March 2011 Archives

Urban Homesteading: you can't own who we are

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I have been calling myself an urban homesteader for years.  I knew it was a movement a decade ago.  In fact, it was a movement started in the sixties with my mom's generation of people "getting back to the earth". 

Urban homesteading is a growing movement of people re-learning homesteading skills on a city-scale.  There is a fairly well known website of a family who's also been a part of this movement who believe they are solely responsible for coining the name of this movement, so much so that they have trademarked the term "Urban Homesteading".

I have never personally liked the "Path to Freedom" website run by the Dervaes family but I was happy enough to see another website where people could get information about growing food on small city lots.  I have always thought that the more people talking about urban homesteading and sharing ideas the better.

Now I'm angry. 

The Dervaes family is trying to enforce their dubious trademark on the term "Urban Homesteading" (and "urban homestead" too, I believe).  I don't know all the details but I don't need to know much more than that it is a betrayal of this movement to try to own its name and control its use. 

The spirit of the urban homesteading movement is a non-commercial, non-corporate approach to self sufficiency on a small scale.  What part of this movement is about ownership of its name?  What part of this movement is about owning what and who other people are?  None of it.  What I have loved about urban homesteaders across the board is their willingness to share information for free, their encouragement to others to come join the fun, to explore self sufficiency with the goal of becoming less dependent on corporate America.

Supposedly all of us who have been calling ourselves urban homesteaders for years must no longer use that term.

Trademarking the term urban homesteader and urban homesteading is no different than trademarking these terms: housewife, animal husbandry, homesteader, farmer, plant conservationist, home gardener, city dweller, marathon runner, anarchist, American citizen, nurseryman, self sufficiency, dairy farmer... and this list is infinite.

You can't own me.  You can't own who I am.  You can't own the life I lead and my ability to succinctly describe it to others.  You can't own a grassroots movement.  If a movement can be owned at all (which I don't believe it can) the minute someone owns any part of it it is no longer a grassroots movement but a business.  You can't own what people call themselves.  You can't own the words that describe what a person does and what they believe in.

Trying to own the term "urban homestead" in any of its forms is like trying to own the term "Christian" and then forcing all Christians to come up with some other way to identify themselves and what person on earth is arrogant enough to try to own the faith of others?

Urban homesteading is my faith.  It's my spirit.  Growing my own food and herbs, raising chickens, sewing my own clothes, recycling, composting, choosing open pollinated plants, building raised beds and coops, making my own medicines... this is who I am.  It's what I believe is more important than anything else.  Even when I'm not able to work on all the projects I want, even when all I can do is dry some of my own thyme and cook great food for my family, I am still an urban homesteader and no one can take that away from me.

No one can own me.

No one can own you either.

Please read about this and if you can donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation who is helping to fight this issue, please do.  If you have a blog or a website and can write about it- please do.  Everyone who has ever considered themselves an urban homesteader should speak up and shout out. 

Riding the Fences of the "Urban Homestead": Trademark Complaints and Misinformation Lead to Improper Takedowns 

Urban Homesteading

Take Back Urban Homesteading

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Spring Approaching

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This is my latest baked bean batch.  I've been working on developing a good vegetarian baked bean dish for ages.  I'm closer now than I've ever been.  Philip and my mother loved this version.  It's almost ready to share.

A lot has been going on around my farmhouse.  We still don't know if the bank will refinance and we're at nine months of not knowing now.  My campaign to unload a lot of junk was going well (did I already mention I got rid of 6 boxes of craft stuff from my office alone?) and then my mother moved in with us permanently. 

Her moving in was a decision we reached mutually for a lot of different reasons.  The number one reason is that she couldn't afford to live in Portland any more.  She loves it there but it's just too expensive.  Another reason is that if the bank refinances our loan she can contribute to our mortgage.

The less official reasons are that her health isn't great and neither of us wanted her to be so far away that if anything happened I wouldn't be able to help out.  She's had bronchitis for a month and has been experiencing vertigo and has been ordered by her doctor not to drive.  So now she's on a leave of absence from work. 

