On the Front Lines

There’s something wrong with our citrus trees (lemon, orange, lime, tangerine) this year. Not only is it affecting the dwarf citrus  in wine barrels it’s also attacked our two 10 year old ones that are in the ground. Having never seen this type of disease before in all the many, many years we’ve been gardening we were stumped.   Bringing a sample of the diseased leaves hoping someone there could identify, we went across the street to visit our neighborhood nursery. Fortunately one of the guys who knows all about plants and diseases was on duty, when I showed him the leaves he was quick to respond with the culprit – leaf miner. He went on to say that it’s “unusual for it to attack citrus” and that we have to “be concerned now” since we’ve never had this type of pest before, he also went on to say that the leaf miner “is attacking everyone.”   In one sense it’s a relief to know that you are not alone, it wasn’t something that you did or didn’t do; however, the concern now is how to get rid of it – organically.   We also talked about how this whole garden year “stunk.’ He told me that he has beautiful (and tall) great tomato plants and just finally harvested one (that’s right uno) tomato. Sad to say, it’s good to see that we have company.  Although we are harvesting more than one tomato from our plants the numbers are down drastically (last year: 100+ lbs of tomatoes a week, this year: less than 100 lbs a month). The guy from Burkard’s nursery attributes some of it to the weird July we had, “that started everything off bad” he also said (and totally agree with him) that “the eco-system is out of whack” – we’ve been saying that almost everyday to ourselves and anyone that would listen.

When I got home I told Justin, our resident tomato addict, of the other guy’s problems with tomatoes he was very, very relieved to know that we aren’t the only ones. He jumped up, raised his two hands in the air and said “I’ve been vindicated!”  It is pathetic but it certainly “helps” the frustration to hear of another gardener having the same problems.

What happens when the earth is “out of whack” – weird weather increases bringing diseases we’ve never seen before.   You can try your hardest, living a sustainable life, eating or growing organic foods but nature is not herself these days and the times ahead are going to be a long and difficult journey until the balance is restored. Even here, we are buffered from nature because of irrigation, so it would be an extreme act of faith to dry farm.

The Farming Life

“It maybe when we no longer know what to do, We have come to our real work, And that when we no longer know which way to go, We have begun our real journey.”   ~ Wendell Berry ~

What’s also frustrating is that in summer the heirloom tomatoes are the major cash crop for us. So this year we have suffered not only setback in the garden, but also our farming income has taken a hit. In years like this it’s easy to get depressed when you rely on the soil and toil of your labors.. Although we are “farming” on a smaller scale, you gain more respect and form sort of a bond with farmers (or anyone that truly lives off the land) around the world, with each day go out and work to provide their family with food and income.   Those who weather and survive a year(s) of drought, disease and whatnot and they still have the strength deep inside to answer the earth’s calling every spring in faith that perhaps this year might be different, they are the true agrarian stewards.

The farmer “has a sense of identity, a sense of historical and religious tradition, a feeling of belonging to a concrete family, place, and region, which are psychologically and culturally beneficial.” The harmony of this life checks the encroachments of a fragmented, alienated modern society which has grown to inhuman scale.
read more

There’s no time to complain on this urban farm, expect to look ahead to a “normal” Fall, eat simple meals (thanks to the some vegetables and fruit coming in) and cut back on only the very necessary purchases.   Taking in account the last time we went to the store (3 weeks ago) and spent about $150 that comes to about $50 a week (comes about $12 per person a week). Well, probably a little more because of our bulk co-op order. I could figure it out, but such items like 25-50 lbs of rice, flour, 1 gallon of honey, lasts us several months and it probably comes to a couple of dollars a week more.

Good Health

Jordanne came across this site the other day and forwarded it to be while looking for natural health remedies to help one of our rescued cats.

