urban homesteading” websites to document their stared experiment, the Dervaes have become, over the last 10 years, if not “cool” then certianly highly admired worldwide.   Millions follow their popular blog, which documents the family as is successfully feeds and fuels itself – entirely from their fruits of its own labor and the incredible bounty of its tiny plot of land.

“Part of the reason we’ve gotten so much attention is that we’ve shown that this can be done successfully,” says patriarch Jules Dervaes. ” One of the points we wanted ot make was not only could this be done, but it could be done with little money and a little land.

In on year the Dervaes’ homestead can produce three tons of fruits, vegetables, 25 pounds of honey and nearly 2,000 duck and chicken eggs.  They utilize solar heat and people powered machinery: for example, a blender connected to a stationary bike (pedaling gets the blades going) and an old-fashioned hand wringer washing machine.  They also make their own preserves and their own biodiesel fuel.

As a result of these Herculean efforts and a low-impact, self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle, the Dervaes have become, quite unexpectedly, the poster family for the green homestead movement.  It’s a crown, however, they seem to wear somewhat uneasily.

“The economic collapse has boosted our email-s and our outreach and it seems like people are now looking at this lifestyle seriously, as a viable alternative,” says the senior Dervaes, but the danger is that it’s now become trendy.  So it’s up in the air, which way it will go.  I’ve been here before back in the 1970’s.  There was s big rush, a ‘back to the land’ movement that was truly sustainable.  But what happened is a lot of those people got out there and realized it was hard!”


On a side note, Jordanne commented that our old hen Clementine once again graced the pages of the LA TIMES piece with her elegance.    I can’t even count how many times her majesty has been photographed and featured in print, tv, film etc.

Old Clem is going on nine years and she’s still clucking!


  1. Turling says:

    “But what happened is a lot of those people got out there and realized it was hard!”

    I think you hit the nail right on the head. But, isn’t it being hard what makes it worth doing?

  2. Anais says:

    Exactly right. Hard is worth doing but you got to have the heart too even when the going gets tough.

    The lady interviewed our family for over 2 hours so a LOT of what was said was left out. There was some good stuff though!

  3. Lorena says:

    thanks for the inspiring post

  4. theherbalkitty says:

    I think it’s the “hard” part that also makes people shake their heads at those of us who are attempting to live this lifestyle…one step at a time. But, as was said, hard is what makes it worth doing. If we didn’t believe it–believe in it–and find a wealth of happiness from both the labor and the fruits of that labor, we wouldn’t do it. That’s the heart part. =)

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