How to Juice Prickly Pear Fruit

Joseph working the thrift-store mill I always know it’s prickly pear fruit season when questions start coming in on a recipe I did for a prickly pear fruit jelly. Unfortunately, the mucilaginous and seedy texture of the fruit makes it difficult to work with. The only tested recipe I could find, for a prickly pear marmalade in the Ball Blue Book, says nothing about how to seed or juice the fruit. With the assistance of two fellow...

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Thrive: How Doughnuts Can Save The World

I flipped on the car radio the other day just as some new age guru was discussing why he thought that so many people don’t have a lot of money these days: Host: There is not lack of resources?Guru: There is not. We will always be able to create more. And we don’t need to know how or why. I see poverty as being this incredibly dangerous disease. I mean, how many horrible things are happening in the world today because of povert...

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How to Make a Native Bee Nesting Box

Back in the spring I made a native bee nesting box by drilling a bunch of holes in the long end of a 4 by 6 inch piece of scrap wood. I cut one end of the 4 x 6 at an angle so that I could nail on a makeshift roof made from a piece of 2 x 6. I hung the nesting box on an east facing wall or our house with a picture hanger. I used three sizes of holes to see which ones would be most popular: 1/4 inch, 3/16 inch and 1/8 inch. All were moved into b...

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How To Dry Food With the Sun

Drying Apricots in Southern California–early 20th century style. Dehydration is one of my favorite food preservation techniques. Drying food concentrates flavor and is a traditional technique in our Mediterranean climate. Best of all, drying food is one of the best applications for low-tech solar power. In many places, you can simply set food out under cheesecloth to dry in the sun. But there’s a catch to sun drying: humidit...

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A Rocket Stove Made From a Five Gallon Metal Bucket

The principle behind a rocket stove is simple–rather than cooking on an open fire, you burn wood in an insulated chimney. Rocket stoves are highly efficient and easy to make. They run on twigs, so you can avoid cutting down a whole tree just to cook dinner. We’ve had a rocket stove made out of brick in our backyard for several years. The post we wrote on it in 2007 is–oddly–the most frequently searched post on this site....

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Some Thoughts on Mead

I’ve had mixed success with making my own mead. One batch I made was OK and a few others tasted, as Mrs. Root Simple put it, “like a desperate white wine substitute for a zombie apocalypse.” Last year I attended a mead tasting put on by America’s first homebrew club the Maltose Falcons. Somehow I neglected to blog about it, so better late than never, here’s what I learned: If you want decent mead you have to brew...

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The Cat Poop Portal: Litter Box Composting, Installment #1

View up the side yard, looking toward the back yard. The new bin is all pretty and shiny. Mrs. Homegrown here: I posted about cat litter composting a while back, and got lots of interesting comments and suggestions. If you’re researching the topic, I suggest you check out that post, the comments especially. Since then, Erik and I have decided on the method we’re going to try. We’re just going to do straight up, classi...

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CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

The nice folks at Solar Cookers International gave us permission to reprint plans for their CooKit solar cooker in our book Making It. You can access those plans, as well as many other solar cooker projects, for free, on their website here. I’ve made CooKits out of cardboard and aluminum foil a couple of times. One problem is that I eventually bang up the cardboard and I’ve got to make a new one. This summer I had a lot of  1/4 inc...

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Bee Hotel

From an old beekeeping book (thanks Steve!),  How to Keep Bees and Sell Honey: This is probably the finest bee hive in the world. It was built by E. S. Williams, St. Petersburg, Florida, who spent 6 months constructing it. It holds two standard 10 frame hive bodies and a bottom board. The second story lifts off for hive manipulations. It is wired for 110 volt current, has window shades and curtains. The front plastic doors swing easily and fit...

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