How to Anger Communities and Alienate Bloggers

February 20, 2011 1 comment

A week or so ago (maybe 10 days) a long-time bastion of the Urban Homesteading movement — a family based in Pasadena — decided to (pardon the expression) “shit where they eat.”  That is, they trademarked a phrase that is in use by many hundreds (and is revered by many thousands more) of people involved in the urban “back to the land” movement.  This movement has been called Urban Homesteading by many and a book called The Urban Homestead was even published by a completely different couple… and revised in 2010.  In my estimation, they wrote a book and would be the ones to lay claim to the term if anyone is.  That said, this other family who is very big about themselves and claims to be “the original” urban homestead up and decided to trademark the term and subsequently send out (or have their lawyers send out) a bunch of cease and desist letters to bloggers who were using that term in their own blogs.  Here’s what the “Take Back Urban Homesteading(s)” facebook page says:

This page has evolved into an organic expression of the urban homesteading community and our quest for keeping the words which define who we are as a movement and community germane to all of us. In a real way we’re advocating for one another; we’re discussing, networking, organizing for change, creating events, and expanding our vast and original knowledge of urban homesteading. We’re finding new formats in spreading the word that we ARE urban homestead, and that nobody can copyright our identity, which belongs to all of us.

The Derveas family has recently trademarked the terms “Urban Homestead” and “Urban Homesteading.” These terms can no longer be used in facebook page titles, or on blogs or otherwise for profit. If you use the term not for profit you must use the trademark symbol and “specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute.” They add that it would be “proper to use generic e=terms such as “modern homesteading.” They have had facebook pages with the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading in the name shut down without notifying those pages first. Please join this group to show that UH is not a brand or company, but a grassroots community and lifestyle.

The Derveas have been doing their own thing in Pasadena for a number of years.  I’m not sure where they got the money originally for their house (which is gorgeous) on such a large lot, but it’s paid-off and the whole family lives there together; old man (who owns the house) and grown children (son, two daughters) in their 30s (I’d say).  They make money mostly by selling their excess produce and eggs to local restaurants and residents from their front porch.  There’s lots of information about them.  My impression of them is that they’re a little smug.  Or a lot.  (Watch the KCAL 9 clip that was done on them a few years back and tell me if your impression is any different.)

SO… it’s not totally surprising to me that of any long-standing member of the UH community, they would be the ones to drop a load on their own dinner table.  It’s the sort of thing that people who are out of touch with the broader movement and context of something they’re merely a part of, would do.  Do you think Scott and Helen Nearing would ever have tried to trademark “Back tot he Land”… no.  It defeats the purpose of what they were trying to do by spreading the idea of this sort of lifestyle.  Here’s what Trademark Law is for (source):

The purpose of trademark law is twofold:  first, it is to aid the consumer in differentiating among competing products and second, it is to protect the producer’s investment in reputation.

Looking at this debacle, do we think the Devreas family was trying to be helpful to “consumers” looking for information about Urban Homesteading as opposed to… oh, say, urban hunting?  Probably not.  What about protecting their investment in their reputation?  For the second question, let’s ask ourselves if they’ve significantly benefited from this particular differentiation.  I’d say the shitstorm they’ve started says it all.  They misused Trademark Law and are now paying the price.

:: slow clap ::  Nice job Derveas family.  :: slow clap ::

I unsubscribed from their blog.  I will no longer be giving them my attention.  Instead, I’m refocusing on people who are doing things with the spirit of Urban Homesteading(s) in mind (and heart). Check out my blogroll on the right for a list of blogs to care about: the Homegrown Evolution folks (now, Root Simple), the Ramshackle Solid folks, the Yome Sweet Yome folks, the Holy Scrap Hotsprings folks, the Bastish folks, the Green Roof Growers folks, and many more.  I’ll be adding to this list over the next few days.





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Happy Chickens Come from Durham

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

The weather we’ve been having has made our chickens very happy.  That, and I remembered to pick up some scratch grains (local product) and give them treats in the afternoons — mmm kitchen scraps.  I don’t know if anyone else’s hens are active this winter, but we’re averaging about 3 eggs per day from our five girls despite its being nearly February.  We’re going to have some very pretty easter eggs!

Houseplant Tour

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Trying to maintain the post-a-week rhythm so this week I have a tour of all those houseplants I mentioned last week.

When we lived in Huntington Beach, we acquired through the years, several plumeria which I raised into annually stunning specimens. It took me a while to get the hang of their rotation and water needs. Despite that in looking back I truly wish we’d decided to bring them with us, I’m glad that the neighbor to whom we bequeathed them is probably enjoying them immensely to this day. Last weekend while at the Hawaiian nursery I picked up a little cutting. She may not bloom this year as she’s just now establishing her root system, but I look forward to seeing her come into her own.


Our second (through fourth) batch of paperwhites this year, these three little guys are just emerging from their stones. After enjoying our first batch, a gift from my folks when they visited, throughout the entire month of December, we decided to try another few batches and spread their amazing scent around the house. I love, love, love forced bulbs in winter!


