Monday, February 21, 2011

What's in a name? An Urban Homestead in Singapore

As you may know, there is all sorts of commotion on the “interwebs” around the use and registration of the phrase Urban Homesteading as a trademark by the Path to Freedom folks. I am not going to link again to them you can look it up if you want. Path to Freedom (aka the Dervaes Family) really are an active bunch of Urban Homesteaders who have taken a trademark (in the United States) out with the Supplemental Register. A trademark, filed within the United States, no matter if it is a full registration or a supplemental registration, gives the trademark holder some rights to protect the phrase against others who might want to use the same phrase in the same geographical location. (For more information about the trademark kerfuffle you can look here at Crunchy Chicken, or join the Facebook Group discussing the same). The Dervaes Family states they had the best of intentions when they registered the phrase, but frankly once letters from an "ersatz attorney" started flying threaten users of the phrase, the Urban Homesteading Movement got pissed.

It is really silly after all. The phrase is commonly used, the trademark probably should not have been granted and the egoistic behavior of the family is just getting more and more people worked up. Frankly, the best thing for the Path To Freedom Crew would be to step up and say...OOPS, we screwed up. Sorry. Accept that you did a stupid thing. Be a grown up. Accept Responsibility. Say you are sorry. People may still forgive you. Forget, perhaps not, forgive. I hope so. The fuss and bother and this post today is a part of a big movement to try to take back the phrase URBAN HOMESTEAD.

The good news is I can say I am an Urban Homesteader all I want and there is nothing that they can do to stop me. That is because any trademark protection that they may have is limited to the geographical location in which they filed. So because I live in Singapore I can use URBAN HOMESTEAD. PATH TO FREEDOM. HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION. GROW THE FUTURE. And so on, yup not a damn thing they can do about it. The limits of the trademark protection stop at the borders of the USA. The letters the family sent to people in other countries are unenforceable, although the actions taken at Facebook and Google are possible as both sites are operated from within the US.
Okay, just because I am feeling feisty….I will GROW THE FUTURE on my URBAN HOMESTEAD walking a PATH TO FREEDOM and living a HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION. You get the point. I can say it over and over, but that is just as silly as what the Dervaes crew are doing.

But, what I am doing in truth is that from my little corner of the world, my 1900 square foot apartment in Singapore, I am proudly declaring I am a URBAN HOMESTEADER.

So, what is an Urban Homesteader. Well, the definition is really up to you, it means lots of things to lots of people. I don't have a huge garden-I don't grow enough food to feed my family, I don't have chickens (the condo in Singapore might frown on that), but I do have a few herb plants, that as much as I try to kill with my brown thumb valiantly hang on. I do make food from scratch. I do try to shop and source products locally. I mend sheets when they rip, I patch clothes. I freecycle and recycle. I do believe in the traditions that my Great Grandmother (A HOMESTEADER MONTANA) followed by living frugally, using what you have, being a part of a community. Ah yes, a community. Homesteaders, no matter how removed and far away from each other, relied on community. I am a part of a community-both online and in real life. And it is community that clinches it for me.

Homesteaders, Urban-Suburban-Rural and Virtual need each other. Just like they needed each other to raise a barn, tend to the sick or just join each other for fellowship on a Sunday afternoon when my Grandma was around, we need each other now. We need to share seeds. We need to share ideas. We need to cry together when our first chicken gets eaten (either by the neighborhood dog-or in our own soup pot). We need to be able to act together as a community and that is what the group intending to take back the phrase is doing.

The Dervaes family are Urban Homesteaders. You bet they are. They grow lots of food, they live simply, the seemingly walk the talk and practice what they preach, but they forgot one of the key principles of homesteading. That is the community portion. While I can proudly say I am a URBAN HOMESTEADER and my apartment is an URBAN HOMESTEAD and I am proud to be a part of a community that lives simply and knows what part they play in the world. Do I hate the Dervaes, no. Do I think they were misguided in trying to protect and capitalize on the phrase URBAN HOMESTEADING. Yes. Do I feel sorry for them that they have lost their bit of the community. Most of all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Environmental News: Scuba Banned?

