CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

I’ve been experimenting with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard. It has a couple of nice features: It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles. When you fold it up it takes up no more space than a...

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Laundry to Landscape Legal in LA

Ludwig’s “Laundry to Landscape” California’s new greywater code, passed in August of last year, was a big step in the right direction. The revised code legalized simple “laundry to landscape” systems of the sort promoted by greywater guru Art Ludwig and allowed their installation without a permit. Here’s a pdf from the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety confirming that you don’t...

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UMass Soil Testing

I finally got around to trying out the University of Massachusetts’ soil testing service and can report that it’s fast and cheap. I tested two areas of my yard for both nutrients and heavy metals and found out, more or less, what I expected, that I need to add a small amount of nitrogen. Surprisingly, for having such an old house, I don’t have a lead problem. It costs just $9 for the basic test and $13 for the basic test + hea...

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Let’s Get Biointensive

I picked up a handy tip on plant spacing from John Jeavons’ book How to Grow More Vegetables. Jeavons dislikes rows and instead uses the triangular spacing of the French biointensive method. You can view a nice diagram of biointensive spacing on the LandShare Colorado website. And see some images of the way Jeavons’ spaces his garden on This Girl’s Gone Green. Triangular plantings squeeze more veggies into small spaces. The tig...

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Favorite Plants- New Zealand Spinach

New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides. When the lettuce wilts in the heat, caterpillars and aphids destroy the kale and your swiss chard is plagued by powdery mildew…. there is New Zealand spinach. It is not a true spinach but is in a genus all its own. The leaves are triangular in shape, and very succulent. They grow on long, rambling stalks. The seeds are triangular as well and the plant will reseed if you let it. It tends to...

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Nasturtium “Capers”

Nasturtium grows like a weed here at the SurviveLA compound. We don’t water it, though if we did we might have a larger crop. The nice thing about Nasturtium is that the entire plant is edible – both the leaves and flowers have a strong peppery flavor and the flowers brighten up the Spartan salads we chow down on in the late spring. Once you plant this stuff, at least here in Los Angeles, the thousands of seeds it produces guarantee...

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Grow Italian!

It’s almost time to start planting seeds for the most productive growing season in Southern California – winter. While our friends in the cold parts of the country will be freezing their asses off we’ll be picking gourmet salads (sorry to rub it in). Since the climate here is like southern Italy, we like to plant Italian varieties. Which brings us to the source of many of our seeds at the Homegrown Evolution compound, Seeds fr...

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Till vs. No Till Poll Results

US Department of Energy Our highly unscientific till vs. no-till poll results are in: 17% of you said you till43% of you don’t till23% of you double-dig15% are undecided Looks like most of you fall into the permacultural no-till camp. For more information on no-till ag see the no-till section of our publisher Rodale’s website. Meanwhile, we’re on our book tour of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Check out...

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Eating In: The Biosphere Cookbook

This has to be one of the strangest cookbooks ever published, Eating in: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2. Author Sally Silverstone was the food systems manager during the much hyped and ultimately disastrous Biosphere “mission” that began in 1991. Without falling down the rabbit hole of discussing what went wrong and why the Biosphere project became fodder for a Pauly Shore movie, I’d just point out the hubris o...

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