Saturday Linkages: Elves, Archdruids and Open Source Furniture

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20 Open Source Furniture Designs http://www.shareable.net/blog/20-open-source-furniture-designs …

“The Valley of The Elves” by Ellie Pritts https://elliepritts.exposure.so/the-valley-of-the-elves …

The Archdruid Report: Seven Sustainable Technologies http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/01/seven-sustainable-technologies.html?spref=tw …

Silver Lake stays in step with Rudyard Kipling http://feedly.com/e/2K1ZbhCt 

Leaked: environmental chapter of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2014/01/15/leaked-environmental-chapter.html …

When The Economy Stinks, Our Books Get More Depressing http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/when-the-economy-stinks-our-books-get-more-depressing-1498156174 …

Did you miss this last month? : Michael Pollan: How Smart Are Plants? 

Human-powered glider sets flight record in 1937 http://www.dvice.com/2013-3-18/image-day-human-powered-glider-sets-flight-record-1937 …

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement | Brain Pickings http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/05/23/stephen-grosz-examined-life/ …

How to Deal With Cabbage Worms

cabbage worm damage

It happens every year. I forget the gardening lessons of the year before. Take my many failed attempts to grow cabbage, for instance. It always gets decimated by the imported cabbage worm (Pieris rapae), a creature as abundant in Los Angeles as aspiring actors.

There are several strategies I could use to deal with this pest (cabbage worms, that is–I have no problem with actors). I could spray Bacillus thuringiensis but I don’t like the idea of killing non-target species, not to mention the disputed human health effects of BT. I could use row cover, but this winter has been way too warm for even the thinnest material.

The best suggestion comes from the University of Florida. Find resistant alternatives:

Crucifer crops differ is their susceptibility to attack by imported cabbageworm. Chinese cabbage, turnip, mustard, rutabaga, and kale are less preferred than cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Some cultivars of certain crops also have moderate levels of resistance to infestation by imported cabbageworm. One resistance character is due to, or correlated with, dark green, glossy leaves. This character imparts resistance to imported cabbageworm and other caterpillars, but increases susceptibility to flea beetle injury (Dickson and Eckenrode 1980).

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I’ve noticed that the huge Franchi “kale” (collard?) that has gone into its second year, seems to be less popular with the cabbage worm than the adjoining Portuguese cabbage. Next year, I’ll skip the cabbage and plant something else. I like mustard better anyways. If I want cabbage I can outsource the growing and pick it up at the farmers market.

Have you had problems with cabbage worms? How have you dealt with it?

How to Plant a Fruit Tree

It’s bare root fruit tree planting season here in California and this video, from the Dave Wilson Nursery, shows you how to plant your trees once they arrive in the mail. One quibble–it’s been proven to be not a good idea to amend soil when you’re planting a tree. Other than that, this is how we’ve planted our trees and they’ve all grown well.

And I wish that I had done the radical pruning you see at the end of the video. Cutting the tree to knee height will give you a shorter, more manageable tree.

You can find more home orcharding videos on the Dave Wilson website.

Late Blight of Tomato and Potato Webinar

What late blight looks like.

What late blight looks like.

Got late blight? Learn more about this pathogen, which caused the Irish potato famines, by joining a free webinar at eOrganic on January 14, 2014 at 2PM Eastern Time (1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time). The webinar is free and open to the public, and advanced registration is required. Attendees will be able to type in questions for the speakers.

Register now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/601056184

The webinar will feature five plant pathologists. I’ve always found these webinars to be informative even for the home gardener.

Help us With a Fodder System for our Hens

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A big commercial fodder system. We need something much smaller!

I feel somewhat guilty about having our five hens in a confined coop/run. Ideally they’d be grazing on green pasture all day. But our abundant urban predators, lack of space and dry climate make the vision of hens clucking on verdant fields a challenge.

I’m thinking of building a DIY fodder system but I’m a bit confused by the instructions I’ve seen floating about the interwebs. Which is where you come in. Have you built a fodder system? Do you know any good instructions? How big should it be for five hens? Or do you know of a reasonable off-the-shelf option? In our climate I think I can keep it outside.

