It’s raining! What a tremendous blessing this late in the season.   By storms end, we could get anywhere between 1-4 inches. The plants (and people – well, gardeners mostly) are loving it. Waking up this morning and opening the window to look out in the garden, I see that the plants seem to have grown overnight. The plants have taken on a lush and intensely green appearance.

Building the new rock & pot bed


The rock/”pot irrigated” bed that accents the cob oven is filling in nicely with a mixture of herbs and vegetables (the last in the sequence of photos is dated now– the plants have filled to where you can’t see the mulch in some places). To support the tomatoes we put up one of many recycled bicycle wheel trellis the guys made (you can see it in the background).    The few simple structures have transformed the backyard into a functional and beautiful garden.   SinceThanksgiving the backyard has been in an unsettled state as we removed concrete and completely redesigned much of the middle of the garden. Now, it’s a relief that it’s coming together, meaning we can now focus some of our efforts into bringing the garden back into optimum production.   There are still a few spots in the yard that need to tackled (driveway, north and back side of the house); yet, that will wait until roofing is completed.

Now, we’ll be turning our efforts to working on the animal enclosure: building a permanent goat house, erecting the trellis that runs along the top of the enclosure that will support grapes, designing an animal feeding station and, if all this goes smoothly and ahead of schedule, perhaps build a new duck and chicken house.

The pot irrigation method seems to be working. After filling the pots with water, it takes a few days for the pot to run completely dry after seeping into the soil. You can tell when the pot is empty just by looking at the color of the pot. When filled, it’s dark and empty, the color is lighter. It will be interesting to see how well this bed does over the summer month since it’s situated in one of the hottest parts of the backyard.

More pictures of the yard coming soon.

Coming together


Last night over 50 people came (including the former Mayor of Pasadena) to our urban homestead to attend thePower of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil film screening & “100 Mile Potluck Challenge.”  Even with the looming chance of rain, heavy rain held off long enough for folks to enjoy a quiet and peaceful evening in a garden setting. Jordanne brought out the pair of goats, now nicknamed Blackberry and Fairlight, because she wanted to train them to get used to people. The goats were well behaved and everyone was fascinated and asked all kinds of questions.

Thank you all for attending and those who brought something local to contribute to the potluck. Also, extra thanks to those of you who took time out to help with cleaning the dishes (greatly appreciated!).  

The film showed how a nation was forced to change its habits and way of life. One of the guys interviewed wisely said, “We can’t wait to be forced to change.” He went on to point out the dramatic difference between our two countries. He said that if he told Cubans were told to turn off their lights, they would do it for their country’s welfare. However, if he told Americans to do the same, they would say “why should we?” It’s our right since we are paying for the service.”


Before the film, we hosted the first ever “100 Mile Potluck” in Southern California (that I know of).

Since this concept was such a hit, we want to acknowledge that part of our inspiration came from the folks who brought about theEat Local Challenge and “100 Mile Diet”   We wanted to challenge folks on a community level. It was evident that many of the folks were proud of the dishes they brought. It was like there was a  personal connection with the food.  It wasn’t an impersonal potluck, where you could just pull something tasty off the grocery shelf and plop it down on the table.   You had to engage yourself with the item you brought thus forming a sense of community through food.

Many of those who attended liked the concept so much, they informed us that they will definitely be copying this potluck challenge/concept which we had initiated and inspired.

Salad from our garden

It was an interesting observation what foods were brought to the table of this proactive potluck assignment. Many attendees said that this was a good lesson and learning experience for them. One lady described how she and the produce guy at the local Wild Oats took the challenge seriously and tried to figure out where the produce had come from. This made them aware of what was in the local foodshed and what was not. Lots of tasty vegetable dishes and fruit were brought, either from Farmer’s Markets or backyards. Wine from California, homemade lemonade, Mexican food from a local restaurant, deviled eggs from one lady’s backyard chickens, and more. It was interesting to note that there were no rice or pasta dishes, breads, crackers, chips, no cheese or anything of that nature ( someone did bring homemade almond bars). Besides a few cookies, it was mostly a vegetable/fruit faire.

Thank you all for participating and making this a successful and educational experience for all.

50 folks = little trash (all recycled)


We are proud to say that we pulled off yet another “zero waste” event. What little “trash” was left was either composted or recycled. Great job, everyone!  Besides being zero waste, the event was a low-impact one. Alternative, green energy sources were used to power the projector, dvd and lights.  