In the days leading up to our taking down the Christmas tree, I remarked to Paige how I would miss having a live tree in the house. It was with that thought in mind that I came upon these exciting palms at Home Depot and decided to bring one home. It’s a bit dry right now, despite our watering it sufficiently, but as we have to run the heater so frequently right now there’s not really another way around it. I’m really hoping we don’t manage to kill it before summer arrives.
Dwarf Palm

The lemon was the first house plant we bought when we arrived in Durham. It has given us about 15 or 20 lemons in the past three years, but this last year it was in recovery mode as we’d had to prune it quite extensively. As you can see, it’s healthy again and working to get itself back on track.


The smell of Jasmine is something we miss here in North Carolina. It’s not that folks don’t have it around, it’s just that when it’s in the height of health during the summer months, we can’t bear to take our butts outside to enjoy it. Now, we may not have to.

If we manage to kill every other house plant, this one will still likely survive. The Mother-in-law’s tongue can thrive in the darkest closet as long as it receives occasional water. It’s the “safety school” of our house plant explosion.
Sansevieria (Mother-in-law's Tongue)


I’ve never had one of these prayer plants before (so-named because it folds its leaves up into a “prayer” position at night and opens them back out during the day), but it’s been a clever little thing to have on the table the last few days. I’m looking forward to getting to know it better.
Prayer Plant


For color in the green room, it’s hard to beat this cyclamen. And it looks absolutely gorgeous in that pot! As the only thing blooming right now, it really stands out with those purple petals. It also has very pretty leaves.


So,  that’s it for our house plants. What do you have going on this winter?

In the grip, itching for a fresh start

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

We’re in the grip of winter here in North Carolina. It’s not a Chicago winter or a New England winter but it’s been darn cold and we’ve had quite a lot of precipitation, mostly in the form of snow and ice. In fact, in some places we still have remnant from last weekend’s snow storm.

It’s because of this — the extra cold winter we’ve been having — that I’m craving new life. P and I have both brought home house plants since taking the Christmas tree down a few weeks ago. We have a new palm in the living room, to go with the lemon; there’s a beautiful blooming cyclamen on the table in the green room; and just last night she came home with a small jasmine that we’ll re-pot today.  I think there’s even a trip to the Hawaiian nursery in store for us today.

And yes, I couldn’t help but get our seed starting station together and… even testing it out. I wasn’t completely foolish in that I started pak choi and lettuce, but I know that it will probably amount to nothing.  I think I may join the collective unconscious that permeates all gardeners this time of year, and order seeds this weekend.

Happy Perihelion

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Today we are at Perihelion, when the earth is the closest to the sun it will be all year. If you have a telescope that can look at the sun, you will note (because you’re that good) that the sun is 3% larger than when it is at Aphelion in July, when it is furthest from us. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has far more information about this than I could dig up, even if I even had astronomy texts at my disposal. Suffice to say, I wanted a bit more info about today — whether auspicious or inauspicious — so I turned to the Farmer’s Almanac. According to that resource, it is a bad day to plant seeds as crops sewn today will grow poorly and yield little (though we’re coming up on good planting days starting tomorrow, if you’re in South Florida, South Texas or parts of California — or, if you have a cold frame). It’s not a good day for fishing, though it is apparently a good day to castrate farm animals, cut hair or grass or shrubs to “retard growth”, and even a good day to wash wooden floors and windows.

As today is my last day of vacation before the work year starts, I will do some yard clean up, and possibly do some light cleaning… maybe even of a window or two. I hope I don’t accidentally retard anything I didn’t mean to… Happy Perihelion!

1/1/11 – Another Beginning

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The start of another year and nothing but possibilities stare back at me from the future. We had a lovely holiday and though I’m just two days out from going back to work in the office, I’m already planning for the spring garden.

I got our seed starting station put together while on break, with two 8″ reflectors housing energy efficient “day time” bulbs, and a 10″ x 20″ heating mat. I used our now-obsolete IKEA changing table as the new seed station, and am trying to fresh lettuce and pak choi starters, which I’ll move into the lettuce dome under the cold frame, when I’m sure it’s all viable.

Here’s to good things in 2011!

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Maybe we’ll make it through winter after all

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

This week one of the new hens started laying!  We aren’t sure which one it is yet, but my guess based on what we expect the new ladies’ eggs to look like is that its our Speckled Sussex (Specks is what we call her — yes, original I know).  She gave us three eggs this week, always in the same box, despite the fact that our little Bantam Leghorn (Big Chick Chick) lays in any box she fancies on any given day (and sometimes up in the roosting huch).


The first of three eggs this week from "the new girl"

In other news, it’s finally Fall in Durham and the biggest change to me is the light.  The earth’s seasonal tilt is in full effect, making for crazy long shadows on our afternoon walks.  Love it!

from the east

Looking Southwest from the back of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

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