Leave some ideas, notions and links in the comments:

Saturday Linkages: Sad Cookbooks, Pancakes and Tiny Homes

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The saddest cookbook ever written: http://boingboing.net/2014/01/06/the-saddest-cookbook-ever-writ.html …

Another take on sourdough pancakes http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2009/02/24/sourdough-pancakes/ …

Simply Yoav –His Yurt and Life http://feedly.com/e/X0VjVnaF 

How to pull out a car from a frozen lake… Russian style http://feedly.com/e/fHtOIUrv 

Old World Woodworking Tools http://feedly.com/e/0H12BeW1 

Tiny Apartments in Cities: Trending Concept http://feedly.com/e/EEk6UuSd 

Teacher Builds Tiny House in the Forest http://shar.es/9K57L 

Food Chain Restoration: Reconnecting Pollinators with Their Plants http://feedly.com/e/Q3gdfekh 

Cool hut? http://feedly.com/e/OQ1pOJ6a 

The Electricity-Generating Bicycle Desk That Would Power the World – James Hamblin – The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/the-electricity-generating-bicycle-desk-that-would-power-the-world/282692/ …

Here’s How Ridiculous This Year’s CES Will Look in 2034 http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/heres-how-ridiculous-this-years-ces-will-look-in-2034-1495500665 …

Nasty cake ‘joke’ leaves bad taste – National – NZ Herald News http://nzh.tw/11181508 

Garden Design: Working With Pre-existing Conditions

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Behold my abominable raised bed design that evolved out of a misguided Sketchup session. Yes, that is Princess Leia standing in for Mrs. Homegrown. I guess that makes me Jabba the Hut, which I resemble while blogging on the couch. But I digress. I emailed this rendering to our architect pal John Zapf for review. He responded in two words, “April Fools?”

I didn’t admit that I was kinda serious.

I called Mrs. Homegrown in to look at my rendering and to her credit she didn’t dismiss it immediately (she knows that I’m crazy). But we both realized that my hexagonal raised bed fantasy would be better off never leaving its conceptual stage. Sometimes Sketchup is a handy tool for figuring out what not to do.

The problem with this bed design? It has no relation to what’s around it. It would look as out of place as a UFO on the White House lawn.

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Let’s take a look at one of the plans Zapf doodled out last week. He worked with what’s there already: a square house, square shed and square yard. Wouldn’t it make sense to work with that squareness, to not try and put a round peg in a square hole? What I like about Zapf’s plans is that he extends the lines of the house and shed. Maybe that puts the kibosh on the geodesic Princess Leia Biodome folly, but that’s probably a good thing. Sometimes jarring contrast works, but in the case of our fuddy-duddy old house I think it’s best to go with what’s there already.

Recipe for the World’s Best Whole Wheat Pancake

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The last survivor, captured with a camera phone before being devoured, because we wanted to eat the pancakes more than we wanted to document them.

This morning I cooked up the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. They were 100% whole wheat but they were so light and fluffy they tasted like they were made with white flour. And the way they were made is the beginning of a grain revolution. Here’s the secret:

  1. Use heirloom grains.
  2. Mill your own flour.
  3. Ferment for a long time with a sourdough starter.

The heirloom grain I used is Sonora wheat, probably the oldest wheat in the Americas. It’s a soft, winter wheat traditionally used for tortillas.

Recipe (based on Nancy Silverton’s pancakes)
210 grams starter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

The night before making these pancakes I take a tablespoon of mature starter and add it to 100 grams of freshly milled Sonora wheat flour and 110 grams of water. This mixture will be the 200 grams of starter you’ll use in the recipe.

The next day mix all the ingredients together, fry them up in a pan and get ready to have your pancake paradigm shifted.

New frontiers in baking
Freshly milled heirloom wheat mixed into a very wet dough and fermented for a long period with a sourdough starter is also the way that Dave Miller, a Chico California based baker, makes his bread. He takes 100% whole wheat dough, every bit as wet and gloppy as pancake batter, deftly shapes it into loaves and bakes the best bread on the west coast. The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, a group I co-founded, is hosting a sold out class with Miller later this month and I hope to share on this blog what I learn. There is increasing evidence that this method of baking results in a much healthier product.