HOMESTEAD HAPPENINGS

BACK ONLINE

You can tell from the lack of postings here on the diary, that things weren’t normal. Our computer crashed on Tuesday (June 1st) or was Wednesday — whatever!????

Anyhow, the urban diary posts were silent for awhile but things around the homestead are just the opposite (as you will soon tell from this long posting).

What’s really “great” about the computer going down was that it gave me time to clean and organize the house a bit — which it sorely needed!

Let’s see, where’d we leave off anyhow? Ah, yes, Memorial Day weekend.

Here’s a rundown of what transpired over the past two weeks, so sit back with a nice cup of herbal tea and continue reading…

FIRE DANGER

On Memorial Day, we went hiking with a couple of friends and had a lovely picnic in the mountains. Some of us even went for a swim in the cold mountain stream. The water flow was low — lower than it has been in years. Usually this stream had enough water to flow throughout the summer, but that looks unlikely this year.

Knowing these mountains well as we do, it was obvious to us that it’s going to a dangerous fire season. While talking with the ranger up there, our fears were confirmed and he said that there’s a pretty good chance the Forest Service may have to close public access this summer in hopes of detering any wildfires.

VISIT TO THE PILE

We visited Tim and his pile the last Saturday in May. It was a delight to see baby chicks chirping and running all over the place, following mama hen’s constant clucking. The cute display made JM wish for more land to have more chickens.

There was color splashed everywhere, thanks to Tim’s striking array of plants. Got some great shots (above) of his wondrous collection of plant species – his place is amazing!

However, a few days after our visit and late one night, we received a phone call from a friend who informed us that Tim was going through a bout of depression again. It’s really hard to keep on the path, avoiding the obstacles and focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel without stumbling every once in awhile. We’re keeping Tim in our prayers and encouraging him to keep the faith.

FIELD TRIP

On Thursday, June 3, a local elementary school from Eagle Rock came to PTF for a an educational field trip.

We were amazed to see slightly over 50 students trooping from the large school bus and filling our little yard. The kids were polite and wonderful and their enthusiasm was a nice experience.   They enjoyed smelling the different plant scents, testing out the wheat grinder, petting the chickens, learning about biodiesel and tasting some of the fruits. Unfortunately there weren’t enough fruits to go around to share with all 50 students so we made do with what we had.

The students were very curious and wanted to learn more about everything – from biodiesel to planting seasons. The bicycle grain mill was a big hit and most of them got to take turns pedaling it around a few times and I’m sure they could have spent more time here on the homestead if they weren’t allotted only a certain amount of time on the field trip.

Thanks to the teacher and parents for the compliments, appreciation and enthusiasm.

MEDIA COVERAGE

On Friday, June 4, a local news station interviewed JD for a segment on biodiesel but it appears the story got shunted aside with the week long coverage of Reagan’s death and funeral.

I am going to have to call the station and ask whether the piece will now even air.

Today – this evening, actually – we are expecting a local progressive cable TV station to come by and do a video piece on our biodiesel production. As soon as we get details, we’ll post the air date of the show.

SAYING GOODBYE

Last week, a good friend of ours who lived a door down from us was preparing to move and go on an extended road trip and perhaps end up in Montana so we spent lots of time over at her place the last week, helping her pack, cleaning up the house, setting all her stuff in order and just chatting.

Finally, it was time for her to go and time for all our goodbyes and promises to keep in touch – and meet up again whenever we had the chance. We wish her and her hilarious pair of dog – Shelby and Buster – all the best in their travels. We’re really going to miss them.

STUCK IN TRANSITION

On the garden front, the salads and greens situation is under stress due to the heat a few weeks back.

We knew from experience, over the last couple years, that the salads would need to be “rationed” among our customers starting in Aug until about Oct, but things are different this year and the lettuces and such aren’t lasting long. So, it looks like we are going to have to cut back on the salad orders early this year.

I know this will disappoint our loyal customers but we are hoping that is just temporary until the next batch of salad greens that JC planted is ready to harvest. The end of the salads sort of snuck up on us and what I think happened is that JC missed “a beat” on the session plantings because he (and us too!) was busy with other projects here on the homestead.

