Yucca!

...that everyone who has a patch of earth under their control should consider planting, particularly if you live in the Southern California area. SurviveLA likes plants that do not require supplemental irrigation and have multiple uses and the yucca plant, in addition to making rope, can also be used for basket weaving, as a detergent, a white wool dye, a quiver for your arrows, and it also produces edible flowers, seeds, and fruit. Some important d...

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Homegrown Evolution Food Review: Backpacker’s Pantry Huevos Rancheros

On our recent Homegrown Evolution journey to Santa Rosa Island we taste tested another freeze-dried food item, Huevos Rancheros from Backpacker’s Pantry. While this product has an impressive shelf life and ease of preparation, making it appropriate for emergency food supplies, we’ve had better freeze dried entrees. Our fellow campers had the same reaction to the visual look of the cooked and re-hydrated product: dog vomit. The taste...

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LED Light Bulbs

...ns we obtained from the C. Crane Company web site. The spotlight profiled by BoingBoing, which we assume is also the C. Crane spotlight also has a lumens to watts ratio of 34. For more on these issues see the Department of Energy’s FAQ on LEDs. As the DOE notes in the FAQ, it’s not entirely fair to directly compare compact fluorescents to LED lights, since LED bulbs have a more directed light making them perhaps better for application...

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Book Review: My Side of the Mountain

...es various solutions, and most often fails on the first two or three attempts. He makes mistakes and learns from them. More significantly, he often finds his solutions in the library or from helpful mentors. For instance, he could not make fire with flint and book-learning alone. He needs a kindly old man to demonstrate the whole fire making process to him. So not only does the book show that failures are the merely part of the road to success, i...

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The Sound of One Hand Snapping

...tool in the SurviveLA compound tool box. The Snapper model we have is double sided, and has a spring connecting the two ends which consist of a center punch and a nail set. You hold one end against a nail and pull the spring back. The spring bangs one end into the other, thereby driving the nail. We’ve used it for years, and driven hundreds of nails with it, hanging molding, fixing windows, making furniture, and countless other tasks. It&#...

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Summer of Solar Cookin’

...like a crock pot or slow cooker, just using solar energy instead of electricity. I’ve made a lot of black beans in it, but I’ve also used it to cook pintos, adzukis, mung beans and white beans. I usually grab a sprig of an herb or a bay leaf from the garden to throw in the pot. Here is what I made today: Solar Powered Navy Beans 2 cups navy beans a handful of celery leaves 5 garlic cloves, whole 1/4 cup pickled red onion (just sl...

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Seltzer Works Doc Screens on PBS

...those old bottles allows for dispensing seltzer without the entire bottle losing pressure. As Gomberg points put it in Seltzer Works, good seltzer should tickle the back of the throat when you drink it. And, of course, those bottles get reused over and over again.   A publicist for PBS sent me a copy of Seltzer Works, and the shots of Gomberg’s beautiful old machinery alone are worth making sure to catch this short, which screens along wit...

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New Year’s Resolutions

...der Adrià’s point of view even if I disagree. 2. Speaking of Adrià’s creativity–he spends half the year developing new methods in Barcelona and the other half the year working at the remote El Bulli. Making the time for creative thinking is essential, I believe. Even after co-writing two how-to books I find myself spending too much time answering emails and not enough time growing, tinkering and building things. Adrià has it rig...

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Is Kombucha Safe?

...res taken from German households to be contaminated with Penicillium spp. and Candida albicans. While describing the contamination rate as “low” (nearly 1 out of 10 samples seems high to us) it goes on to recommended that immunosuppresed individuals buy commercial kombucha instead of making it at home. A literature review conducted by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the UK concludes, “the largely undetermined benefits...

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I like my chamomile stressed

...more you pick, the more it produces. But I was greedy–and somewhat lazy, as usual. I thought, why be out there every day milking some scrappy chamomile plant, when you could plant a chamomile crop and harvest a ton of flowers in just a couple of days? So I planted I don’t know how many plants–20, maybe? More? The chamomile thrived in the rich, fertile soil, putting all it’s energy into making lots of feathery green folia...

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