Gourmet Foraging and Advanced Acorn Processing

It’s acorn season in Southern California. I’ve long been interested in acorns, knowing that they were the staple food of the native people who lived here, and I’ve gathered and processed them before. However, once I have the acorn meal, I’ve never known exactly what to do with it. It’s highly nutritious, but I thought (wrongly!) that it was somewhat bland, and all I could do was incorporate acorn meal into baked go...

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Nesting Box Plans in SketchUp

SketchUp is a free and easy to use 3D modeling program. And users have created a library of 3D models you can download. Up until recently most of these models were not particularly useful to DIY urban homesteady types. Enter SketchUp model contributor Rick whose collection of models includes the chicken nesting box above, raised garden beds and a couple of other useful projects. I’m really looking forward to seeing more open source projec...

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Black Widow or False Black Widow?

I have a family of widow-type spiders living in my outdoor worm bin. I like spiders and all they do around the garden, and have a no kill policy toward them in general. This particular situation, however, has had me a teeny bit nervous. They hang out on the underside of the lid of the worm bin for the most part, though I’ve seen them on the surface of the worm compost once or twice. Obviously my concern is that I will touch one when openi...

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Piet Oudolf’s Enhanced Nature

A garden designer has the difficult task of balancing texture, color, and space while simultaneously dealing with the unpredictability of nature. Long ago I gave up on the idea of ever being good at garden design. But help has come from an unlikely source, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s revolutionary book Planting A New Perspective. High Line Park. Piet Oudolf is probably best known in the US as the plant designer for the High Line park...

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On why our vegetable garden is such a disaster this year . . .

One of the front beds–soil problems, I think, are causing the gap in the middle of the bed. I’m having my annual gardening-caused mental meltdown. When it comes to vegetables this winter (the best time to grow them here in Los Angeles) if it could go wrong it did. Vegetables are needy, fussy plants and we’ve not had much luck with them recently. So I thought I would list the factors, natural and human that went into this year&#...

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Hay Hooks–The New Hipster Accessory?

With so many city chickens I predict that hay hooks will become just as indispensable to the urban hipster as is the fixed gear bicycle. After years of hauling staw bales up the 30 steps to our house (to use as bedding for the chickens) I just broke down and bought a pair. A vaquero at the feed store intervened with a neat tip when he saw me struggling to use my new hay hooks to load some bales into a friend’s truck. Here’s what he...

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Gardening Mistakes: Six Ways We’ve Killed Plants

In the years we’ve gardened we’ve killed our share of plants. I’d like to think we’ve learned from our errors. To that end, I thought I’d run down some of the big mistakes we’ve made. 1. The right plant in the right place Our front yard is a hillside. Our backyard has two tall trees that cast shade towards the north. The soil varies in color, texture and quality largely due to almost a hundred years of constr...

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Garden Amendments as Placebos

I just finished writing an article for Urban Farm Magazine on the subject of aerated compost tea (ACT for short). It proved to be one of the most contentious subjects on which I’ve ever tried to, as Mark Twain liked to say, “corral the truth.” It got me thinking about other controversial soil additives popular in organic gardening and farming circles right now such as rock dust, mycorrhizae additives, and biochar. Now I pr...

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Summer Nights in the Garden at the Natural History Museum

Join us for an evening of music, art, nature and science at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum’s Summer Nights in the Garden. We’ll be part of the festivities this Friday July 25th where we’ll be: POTTING SUCCULENTS! They’re one of the most low maintenance plants out there, and one that’s perfect for our dry L.A. climate. Urban homesteading experts Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne are here to help you plant your own suc...

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Bee Fever in Los Angeles

Photo: Honey Love. This week’s LA Weekly has an article, “Could LA Become a Honeybee Mecca” detailing efforts by two groups, Honey Love and the Backwards Beekeepers, to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles. The process, while slow, looks promising thanks to the hard work of Honey Love and sympathetic city councilman Bill Rosendahl. The article also neatly sums up the radical “backwards” approach to beekeeping advocate...

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