California Homemade Food Act Signed Into Law!

Soon to be legal to sell.

A bit late to report this, but AB 1616, the California Homemade Food Act was signed into law by Governor Brown last week. The bill will allow Californians to produce “non-hazardous foods,” such as such as jams, jellies, bread and honey, in a home kitchen and sell them.

The bill takes effect in January. There is still, however, a lot of work to be done to figure out exactly how local health departments will implement the bill. Many municipalities are short of money, so fees for home kitchen inspections will be an issue. There will be a need to balance costs to county health departments while at the same time not making fees so prohibitively high that home based entrepreneurs will be unable to afford them. Home based businesses, in my opinion, have a great deal of potential to provide employment in what seems to be a recession with no end in sight.

Continue reading…

How to Order Bare Root Fruit Trees

The trees we planted in 2011–all doing well now.

Ladies and gentleman, it’s time to get your bare root fruit tree orders in! The massive wave of common sense that’s swept over the world since the 2008 econopocolypse has got people thinking about planting trees that provide more than just shade. Last year many nurseries ran out of stock. And bare root trees are a great way to save money. The time to order, for delivery next year, is now. Some tips:

  • Choose carefully–talk to people in your area with fruit trees and see what grows well. Visit botanical gardens, community gardens or talk to farmers in your area.
  • Plant varieties you can’t buy at the supermarket.
  • Consider aesthetics. I planted a Red Baron peach in my mom’s yard and the tree not only produces delicious fruit, but it also puts on a spectacular display of flowers in the spring.
  • Pay attention to root stock and cross-pollination requirements.
  • Check out the Dave Wilson nursery’s Backyard Orchard Culture Guide for how to turn a small backyard into a mini-orchard.
  • Order online for the best selection. Bare root trees ship well. Our favorite online nursery is Bay Laurel.
  • Use the Dave Wilson fruit and nut harvest date chart to maximize the number of months you’ll have fruit. 
  • When selecting trees plan for warmer temperatures. The USDA’s new zone map, according to some, is already out of date. Many places will soon bump up another zone. Take this into account when calculating your chill hours.

Most importantly, get going! One of the big regrets with our property is that we didn’t start planting fruit trees until just a few years ago. Knowing what we know now, we’d get started right away. Fruit trees take a lot less time and care than vegetables. And there’s nothing like the taste of a fresh nectaplum!.

A Keyhole Garden in Africa

I’m working on a dry climate version of a keyhole garden with an integrated compost bin for our own yard (it will be lower to the ground rather than raised). With our alkaline soil I’ll also skip the ash. But, in principle, it will be similar to this one.

Thanks to Rober Fixer Smith for the link.

What Are Your Favorite Compost Materials?

Root Simple’s new composting game for your Xbox!

I wish I could source compost pile materials from our yard. But lead and zinc contamination in our soil make that a dodgy proposition without doing a lot of expensive lab tests. And I never seem to have enough materials even for our modest vegetable garden. So in the past I’ve used:

  • horse bedding
  • chicken manure from our own chickens
  • alfalfa hay (kinda spendy these days)
  • straw (takes a long time to break down)
  • spent grain from a local brewery
  • vegetable scraps from the farmer’s market

Once again I’ve got to build another pile and I’m interested in hearing from readers about compostibles you’ve used. Do you have a good source for stuff to compost? What are some of the things you’ve managed to scavenge? Comments!