Path to Freedom [Click to watch]
In the transcript of the interview below, Jules Dervaes explains the concepts behind his urban homestead in Pasadena, California which he calls his Path to Freedom. Excerpts are copies below
Path to Freedom is not about just one concept or issue but encompasses a total lifestyle change. The philosophy behind PTF is that a step backwards is progress, so that gives you the “direction” in which I’m heading.
The creation of this urban homestead, Path to Freedom, was a result of my long-held beliefs in living simply and caring for the environment. As a university graduate teaching secondary school math in New Orleans, I started to wonder about a better way of life. After I got married in 1970, I was seriously motivated to discover how I could best provide for my family. I wanted to make sure that my children would be healthy and strong and that they would be able to live long and happy lives. I believed the only way I could achieve this was to learn how to grow my own food.
Inspired by Mother Earth News magazine and the hope for a new beginning, I immigrated to New Zealand in 1973, where I embarked on the path towards self-sufficiency and living off the land. I moved back to Florida and bought ten acres, where I worked in lawn maintenance and raised bees for honey. Then I moved to Southern California in the mid-1980s. As a result of a period of severe drought in 1990, I did away with my moisture-challenged lawn in Pasadena, replacing it with wildflowers, drought-tolerate plants and, eventually, edible landscaping. This drastic step of turning away from the American lawn fetish would prove to be the major factor in turning our home into a homestead.
In 2000, in angry reaction to the news that U.S. biotech firms were bent on introducing GMOs into the food system, I took the next radical step towards becoming an urban pioneer. I wanted to protect my family from this mad experiment and provide them with the real food we could grow ourselves. In the midst of the urban wilderness of Los Angeles County, I began to turn my city lot into a homestead, fanatically planting every available space to the four corners of my small world. After the first full year of gardening in 2001, my family and I harvested over 2,300 pounds of fruits and vegetables. Eventually our property would become a wildlife sanctuary, a home to citified barnyard animals, and a fertile paradise where over 400 species of flora have been grown.
We started with the adobe or clay soil typical for this area. The soil was really junk. Over the years we have built up soil fertility by a variety of methods, believing that healthy plants come from healthy soil. We have “manufactured” our own soil by bringing in loads and loads of free mulch and horse manure. We now replenish the garden twice a year with soil enriched by composted manure from our animal enclosure, which houses goats, ducks, and chickens. By our practices of feeding the soil, we are improving the land each year, and thus the soil should not “run out of steam.”
This lifestyle centered on growing our own food makes me feel powerful because I am steadily becoming less dependent on the outside forces that have taken control away from ordinary people. It gives me a real rush when I have learned well enough to produce a surplus harvest or not to have to go to the filling station. The degree to which one relies on the current artificial corporate and governmental framework determines the extent of one’s vulnerability, and we at PTF are determined as the years go by to lessen our dependence on unnecessary food and energy sources and other crippling ties to the system.
People searching for true stability can find it in the empowerment and fulfillment that comes from learning the basic skills of providing for oneself. It is a matter of developing the old-fashioned virtue of self-reliance and having faith in the power of the “common man.” I believe that’s the only way to make a break from the status quo, which does not take into account the true, hidden costs of large scale farming and food distribution methods. I believe the new ways, which have not worked, are leading to the destruction of life on this planet. I want to return to the ways we have abandoned in our mad rush towards riches, which we term “progess.” I’m hoping to recover the good things that have been thoughtlessly discarded because of people’s desire for the latest trend, such as “bigger is better.” I choose instead to live according the reality of the earth as it has always been until the modern age.
Start by taking small steps, but start! People today may be prone to consider start-ups in terms of a Grand Opening, but in regards to changing your life within an all-encompassing system, the only way to do so is to have an unheralded, non-spectacular opening. It is a matter of following one step with another repeatedly until a great thing can be achieved.
As the world situation worsens, people will need to commit fully to a different, non-mainstream way of life. The Path To
Freedom represents a lifestyle change, which we believe makes a difference because we are a living model where the tangible results of our changes simply speak for themselves. It is up to each individual to take the steps needed if we are going to have a viable, truly rewarding way of life in the future. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world: we change ourselves.