Visitors to the urban homestead

Green Building Tour

PTF’s urban homestead was one of five sites on Pasadena’s Green Buildings Tour last Saturday. About 100 Pasadena residents had reserved through the city for this special tour, which included transportation on biodiesel tour buses to Pasadena City Hall (LEED certification pending), Tricom Building (LEED Silver 2004), Art Center College of Design south campus (LEED certified 2005), Northwest Innovation Center (LEED Gold 2006), and PTF.

Download Official PTF “Tour Guide” click here>

It was a long time ago–last summer–when we were approached by RBF Consulting to be the only residence on this first ever Green Buildings Tour in recognition of our ground breaking work. We saw it as a unique opportunity to give back to the City of Pasadena and the community. We thought having a specific date as a deadline would get us to finish our projects. One would think that nine plus months would be enough lead time, but when one project backed up into another, it created a snowball effect. The resulting log jam of work has thrown everything off.

Even though we were unable to finish our construction jobs/projects, keeping our commitment meant “cleaning up good” enough to host a 35 minute walk-through tour of what we had accomplished on the urban homestead so far.

Day after tour… back to work!

Now, it’s back to work. Heading into summer, our produce and edible flower business is in full swing, and our garden will soon be at peak production. Unfortunately, the unfinished projects are still there, demanding our attention. Because we want finally to complete the next steps on our ongoing journey, we can’t have interruptions causing further delay; so we have to put these steps first in order to finish them before summer’s end.

Since its beginnings in 2001, PTF’s urban homestead has been slowly evolving into an urban model that is sowing seeds of a revolution. Now we are overwhelmed as we struggle to figure out how to weigh the popularity of such a model and not have the urban homestead turn into just a showcase house. What’s happening (as we handle the new burdens of media attention) is that we do less and less homesteading work. We cannot afford to let the joys of the simple days vanish. We will have to make a major adjustment if we hope to be homesteaders first and foremost.

June garden
Green Tour Touts Efficiency [Pasadena Star News]

…But for many, a highlight was the “Path to Freedom” city farm, just one mile from downtown, started in 2001. The Dervaes family enterprise, on a fifth of an acre surrounding a 1917 Craftsman house, has become something of an inspiration to environmentalists. “It’s not a show house, it’s a working farm,” Jordanne Dervaes told tour visitors. “This was an extreme makeover, big time,” she said of the homestead that can yield three tons of produce annually. “We use no power tools, we like our hands in the dirt.” People talk of the “100-mile diet,” encouraging people to eat food grown close to home, she said. “We have the 100-foot diet!” Kids who tour the farm like the bicycle-powered blender, Dervaes said, and the outdoor earthen “cob” oven and shower were popular with visitors. “I want to do this!” said Laurie Kay, who lives in Pasadena Glen. “I’ve already got a million great ideas.”
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From the Inbox

i just wanted to say thanks for the hard work you are doing and i hopeyou can make a difference in our crazy world. It seems so far gone sometimes. i live in china (since 1991) and witness the wholesale adoption of consumer culture rushing forward on a daily basis. the lifestyle here has gone in exactly the opposite wrong direction, and the numbers are mind boggling. The consumption of unholy amounts of energy, raw materials and resources already affects the world balance, so may i be the first to suggest you translate your website into chinese and promote your message heavily to the largest audience in the world, the 1.5 billion (mostly) uninterested who would probably be willing to do something if it was shown to be in their immediate AND long term interest. An uphill struggle, and one I pay tribute to by not owning a refrigerator, aircon, nor automobile, nor do I use detergents of any kind; all of these concepts seem totally nuts to my chinese friends here who 20 years ago had none of these things. I feel overwhelmed though and admire people like your family who actually work very hard to make a difference. Thanks for all the good ideas, hope i can use some of them,

best regards,


Killer Tomato Virus Seen In Calif. [USA Today]

An insect-borne virus that has killed tomato plants across Central America, Florida and Georgia has been detected in California for the first time.The virus is known as tomato yellow leaf curl. It has devastated crops in the Dominican Republican and in Mexico, forcing those countries to curtail the growing season to contain the spread of the disease.
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Small Can Be Bountiful [Homemade Economy]

How much food can you grow in a tenth of an acre? The Dervaes family grows an amazing 6000 pounds of produce. They raise about 350 different kinds of vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, nuts and other products.How do they manage to grow so much food in such a small area? The family uses every bit of space they have in both the front and back yard. Their lot is a fifth of an acre. Half is devoted to the garden. Trees and shrubs used to landscape their property bear edible fruit. They garden intensively spacing plants fairly close together, Vegetables climb up trellises and their homemade arbor. Their animals provide fertilizer..
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[Thanks Homemade Economy for sharing our project with your readers!]
Global warming ‘is three times faster than worst predictions’ [The Independent]

Global warming is accelerating three times more quickly than feared, a series of startling, authoritative studies has revealed. They have found that emissions of carbon dioxide have been rising at thrice the rate in the 1990s. The Arctic ice cap is melting three times as fast – and the seas are rising twice as rapidly – as had been predicted.
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The Dirty Water Underground [NY Times]

LAURA ALLEN’S modest gray house in the Oakland flatlands would give a building inspector nightmares. Jerry-built pipes protrude at odd angles from the back and sides of the nearly century-old house, running into a cascading series of bathtubs filled with gravel and cattails. White PVC pipe, buckets, milk crates and hoses are strewn about the lot. Inside, there is mysterious — and illegal — plumbing in every room.
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No Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Having only read your blog over the last couple of months, I find it hard to conceptualize all that your urban homestead entails. It would be extremely helpful for remote people to have a virtual tour of your property as we can then see how things are laid out better.

    Equally helpful would be a list of the projects that were implemented over time.

    Both of these would help other learn and be able to implement things in their own lives.

    Thank you and God bless.

  2. Jeff S. says:

    The new color scheme on the house looks wonderful. So cool and inviting and blends in well with the surrounding plant life.

  3. deliberately says:

    Also recently new to your site. Love the entries and the project. You’re doing what so many of us dream of. My backyard looks like the corner of your lot: but I have much more lawn to convert! Thanks.