Five Lessons We Learned About Lead in Soil

As regular followers of this blog may recall, we did some soil tests last year that revealed elevated levels of lead and zinc in our backyard. The cause? Most likely, paint from our 92 year old house and nearly a hundred years of auto exhaust and dust from brake linings. Applying a little alchemy to turn lead to gold, I think the most productive thing I can do is to help get the word out about lead soil and how common this problem is in urban a...

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Mitchell Joachim’s Techno-Utopian Future

Blimp Bus. Mitchell Joachim. This past Friday I attended the Dwell on Design convention sponsored by Dwell Magazine. Amidst the high end bath fixtures and sleek induction cooktops I found a few simple but wonderful ideas that I’ll blog about tomorrow. But first I’ve got to try to digest the strangeness that was a presentation by architect and futurist Mitchell Joachim. Fab Tree Hab. Mitchell Joachim. Joachim is the...

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The Sacred Chickens of Ancient Rome

I stumbled on an odd historical anecdote last week: the use, by the ancient Romans, of sacred chickens as a form of divination. From the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert: Sacred chickens were chickens raised by priests in Roman times, and which were used for making auguries. Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens. The most common method of drawing...

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Secrets In Your Pantry?

Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms asked me a great question this past weekend, “If people could see your kitchen pantry what would you be most embarrassed about?” The first thing that came to mind is the occasional package of scary, deep fried, orange dusted cornmeal snacks. The truth is that we don’t often have them on hand more than a couple times a year (largely because I would go through them like a crack addict). But we do...

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The Art of Memory

We need a term for superfluous smart phone trivia Googling. After all, with the vast archive of factoids on the interwebs who needs to remember anything anymore? But what do we miss by externalizing all of our memories into an electronic form.  What about those bards of the past who could recite thousands of lines of poetry, or the Greek rhetoricians who could speak for hours at a time without notes? Thankfully the basics of the lost art of mem...

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Meet the Gophinator

The Gophinator Thankfully, we don’t have gophers, but dealing with them is one of the first questions we get when teaching vegetable gardening classes.  You can use raised beds lined with hardware cloth. But, other than target practice (a no-no in urban areas), most people I know with gopher problems end up using traps or zealous cats. Several sources have told me about the Cadillac of gopher traps, the aptly named “Gophina...

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Vermicomposting Class

If you live in or around LA, we encourage you to take this unique class that we’re hosting in the Silver Lake area. While it’s pretty easy to get basic information on starting a worm bin, it’s rare to be able to dig deeper, especially with a teacher as knowledgeable as Nancy Klehm. GET YOUR LOOP ON!A workshop on extreme vermicomposting for the city dweller. October 23, 20119am – 1pm $45 includes foraged snacks and tea $2...

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99¢ Store Proofing Basket

For years I’ve used a special wooden basket called a banneton to proof my round loaves of bread in. I’m teaching a bread baking class this weekend and needed a bunch of proofing baskets for the class. Bannetons are nice but expensive so I decided to try using a canvas lined proofing basket as a more economical alternative. I got some metal bowls from my local 99¢ store. Wicker baskets or a plastic colander would also have worked,...

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Are Raised Beds a Good Idea?

Raised bed fail. Our appalling parkway beds. Extra demerits for having used treated lumber! * Raised beds have some pluses and minuses. Lately I’ve been thinking about their drawbacks. Namely: Cost How fast they dry out in a hot climate. Now I can also think of a few reasons one might want to grow vegetables in a raised bed: You do a soil test (and you should do a soil test, especially if you live in an urban area) and the res...

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Congrats Denver!

From the Denver Post:   Denver City Council eases way to own chickens, goats at home Apparently it was previously legal, but more difficult because you had to pay steep fees and inform all your neighbors. Now, thanks to citizen action by urban homesteaders, the fee has been reduced to 20 bucks and you don’t have to inform your neighbors in order to keep 8 chickens or ducks and up to 2 pygmy goats. No roosters, natch. Congrats Denver! IR...

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