Saturday Linkages: Now With Catagories (and Skateboarding Goats)

Design

Small Cabin Plans Online http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2012/08/small-cabin-plans-online.html#.UCFFrqY1GF0.twitter  

How-To: Crackle Paint Finish with Elmer’s Glue http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2012/08/how-to_crackle_paint_finish_wi.html  

Flat pack live/work loft: http://www.spaceflavor.com/Cube_Prefabricated_Home_Live_Work_Loft.html 

Events

Are you pressure cooking, yet?!? Free San Francisco Bay demos lure cooks to the pressure cooker http://shar.es/vxakE  


Cookin’

Pickled Beets with Orange and Coriander. Excellent on a sandwich with goat cheese and pesto. http://fb.me/1HJYF63ww via @nwedible

Gardenin’

Growing chayote: Bury one fruit, get an epic plant http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-lh-chayote-planting-20120806,0,5571772.story  

Small-garden ideas from Thomas Rainer | Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2012/08/thomas-rainer-small-garden-ideas.html 
 

Health

Lesson Burned: Does Sunscreen Actually Reduce the Risk of Cancer? http://shar.es/vlki0

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried . . . 

Skateboarding goat wins Guinness World Record (video): http://boingboing.net/2012/08/10/skateboarding-goat-wins-guinne.html  

Road rage against cyclist–by an elephant. I reiterate my call for separated elephant lanes, preferably buffered. http://ow.ly/cO6HX via @dudeonabike

Slicing vegetables with thrown playing cards: http://boingboing.net/2012/08/06/silcing-vegetables-with-thrown.html 

Miami restaurant serves up (Salmonella) sushi, sashimi on naked models | barfblog: http://barfblog.foodsafety.ksu.edu/blog/155812/12/08/04/miami-restaurant-serves-salmonella-sushi-sashimi-naked-models#.UB3Nna2ionM.twitter 

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A DIY Whole House Fan

Our DIY whole house fan.

How hot is our unairconditioned, uninsulated old house? Kelly has temporarily banned bread baking and I’m thinking of opening my own Bikram hot yoga franchise.

But seriously, a few summers ago I decided to install a whole house fan. What’s a whole house fan? It’s a large fan, mounted in the ceiling, that pushes hot air into the attic while simultaneously drawing cool air in from the outside. You turn on a whole house fan when the air outside is cooler than the air inside the house, usually in the evening. It works best in climates that have hot days and cool nights–like Los Angeles or many other parts of the Southwest.

Diagram from Gear Hack.

Whole house fans are usually placed in a ceiling towards the middle of the house. For us that’s the hallway. Unfortunately, between the attic access door and the intake for the central heater, our hallway ceiling had no room to fit a standard whole house fan. And I’m cheap. So I decided to make a DIY version.

I picked up a shop type fan and installed it in a 3/4 inch piece of plywood cut to fit the attic door. It was a simple project and saved a lot of money. I think I spent around $30 for the fan and used a piece of scrap plywood. I added two handles to make it easier to remove the fan/door and access the attic. The final touch was to install an outlet in the attic wired to a switch hidden in a closet so that I can turn the fan on and off. When cooler weather comes around I simply swap out the attic fan for the normal attic door. Would a commercial whole house fan work better? Yes, but I try not to let perfection be the enemy of the good around here.

An attempt to use a bike pump as an air conditioner. Hot cat in background.

It’s still damn hot at Root Simple world headquarters during the day. So maybe I will open that combination bakery/Bikram yoga franchise where you can eat buns while you tone your buns.

How to Make a Native Bee Nesting Box

Back in the spring I made a native bee nesting box by drilling a bunch of holes in the long end of a 4 by 6 inch piece of scrap wood. I cut one end of the 4 x 6 at an angle so that I could nail on a makeshift roof made from a piece of 2 x 6. I hung the nesting box on an east facing wall or our house with a picture hanger.

I used three sizes of holes to see which ones would be most popular: 1/4 inch, 3/16 inch and 1/8 inch. All were moved into by, I think, the same native bee within days of putting up the box. This afternoon, when I went to check on the nest to take some pictures for this blog post, I was delighted to see a lot of activity. There were bee butts sticking out of the holes, as well as bees flying in and out. I think they are some sort of mason bee–extra credit to the person who successfully identifies the species:

They move fast, so I was only able to get these two blurry shots. No, they are not Chupacabras.