Memories of dogs before vets and the petfood industry became the norm

From my own first hand recollections of those days, I would say that dogs were *naturally* healthier for longer. In spite of what is now deemed good care by ‘responsible’ owners, I think we have traded the ‘health and longevity’ that did not need a crutch, for fairly widespread chronic health problems that, when they emerge, can be managed by veterinary medicines to the extent dogs are kept functional and comfortable for longer. But, because they need the veterinarians’ ‘crutch’ I would not categorize these dogs as ‘healthy’.
read more

If animals are as healthy than what about the people — processed foods, lack of exercise, lack of exposure to dirt, antibacterial, antibiotics… are we any healthier today?

Urban Homestead Happenings

Raised beds being turned over to plant new crops
Bulk seeds ordered for fall
Drying figs
Applied boiled linseed oil on the cob oven to protect the plaster coating from rain damage
Orders to fill – edible flowers, herbs and veggies
Scheduled someone to come an inspect our chimney next week – see if it’s usable so we can install a wood burning stove to heat the house this winter
Still waiting to hear back from metal roof dealer to schedule his coming out to see the roof, set up, etc
Cleaning and organizing (never ending job)
Researching cisterns


Preparing for a Crash: Nuts and Bolts {EnergyBulletin.net}

This is a tall order – find isolated rural property, add solar panels and other “systems,” buy hundreds of books, begin experimenting with canning and fermenting, become a food-storage expert, learn to identify and eat wild foods – but if you really believe that Peak Oil and collapse are coming, then turning down your thermostat and investing in energy-sector stocks are doing nothing to save you. Realize that things may potentially get much uglier than you can imagine, and plan for that reality. You may be pleasantly surprised, and if not, you’ll save your ass.
read more

Kitchen Stories {TheNation.com}

If there is a single, unifying theme to the hours of stories and messages we’ve gathered, it is not about food itself, but about fellowship. It is really this that lays beneath most of the messages–that hidden thing happens in the best of kitchens–something is shared. The stories are offbeat and eccentric, poignant and powerful–full of hope and imagination–a map of possibilities for coming together through food.
read more

Cooking on the Road to Collapse

A story by this week by Mathew Maavak in the Korea Herald, entitled, “Along With Peak Oil, Peak Grain, and Peak Water, The World Enters Crisis Overload,” succinctly summarizes all of the above and concludes: “Imagine a world when Peak Oil meets Peak Grain and Peak Water at a confluence called Peak Mayhem? And we have not even skimmed the surface of troubled waters ahead, spawned by the troubles we caused before.”And so it is that we arrive again at the question: Will collapse look like Armageddon or slow burn? Will the Terminal Triangle’s fires linger unrelentingly, like the blistering heat of California’s San Joaquin Valley, scorching, wearing away, and hollowing out the livelihoods of earth’s inhabitants, or will the confluence of scenarios we have witnessed in the past month congeal in an indisputable, palpable “cliff event” that signals the end of the world as we have known it? The latter would perhaps be preferable if for no other reason that the longer the country on earth which consumes the largest quantity of hydrocarbon energy implacably refuses to acknowledge what is so and drastically alter its patterns of consumption, the more cataclysmic will be the collapse, and humankind will wistfully yearn for “the good ole days” of scorching heat, three-dollar gas, and just barely getting by financially—dire symptoms of a convergence of consequences that are about to dismantle Western civilization.
read more

No Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Sorry to hear about your tomato troubles. Other So. Cal. gardeners I’ve talked to have experienced the same thing this year. I seem to be the exception. Here in Lakewood, we had a fairly decent harvest. I think the key was to plant early. I put in 5 plants in the backyard garden in early April, and by the time we got to the July heat wave, they were producing lots of fruit. I put in 4 more tomatoes in the front yard on Memorial Day weekend, and these haven’t produced much at all.

  2. Esther says:

    I have a tiny veggie patch and in comparisson with the two previous years, this year is pathetic. I have not been able to harvest one single vegetable. There is one tomato still intact, ripening. Last year cucumbers and zucchini were abundant, now I have blossom that turn into nothing…
    On a different spot some tomato have become quote high and started blossoming only a week ago. I planted them in May.

