Monday, February 21, 2011

I am an Urban Homesteader. I like Urban Homesteading in my Urban Homestead- so sue me.

Hey you, sitting there in your apartment, itching for warmer weather so you can set up your terra cotta pots with some tomatoes, peppers and rosemary on your 24 inch by 15 inch balcony strip. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Hey you, sitting there in your big McMansion in your uber-development in the suburbs, looking out the window at the collards, broccoli and asparagus sprouting in your tiny backyard garden that you created last summer as "something fun to do with the kids." Who knew you'd be successful in growing your own veggies, herbs and fruits and that you would barely need to visit the produce section of the grocery store for months during the summer. And now you're welcoming the coming Spring as you've got ideas for expanding that garden and planting more produce for your family. You've got recipes itching to be used. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Hey you, sitting in your row home in the middle of Philadelphia, cutting up carrots and celery and stuffing the end pieces into a container to be placed in the freezer for later use (maybe in bone broth or vegetable stock). I see you're about to take the egg shells, strawberry leaves and coffee grounds from breakfast this morning out to your little compost bin in your city backyard. While there, you'll be looking for budding signs of life from the ground, anticipating Spring and Summer when your gardens will be ripe with stawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, watermellon, canteloupe, herbs of all kinds and so much more. If only the city allowed you to have chickens, because you totally would by now and you'd be eating eggs from your backyard each morning. Bet you can't wait for the freeze to be over so you're rain barrel can get some use. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Hey you, sitting there in your tiny 850 sq. ft ranch house on the edge of your major metropolis, knitting a sweater for your daughter while thinking of sewing some new sheets for the bed as the smell of a roasting chicken fills the entire house. It's been a long day and it's only 1:30pm. So far, you've baked 4 loaves of bread from scratch. You canned the last of the apples from the little tree in your backyard. You thawed out some green beans that were stored in the freezer - from last years garden bounty. You cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom using your own homemade cleanser. You prepped and stuffed the chicken you got from a local farm and now it's in the oven. It'll be dinner tonight, part of breakfast, lunch and dinner tomorrow and then it'll make to stock to freeze for days and months ahead. You're doing what you usually do when there is quiet time in the house - knitting, sewing or mending something. Something to keep your hands busy and something that benefits the household. Do you know what you have? You have an Urban Homestead.

Urban homesteading is a term that's fairly broad. It refers to people who make a go at being self-sufficient, usually by growing their own food and taking the heat off of other resources, in their urban location. This isn't about a big farm out in the country. This refers to folks who live in cities and in large suburban areas. Places where you don't normally think about the average Joe having his own backyard farm. It can be really simplified to something much larger. The key here is being self-sufficient. Most often, Urban Homesteaders are growing their own food in their yard or on their patio (as is the case with many apartment dwelling Urban Homesteaders). Some even have a few livestock critters, such as goats and chickens, on their urban plots of land. This isn't possible for everyone as many city laws forbid it. Others also do their best to get "off the grid" - they come up with their own energy sources, such as using solar power, instead of relying on the power companies and some of the nastier forms of energy (coal). There are those who make their own cleansers, detergents, soaps, shampoos and other household necessities. You have folks who make everything from scratch in their kitchens and then they freeze and re-use it. Some build everything their house needs - including the house itself. You'll see some who have t heir own bee hives and process their own honey and make their own beeswax candles. There are Urban Homesteading folks who sew everything they wear and if the don't sew it, they knit, crochet or embroider it. Of course, there are a lot of connections to the so-called green living movement. Urban Homesteaders, by the very nature of their actions, do things that are more sensitive to the environment and don't impact Mama Nature in a negative way. Urban Homesteaders can do a few of these things or all of them...and more.

Of course I will relate this to myself. I am an Urban Homesteader. I live in an apartment just outside a huge city. I have a very small patch of dirt outside of my front door where I can plant whatever I please per my lease. Now, I don't go crazy planting veggies and fruit bushes. I would LOVE to. Sadly, my apartment complex loves it's pesticide, herbicide and fungicide sprays and they will not honor my request to avoid my little area. If it wasn't for all that spraying, I would definitely have a 3 foot farm. Seriously. I do grow my own herbs here as they can be potted and can be taken indoors on the days the landscapers come. I could pot some veggies and bring them indoors, but it turns out my cats will eat THOSE plants. They avoid the herbs (most of the time), but they love a good tomato. So, I remedy this by stealing my parent's backyard. I plant my vegetables there. They live in the big giant city next door, in a row home. They, too, are Urban Homesteaders and have been since I've been alive. We have always grown some sort of veggies, fruits and herbs in our own yard. We have had a compost pile for nearly 30 years, long before it was the cool thing to do. I have a kitchen compost bin in my apartment. I use it to collect scraps and then I bring it to my parent's house once or twice a week to empty into one of their compost systems. I have entertained the thought of a worm bin, but space issues, a four year old and five really, REALLY bad cats just tells me not to do it at this time. I make all of my own household cleansers and will probably make my own laundry detergent in a few months. I make my own healing salves and balms with herbs I've grown and with beeswax from friends. I'm on my way to making my own chapstick. I already make my own deodorant concoction, but I am going to try to make stick deodorant. I wash my face with raw local honey. I am learning to cook more from scratch. I plan to become pretty damn good at making my own yogurt and bread in the coming months. I would also like to try making my own butter and cheese. We'll see. I've taking one class in food preservation/canning so far and plan to take more. I am also getting on my own ass about learning to sew, knit and crochet. My mom already helps me make cloth diapers -well, we're past that stage with my son, but we have a new little one on the way so we'll be sewing away. I'm a breastfeeder, something that earns it's place in the self-sufficiency hall of fame. I could go on and on, but that's a small glimpse of what I do to be self-sufficient, earth-friendly, body-friendly and to earn my official Urban Homestead membership card.

