Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Archive for February, 2011

Urban Homestead day of action

Posted by Nika On February - 21 - 2011


I am blogging in support of an effort to reclaim the right of the public to use the term “Urban Homestead” as well as other related terms, a right ostensibly taken by a family in California by filing for and obtaining a trademark on these terms. Not only this, they have chosen, ill advisedly, to send out letters that amount to “cease and desist” to bloggers, radio stations, public libraries, and authors who have used the term “Urban Homestead” even well before this family received trademark protection.

(You can learn more about and join this effort at this facebook page Take Back Urban Home-steading(s))

successional lettuce - 2

Some Background

If you have ever googled urban and homestead you likely got many many results relating to the very long tradition of homesteading here in the United States, both rural and urban. You likely also got hits for a broad range of books covering topics germane to urban homestead practices.

Along the way, you likely would have run across links to a suburban homestead project in Pasadena, California by the Dervaes family, a group of 3 young adults and their father.

On a small pad of cement, something like 1/8th of an acre when you subtract the footprint of the house, this family built a business out of growing salad greens and other vegetables for local restaurants.

As with other gardeners of a certain stripe, the Dervaes have recorded exactly what they get out of their raised beds and other horticultural methods. They have blogged about these efforts, including the biomass accounting. They have shared their use of chickens, ducks and dwarf goats in their suburban setting.

Over the years, the Dervaes have received a lot of media and have been identified with homesteading; they have become de facto spokespeople for homesteading even though they represent one family out of a huge number of homesteading families/couples/people.

Permaculture: How to use this wheelbarrow


There has been a spontaneous backlash across the web to these actions amounting to widespread bad will against the Dervaes in light of their regressive efforts to enforce their dubious trademark claims.

Urban Homesteading, by its very nature, is anti-authoritarian because it requires breaking the long established or implied rules/mores of the modern urban landscape. People have long been disenfranchised from their urban environment by city practices that have excluded human-scale interaction. Some cities have allowed allotments or community gardens for decades and that works for those people who are fortunate enough to participate.

To break that structure, so as to have a few chickens, a compost heap, a garden, radicalizes or requires a radicalized mindset. That mindset can be part of a larger set of ideals that often fits within a progressive frame that values relocalization of food and economic activity, powering down, building personal and community resilience in the face of collapsing societal structures, good old fashioned frugality and simplicity.

The very act of obtaining a trademark and then the further ideological violence of enforcing the trademark on others in this nascent community of urban homesteaders is anathema to those progressive values.

I think it is this regressive practice that has shocked, awoken, and spurred to action a range of homesteaders on the web to stand up and say “no” to what the Dervaes have done, even as many of us have a whole lot of respect for what they have done before this bru-hah-ha.

The actions over the past couple of weeks have done tremendous damage to the respect people held for the Dervaes. We are in the midst of this scandal so it is hard to say how it will end. The Dervaes seem to be in seclusion, something I think it a good idea because their recent statements have only damaged their case further.

Humble Garden 2010: sad day but necessary

The Hard Way Forward?

If they were to ask me what to do, my advice would be: publicly commit the marks to the public domain, get a real lawyer and not a puppy-mill trademark lawyer in far off Florida, get a PR firm and DO WHAT THEY SAY, do some homework and understand your audience and customers, finally – apologize, lots. If you simply want to decamp to the 600 acre religious community built around rural homesteading, now might not be a bad time to do that – that is if you want to leave this wound undressed and festering.

2011 garden seed buy

Posted by Nika On February - 20 - 2011


Later winter and early spring around here are exciting times as we enter kidding season and begin to start seeds for this summer’s garden!

We have 10 goats that are likely all to deliver kids in the next few weeks. One goat had to be taken from the herd and is now in our basement (with natural light) because the herd had rejected her and were brutalizing her. They would have certainly killed her by now and if not, would have killed her kids when they were delivered. We think this is because of the very deep snow this year.

I thought I would share with you all a listing of the seeds I have bought so far. I try to support small ethical GMO free seed companies with my purchases. I hope you will too. Note that I also have many seed packed left over from the past couple of years and have also saved some of my seeds from last year so the list below doesnt equal all that will grow in our garden this summer.


Comstock, Ferre & Co.

Comstock, Ferré & Co., located in Wethersfield, Connecticut, has a colorful agricultural history, and despite being in the cross-hairs for demolition, it has risen again as a vibrant seed house offering heirloom varieties to New England and to all of North America. It began as Wethersfield Seed Gardens with an advertisement for Joseph Belden’s seeds published in the Hartford Courant in 1811. This is the earliest known record of a seed business in Wethersfield.

The Birth of Comstock, Ferré & Co.—In 1834, a fire burned Belden’s barns and seed houses, but the business survived. In 1838, he sold it to Judge Franklin Comstock and his son William. Many young men in Wethersfield, known as “travelers,” hitched up their wagons loaded with Comstock’s seed boxes and traveled various routes throughout New England and as far west as the Mississippi River delivering our seed boxes to country stores, collecting money that was due on last year’s box and returning the old boxes to Wethersfield. In 1845, William Comstock took on Henry Ferré from Massachusetts as his partner, and their business flourished. It was incorporated in 1853 under the name of Comstock, Ferré & Co

2011 seeds
Bean, Contender
Broccoli Rabe
Cucumber, Long Island Improved
Cabbage, Copenhagen Market
Cabbage, Danish Ballhead
Melon, Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon
Eggplant, Small Persian
Radish, Black Spanish
Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing
Squash, Blue Hubbard
Squash, Golden Hubbard
Squash, Mammoth Red E’tamps
Tomato, Yellow Pear
Tomato, Golden Midget
Sage Broad-leaf


Victory Seeds

The primary reason for our existence as an organization is to help protect open-pollinated and heirloom seed varieties during a time when the diversity of plant life on our planet is quickly shrinking.

As we witness the elimination of old varieties from other company’s offerings, the emphasis of commercial unstable hybrids, and the proliferation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we feel an urgency in our mission.

We have therefore dedicated our efforts to preserving and promoting the use of open-pollinated varieties — old commercial releases as well as family heirlooms — and working towards the protection of our genetically diverse horticultural heritage. We truly believe in teaching these principals to all who have ears to learn.

2011 seeds
Chamomile, Roman
Round Zucchini Summer Squash
Early Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash
Benning’s Green Tint Scallop Summer Squash
New Zealand Spinach
Laxton’s Progress Number 9 Pea
Salad Bowl, Green – Leaf Lettuce
Iceberg Head Lettuce
Buttercrunch Bibb Lettuce
Russian Red Kale
Marketmore 76 Cucumber
Lemon Apple Cucumber
Colossus Cowpea
Red Strawberry Popcorn
Blue Hopi Corn


Totally Tomatoes

2011 seeds
Box Car Willie Tomato
Soldacki Tomato
Amana Orange Tomato
Original Tangerine Beefsteak Tomato
Italian Giant Beefsteak Tomato

Do you have any seed recommendations? Anything new and unusual?

About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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