Monday, March 7, 2011


This is one of my all time favorite books written in by Bolton Hall.
Assisted by R.F. Powell
Superintendent of the Vacant Lot Cultivation in Philadelphia

Published by Grosset & Dunlap - New York
Copyright 1907 March
By the Macmillan Company

Chapter IV 
Vacant City Lot Cultivation
Lessons for the the intensive cultivator - of poor land.
The effect upon physical, mental, moral health - illustrated.
A farm educator - in voluntary co-operation. Appreciation by railroads.
In Europe. In school gardens. Wonderful production. Your opportunity.

In this book, necessarily, we have to take much upon the reports of others checking them only by our own judgement and experience. The following account of what has been done and is being done on plots of about a quarter acre to each family, however can be easily re-verified by anyone who will go or write to Philadelphia, or examine the New York experiment. Both show what can be done even by unskilled labor, with hardly any capital, on small plots of ground where the soil is poor, but which is well situated.
The directors say: "The Philadelphia Vacant Lot Cultivation Association was organized in 1897, when relief agencies were vainly striving to provide adequate assistance for the host of unemployed. The cultivation of vacant city lots had already been tried successfully in other cities. The first year we provided gardens, seeds, tools, and instruction only, for about 100 families on twenty-seven acres of ground. At a total cost to contributors of about $1,800, our gardeners produced $6,000, worth of crops.

"During ten years more than four thousand four hundred families have been assisted, many old people who could no longer keep up the rapid pace of our industrial life, cripples whose physical condition held them back in the race for work, persons who on account of sickness or other misfortunes have been thrown out through sharp competition in modern business, and unfortunate beings who, though clear in mind and strong in muscle, on account of business conditions, have been forced to take the ranks of the unemployed - these have all had the opportunity to enjoy all of the fruits from natures great storehouse which an application of their own labor and skill might secure them.

I would like to extend my apologies to the Dervaes Family of Pasadena, California.
In my mind I firmly believed that Vacant Lot Cultivation was interchangeable with the term urban homesteading, and the term was in use in the late 1890's.
I see now that I was wrong.
That despite a common concept of a homesteading lifestyle in a city,
your copyrighted term shares nothing of the hardships that earlier gardeners faced in both lack of hospitable climate, knowledge, appropriate tools, or ownership of ground to say nothing of the lack of basic capital. These people were cultivators of all that is revered in gardening all that is good.

In short you sir are not worthy to lick the Vacant Lot Cultivation Association's hoes. 

~~ pelenaka ~~
who walks the talk without holding paper


  1. Just looked it all in Europe one tends to miss out on news like this. I am just horrified. These people just feed right into a worldwide stereotype of how Americans will try to commecialize anything. I am mostly speechless...

  2. Very Good Post! I honor those that came before.

  3. Thank you ladies.
    When I first read about the new or rather 3 year old copyrighted terms "those owners" requesting their legal status to be honored I too was speechless. I think that was the reaction of our community world wide.
    Then I thought about this book and was throughly convinced that those terms were used in virtualy every other paragraph. The words no, the concept, the meaning, yes. Can't tell u how much I wanted to quote page & paragraph, to help right this wrong.

    It's all good here in the hood.

  4. Wow, just wow. Before reading this and then checking out the issue on the internet, I had a lot of respect for the Dervaes Family of Pasadena, California. Now I see that are just greedy and not worth anyone’s time of day. I so hope that this turns and bites them in the backside. Awhile back I had a blog “The Urban Homesteader” but killed it off due to my lack of interest. I am going to restart it as “City Homesteading”, and they can suck toads!

  5. Just saw this link. Looks like the term has been around long enough that HUD has a program named after it. Not as good as turn of the century would have been, but still...

  6. G.J. - I think that is the word most of us used when we first read about this power play.

    Kelly, thanks for the link. I'll be posting the rest of chapter IV soon along with an illistration (actually a photo but the book says illistration). It's a very inspiring.

  7. I too am ashamed of the greed that has infested the Dervaes family. They started off right, but it somehow went to their heads. Something that would never have happened to REAL homesteaders. Those people that came before us and LIVED the name.
    You didn't hear or see people in the 1800's making up terms for their lifestyle and then patenting it. For the love of Pete they just lived their simple life.
    Shame on those trying to capitalize on something that has been done for centuries by much better folks than these.

  8. Wait, I'm confused. Did the Dervas family give you a hard time about using the term Urban Homestead? I can't see how they can trademark the term considering the Boston Urban Homesteaders League exists (est. 2009), and that I own a book entitled The Urban Homestead (2008). I also use the term to describe my efforts at self sufficiency.

  9. Bethany, me no but apprently bloggers that are better well known & are able to generate a bit of income off of their lifestyle. Check out the blog Root Simple as they have had to hire a law firm to defend themselves.

    Andi, all I can say is that bad karma has a way of making your goat go dry, your garden not produce, and the code man visit u daily.
    The Presbyterian in my says I should pray for him. Won't say what the Ghetto Amish is advising.


Thanks, good to know there are other's with this interest