  3. soleilvert says:

    Hi Anais

    Sorry to hear about your gardening woes – its not much consolation, but things are out of whack here in the southern interior of BC Canada.

    About the leaf miner attacking your citrus plants…I’ve never had the right conditions to grow citrus, but I do have experience with leaf miner…it regularly attacks chard, spinach and beet greens (except the variety known as Bull’s Blood, strangely enough). I wonder if it is the same thing? If it is, you might like to know that neem oil is quite effective (& organic & non-toxic…its even in the brand of Indian toothpaste we use!)

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the link to “Preparing for a Crash: Nuts and Bolts”. My family is seriously discussing leaving LA because of the kind of things discussed in that article. Do you guys think about moving PTF out to a more rural place someday?

  5. Anais says:

    Thanks for your comments. Seems like gardeners everywhere are taking a beating this year.

    We’ve been planted tomatoes for decades, we usually start our first sucession in early (Jan – Feb) then (Mar-Apr) last bunch in (May-June)

    Our tomatoes are still producing, just not as much as previous years. The plants look fine and may last till late Fall.


  6. Anais says:

    Greetings Esther

    Sorry to hear of your garden woes. It’s comforting to know that we are not alone in our angst.

    Here’s looking a a more bounitful fall.

    Wishing you a better, more productive fall harvest.

    All we have is faith right?

    Happy gardening,

  7. Anais says:

    Hi Soleilvert

    There too huh? Gardeners like yourself are on the front lines of noticing the effects that global warming will have on our crops and climate.

    Sorry to hear about your gardening woes.

    We do have Neem oil on hand for other stuff so can’t hurt to try. We also order an organic solution on Friday which contains spinosad which supposedly helps get rid of leaf miner.

    Hope it works.

    Wishing you a more productive and less “wacky” fall.


  8. Anais says:

    Hi Jennifer

    Thanks for your comment, glad you found the piece to be helpful in these changing and uncertain times.

    Yep, know a lot of folks who’d like to leave LA LA Land. And now you are one too! 😉

    Since the late 90’s we’ve wanted to move back to the country. Pasadena was suppose to be temporary while Jules went to school here.

    When our looking for land didn’t pan out, Jules’s outlook was “let’s see what we can do right here, where we are, insteading of waiting for the right place and situation” Hence the beginning of Path to Freedom.

    We still keep a look out for land; however, we still feel we have a few things we’d like to complete here on the homestead first before moving on.

    There’s certainly an argument to be had for those who are NOT “fortunate” enough to leave the city since most folks live in the city – what options are left for them if everyone “bails.” And some even are saying isolated country life is not really sustainable either.

    Either way, yeah we’d like more land but we have challenged ourselves with the here and now and think we can still take the urban homstead to new levels. Although we will never be completely sustainable in such an urban environment the skills we’ve learned are certianly valuable which then could be applied to much larger property if and when it’s the right time.

  9. littlejennywren says:

    I think it is very important that people in cities and large towns try to live sustainably and show others that you don’t need to move out of town to live closer to the earth.
    The more people who are eating their own garden produce and keeping a few hens, the more it softens the harshness and artificial nature of city life.
    We can’t all move out, the infrastructure:hospitals, schools, libraries etc, is already in place; in many ways it is more earth friendly to work towards sustainable towns and cities.
    Promotion of smaller suburban communities within the larger structure so that people feel they own and are a part of their community and so must take responsibility for the health of their community must be the way forward. Projects like the Path to Freedom show that with hard but good work it can be done but also every family who can incorporate vegetable and fruit growing into their normal family practises as was the norm just a few decades ago show a less extreme but equally valid attempt to move towards a measure of self sufficiency and a willingness to take resposibility for their own and the planet’s health.