The Urban Homestead at a Glance

Jules Dervaes sold his 10 acres in rural Florida and purchased this “fixer-upper” home in the mid-1980s at a reasonable price by California standards.

Sorely neglected by years of being occupied by renting tenants and located in a low income neighborhood, the home was in bad need of repair (and, heck… we ain’t kiddin‘… it still does in most places! Just sayin’) and the yard was a combination of broken asphalt, large concreted areas, weeds, Bermuda grass, chalky “adobe-type” soil, and a few rather pathetic “landscape” plants.

before and after photos

You will not find movie stars on this set, but we do have our own cast of characters and enough daily dramas here on the Urban Homestead model to be more than interesting. And it’s a REAL reality show, not Hollywood manufactured and scripted. The Urban Homestead model is on a completely opposite spectrum to the hustle and insanity that surrounds us.

Thousands of people zoom by on the freeway in their own little automobile cocoons. A few blocks away, people stroll Old Towne in their latest designer threads, buying things they probably don’t need. We’re a whole different world; our triumphs and struggles are so far different from what the majority of Angelinos experience. It may surprise you but we live under a constant dictatorship! Gardening is not a democracy. We are ruled by nature and there isn’t much we can do about that. This “tough love” dictatorship teaches us the valued lessons of patience and perseverance. One hard lesson learned is that we aren’t in control and can’t vote to change the outcome. In fact if we had custom t-shirts made this might very well be our saying for one of them.

Over the years, we have documented our progress in our journey towards becoming self-sufficient in a densely urban setting with charts, diagrams and stats. The Urban Homestead model is a continually evolving work in progress and these records have helped us to compare our successes and failures. They also serve as an aid in planning future plantings and projects.

In no way are our accomplishments “one size fits all.” In viewing the aerial shots of the Urban Homestead model , it’s hard for even us to even to imagine that such a small space could produce so much. But these aerial shots offer even more — zooming out farther from this isolated view, one sees America. Zooming even farther shows the entire world. We know that in that great big blue marble earth, there are fellow travelers and homesteaders, each scattered about on their isolated oasis, yet all connected in a common effort and spirit. We realize circumstances and situations have allowed us to take these steps. We do not intend to compare or endorse our progress as being possible for everyone.

However, we hope that by providing this information and making our records public we can prove that YOU can make a difference. Perhaps you may get inspired to make your own changes by the examples provided here. After all, no matter how small the change, you too, can take a step in the right direction.

And then, who knows where the path will take you? Let’s walk!

::HELPFUL RESOURCE:: View the 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading Checklist


The Urban Homestead model at a Glance

Location: Northwest Pasadena, one mile from downtown Pasadena

Property Size: 66’ x 132’ = 8,712 sq.ft. (1/5 acre)

House: Simple, wood frame craftsman bungalow. Circa 1917.

House Size: 1,500 sq. ft.

Garden Size: ~ 1/10 acre (3,900 sq.ft. / ~ 66′ x 66′)

Garden Diversity: Over 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits & berries

Productivity: Up to 6,000 lbs harvest annually on 1/10 acre

In Perspective

Comparison Diagram of Property

Elements on the Urban Homestead model

Tour Guide of the Urban Homestead model (2007)

Geography & Climate

Aerial Shots:
north | west | south | east

Satellite Map (via bing.com)

Street View (via google maps)

Food & Garden

  • Growing 99 % of produce
  • 6,000lbs on 1/10 acre Garden
  • Saving seeds
  • Companion planting
  • Square inch, intensive growing methods
  • Polyculture/intercropping


  • Remineralization
  • Self watering containers
  • Integral pest management
  • Square inch plantings
  • Polyculture
  • Successive sowing


  • Making / Using EM Bokashi
  • Vermicomposting
  • Composting food, garden and green waste
  • Brewing compost teas


  • Bread making
  • From scratch
  • Cheese, butter & yogurt
  • Sprouting
  • Canning
  • Drying
  • Freezing
  • Fermenting
  • Brewing


  • Buying in bulk
  • Organic
  • Local
  • Eating seasonally
  • Reducing “food miles”
  • Fair trade
  • Vegetarian (since 1992)

Energy & Fuel


  • “Powering down” – cut daily energy use in 1/2 12 kwh to 6 kwh a day
  • 12 solar panels provide 2/3rds of our energy
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Line drying clothes


  • Front loading washing machine
  • Refrigerator
  • Water heater (gas)


  • Computer/printer/copier
  • TV(no cable)/VCR/ DVD


  • Compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Olive oil lamps
  • Oil lamps filed with biodiesel
  • Homemade soy & beeswax candles
  • Daylighting
  • Solar tube


  • Blender
  • Toaster
  • Grinders(s)
  • Popcorn popper
  • Solar ovens(s)
  • Hand washer/wringer
  • Pedal powered grain mill
  • Straight-razor for shaving
  • Hand-cranked radio
  • Mortar & pestle


  • No Air Conditioning
  • Wood floors
  • Blinds
  • Windows
  • Screen doors
  • Edible forest
  • “Living” screens
  • Solar attic fan
  • No central heating
  • Wood stove that used scrap wood
  • Dressing in layers

Fuel & Transportation

  • Homebrewed biodiesel w/waste veggie oil
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Public transportation

Water Conservation

  • Low flush toilets
  • Grey water to landscape
  • Toilet lid sink
  • Reusing laundry water
  • Limit toilet flushings
  • Polyculture
  • Limit baths/showers
  • Mulching
  • Handwatering
  • Claypot Irrigation
  • Solar outdoor shower
  • Front loading washer-machine
  • Growing food not grass
  • Bottom water bed irrigation (experimental stages)



  • Chickens (eggs/manure)
  • Ducks (eggs/manure)
  • Dwarf rabbits (manure)
  • Dwarf/pygmy goats (milk/manure)


  • Captured wild swarm
  • Without the use of antibiotics
  • Unfiltered, unheated, hand extraction


  • Talapia
  • Water used to grow veggies
  • Solar pump and heater

Simple Living


  • Caretakers of creation
  • Sabbath
  • Tithing
  • Homeschooling
  • No cable, limited TV
  • Staycationing
  • Home socials
  • Aprons


  • Make do, mend or do without
  • Natural beauty/no make up
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, reject
  • Second hand, salvage, thrift store
  • Bartering


  • Homemade soap, deoderant, toothpaste
  • Homemade notoxic cleaning products
  • Natural health practices & home herb remedies

Skills & Crafts


  • Survival skills
  • Forging
  • Hair cutting
  • Sewing
  • Fiber crafts
  • Herbal medicine
  • Animal husbandry
  • Food preservation
  • Carpentry
  • Bike & auto repairs
  • Soapmaking
  • Candlemaking
  • Website, graphics & video


  • Solar ovens
  • Cob oven
  • Depaving
  • Installation of solar panels
  • Greywater
  • Roofing
  • Sheds, chicken coops, etc
  • Edible landscaping
  • Urban farming

Home Economy


  • Honey (since 1974)
  • Produce (since 1995)
  • Hand-crafts & goods (since 1995)



  • Being a good neighbor
  • Recipient of awards from the City of Pasadena
  • Educational tours
  • Screenings, workshops & presentations
  • World wide website reaching over 125 countries & over 60,000 visits per month
  • Network of websites (FreedomGardens.org / BarnyardandBackyards.org)
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