Urban Projects

Urban Permaculture Homestead Watch: Showcasing Current Initiatives in the City and Suburbs

by Mo Lohre and Will Redwine

Interested in what random homesteaders and permaculture homes are up to? We are too. So we’re visiting them and sharing their inspiration with you.

We are going to begin the Urban Homestead Watch series with the Ujima Center in Portland, Oregon. This is the permaculture home we were involved with when the Creating the Alternative Tour was manifested and it is a place that we call home.

The Ujima Center’s front yarden (Photo by Matt Franklin)

Ujima, the third day of Kwaanza, honoring the Swahili principle of collective work and responsibilities, is celebrated all year round at the Ujima Center. A fitting title for the stewards of this land who use this principle to create the world they want to inhabit. We discovered them through City Repair’s Village Building Convergence (VBC), a place-making celebration that brings together neighbors, groups and civic collaborators to transform the city of Portland. It is 10 days of urban sustainability projects followed by inspiring talks from local permaculture leaders, good food and music (for more inspiration check out vbc.cityrepair.org). Ujima Center has participated in the VBC for a number of years as a means to build community and their vision of a permaculture home. The 2012 VBC Ujima Treehouse project is what caught our attention and we were stoked to find out that they were only two blocks down from us.

The epic treehouse designed by SunRay Kelley and put together by all the awesome volunteers at the VBC (Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

SunRay Kelley (www.sunraykelley.com), an epic natural builder, came down to help with design and construction. After the VBC, we continued to help Ujima become more regenerative and for the next three months we were considered extended roommates. Below is a gallery of some of the awesome Ujima features and projects.

Many great times spent up in the treehouse. World changing conversations,
sleepovers, and general funhousing all up in the treehouse.
(Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

Ujima’s backyarden, where many awesome meals began. You can see some of
the compost bays and one of the beehives in the background.
(Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

The outdoor kitchen, fully equipped with giant snail cob oven
(Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

Natural paints made from water, brown clay, and different
natural pigments for color (Photo by Matt Franklin)

After painting the cobb bench with natural paints, three coats of linseed oil
were applied. Two coats with mineral spirits and a final coat with citrus solvent.
(Photo by Matt Franklin)

The chicken tractor that is also used as a chicken coop
(Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

This is the interior portion of the remodeled garage. We took out all the old
insulation, replaced it with light straw (clay slip and straw), plastered over that
with another earthen plaster and added bottled windows in the cobbed portions.
(Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

This is one of the 2013 VBC projects. It is a seed and book library.
Books are indeed seeds of ideas. (Photo by Rachael Levasseur Photography)

There has been so much growth since we left the Ujima Center in October of 2012. Check out their website (ujimacenter.com) and their facebook group for updates on their efforts.

Please share your homesteading stories with us via comments below, and if you feel like contributing to our efforts, find out how to do that here.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned to this site for our next adventure!


  1. Wow! That’s pretty epic, can’t wait for more space one day to play around with! Until then I’ll make the most of my little urban corner :-)
    Thanks for the inspiration guys!

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