Sustaining IN the Suburbs… Smart.

30 Jan

After my last post (aimed at making you think about what’s happening outside your yards, I admit…)

… my email account got pounded by people who kept telling me that living in anything resembling the city precluded any kind of “reality based” sustainable lifestyle.

A death in our family took us out of town unexpectedly for the week, so it’s time to get back to the task of dispelling myths and debunking urban folklore…

YES. You can build an affordable home out of repurposed materials. I’ve been showing you how to do exactly this for years.


YES. You can take that same mindset and then apply it to places “non-Corten”, like your roof and your yard.

Using good design let’s you capture the sun and take her hostage – ala heat and even electricity.

You want to really make a difference in your paychecks?

Kill your mortgage, “grab the sun” and then grow your own food.

And you don’t have to live in the boonies or the woods to do it.

People who claim that are just afraid of the hard work it takes to earn this “simpler and less complicated life”.

Look around you. If you’re like us, you’re surrounded by “typical suburban lots, filled with typical suburban tract houses”.

If you have one of these, you probably already have everything you need, to get started.

And Shhhhsh! Don’t tell Monsanto.

They’ve paid for politicians who are writing bills to “stop” the way you grow your own food. The “Food Safety Act” is just ONE example of the legislation that is currently making the Beltway circuit, legislation aimed primarily at taking more of your personal power from you.

Can families really wrest back power from “the authorities” and make good on their ownย  hard work to improve their lives?

Check out a feature called “Living the Simple Life” where ABC Nightline profiled the Dervaes family.

This family isn’t “living like the Amish”, “living in the boonies” or even “hunkered down in the Ozarks”.

They live in LA. Not Louisiana! I’m talking about Los Angeles.

Welcome to the world of the urban homesteader. The Dervaes are a family of four and they aren’t independently wealthy or trust fund babies. They actually live quite comfortably on about (3) bundles of Benjamins (30 grand US) a year. $30,000 a year.

Are they suburban farming a huge tract lot measuring in the gazillions of square feet? Nope. They’re only using a fifth of an acre to grow their food. And, that includes poultry, dairy and the veggies.

They even have a surplus. They make enough goodies to sell to local restaurants and neighbors.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve all heard about Bio-Fuel, right? It’s a fuel based on recycled vegetable oil. When you burn it in a car or truck, it smells like a french fry factory is following you everywhere you go.

Well, that’s what the Dervaes do, too. They make their own fuel for their automobile from the used vegetable oil they get from the restaurants they sell produce to.ย  Then, it’s easily and inexpensively (about a buck a gallon) to fuel It costs $1/ gallon to make.

The only down-side is that it makes you hungry as all get out for fried food… like french fries. I’ll never be thin again… ๐Ÿ™‚

They have a nice home. They have good food. They make a nice little income to offset any costs. And…

They aren’t afraid of hard work.

So next time you’re sitting in traffic for an hour trying to get to work, consider this;

It’s not some unfathomable grand scheme. It’s just reality. Many of our parents and grandparents grew up this way. Then, it was NORMAL.

The Dervaes are cool as heck, but they aren’t anything “special”. What they are is “dedicated”. You can do what they’ve done.

You’ll live better. You’ll get a buffer from rising fuel prices, inflated food prices, and those fools in Congress messing around with the economy. You won’t have to worry (as much) about losing your job.

You’ll eat better.

And, I’ll add that you won’t be ingesting chemicals and pesticides.

You’ll be happier, and even healthier.

Hard work and exercise will do that to you whether you like it or not.

Yeah, yeah, I know. We can’t all start “Farming on Fulton Street”…

BUT, you can take some notes and figure out how to work some of this into your own lives.

The reason you’re reading this blog is that you want an affordable, sustainable, strong home, right?

You’ve heard me “preach the sermon” over and over again;

  • Self-responsibility.
  • Self-sustainability.
  • Self-reliance.

Why can’t that exact same mindset extend out beyond your porch?


4 Responses to “Sustaining IN the Suburbs… Smart.”

  1. Lisa January 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Well said! You get an “Amen” from the amen pew!!! ;0) I live in town and am working towards having NO yard. The backyard is already taken over by gardens, and the front only has a few strips left. The rest is flower, vegetable, and herb beds along with a self installed stone walkway. If people are apartment dwellers, they could still grow some herbs in a pot. They’re easy to grow, and just think of the money you could save from buying them in the store!

    • Renaissance Ronin January 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

      Yeah, what SHE said! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Atta girl, Lisa! ๐Ÿ™‚

      (And I’m betting her flowers are part of her “companion planting” program.) Am I right, Lisa? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Instead of finding obstacles… we have to find WAYS. Lisa is a great example of that!

  2. kevin blumer January 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    building your own home and living off your own food sounds quite a good idear but people dont allways have the money to rent there own place never mind buy land and build your own house some people maybe able to do it i dont think i would be able to

    • Renaissance Ronin January 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm #


      Think about it. You have a porch. You have windows. Right? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Even a container garden will yield a substantial amount of food, if you think it through.

      I realize that times are hard… and getting harder. It’s WHY I write this blog. ANYTHING that you can do to chip the stress away, be you renter or a “building family” will make your life easier.

      The Cavalry isn’t coming. There is no “magic bullet” or “magic wand”. You’re going to be on your own to solve the bulk of the problems that you (and the rest of us) face.

      So get creative! Think outta the box, man! ๐Ÿ™‚

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