With the success of this primitive native bee box, I decided to make more nesting boxes to see if I could attract other solitary, native bees. I put this one together with some small pieces of bamboo that I found in a neighbor’s trash can:

I think there’s a great potential to create works of public art that double as insect nests. For a nice example of this idea see the “insect hotel” designed by by Arup Associates.

For general guidelines on how to build nesting boxes see this guide from the Xerces Society

We also have a project for a native bee box in our book Making It.

If you’ve built or seen a nice native bee box, leave a comment or a link.

Guilt Free Ice Pops

Orange blossom ice pops from Homestead Survival

This could be the year that the ice pop becomes the new cupcake. I’m sure some Brooklyn hipster is just about to debut an artisinal ice pop cart pulled by heirloom draft dogs.

Cynicism aside, what I like about ice pops is that, unlike other desserts, you can make them with either small amounts of sugar or no sugar at all. All you need is a ice pop mold and a freezer. What follows are a few links to recipes for healthy ice pops, perfect for those hot August days:

As to how I make them, I’ve got some old Tupperware type ice pop molds that I’ve used for years. Pure simplicity. Take note Brooklyn hipsters: the paletas may be the new fixie. Start training those draft dogs.

Nominate Your Favorite Complainer

At least once every other month there’s some municipality that sees fit to bust a front yard vegetable garden. Last month some Quebec officials ordered the immaculate kitchen garden, pictured above, removed. You can sign a petition to save this garden here.

So what sane city official or neighbor would complain about this beautiful garden? It’s a complaint so outrageous, that it attains a kind of athleticism. Joking with some friends last weekend, we came up with the idea of creating an complaint competition patterned after the Olympics. People would complain and then a panel of judges would hold up signs, just like, say, diving or gymnastics.

The truth, of course, is that most complainers are lonely, clinically depressed people seeking attention. Or perhaps bureaucrats justifying their jobs in a recession. So the competition might give our complaint athletes just what they want: to be noticed.

But on this blog, a yearly complaint competition would give us a way to organize and round up the most outrageous complaints. With urban homesteading activities on the rise there will certainly be more of these unfortunate situations.

My personal favorite world champion complainers are the folks in one West Los Angeles neighborhood who successfully delayed a much needed light rail line for 20 years. Or the mayor of Toronto who is busy ripping up bike lanes. Or the countless folks who have complained about vegetable gardens, chickens, bees etc. 

Do you have a favorite complainer who should be nominated to participate in our complaint competition?  Comments!

Deodorizing Wash

Deodorizing wash? Freshening wash? In Making It we called it cleansing spray. I’ve never been quite sure what to call this. It’s not a deodorant, in that it doesn’t really stay on you, deodorizing continuously. It’s not a body wash in that you don’t use it in the shower. This is a little mix I created, a simple blend of water, baking soda and essential oil. It’s something you can splash on and towel off real quick when you’re in a hurry. I use it when I don’t have time to shower, but suspect I’m a little too fragrant. I also bring it camping to help reduce the fugg. The baking soda cuts through body grease and deodorizes. The tea tree oil kills any stinky bacteria that remain.

To be clear, this is specifically used to cut sweat on the upper regions of the body–pits, chest, neck and back. I wouldn’t recommend using it “south of the equator.”

Continue reading…

Saturday Linkages: Soil Liming, Vegans Partying, Cats and Couches

Designer Seungji Mun’s cat couch.

Please Stop Liming your Soil Based on the pH! | Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2012/07/please-stop-liming-your-soil-based-on-the-ph.html 

Vegans party … at the butcher shop! http://www.latimes.com/features/food/dailydish/la-dd-vegans-party-at-the-butcher-shop-20120801,0,7684645.story 

Small Homes in Working Class Neighborhoods http://bit.ly/NMf0xX

Purr-fect Playground: Human Sofa Doubles as Feline Toy | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/purr-fect-playground-human-sofa-doubles-as-feline-toy/ 

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The Trees are Rooting

Spotted in the latest edition of the SkyMall, this mash-up of sports marketing and the walking/talking tree things from Lord of the Rings. Yet another item to add to my catalog of questionable garden art.

Note from Kelly:  Ack!!! I can’t believe Erik posted this. These things are a crime against both nature and aesthetics–even more so than most items in the SkyMall catalog. And now, you too will have to live with this image burned in your brain. Apologies from the better half.