Save the World–Poop in a Bucket


Learn about composting your own poo by checking out our new post, How to Save the World by Pooping in a Bucket, at the consciousness shifting blog Reality Sandwich, for which we write a regular column.

And should you want more potty talk you’re in luck due to a minor sewage synchronicity going on in the magazine/internet world. As we wrote our meditation on human waste, a number of other stories on the subject came out at the same time:

  • A Mother Earth News reader submitted a photo and description of a handsome sawdust privy made out of an old garden hose box. Very clever!
  • Science Daily reports on Converting Sewage to Drinking Water.
  • So take that laptop into your “meditation room” and get some reading done!

    Growing Potatoes in Tires


    Chicago homesteader extraordinaire Nance Klehm, temporarily in residence here in Los Angeles, gifted us with some beautiful seed potatoes which we just planted. As we did last year, we’re growing them in used tires filled with compost (see our surprise potato harvest in a post from last September). As the plant grows you add another tire to the stack, causing the growth of more potatoes. An alternate method, suggested by Homegrown Revolution reader Chris, is to dig trenches and mound up earth around the base of the potato plant as it grows.

    We’ve planted earlier this year, to see if our potatoes will do better in Southern California’s mild spring weather. One disadvantage to this earlier planting might be all the rain we get in January and February. Soggy soil can cause the potatoes to rot before they start growing. We’ll keep our fingers crossed–we’ve had a streak of bad luck with our plantings this winter.

    Incidentally, Nance will be delivering a lecture and walk at Machine Project on Sunday February 10th at 1 p.m. See the Machine Project website for more information.

    Pedal Like Hell


    Thanks to the folks at IlluminateLA for a tip on this human power competition on youtube. We especially like the entry above for the honest admission that our everyday tasks take a lot more energy than we imagine. It’s good to be reminded occasionally of the inescapable laws of thermodynamics, which C.P. Snow summarized as,

    1. You cannot win (that is, you cannot get something for nothing, because matter and energy are conserved).

    2. You cannot break even (you cannot return to the same energy state, because there is always an increase in disorder; entropy always increases).

    3. You cannot get out of the game (because absolute zero is unattainable).

    Practically speaking, you’ve gotta pedal like crazy to keep that laptop running.

    Mead!

    While we’ve tasted the Ethopian honey wine known as Tej, we’ve never had mead, so we decided to cook up a batch. It’s way too early to tell if we have a tasty beverage or a gallon of home brewed Listerine–it will be many months before the stuff is drinkable. But we thought we’d note how we made it, based on a recipe in Ken Schramm’s book The Compleat Meadmaker.

    We downsized the recipe from five gallons to one gallon, figuring that we’ll experiment with a few different small batches rather than taking a chance on one big batch. Here’s how we did it after first sanitizing everything with Idophor sanitizer:

    1. Boil 1/5th of a gallon of water (we used bottled water since our tap water is a bit on the heavy side).

    2. Add one teaspoon of Fermax (this is a yeast nutrient available at home brew shops).

    3. Take the water off the heat and add 3 pounds of honey (we used orange blossom honey) to make what is called the “must”.

    4. Add 3/5ths of a gallon of refrigerated water to cool the must.

    5. Pitch in the yeast once the must has cooled below 80┬║ F. We used a wine yeast called Lalvin 71B-1122 which we also picked up at our local home brew shop. We rehydrated the yeast according to the directions on the package, letting it sit for 15 minutes before we tossed it in the must.

    6. We put the must in a used one gallon apple cider bottle and fitted it with a fermentation lock.

    Mr. Doug Harvey gifted us with an old hydrometer (used to measure the density of a liquid) which we used to take a reading of 15% on our finished must. When fermentation is complete we’ll take another reading. The difference between the two readings will be the percentage of alcohol in our mead.

    A big disclaimer here. We don’t know how well this recipe works, but we’ll let you all know. In the meantime, for those dying to get started, the National Honey Board has some free mead making instructions here (pdf).

    Lastly, in our search for mead information, we kept coming across ads for chain mail and peasant pants, and figured out that for some reason mead seems to be unfairly associated with Renaissance fairs. This gives us an excuse to conclude this post with an image from the Texas Renaissance fair:

    Turnip Greens via The Silver Spoon

    It took us way to long to discover that turnip greens are edible. They’re better than the turnips themselves, in our opinion. So how did we finally figure this out? The answer is by thumbing through a cookbook everybody interested in growing their own vegetables should own, The Silver Spoon*, which has a section devoted just to turnip green recipes.

