Our new front yard: history

our front yard

Our front yard a couple of weeks ago. This is a “before” picture.

Recently we posted my enthusiastic review of Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. In it, I mentioned that I was using this book to help guide the redesign of our front yard, and promised to post about that process.

In the hope that our process might be of some use to somebody considering their own landscaping, I’m following through on that promise. In a more selfish way, I like to have records like this of both our actions and our thought processes, because inevitably Erik and I will forget when we did things– and sometimes even why we did them!

In the unlikely event you want to learn the history of our front yard while you drink your coffee, read on.

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“Urban Homesteading” belongs to us all

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Huge congratulations to James Bertini of Denver Urban Homesteading, for winning the right for all of us to use the term “urban homesteading” freely from now on out.

Longtime readers may remember that back in 2011, the Dervaes Institute sent notices to a dozen or so organizations, informing them that they could no longer use the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” unless speaking about the work of the Dervaes Institute, as they had registered trademark on both terms. Beyond that, some people found their web pages or social media sites removed when their hosting services responded to take-down notices issued by the Dervaes Institute, including Denver Urban Steading and Process Media/Feral House, the publisher of our book, The Urban Homestead.

The good folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) stepped forward to help. One of their interests is protecting the commons of language from being limited by the intrusive use of trademarks on generic terms. They offered to appeal these generic marks for all of us at the trademark board, pro bono, and partnered with the super-talented attorneys at Winston & Strawn, who are trademark specialists, to do so. Meanwhile, James Bertini of Denver Urban Homesteading–who happens to be an attorney– also began to take action.

And as of last week, Denver Urban Homesteading won a victory in California federal court: U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, canceled the trademark “urban homesteading” on the grounds that it was too generic for protection.

“Urban homestead” is still trademarked, but after this precedent set by Judge Walter, we hope to hear good news from the EFF and Winston & Strawn, very soon.

Read more in the OC Weekly

Denver Urban Homesteading’s press release

Our previous posts on this subject

A Day of the Dead Altar

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I’ve been observing the Day of the Dead in one way or another for many years, because I believe it is important to acknowledge the presence of death in life, and to remember my dead family, friends and pets in a more direct way than the usual way of carrying loss around quietly within my own heart.

Also, I live in Los Angeles, which used to belong to Mexico, and still does in many ways. Halloween is big here, and Día de Muertos (more often called Día de los Muertos, at least up here in the north, but I believe Día de Muertos is correct–although it may be one of those cases where the incorrect swallows the correct via common usage) reigns alongside of Halloween, extending the celebration over the course of three days.

The Mexican celebration of the dead goes back to the Aztecs, at least, and during the colonial era was grafted onto the Catholic three day festival, or triduum, of Allhallowstide: All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween), All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Care of grave sites and genteel remembrance of the dead is practiced during this period in Catholic communities worldwide, but this more pagan, colorful celebration of the dead is distinctly Central and Southern Mexican– yet it is spreading through Anglo culture, especially in the southwest, and I believe it will spread more widely still, rather as the American version of Halloween has spread across the globe.

I believe the Day of the Dead is taking hold because, as I said above, we need a time to remember our dead as individuals, families and communities–and be reminded of the eventuality of our own deaths. In our death denying culture, such thoughts have been considered morbid, even unhealthy, for a long time–but that is changing.

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What we think about when we try not to think about global warming

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In the comments of a recent post, one of our readers recommended this long-titled book: What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action by Per Epsen Stoknes (Chelsea Green).  Of it, she said, “For the first time in a LONG time, I feel hope and possibility when it comes to climate change.”

So I read it, and now I feel the same way. Thanks, Brigitte!

And the introduction of the book says pretty much the same thing, except the praise is coming from Jorgen Randers, one of the co-authors of The Limits to Growth. This is a man who has been waiting, pretty much fruitlessly, for us to wake up and change our ways for the last 40 years. So in 2011 he gave up on us and wrote 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next 40 Years. It was not, as he said, a description of an attractive future.

He’s a doomer’s doomer, yet in the introduction he says, “This book gave me back the hope I’d lost over forty years of futile struggle.”

So, if Stoknes can help me, Brigitte and Jorgen, maybe he can help you, too.

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When it’s time to remove a tree

I was standing in our friend David’s back yard, talking with him about the difficulties of re-designing your garden. One of them is removing trees and shrubs, not because of the physical labor–though that is considerable–but because of the psychic cost.

David shrugged and said, “I don’t know–when they get to be as tall as me, and I go to take them out, it feels like murder.”

I agree with him. It’s hard. One of the old rules of gardening is that you can’t be afraid to be ruthless in achieving your vision, but one of the realities of gardening is that most of us are not ruthless and often live with less than ideal situations because we don’t want to make those changes. Or we make the changes, but feel bad as we do it.

This dynamic is interesting, because we are told by our culture that we can do whatever we want to nature, because nature is just a pile of insensate matter for us to work our will upon. Fine. But it doesn’t always feel that way, does it? Oh, well…that’s just because we’re foolish and sentimental. Right?

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