Waterfall, natural pool. Justin, Anais relax.

Sabbath-Rosh Hashanah Hike

Yesterday was an absolutely lovely day for a hike – blue skies and nice breeze. We, along, with a friend hiked the upper Arroyo Seco to the dam (about 6 miles round trip)

What a great (free and natural) way to relax and de-stress after a hard weeks work and share in the beauty of creation – and realize how blessed we are.

Craft and Folk Art Museum: Street Signs and Solar Ovens: Socialcraft in
Los Angeles –
October 22 – December 31, 2006

A revolutionary exhibition featuring artwork created with social activism as its inspiration. Dubbed “socialcraft”, the objects on display are examples of unique artworks utilized by communities and individuals in their quest for social change.Street Signs and Solar Ovens will feature protest art meant for public display such as hand-crafted demonstration signs, posters, t-shirts, as well as examples of instruments for socially-conscious living such as eco-friendly appliances.

Path to Freedom has been asked to participate in this community and social exhibit – we are excited.   We met with a few of the curators a few weeks ago as they scouted the homestead for items they wanted us to feature. They’ve chosen theJames handwasher/wringer with attached garden hose, clothes line, an assortment of our hand cranked kitchen appliances, preserves and bike blender (talked withNatethe other day and he said that he’s shipping his secret prototype blender and we should receive it this week). Unfortunately, our homemadesun oven andbike wheat grinder were too big to showcase because of limited space so they had to choose only a few items from the urban homestead.

The curator has also asked for us to make up a “how to” booklet to go along with the exhibit. We love new challenges and should be fun to see how it all comes together.

Fixing an old bike to make into a bike blender

The guys are busy fixing up one of the many salvaged bikes that will be exhibiting the blender – giving it a good cleaning and new paint job. Justin’s been repairing and rebuilding bikes since he was a teenager — you should see the cellar! He’s cannibalized all sorts of bikes and has collected so many parts (hates to throw them away). Back when we had time, he would save/salvage used bikes, fix and give them a new paint job, then sell them.

Urban Homestead Happenings

Now that it’s darker earlier, it’s time to check the oil lamp wicks and make sure we have a decent supply of rolled beeswax and soy candles.

Another project that’s on our “to do list” is installing a “alternative” heating source. We’d like to get the wood stove in (another step in the low energy direction) before the metal roofing starts. So, on Monday we’ll be contacting the guy who is going to help us install the stove to see when he can come out.   After searching the web and reading about all the different stoves, we settled on theJotul F100 Why? Well, size really made the decision for us. This model is the only stove that will fit in our tiny fireplace. Then, of course, the price– it’s affordable.  Last, but not least, the reviews:

Jotul is widely regarded as the best cast-iron stove manufacturer in the world”

On Friday, after deliveries, we went to the grocer for our monthly shopping trip (~ $300). I usually stock  up on most of our supplies at Trader Joes (with staples we can’t get from the co-op and sometimes TJ’s cheaper than the co-op on some items0. We’ve been patronizing the store since the 90’s and, lucky for me, I know pretty much everyone and they don’t roll their eyes when they see me coming – instead good natured kidding and comments.

Fresh fruit from the garden for breakfast. Baby greens.

The tender salad greens are back on the menu.   Our salads with the kales, arugula, assorted lettuces, and cresses are considerably yummy and we sure did miss them for a few weeks during the heat.  

There’s still fresh fruit to be harvested and we are enjoying it while the season lasts.

Swedish Bitters

Last February Patty wrote about making her ownherbal bitters and this has been on my to-do list for sometime. Now,with our getting into making our own herbal tinctures and so forth, I figured it was about time to track down the herbs that make up the famous swedish bitter herb recipe Unfortunately, the mixture of herbs isn’t easy to find in the States any more. After doing a quick search on the internet, I came across asupplier in the UK.   I wrote them to ask if they ship to the States and, so far, nothing – urgh!

Anyone in the UK who’s willing to order this for me- email us and we’ll pay pal you some money.

Kitchen Skills

Also Jordanne (and, of course, myself) is wanting to make our own kefirs and kombucha tea. Jordanne forwarded me alink to a site where you can get free kefir grains and kombucha culture and so I’ve contacted someone in the area (haven’t heard back yet – wonder if the contact info is still relevant?).

I also have to make asourdough starter starter once again. I lost the sourdough starter I had made and was keeping back in ’04 when we kids traveled to New Orleans (on the train) to visit our grandmother.   Now, it’s about time to get the starter started once again – especially for winter baking.

Also on our to do list is to makeRejulevac tea.    Why on this health kick all of a sudden? Well, recently, we’ve been feeling run down, more so this year than ever before. Even though we’ve been eating healthful foods and relying on herbs and natural remedies practically all our lives, it’s time to step things up a bit and add a little boost to our diet.
With the cooler weather Justin can start growing wheatgrass once again – that stuff is the best.

Citified Farm Animals

Fairlight and Blackberry

We’ve been receiving a lot of email lately about keeping animals in the city.
Regarding animals in Pasadena, here’s the link to thecity code/ordinanceon keeping of animals:Pasadena residents are legally allowed to keep certain fowl and goats; however, there are certain restrictions, of course. We are fortunate not to have any neighbors on 3 sides of our property – which is quite unusual.