So, why am I even blogging about this? Because, according to some loopy fruithole, I just violated a trademark dozens of times by writing the term Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading without including the little TM sign.

Wait, what? Someone trademarked that? Oh yeah. A dude named Jules Dervaes. He and his little family have their own Urban Homestead out in Pasedena. They've been part of the lifestyle for about 30 years and have done a pretty good job so far. Until recently. Jules got a big up his butt and decided that he should be the one to get the credit for the entire Urban Homesteading movement. Yeah, that's like me getting a really good bikini wax and then deciding, hey - I think I get better bikini waxes than anyone else. I'm going to trademark the term. Okay, to be frank, I have never in my life gotten a bikini wax. I did, however, accidentally spill wax onto my bikini area whilst taking a candlelight bath one night. It was my bikini area. It was wax. It was a unique way to bikini wax, right? So there, I'm going to trademark the term. Salons all across the country can expect my letter tomorrow. Sally Hansen, I'm coming for you.

Anyway, back to Jules. I am unsure of what egotistical lunatic thoughts ran through his head when he decided it was his right to trademark that term. One does have to wonder what in the heck the folks at the United States Patent & Trademark Office were smoking when they allowed this to happen (and was it grown on an Urban Homestead?). It's not just these two terms. They have trademarked the following:

Urban Homestead
Urban Homesteading
Freedom Gardens
Path to Freedom
Homegrown Revolution

Now kids, I know that you're looking at that list and asking yourself the same questions anyone else would ask. I know those questions begin with one or two little phrases...ahem..."who the fuck" or "what the fuck." Yeah, pardon my language, but this Urban Homesteader is from Philadelphia, so...But those are terms that are relatively common. You've heard them before. I can surely guarantee you that these terms were in use before the Dervaes folks planted their first little seed. Heck, Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading are terms that have been in use for at least 200 years. That's before Jules Dervaes great-great-great grandfather was even a little sperm. A simple Google book search of the term "urban homestead" will turn up results from the 1800's. And Path to Freedom? Really? How can that be trademarked? Go ahead, Google Book search that one, too. That's a very famous book by Irish Revolutionary, Michael Collins. Might as well check out Homegrown Revolution and Freedom Gardens, too. I mean, Freedom Gardens were also known as Depression Gardens and Victory Gardens and were very popular in the first war-filled half of the 20th century - before Jules was sperm. Go ahead - search it. Here:
Freedom Gardens This is from 1948

The fact is Urban Homesteading is a way of life. Members of the community are doing what they can to rely on themselves and not corporations or big government. Jules Dervaes mocks this movement by trademarking the term and then calling himself the "Founder of the Urban Homestead Movement." There's more. He and his lawyers have gone after bloggers who use the terms, authors who have written books with the terms in the title (published years before he got his trademark) and they even went after a library for hosting an education event about Urban Homesteading. There isn't much in the way of rhyme or reason. Jules says he wants to protect the term. From who? Other people who dare to grown an artichoke on their balcony? In doing this, Jules just becomes another McCorporate McShill. My sense, and the spidey sense of so many others who know much more about the lifestyle than I, is that there is a mix of money-driven delusions of grandeur from this man. He seeks to harm and drive a wedge among those who passionately follow this simple lifestyle. He is the Wal-Mart of Urban Homesteading.

Now, go on out and find something ridiculous to trademark. How about organic gardening? Homeschooling? Attachment parenting? Pot smoking? Bikini waxing (wait, hands, off - I'll sue you). Sledding? Snowball fighting? Cat grooming (works well in the veterinary business and the porn world).

There is a Facebook group dedicated to revoking this trademark:
Take Back Urban Home-steading(s)
You can also follow them on Twitter @TakingBackUH
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