Urban homesteading

The “Urban Homestead” is a phrase that goes back to the 1970s and has become a common phrase in the US for describing a home which is aiming for self sufficiency and self reliance. It has a lot in common with the Permaculture and Transition movements, at the very least sharing some goals and techniques.

The handbook for the movement is The Urban Homestead by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne – a very fine read it is too. They’ve got problems at the moment though, and here’s why.

The Dervaes family in Pasadena have run an urban homestead for over twenty years, and have made such a business out of it that they decided to apply for a trademark for the phrases Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading. Remarkably they were granted them despite the mountains of prior usage. Now they’ve sent out what they consider to be polite reminders to people not to step on their trademark – unfortunately one was sent to Facebook with regard to Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne’s page about their book, and Facebook promptly took the page down until the dispute is resolved.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation have stepped in and are acting on behalf of Knutzen and Coyne to fight the takedown notices. There’s also a Facebook campaign to spread the word about urban homesteading and make sure the Dervaes’ family don’t succeed in co-opting it for themselves. Hence this page.

Good sources of information are Boing Boing (as ever) and the OC Weekly, the local paper in Pasadena with a charming fondness for words like “dingbats”.

Easter road trip: Tir Penrhos Isaf

After leaving Cae Mabon, we headed across (well, around) Snowdonia to Chris and Lyn Dixon’s permaculture smallholding Tir Penrhos Isaf, where we’d arranged a guided tour. This was the part of the trip I think we were most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. The photos I took, however, aren’t that great. Hey ho.

tir2

Chris and Lyn bought the farm in 1986 and the permaculture design started then. At the time it was seven acres of tired sheep pasture with a derelict barn in a valley clearing in the woods. Their first planning application to create a sustainable residence and establish a permaculture smallholding was made in 1989, a time when “sustainable” and “permaculture” weren’t part of planning language – arguably permaculture still isn’t.

They were keen to establish a precedent for permaculture so persevered, while living on site in a caravan with a series of three year temporary permissions, for over fifteen years until finally having to accept planning permission for a barn conversion in 2006. They were understandably disappointed to have to accept a compromise and not establish the precedent, but Lyn had suffered two bouts of cancer and they needed to get on with their lives without the threat of eviction.

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