We’ve had several city officials tour our place and not one of them voiced any concern over our animal situation. We basically consider our few “farm” animals pets and they are not raised for fighting or breeding purposes. They are not a public nuisance (no rooster helps) and the animal enclosure is properly maintained – cleaned every day (cleanliness is a MUST for citified animals)

Top two photos: recycled concrete patio. Middle: animal enclosure, part of back yardBottom: another view of the middle garden, peppers and the tomato tunnel

In the Garden

One thing about edible landscaping and gardening is that every year you have to go in a re-adjust and tweak. Fruit trees and edible perennials mature which slowly change the dynamics of the yard from year to year. Each year around this time, Jules goes through the yard and analyzes the situation – is this tree now casting too much shade, will we have to move that edible shrub, this didn’t grow well this year, do we move it or try again. Each year and season, the garden is ever evolving – never stagnate or the same. Sure, the end result looks beautiful and productive; yet, it takes a lot of work adjusting to the yard’s growing pains.

Roof Report

Well, there was not much work done on the roof this last week because we had spend time tidying up for news crew that was scheduled to come on Friday (they canceled at the last minute because of breaking news).   Anyhow, we are running into some problems (not surprised!). The new wood (plywood and redwood) that we have brought in is attracting termites from our neighbor’s house – they smell fresh wood. Our 1917 house (made with redwood) has NO termites, but both our closest neighbors, who are renting, well, both their homes are infested with termites and they are too afraid to say anything, in fear of the landlord raising the rent.   So, it may be that we will have to treat the new wood now because the guys have spotted termites burying into the new wood.   Just something else to contend with on top of everything else.

Anyhow, after a brief respite from working on the roof, because we really needed to get the beds and garden prepared for fall and winter, the guys are back working on cutting the remaining plywood for the edges today. We’ve had a few contractors come out to give us estimates about putting in gable brackets to support the sagging eaves. Of course, we could probably do it ourselves if we had the right saw, but with winter approaching just around the corner, we are going to need a bit of extra hands/help.

Well, lots of work and things need to be done today. Then we are off to a friends for dinner!


Health Officials Recall Organic Milk {KNBC}

First spinach and now tainted milk has infected people with E. coli bacteria, including A 7-year-old Riverside County boy, prompting a recall of some milk products, health officials said Friday.
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E.coli – getting to the root of the problem {OCA}

The recent tragic outbreak of E. coli contamination in spinach that has killed one person and poisoned at least 146 others, is being mistakenly blamed, by some in the media, on organic farming practices–specifically the use of animal manure in making fertilizer composton organic farms. While no conclusive source of the current E.coli outbreak has yet been determined, mountains of E.coli-tainted manure on conventional factory farm feedlots and rainfall-induced agricultural runoff are the likely culprits. Despite this fact, a number of apologists for industrial agriculture continue to attack organic food in the press as “unsafe.”
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No Comments

  1. Andy in San Diego says:

    Your pictures are awesome. I wish I could zoom in and see things better. Hint, hint. Would that kill your bandwidth?

  2. Jeff S. says:

    I have a Jotul No. 3 and can’t say enough good things about it. Be sure to get the screen that covers the opening after removing the door. It is nice to hear the crackle and pop of an open fire on those nights when it is not so cold that you require the full heating potential of the stove.

    You mentioned the stove “fitting” your fireplace. I hope you were referring to the flue size and not the fireplace opening. I originally placed my stove inside the fireplace opening as shown in many pictures and found that the surrounding brick re-radiated heat back on the stove resulting in overheating even when completely dampered. The stove will have to sit outside of the fireplace opening, and remember that you will require at least 18″ (may vary state-to-state) of fireproof material on the floor in front of the stove. We just use a semicircular fireproof rug, though something more substantial is recommended. It really only comes into play when you are loading wood.

    Another thing about my No. 3 is that typical cordwood (18-20″) will not fit. If you are cutting your own wood, then you can cut to suit.

  3. Liz says:

    You’ll love the Jotul. We have the Oslo 500 and it’s a real gem (and pretty to look at too!).

  4. Wendy says:

    Curious if you would be interested/able/willing to offer the “how-to” booklet you’ll be providing at the Craft and Folk Art museum on your site?

  5. James Newton says:

    We are also very happy with our Jotul.

    Ours is in the exact center of the house, so it radiates heat in all directions and heats the house rather evenly. It also happened to be right next to the original HVAC column, so one of my todo projects is adding a duct from the back of the stove (it has a place for a blower that pulls air from around the firebox) to the fan for the central air system. That will get heat out to the bedrooms for even better distribution.

    Learning to clean out the stack myself was “fun” but now we don’t have to spend the cash for a professional service. Burning wood that doesn’t tar up helps as well. Stay away from pine and other soft woods if you can, and make sure they are completely dried.

    Only one problem: The player piano was apparently close enough that it dried out and warped from the heat. We will have to find a new location and pay a piano tuner to fix it up.

    Some people keep a pot of water on the stove to offset the dryness of the heated air. We have a humidifier so we haven’t tried that yet.

    The other amazing thing is how often you can find free firewood. I subscribe to the local “freecycle” lists and have the computer set up to automatically reply with “I can always use firewood” when some is offered.

    Best wishes and congratulations on the stove, I know you will love it.