SUMMER VEGGIES & SIMPLE MEALS

The tomatoes are coming!  

Those much anticipated little juicy wonders are starting to ripen, along with the cucumber and squash. It really wonderful to sit down and eat to a meal that consists of about 75% of what is grown here at Path to Freedom.

For example one simple meal we enjoyed last week was a large salad of mixed greens, topped with cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries (all from our garden) served with a bit of garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries (bought from Trader Joes) and homemade honey mustard dressing (of course ingredients all bought). This salad accompanied some lightly steamed beans, squash, leeks and greens (all from the garden) served on some seasoned couscous (bought from Wild Oats).

JBB shared the honey mustard recipe with us. She uses it on the salad she picks up from us every week. Even with feeding the entire family here, this recipe sure goes a long way and really compliments the mix of greens. (ThanksJBB for sharing!)

Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette
(courtesy Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd cookbook)

Makes 1 quart (The book doubles the amounts)

2/3 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2/3 cup honey
2 cups vegetable oil

1. Whisk together the vinegar and mustard. If you want a less tart dressing,
slightly reduce the vinegar and increase the mustard.

2. Whisk in the honey and then the oil, drizzling both in until well-blended. Add
salt to taste.

BITTEN BY THE SOAP BUG

JM and I made another batch of castile soap and the whole process is becoming easier and more automatic with each try. I think we are getting the hang of it and hope to move on to more complicated recipes with other oils. There are so many recipes for soap, but right now it’s best to keep it simple and stick with a couple “simple” recipes like lavender, mint, honey oatmeal and lemon verbena.

Our first batch of soap finished its three week curing process so we did the best quality test we could think of – used it!   Some of us felt a little trepidation with first use as it’s so weird how much safety and precaution is required against getting the lye on your skin and into your eyes when making the soap and now it’s a useable cleansing agent that you can use on your skin and face.   We’ve never really contemplated that when purchasing a bar at the store.

Anyhow, back to the soap “testing”, it sure feels a lot different from the store bought ones – this one is more gentle and you can “feel” the olive oil. JC happily reported back to me that he used the soap on his face and exclaimed that “his face is still in one piece.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean? ;0

THE LAST STRAW?

NOPE! But we were able to get our hands on 6 bales of free straw that were being used at a local supermarket down the street for their summer display.

With those six bales and the eight we picked up from Pasadena’s Earth Day Festival, we’ve had plenty of straw for these summer months.   All the bales have come in handy for mulching the pathways and chicken coop area, not to mention they make great seats or mattresses for lazy summer days of napping in the straw.   Hmmm, all this straw creates the urge to build with straw bales — boy, I wish we had a teeny bit more room as we could see a possibility of building a straw bale shed of some sort.

This straw didn’t break any backs!

Well, perhaps some day.

It’s really wonderful therapy to take a nap on top of the earthy straw and breath deeply. I think it would be neat to have a mattress that was stuffed with straw – I believe that’s what they used back in the pioneer days… and boy were they lucky!

TOOK MY CHEVY TO THE LEVY

The bio-burban is now running on B80 ( 80% homebrewed biodiesel). We are fast on our way to B100! The guys had to change the filter again on Friday so that makes it about 5 filters now that we’ve gone through. JD and JC want to test how good our fuel is, so they are looking at sending in a small vial for testing.

With our suburban being as old as it is and with the guys unfamiliar with a diesel engine – they’ve recently found some problems.   One was that the battery terminals were corroded and for sometime the car wasn’t starting up immediately. We, thinking the worse, thought is was the biodiesel — we had records showing the previous owner had just fixed the corrosion 4 months ago. So we were all a bit puzzled – until they removed the terminals to find one utterly corroded.

As JD once worked at a service station when he was younger, he learned a nifty remedy for cleaning corrosion — Coca Cola. So, after buying two cans of the stuff – we poured it on and instantly the corrosion began to disintegrate. Now the car starts right away.   After seeing the Coke work so well on the battery terminals, JC made a face and exclaimed “anyone wanna drink?” He was kidding, of course as we aren’t soda drinkers — especially Coke or Pepsi.