    The Silver Spoon is a 1,263 page cookbook recently translated into English. It’s the Joy of Cooking for Italians, except instead of tuna noodle casseroles and other American cooking abominations, the Silver Spoon will tell you what to do with a cardoon, a carp, or the aforementioned turnip greens among many other edibles. While we appreciate the crusty old Joy of Cooking’s advice on cooking raccoon, The Silver Spoon is so good that we feel like throwing out all the other cookbooks we have.

    But back to the greens. Turnip greens have massive quantities of vitamins A, C and K and a pleasant mild taste. The leaves have some barbs on them which disappear during cooking. In past years we have grown an Italian variety called Rapa da Foglia senza Testa or “rabe without a head”. A better name for it would be “turnips without the turnips”, as it’s a kind of turnip green. This year we’re growing turnips for Ms. Homegrown Revolution’s fermentation experiments and the greens have been a side-benefit.

    *Note this link will take you to our new online bookstore. Tacky? Perhaps. But we’re capitalists.

    How to Catch and Eat a Rat

    We certainly have rats around our little Los Angeles compound, but we’ve never considered eating them. Thankfully potty-mouthed survival expert Cody Lundin, author of 98.6 Degrees The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive, shows you how in this youtube highlight. If you enjoyed the squirrel melt video we posted some time ago, you’ll love this one as well. And the kids will dig those rat pelts!

    An Araucana Egg

    Our Araucana hen, the lowest hen in the pecking order of our backyard flock, took a bit longer to start laying. Yesterday we got our first egg with the distinctive blueish green hue Araucanas are known for.

    And once we get over the nasty flu we’ve picked up (not the bird flu!), we’ll get back to regular postings and some big changes to the blog.

    The Horror

    Terrifying photo via Bike Snob NYC
    The day began with the discovery that our neighbor’s roommate, practicing the kind of gardening we associate with crazy people and goats, had hacked off half the length of the native grape vine that we had counted on covering an ugly chain link fence. An innocent mistake, but evidence that some folks apparently don’t know what grape vines look like and that they loose their leaves in the winter. So what does this have to do with man bras? Nothing, but both make us cranky.

    Our crankiness leaves us at a loss for words, so instead of a lengthy post we offer a few bike related links:

    Bike Snob NYC has a nice essay on why cycling is a fringe activity, which may explain why it’s one of the least favorite topics on Homegrown Revolution according to a poll we did last year. Hint: it has something to do with aesthetics. And for the bike fetishists out there, Bike Snob’s deconstructions of Craigslist ads are a great time waster.

    Fellow LA Bloggist and committed bike commuter Will Campbell (his mileage indicates that he’s got the Kool-aid in those bottle cages), has smacked down Cato institute stormtrooper Randall O’Toole in an ongoing debate on cycling in the pages of the L.A. Times.

    Urban Velo #5 is available for download and it’s free.

    Lastly, Commute by Bike has some tips on how to ride in cold weather without opening the wallet for expensive clothing.

    Here’s this morning’s Vitus californica desecration (Vitus californication?):



    Do Hens Make Noise?

    Yes, indeed hens make noise. Far less than a rooster, but when it comes time to lay an egg you often get the stereotypical hen vocalization, technically known as “cackling,” which goes something like, “cluck, cluck, cluck, CLUCKAAAAAWWWWK!” Thankfully this only happens around laying time, which for our three productive hens is no more than once a day, and usually at a respectable time between around 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Some of our club hopping neighbors may get an early than wanted wake-up call, but so far nobody has complained.

    Being naive first time chicken owners, the first time we heard this sound caught us by surprise. We suspected that it’s the result of discomfort from squeezing out an egg, or some wonder of selective breeding, a way to announce to the poultry farmer, “Hey, time to collect an egg!” In fact, research presented by University of Sheffield animal scientists Tommaso Pizzari and Tim R. Birkhead, in an article entitled “For whom does the hen cackle? The function of postoviposition cackling,” posit that cacking is a way for hens to get the message out to nearby roosters that they ain’t in the mood. As Pizzari and Brikhead put it, “One function of postoviposition cackling may thus be to avoid the costs of sexual harassment by signalling to males a particularly unsuitable time for fertilization.” This contradicts earlier theories that cacking was, in fact, an invitation to boogie.

    For those who’ve never heard it, we’re pleased to present the postoviposition cackling sounds of one of our barred rock hens. Towards the end of the track you’ll hear the usual soft clucking. For the DJs out there, please feel free to use for mashups, mixes and Quincea├▒eras:

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