Urban homesteaders: Off the grid but still blogging

Despite living nearly off the grid in the metropolitan Los Angeles area, this family isn't technophobic--they're technophiles.

Tech Culture

In Pasadena, Calif., a city in Los Angeles County, a family has made a break--and a living--refusing to be dependent on supermarket chains and fossil fuels.

It's another case for the Luddite files. Or is it? Can you really be called a Luddite--someone who rejects technology completely--when you publish a blog and your Web site gets a respectable 71,000 unique visitors and over 3,000,000 hits a month?

Jules Dervaes and his family are "seeding a revolution" one heirloom tomato at a time. They're demonstrating a way of life that may become necessary when the world's economy has to operate without dependence on petroleum or other fuels for shipping foods great distances and when city dwellers may need to grow their own food or purchase it from nearby sources.

Dervaes and his three children run their '88 Chevy Suburban on "homebrew biodiesel," use solar panels and energy-efficient appliances to minimize their electricity use, and harvest an astonishing three tons of produce annually, selling much of it to gourmet chefs in Los Angeles.

Besides cultivating their tenth-of-an-acre yard with more than 350 varieties of edible plants, as well as chickens, ducks and goats, they're cultivating self-reliance and--perhaps most radical of all--their own happiness. Wednesday's Los Angeles Times quotes Dervaes: "Some people might feel we're regressing, but I feel we're progressing to a better life. We've lost that independence and the things that make us truly happy. The people that got us here must have done something right. We want to repeat that for the next generation."

Even though we like technology, a lot, we have to applaud this family's persistence, ingenuity and the amount of courage it must take to create the Garden of Eden in the middle of L.A. County.

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