The rest of the problems with the car are just as relatively minor considering what could be wrong. The shocks need to be replaced as they rattle a bit and a few other tightening of nuts and bolts had to be done. Other than that (so far) we’re blessed to have a car like this.

Nonetheless, we’re really not fond of cars in general.

JM recently spotted a bumper sticker the other day that read ” Stop pollution, buy a horse.” Seems logical…. though, why is a sign like that on a SUV no less???

PLEASE SIR, COULD WE NOT HAVE SOME MORE?

Unfinished projects keep piling up on our “to do” lists and we still have yet to install the dual flush toilet – right now it adorns a corner of our dining room. Sigh. 

And there’s the pond and grey water system to plan.

All that has to be eventually tackled while dealing with everyday duties, keeping the produce business going and plants healthy during the hot summer days to come. The months ahead are going to be plenty busy without much spare time.

Table at Food Summit

FOOD SECURITY STARTS AT HOME

On June 10 and 11th Path to Freedom displayed an exhibit table at theFood Security Summit held at the USC campus.

We weren’t able to staff the table during the morning and part of the afternoon on Thursday as we had deliveries and garden work to be done, but JM and JD did make it over in the early evening and met a few familiar faces and some new ones. One particular man they met told JD right up that he “doesn’t believe that (we) harvested over 6,000 lbs.” Can’t really blame him for doubting as it is pretty amazing, but, using John Jeavon’s calculations, this place should be producing around 10,000 – 12,000 lbs.

So, in response to the “doubter”… there’s certainly more to harvest from this little property in the coming years!

ORGANIC LOUNGE

On Thursday, June 10, a reporter fromKPFK’s Organic Lounge came to interview JD about our homestead as she took a tour. The segment should air sometime in the next few weeks and we will keep you posted on the air date.

Surprisingly we weren’t even aware there was such a program as we aren’t avid radio listeners. Perhaps it wouldn’t be bad to catch a couple of these programs if we have the chance.

SALVAGE YARD FINDS

Knowing we love “junk” finds, a friend of ours informed us about a new place just a few blocks away from us which sells salvaged wood, doors and other goodies.

We dropped in for the first time last week and came away with a much needed 42″ screen door for the front door for only $15. JD also picked up some brand new metal bunkbed screens that were tossaways from IKEA ($5 each) to use them as trellising. What a steal and the money is going to a good cause – Habitat for Humanity, even better!

Ah, that place is dangerous and we trying to control ourselves….. as it’s easy to spend, spend, spend.

FROM CLARA

A really nice senior lady (Clara) who came to visit our garden a few months back visited us again with some of her friends and gave us a really lovely dish which she had made out of ceramics and cast from the burdock leaf we gave to her on her last visit.

She teaches ceramics at local community places in Pasadena and she and her friends came to pick up some more leaves to use in their ceramic creations.

Ceramic platter
After touring the garden, they left with a big bag filled with burdock, squash, sunflower leaves and were thrilled! Made us very happy to share with them.

DE-CHLORINE, FERTILIZER & NATURAL PEST CONTROL

JD bought a de-chlorinator to attach to the water hose, as this will help keep alive the microbes that JC’s been spraying on the plants to keep them healthy. The chlorine city water kills these microbes, so we figure this was a reasonable investment.

JC purchased some more bulk organic fertilizer form Peaceful Valley – we aim to keep the plants and soil in optimum condition by replenishing vital minerals and nutrients in our small intensively used garden. Along with the fertilizers, he bought 50 lbs of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to help with an ever increasing fly population that is attracted to the compost tea spray on the plants as well as keeping the animals healthy.

Irish Rose Farms, a local horse stable near Santa Anitra Racetrack is an eco-conscious establishment and uses DE for fly control around the grounds and stalls.   The owner has reported that it works well.

It will be JM and JR’s job to sprinkle the DE throughout the yard.

OH WATER, WHERE ART THOU????

