Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, February 2, 2019

MVNews this week:  Page A:7



Mountain Views-News Saturday, February 2, 2019 


Homesteading in the City – Part 1

[Nyerges is the co-author of 
“Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading 
in the City,” and other books. He 
also conducts on-going classes. He 
can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-]

Since there has been an increase 
in popularity in our “Extreme Simplicity” book, 
published in 2002, I wanted to share some of that book. 
The ideas expressed in the book are somewhat timeless, 
and are every bit as relevant today as when the book 
was written.

 “Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody 
thinks of changing himself.” -- Leo Tolstoy.


When we purchased our home in the mid-1980s, it was 
one of the most dilapidated places in the neighborhood. 
Clearly we had work ahead of us. A duplex rental with 
a distant owner and many tenants, the building had 
been sorely neglected. Yet, we were glad to discover as 
those first weeks and months went by that the damages 
due to neglect were mostly cosmetic or easily repaired.

There were no serious problems with the building’s 
structure, apart from a leaky roof, which we replaced 
as soon as we could afford to. The water pressure could 
be better, which would mean replacing some of the 
pipes. And the electrical system, though surely fine for 
the 1950s, would need to be modernized.

 Our need to make these improvements gave us an 
opportunity to reconsider our priorities for the house in 
light of our longer-term goals. We wanted our various 
projects to steer us in the direction of self-reliance – 
even in an urban setting – and in the direction of living 
our lives lightly. All this we proposed to do within a 
modest budget on a city lot in Los Angeles.

 The interior of the building was generally shabby, 
and the back section was especially very run-down. We 
re-tiled the front kitchen and bathroom and painted all 
the walls in the front section of the duplex so we could 
rent it out for income.

 We removed the garbage disposals from both 
kitchens and put them in the city’s recycling bin. 
These costly and noisy appliances aren’t necessary 
and cause endless plumbing problems. Plus, think 
about it: What are we doing when we use a garbage 
disposal? Using extra water and extra electricity to 
grind up “garbage” so it can pass down the sewer lines 
and end up eventually in the ocean. Our choice is 
to give our food scraps to our animals, or our worm 
farm/ compost pit.

 We also removed the automatic dishwashes from 
each kitchen. We’ve heard interesting debates about 
whether these modern devices use more or less water 
than simply washing dishes by hand. Usually electrical 
use is not factored into such debates, and besides, we 
find that the quiet time spent washing dishes, looking 
out the window toward the chicken coop, is a waking 
meditation. We salvaged whatever hardware we could 
from the dishwashers, and sent the rest to the recycling 

Although the house came with two natural-gas wall 
heaters, one was dangerously corroded and we had 
it disabled. The other we used only when necessary. 
Eventually, we installed a fireplace in the back, 
unheated section. Many people have been surprised, 
even shocked, to learn that we had no “modern” 
heating – our merino wool sweaters and our fireplace 
were usually adequate during the Southern California 

 Nor did we have “central cooling.” In the summer, 
however, we discovered that our location had very still 
air, and we didn’t get much of a breeze through the 
house. Partly, this was due to the fact that we closed 
and locked our doors at night. Over the years, we 
replaced regular screen doors with steel security doors, 
so we could leave the doors open to the air all night 
without worrying about a break-in. This has made a 
terrific difference, allowing cooler air to flow through 
the house. 

 We mentioned the old roof, which leaked terribly 
during winter rains, but we couldn’t afford the 
expense of a new roof right away, and we were 
convinced that the existing dark brown roofing 
would keep the house much hotter in summer than 
necessary. We researched the many “liquid rubber” 
roofing products on the market. For a few hundred 
dollars, we painted the whole roof with a coat of white 
Roofer’s Best, which is sold primarily for use on the 
metal roofs of trailers to help keep down solar-heat 
absorption, and not as a roof sealant. It did, however, 
seal most of our leaks. Its main value has been to keep 
the house 15 to 20 degrees cooler during that summer 
than it had been with the dark roof. It is amazing to 
be inside a cool house, with no air conditioner, when 
outside summer temperatures are over 100 degrees f. 
We simply used natural principles – in this case, the 
reflective properties of a white roof. Eventually, we 
had our roof professionally reshingled in the lightest 
color available.