Now in other news, I just saw this post and thought it was interesting. Comments?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Singapore is Asia's 4th Greenest City- Oh Really?

Not much to hang your hat on when you see the pollution in our region, but in many ways at least Singapore is making an effort. Now, about that trash on the street??? The survey was conducted by but the link is currently offline. Here is an article in the Straits Times for reference.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being Busy to Be Simple

11 inches of paper- that is equal to about 4 reams of paper which means this is equal to about 25% of one tree! This one stack of about 4 this size sitting in our office. Think we could have saved a tree with less printing.
It has been quite a month, more travel than anticipated, but still a good one in terms of being more content with the life I have now.

So first an update on January's Goals:
Goal Number One: Paperless Office

My desk.

I have made huge progress on the Paper Free Office Goal. I have to say the zippy little scanner helped a lot. In part, because it is cute and zippy, and in part because it is screaming fast. So here is a look at the second stack of paper that got scanned and later recycled. The last step is going through the tax files that fill the file cabinets that you see here, and I expect we can successfully reduce our paper in our office by at least 90%. As practicing lawyers it may be hard to eliminate paper in total, but I am pretty happy with 90% reduction.

Here are some after pictures of the office with it's new clutter reduction plan.

The craft/kids craft area half way...

The Craft Area after.

Goal Number Two was an inward goal, touching base with those Simple Living goals that are important to me. Why do I advocate voluntary simplicity, even if my life seems anything but? I am currently in the process of reading three books (well I was only reading one, until Jeff stole it from me) which are helping me focus on what is important to me and why I value an intentional life.

1. Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin. The Second Edition. This was the book that I read back when I took classes at the Northwest Earth Institute. Really caused me to think about being in the rat race and why I wanted to live more intentionally.

2. Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman. I started this book at the end of the year and then Jeff started reading it, I am really behind what he is stating in this book, it is all about Asia. More on this later.

3. Harmony by HRH Price Charles. Mostly a book about the interconnection between our lives and the environment, a bit hard to plow through as he does tend to jump around a bit, but again defining what is important to me.

So, on the personal goal of getting back in touch with my inner reasons, I would say this goal is only about 50% done. There is still a bit more soul searching to be done, which is driving me to the February Goal here at "Casa de Simple".. what's next.
What's next is a finalization of some things that started about a year ago. I read the book the 4 Hour Work Week, which is mostly about hacking your life into one that allows you to work on your schedule. I then read Chris Guillebeau's Art of Nonconformity. Coupled with the insane, intense, and frankly less than stellar year I had in 2010 from a side business (Far Flung) work and health perspective, I know somethings got to give.

February 2011's Simple Living Singapore Goals are:

1. Outer Goal: Define those necessary actions with those unnecessary actions. Right now, I can't give up the 9-5 job, I can and will be finalizing the shut down of Far Flung (I will post on that later, as it will be quite an emotional one) and will be working on, working towards some new business ideas/ventures. Some of these businesses I hope will lead my family into a path of sustainability; professionally, economically and socially. Some of the business ideas involve a possible partner. Needless to say, this is not a making life more simple in the short term, but may lead to the ultimate goal. February is about defining what I (and my family) needs versus what we want and planning for our future.

2. Inner Goal: Refine and Define Inner Motivation. Before I can start the outer goal, I have to be confident in my motivations, confident in my desires. Set with my core values and principles. I know I am leaning towards an independent future, one that tends to shun conventional trappings in some ways, but yet in many ways I am a bit of a stick in the mud. So clarifying my vision is imperative. I will keep you posted on that as well - well all three of you who read this anyway!

I am off the road for another week, so expect another update soon, but in the meantime, here are a few more pictures of the re-organized office.

Lina and her new "space" aka the center of the office floor

Four of the six magazine holders that went to recycling. Just think again how many trees.
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