Made in the shade- Passive cooling

We just survived another major heat wave here. People and plants were positively melting. The sidewalks were veritable solar cookers. I’m sure I could have fried an egg on the sidewalk outside my house. I prefer not to crank the air conditioning, so I have been thinking a lot lately about simple ways to cool ourselves and the spaces we inhabit. Air conditioning is the main mechanical means by which we cool buildings these days. However, t...

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Learn to Build with Adobe

Kurt Gardella made me an adobe convert and helped us build an oven in our backyard that is responsible for many delicious pizzas. I’ve taken a few classes he’s taught, both in person and online. If you want to learn adobe, Kurt’s your man. Here’s some info on upcoming classes he’s teaching: Are you looking for college credit for your adobe construction coursework? I am teaching the following spri...

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The Energy Environment Simulator

...f never-ending power or, on the other extreme, your own personal zombie apocalypse. One of the energy sources is labeled “new technology.” This could either be solar or that UFO doughnut from the Thrive movie. The only info we have on it is that it was manufactured by Tenntronics, a defunct company that was in business from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. It came with a handsome storage cabinet that also serves as a pedestal....

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Phytoremediation of Heavy Metals

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) Us city slickers have fouled the sandboxes we play in. Find an open field in a big city like Los Angeles or New York and the odds are that it’s a former toxic waste dump. Here in our neighborhood we’ve got a lot of lead and zinc–lead from paint and gasoline and zinc from brake linings. These heavy metals don’t magically go away. They are elements, and short of an alchemical...

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How to Search for Science-Based Gardening Advice

Agricola’s search page. In the course of writing our books and this blog we’ve had to deal with a lot of thorny gardening questions such as the effectiveness of double digging, the toxicity of persimmons, compost tea, lasagna gardening and how to mulch to name just a few. While the internet is an amazing tool, the number of conflicting commercial interests, biases and crazy talk in the eGardening world can make it...

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Kevin West’s Saving the Season

I’m thinking of throwing out all my picking and preserving books. Why? Kevin West’s new book Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving blows all those other books out of the water bath. Full disclosure here: I’ve tasted a lot of West’s jams. I teach a bread making class at the Institute of Domestic Technology. After my bread demo West does a jam making session a...

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Pure Vegan

Root Simple pal Joseph Shuldiner has pulled off something of a miracle with his new book Pure Vegan: 70 Recipes for Beautiful Meals and Clean Living . You’ll find no bizarre attempts to mimic meat. Ted Nugent might even dig the recipes in this book if you didn’t show him the cover. Shuldiner has no agenda other than cooking up pure deliciousness. The recipes in this book just happen to be vegan. What you will find are some of my fa...

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Tame the Email Beast and Have Time To Run Your Urban Homestead

The original smart phone? When Kelly and I do a book appearance one of the most common questions is, “How do you have time for all this stuff?” Our response is two parts. The first is to say that we don’t recommend people try to do everything in our book but, instead, focus on the things you like to do most. The time will appear as your interests and priorities shift. The second is that we don’t watch TV. That b...

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Media Fasting

Ant Farm’s Media Burn For the last year I’ve been trying, as an experiment, to see what it would be like to cut off the news. That means no newspaper, no Google news, no NPR, no broadcast television of any kind. At the beginning of my media fast, I was concerned that I would somehow lose touch with reality, with important details of what’s going on in the world. In fact, some news does reach me, filtered through conve...

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End of Summer Photos

I’ve got a backlog of random photos that, somehow, never made it into full blown blog posts. Here’s some of those pics starting with our modest passion fruit harvest. Beautiful flowers and tasty fruit. Kelly accidentally planted some potatoes amongst her sweet potato patch. We got a few potatoes and some pretty potato flowers. My friends Gloria and Steve, who own a small herd of goats, did a goat milk tasting at the Institute of...

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