The water bills is a shockingly three times higher than what last year’s total was — well, really not shocking in that we didn’t get enough rain and had a hot Spring. What it does is make putting a grey water system and eventually rain water system more pressing…

The water situation is pretty scary, but figure that at least we are getting food and income from this watering and not dumping it on some green lawn or ornamentals that just look pretty.

PUPPY LOST

Last Wed, JC spotted what looked to be like a lost dog running around the neighborhood so he called JM to come take a look.

The poor thing looked lost and hungry and terribly neglected in appearance and once we called to him, he happily ran over to say “howdy”.   We gave him a bowl of water which he gulped down, though he turned his nose up at the cat food.  He was really affectionate and kept wagging his tail back and forth, back and forth and for some odd reason he keep looking at me — possibly I reminded him of someone?

What a cutie

He wasn’t wearing a collar unfortunately so JM put a leash on him to keep him from wandering into the street again.

Anyhow, cute and friendly as he was we just couldn’t keep him at this time, so we made a call to Pasadena’s SPCA, hoping that his owners may find him or he’ll have a good chance of being adopted there since that it’s a “No Kill” shelter and he is really friendly.

We hope this little doggy is now cleaned up up, fed and comfy and sharing his life with someone. I should call the shelter and see if he’s still there….

WANTED: A LOVING HOME

Just checked SPCA’s website and he’s up for adoption (sounds like him as no image is available at this time)!

Know of anyone in the LA area that’d love a dog?

My name is CODIE.

I am an unaltered male, black terrier mix.

The shelter thinks I am about 1 year and 6 months old.

I have been at the shelter since Jun 11, 2004. ID# A162433.

SUMMER BLOOMS BRIGHT

There’s a colorful array of cheery flowers blooming on a palate of greenery in the garden.

The gorgeous lemony goldenrod is loaded with lots of different types of bees. JD believes that some are Mason Bees, Blue Bees and regular ol’ Honey Bees.

It’s quite tranquil to watch bees happily buzzing about among the flowers.

JUNE GLOOM

Like clockwork, the arrival of June brought with it the annual “June gloom” that we know so well here in So. Calif. The gloom brings with it cooler temps and even though the we’ve had a dry winter and warm spring, the gloom didn’t miss a beat.

KNIT-TOGETHER

Hey, all you craft enthusiasts or wannabes, it’s time for another Knit-Together.Join us on Wed from 6-9pm to knit and crochet. So, if you are interested in joining us to show off your projects or to learn, bring along some drinks or healthful eats to share.

HAVE YOU ANY WOOL?

Also, there will be workshop on LEARNING HOW TO SPIN USING A DROP SPINDLE June 30 from 7-9pm presented by a local experienced spinner.

Cost is $28 (materials an extra $12)

If interested,please RSVPand spread the word. THANKS!

THANK YOU !

A big THANK YOU to some of our readers for the wonderful emails that we received these last two weeks (not to mention all those who wrote over the years!)

We were especially touched by this email we got from China and would like to share it..

Hello!

I’d just like to say thanks for your wonderful site–you are an inspiration. I am
currently teaching in a very polluted and poor province of China and your site
has been nourishing me and reminding me of the importance of all the things
you stand for.

I am an old Back to the Lander and look forward to returning to the lifestyle
this summer. Thank you for the very important work you are doing — Living in
China makes me realize even more how critical and urgent this path is for all of
us! I know your work is tiring and I appreciate so much your efforts. Thanks for
helping to keep me sane! ~ Robyn ~

The appreciation works both ways, Robyn — thank you for keeping us SANE!

We extend a grateful thanks to a reader in Canada for sending us some wonderful seeds and encouraging sayings (love them!) and for another reader from California who sent us a letter and generously donated for the upkeep of this site.

In addition, we want to thank a young woman who came by yesterday to buy some edible flowers who also generously donated to the project. We truly appreciate your donation (and the afternoon spent with you) it will definitely help us to continue to share our journey with others.

Also, for another reader in San Diego who called and offered to drive up to help us with our computer problems.

Getting your emails, letters and gifts in the mail certainly made our day — thank you, thank you, thank you!

Blessings to you and all other fellow travelers around the world.

Weather Report: Pleasant

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