The minute she moved in it's been complete chaos.  Not because of her.  My mom is pretty easy to live with now, something I never thought I'd say ten years ago, and she has a magic way of arranging and organizing things that I was not blessed with.  So she moves in and suddenly we have an amazing living room.  No dead space.  It's wonderful!  What's chaotic is how we've all been getting sick for a month and the pet situation is complicated and extremely stressful.

We love pets.  We are all animal people.  By animal people I mean to say that we aren't people who feel life is complete without animals being part of our family.  My mom arrived with two cats and two huge dogs.  My dog who has never chased her own kitties is suddenly responding to a cat-hunt vibe with the youngest of my mother's two dogs (a big boy named Angus) and our cat Penny is really upset and is now peeing on things. 

Angus is really the apex of all the trouble.  He can reach anything at all and is constantly chewing on whatever he can get his maw around.  Any boots or shoes left around are decimated in minutes.  He'll eat everything in the kitchen.  I roasted a very expensive baking sheet of organic fennel and turned my back for less than three minutes and he had licked over it all and already eaten half of them.

On the plus side my mom got our dishwasher fixed.  I don't mind hand washing dishes but I confess that it gets overwhelming doing dishes here and never more so than with one more person living here.  Not only did she get our dishwasher fixed (it's been broken for over a year) she actually cleans the kitchen every couple of days! 

Stitch and Boots is meant to be my homesteading blog but lately I realize it's mostly been my cooking blog.   I am not going to officially change the focus because I keep hoping to do some other household projects to share here.  I'm using this place as my flame of hope, if you don't mind me saying such a silly thing.  I have not really done any garden planning for a year while writing my novel and working and trying very hard to hold everything together with thin threads. 

I was reinspired the other day by a talk I had with my Kung Fu teacher and a couple of other students at our school about GMOs and though our talk was angry (not with each other- with the situation of not being able to keep GMOs from our own diet due to no labeling and contamination of non-GMO crops by a growing number of GMO crops) out of the anger I remembered something fundamental: growing your own food matters.  Growing my own food matters. 

Even though I might have to leave this house mid-season, it's also true that I might be here (in limbo) for as long as another year and in that time I can grow at least two crops in my garden.  I already have the beds, they just have to be cleared of quack grass ("just" is not doing justice to the problem- remember I broke a shovel on that stuff?!).  So I talked to my mother who is largely responsible for having given me a passion for gardening in the first place and she's going to help me.  We're going to do a small vegetable garden. 

It will be an act of good faith that we'll hopefully still be here a year from now.  Two years from now.  A decade from now.

She has requested one whole bed for her own experimentation with square foot gardening.

There is nothing more important than for all of us with yards and balconies to grow open pollinated food.  With all my house and life turmoil I lost sight of that.  I'm watching the spring bulbs surface and though I'm sad to see winter winding down I am feeling the excitement of spring and all the new growth it brings with it.  I'm excited to clean out the dead growth from my strawberries and let the new leaves up into the light.  Snow watch 2011 is over. 

It's time to plan the only part of my future I can be sure of which is that no matter where I live I will always grow food.  It's the best offering of hope I can make.  It's the grandest gesture of love I can share.

Recent Comments

  • angelina: Tonia! I miss you!!!! I haven't seen you online for read more
  • Tonia: Wow. I haven't been blogging, but glad I read this read more
  • Irina: Dervaes doesn't care what we write or think about him. read more
  • Green Bean: Ha! We aren't far behind you though I think our read more
  • angelina: All open pollinated seeds are non GMO so any heirloom read more
  • robin: I have been thinking about the garden again out read more
  • angelina: Sun- thanks so much for reading and commenting! I am read more
  • Sun: Wonderful post! My grandparents were talking about urban homesteading back read more
  • angelina: Amy- I don't see a link here to a website read more
  • angelina: Thank you so much! I didn't even find out that read more