Snap shots

…small old path that leads to freedom: a path of action, of thought, of wisdom.” ~ Katherine Tingley, 1914 ~


Here on the homestead there’s always something quirky, beautiful or stunning to take photos of. Here are few of the best shots taken:

Top right – to left: peaches ripening on the tree; Blackberry eating out of Jordanne’s hand; Cassidy on the peak of the garage roof early one morning. I can imagine she’s thinking to herself “I’m Queen of the World!”

Bottom right to left: butterfly visits the Echinacea; Cat Stevens (aka “Spanky”) sits in the garden; late afternoon shadows silhouette the cob oven.

On the urban homestead

The guys brewed about 60 gallons of biodiesel this week which should last us 2 months or more. They figured on making a “bulk batch” now so that they could concentrate their efforts on the roof in the weeks ahead.

Now that the cob ovenhas been resurfaced with a new coat of earthen plaster, it’s back to being used more these days. Of course, during sunny days, we still prefer using the sun/solar ovens; however, nothing beats freshly baked bread or pizzas topped with freshly picked toppings from the garden.  

The cob/earthen oven heats up well using a little scrap (recycled) wood.   We have plenty wood stored in 55 gallon barrels on the side of the house . To preheat the oven, we just have to plan ahead. It takes about 3 hours to reach 300 degrees. No instant gratification here.

For a early evening snack, we enjoyed a slice (or couple of slices for the guys) of homemade sprout bread (made home-sprouted alfalfa sprouts) served with homemade elderberry jam.   If not properly guarded (and having strong will power), the whole loaf could have been easily devoured in one sitting.

Elderberry delights

Have a lot of food preservation that needs to be done: marinated peppers, drying hot peppers, canning up more fruit jams/preserves.   I can’t wait until it late fall so that we can harvest the patch of horseradish to make up some sauce with the spicy roots.  

Another tasty tuber that we can’t wait to harvest is theyacon’s. This plant is from South America and is hardy in our area producing juicy (jicama-like) tubers that are great in salads or vegetable stir fries.

The figs are ripening like crazy. Besides trying a few new recipes, we are going to dry a few batches in the sun oven.

Some things are “off” this year, one being the lemon cucumbers. We usually harvest a bunch, but, so far, only a handful. Of course, the crazy weather is partly to blame, but we also are noticing the lack of bees to help with pollination.   As urban farmers we are on the “ground floor,” as you might say, in noticing different weather patterns and changes. This year has been one of the weirdest we’ve experienced in our 15 years of gardening here.  

We are also concerned about our beneficial insect population. Haven’t seen many lady bugs as before and the praying mantis are much smaller than normal at this time of year.

Top: Front yard from street Bottom: Part of backyard garden

GREENWAY: Abundance with Sustainable Gardening

Pasadena, Independent August 10, 2006by Sue Z SmithThe length of time it took for Jules Dervaes to fully realize his dream of living off the land brings to mind a familiar Zen maxim: “The obstacle is the path.” Fresh out of college with a degree in math and computer science, and toting “thirteen issues of Mother Earth News in a briefcase,” Dervaes traveled to rural new Zealand in the 1970’s to try his hand his hand at homesteading. Absorbing the information contained in those magazines and invoking the spirits of his grandfather, an ornamental horticulturalist originally from Belgium, and his father, an oil executive and avid gardener, helped Dervaes to sow the seeds for what would later develop into a thriving urban homestead in Pasadena called “Path to Freedom.”In 1984, Dervaes moved his family into their fixer-upper on 1/5 of an acre in Pasadena, where he cleared the land “like a pioneer would” and created an “ornamental jungle.” But a nagging fear that a GMO [genetically modified organism] was “assaulting my food supply” convinced him to go organic and plant a sustainable garden. What began as a small vegetable patch of easy-to-grow foods — corn, beans, tomatoes, zucchini and an assortment of herbs — flourished beyond his expectations and eventually took over the backyard. The bold next step was to expand to the front. Keeping in mind that, “if you are going to do something different,” said Dervaes, ” it better look good,” he and his family uprooted the lawn. Today, winding paths paved with “buffalo grass” and snake through the gorgeously landscaped frontage — a lush haven of herbs, wildflowers, broomcorn, sunflowers, peppers in summer, broccoli in winter, strawberries as ground cover (“we have to beat the birds and the slugs to the fruit,” he said), chives as a border, purple basil, and much more. Dervaes and grown children Anais, Justin and Jordanne have parleyed their concern for the environment and entrepreneurial talent into a successful business by raising specialty crops like heirloom tomatoes and gourmet lettuce, which they sell to local restaurants. About ninety-percent of their front yard produces income, too. “I am doing it for the future,” said Dervaes. “You know how they say,’ it takes a village?’ This one takes a family.”To fuel their car, Justin produces biodiesel in the garage behind their solar-heated {powered} home, which he crafts from used vegetable oil salvaged from restaurants. “We deliver the produce and, get the oil to deliver the produce,” said Dervaes, happily. At the top of their to-do list right now is replacing the roof a task they’re learning about as they go along. When that’s completed, the plan to “toast” the occasion with elderberry wine, courtesy of apprentice winemaker Justin — and the sumptuous berry plucked from their vine. Learn more about sustainable gardening and “Path to Freedom” at their website Email comments:

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  1. denise says:

    Please share how you made alfalfa sprout bread! Thanks.

  2. Wildside says:

    Thank you for sharing the article! It was interesting to read and learn even more about your family’s endeavors.

  3. Risa Smith says:

    I guess that means you were able to find another source for lye. Did you find another brand? I have been looking all over. All the other brands seem to be tainted with something. I would rather not order it online, but commercial soap gives me a rash. Plus my used oil(for laundry soap) and Ghee (body bars) are stacking up.

    Anyone know where else lye is available in small quantities?