The Austrian Scythe is the New Weed Whacker

Scott at the Huntington Gardens gave me a quick lesson on the Austrian Scythe, setting me l

oose to whack a stand of summer weeds. The scythe is to the weed whacker what the fixed gear bike is to the ten speed. Or, for you motor heads, it’s what a non-synchronized manual transmission is to an automatic. The scythe is all about technique, not technology and like riding fixed or “ten forward gears and a Georgia overdrive“, it’s the considered life, an exercise in attentiveness . . . and frustration.

There’s definitely a learning curve and after a few minutes of ineffectual flailing I traded the scythe for a hoe. Still, the act of swinging this tool is infused with symbolism. Someone hand me a black robe! With a little practice I’d be knocking down weeds and getting some exercise, never a bad thing in our sedentary modern world.

Like all journeys into the “manual” life there’s a fair amount of maintenance. The blade must be sharpened frequently and periodically “peened” (the term for using a hammer to smooth out nicks).

Scythes come in European and American styles. The European configuration is ergonomic and the American style is clunky and uncomfortable to use. There’s also several different blades for weeding and harvesting and, like a bicycle, it’s crucial that your scythe fit your height.

Scythe use is intellectual for me since years worth of mulching, a dry climate and a very small yard means that I don’t have any stands of weeds to knock down or wheat to harvest. But, if I had a large yard and grass to deal with, I’d dump the weed whacker in a heartbeat.

For more info see Scythe Supply’s Scythe faq

Drawing from

Keeping it Local

A depression ear local currency

The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating article, Cash-Strapped California’s IOUs: Just the Latest Sub for Dollars on the history of IOUs and local currencies. It seems that Depression 1.0 spurred quite a few improvised currencies, including the “Minneapolis Sauerkraut Note”, for a good reason. Just as today, a lot of people want the rewards for our labor tied to tangibles rather than monetizing it and sending it off to Wall Street’s abstract financial casino. Mutual fund or sauerkraut? I’ll take the kraut, please.

Several years ago I attempted to float the “Edendale Dinar” in our annual Christmas mailing. The front depicted a common scene here in Los Angeles, an abandoned mattress (could old mattresses be the new gold standard?). The back showed where you could spend one of your Dinars: at your local taco wagon. The Edendale Dinar failed to catch on, spoiling my fantasy of becoming a ghetto Ben Bernanke with the power to manipulate the carne asada rate.

Writer Douglas Rushkoff has been talking a lot about local economies in his new book, Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back and on his radio show The Media Squat. One of the topics Rushkoff mentions often is time banking, an alternative to currency and bartering where hours are exchanged instead of money or goods. I’ve joined up with our local Echo Park Time Bank and in the past month have moved a heavy tree sculpture, had my portrait taken and unsuccessfully attempted to unclog a tub. Not only did I participate in useful activities (except for the botched tub snaking), but I got to connect with some great folks. If you don’t have a time bank near you you can start one via

Now that I’ve switched to time banking, Goldman Sachs has kindly agreed to take all my extra Edendale Dinars.

Author and Urban Farmer Novella Carpenter Rocks Los Angeles

Yesterday, Homegrown Evolution had the great privilege of meeting urban farmer and author Novella Carpenter who was in Los Angeles to deliver a lecture and sign her new book Farm City. She’s a phenomenal speaker, both hilarious and inspiring. What we like most about Carpenter is her honesty in describing the ups and downs of raising pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and more on squatted land next to her apartment in Oakland. As she put it, “I don’t like to sugarcoat things.” As owners of a garden that is often a little rough around the edges, we were inspired by this photo of her squated garden that she showed during her lecture. We could have listened for hours to her stories of dumpster diving for pig feed, gardening in a neighborhood where “crack zombies” and prostitutes come out at night and how the local Yemeni liquor store owner came over to show her how to slaughter her mean goat. If you have a chance to hear her speak, make sure to go!

We’ve read excerpts from Farm City and Carpenter is a terrific writer. In addition to her books and articles she blogs at and offers workshops on raising and slaughtering animals for meat in the city. And like Carpenter, we also fantasize about trading the bicycle for a mule. Time to print up the “one less bike” saddle stickers . . .

World’s Skinniest Farm Planted in Brookline, MA


“The 200 Foot Garden is a community garden/art project, to create a commuter garden in Brookline, Massachusetts. Our hope is to add some beauty and delight to a very everyday stretch of sidewalk and chain-link fence. It’s also our hope to remind people that healthy vegetables can be grown in all sorts of environments, not just farms or big yards or community garden plots. The 200 Foot Garden is also a way to bring together neighbors in a project designed to share good things with the people around us.

The project is headed by Patrick and Tracy Gabridge. In our everyday lives, Patrick is a novelist and playwright, and Tracy is a librarian.”

California Agriculture Journal Online

The University of California has put 63 years worth of its journal California Agriculture online for convenient downloading at There’s plenty of detailed (peer reviewed!) nuggets for the home gardener between the pages of this scientific journal. Make sure to check out the article and video of UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie explaining what kinds of plants are best for attracting bees in your urban garden.

Thanks to Los Angeles County Master Gardener Coordinator Yvonne Savio for the tip.