 Keep in mind that we lived within Los Angeles city 
boundaries – a major metropolitan area. We were not 
living out in the country, nor were we living off-the-grid, 
supplying all our household power with solar, or going 
without electricity altogether. Yet, we feel that all too many 
city dwellers have used an urban home as their excuse 
not to adopt some of the methods practiced by country 
people, thereby missing all kinds of opportunities for 
special learning and savings. Even given the constraints of 
urban life, we have tried to grow as much of our food and 
provide as much of our own oxygen as possible, recycling 
whatever we can, collecting rainwater, and living our lives 
with no excessive use of resources.


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder


Vacations mean different 
things to different people. 
For me, the vacation means 
I am vacating one place and going to another place 
to do nothing.

 Recently, the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage 
and me vacated the parsonage to go to some place 
where we could major on doing nothing. We have 
mastered this over the years.

 My definition of “nothing” is quite different from 
my wife’s definition.

 My definition is simply that I spend the day doing 

 My wife’s definition is simply that she will spend 
the day doing nothing but thrift store shopping.

 At this point, I am not quite sure who has mastered 
their “nothing.” We might be equal at this point. 
As long as each of our “nothing” activity does not 
collide with each other.

 One of the aspects of getting to that “nothing” 
point is travel. The older I get, the less fond I am 
of traveling especially long distances. But if we are 
going to get to our destination, travel is part of the 

 A long time ago, I made the decision, that on our 
vacations would use my wife’s van. Henceforth, she 
does all the driving.

 How I got to this point was simply that if she is going 
to go thrift shopping she will need space to put the stuff 
that she buys. Hence, she needs to take her van, and 
consequently, she needs to do all the driving.

 I have long ago come to my point of manhood that 
I do not have to do all the driving. My father was 
quite different. He felt that because he was the man 
in the house, he should do all the driving. I am not 
my father’s son. At least, in that respect.

 If my wife is going to go thrift store shopping, 
she will need her van and so this problem has been 
worked out quite nicely, if you ask me.

 On our travel I can either do some reading or log 
sawing, at which I am pretty good.

 She’s a very good driver; after all, I trained her. 
I remember the time training her to drive a car, I 
would not say anything now, but there were some 
very anxious moments. So, there is nothing she 
could do now that would in any way cause me to be 

 This past vacation time I did see something that 
startled me to no end. We were driving down the 
main street in St. Augustine when we passed an old 
man riding his bicycle. That in itself is not an unusual 
sight, after all a lot of people ride bicycles. As we 
passed him, I noticed his trousers were down to his 
knees and I saw something that I am not supposed to 
see under any circumstance. My eyes burned for the 
next two days.

 Then, the next day as we were driving and I saw 
this large Cadillac coming in our direction and there 
was nobody in the driver’s seat. Believe me, I was a 
little excited about that for sure. When we passed 
this car, I looked over and behind the steering wheel, 
barely able to see through the steering wheel, was a 
little old lady sitting.

 Where do people get their driver’s license? Who 
gives them their driver’s license?

 The next day we were driving home and I had just 
about fallen asleep. The Sandman had just started 
his activity and I was fast approaching dreamland. 
Then I heard a noise…“Bah room boom boom boom 
boom boom. Bah room boom boom boom boom 

 I jumped out of my sleep and looked over at my 
wife and she was looking at me. At first, I thought we 
were entering the apocalypse and was tempted to get 
down and start praying.

 I then heard it again. “Bah room boom boom 
boom boom boom. Bah room boom boom boom 
boom boom.”

 I was convinced it was too late to pray.

 Just then, it passed us. It was a little pickup truck 
with four wheels bigger than the truck. As he past us 
I noticed the driver was a young guy with a big smile 
on his face and I heard it again, “Bah room boom 
boom boom boom boom. Bah room boom boom 
boom boom boom.”

 I wanted to stop him and say, “Do you feel like a 
big boy now?”

 I would like to know what kind of a mechanic 
would put on a little truck four wheels that are bigger 
than the truck? We must live in a really crazy world.

 It takes some strange things to make people feel 
big and important.

 I was reading in my morning devotions the other 
day something that brought sense to me. “Then I 
beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find 
out the work that is done under the sun: because 
though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not 
find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know 
it, yet shall he not be able to find it” (Ecclesiastes 

 Sometimes what we think has no place in reality. 
Sometimes who we think we are is not related to 
reality either. It is what God thinks about me that 
is really important. Nothing I can do could ever 
impress him more than simply obeying him.

 Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God 
Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives 
with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 352-
687-4240 or e-mail The church 
web site is

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