New, older, oldest

The church of Saint Edmund is interesting just because of its location. Rather than being in the village of Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk, it’s a few hundred yards away inside the remains of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum.

Above ground, this is an otherwise unoccupied field surrrounded by grassed embankments; below ground is a different matter. The church seems to align with the Roman street pattern and it’s possible that the location of the current church preserves a site used for worship since the early days of Christianity.

The nave, the oldest part of the present building, was built somewhere around 1050 and remarkably includes Roman roof tiles, robbed from the remains of the town, in its construction. The picture shows flint in the wall of the 14th century tower; roof tile on the corner of the 11th century nave; and breeze block on the 21st century annex that, by the look of the sink visible through the window, is a kitchen.

Coffee mornings are such an important part of modern Christianity that it’s common to see parts of ancient churches converted to be kitchens. In this case, the 21st century annex replaces, or at least encases, some of the buttresses on the nave and chancel, much to the detriment of the appearance of the rear of the building. I’m surprised they were allowed to do it.

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”.