No Comments

  1. andrea says:

    thanks for such a wonderful event – i had a great time and am looking forward to the next time i get to hang out at path to freedom. maybe a knit-in/spin-in? 😉

  2. Anais says:

    Hi Andrea

    Thank you for coming, it was nice seeing you again and hearing of your fiber adventures. The shawl your wore was really lovely – I assume you made it yourself? 🙂

    I hope to start the knit-together’s again. Definitely would love for you to bring your spinning, etc.

    Thanks for coming out, glad you enjoyed yourself.

    Keep in touch.


  3. Heather says:

    I am very curious to learn more about this whole pot watering system. It seems like something that might work well for my garden. Could you please post some info on this subject… maybe a book, or site or ??? Thank you.
    Your pot luck sounds wonderful. It has inspired me to do something like that with my friends. : )


  4. Darryl says:

    I am curious to see a sketch of the new backyard with livestock pens incorporated. We want to do livestock here, but are concerned about grazing needs.

    I am still very interested in bringing the video out east. I’d be happy to show it here.

  5. Anais says:

    Hi Heather

    Sorry, forgot to link to additional resources on this method in my post. You can read more about this method and helpful links on one of the previous postings at


    Hope this helps.


  6. Anais says:

    Hi Darryl

    These dwarf goats only need a minimum of 30 sq ft each.

    Our animal enclosure is over 400 sq feet. Goats are NOT grazing creatures like sheep.

    You can find a lot about backyard goat keeping if you go a GOOGLE search. Any dog house/igloo suffices as their house.

    They are very clean creatures and can generally be trained pretty much like a dog.

  7. Claire Marie-Peterson says:

    Hello, Path to Freedom–

    I met some of you at All Saints Episcopal Church on Earth Day and at the David Korten/Frances Moore Lappe event this spring. I have a comment and a question.

    The comment is that I have a wonderful local-wild-food recipe to share: Make “winter pesto” using black mustard leaves, picked when the plants are young and tender, before they have flowered–i.e., in our rainy season, when fresh basil is not growing here. I followed a standard pesto recipe and just substituted black mustard (harvested about half a mile from my house in Eaton Canyon) for the basil. It was delicious! An added bonus is that black mustard, unlike basil, does not turn brown when exposed to the air. The pesto remained brilliant green for days, in and out of the fridge.

    Now for the question: What is the best way to chop plant materials by hand for compost and mulch? I own a triplex, and it is lushly landscaped in native and drought-tolerant plants, old-fashioned evergreen hedge plants, lots of fruit trees, summer vegetables, and annual and perennila flowers, so I have lots and lots of heterogeneous plant material to deal with all year long. I object on principle to throwing all my unweildy, brushy stuff into the yard-waste bin and then going off somewhere else to get free or cheap compost or mulch that I have to then haul back to the garden. I’d rather use my own materials: I know there are no pesticides, pet wastes, or phytotoxins in it.

    I also dislike the idea of using power tools to chop my plant materials–an aversion much amplified by the fact that none of them work very well anyway. And when you can get compost and mulch for next to nothing, it’s hard to justify purchasing or even renting a power tool to chop it yourself. But the method I’ve been using to chop materials by hand is killing my back!

    I sit on the ground or the porch and step on one handle of a pair of hedge shears with my right foot. With my right hand I open up the shears while I shove a few inches of plant material through with my left hand. I bring the handle down to chop the stuff, lift the handle again, and shove a few more inches through until it’s all gone. It sounds tedious, but in fact it’s no more time-consuming than feeding brush through one of those noisy, gas- or electricity-guzzling monsters that cost piles of money and don’t even cut stuff to the texture that I want. And I can chop stuff by hand under the porch light eight feet from my neighbor’s door, when it’s too late to use power tools and too dark to do other gardening tasks. It’s a very pleasant activity for a summer night, with the nighttime fragrances of the garden and a radio playing softly at my side. The only problem, as I said, is that this is killing my back! Do you know of a more ergonomic way to chop materials for compost or mulch?

    A guy from a Smart Gardeing compost workshop I attended five years ago said he used an old papercutter for awhile. But I don’t have an old papercutter, and a new one of the size I would need costs at least 60 bucks and may not stand up for long to the kind of abuse I have in mind for it.

    What do you recommend?

    Thank you in advance for any help you can offer!


  8. Amaranth says:

    Two things I have been thinking of for a hand chipper are
    1) A pruning device on it’s side set into some kind of a stand at hip/waist height. Then we could feed the stems through with one hand and get leverage on one handle with the other.

    2) A papercutter type design, but using a machete or something strong like that for the blade

    Would like to make either one of the safe so no fingers would be injured. And would welcome ideas about how to do something like this