May 142010

The most famous urban homestead in America is in Pasadena and operated by the Dervaes Family . The Dervaes’ demonstration project shows what is possible when you walk the walk.

They are so good at what they do that the homestead has become a business and tourist attraction.

Take a few minutes and watch this video report done by the NY Times Magazine.

Though they are in principle off the grid, they are totally plugged in via solar power with the internet through their interesting website, Facebook and Twitter.

The name of the Homestead is “Path to Freedom.” Somehow their project on sustainability on a city lot reminds me of the House of the Future at Disneyland back in the 50’s which was brought to us by Monsanto and featured a microwave oven and wall-mounted TV. It was a future made of plastic (petroleum). The plastic future is passing us by.

The Path to Freedom Homestead is, most likely, our actual “house of the future” featuring a bicycle powered blender, solar oven and backyard chickens and goats.

I’m in awe of the Dervaes and what they’ve accomplished on such a tiny piece of land and if they’ve figured out a way to make a buck off the deal that’s good too. Their objective in their own words:

“In the mid-1980s, our family set out to do the seemingly impossible: To create what we dubbed an urban homestead and live a self-sufficient, low-impact life in the heart of the city. For years we worked steadily to transform our ordinary urban lot in Pasadena, California, into an organic permaculture garden that supplies us with food year-round.

Having found food security in our own backyard, we were emboldened to take further steps. We began powering our home with alternative energies and fueling our car with home-brewed bio-diesel. Along with new technologies, we also embraced the simple living of past generations. We kept farm animals for egg production and manure, used secondhand goods to decrease our our consumption of earth’s nonrenewable resources, and taught ourselves a variety of back-to-basics skills. Through much hard work, and no small amount of blessing, our “urban homestead” now enjoys a dramatic degree of independence, with ever-decreasing environmental impact.”

Clearly the project is hard work and they are lucky to have three energetic young adults, who if they have a life other than the homestead, don’t reveal it on their website.

Whatever their private lives may be, the Dervaes provide a blueprint for how to create a sustainable, self-reliant lifestyle and their website is worth an hour of your time.


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