Straw Bale Gardens

Tasha Via’s straw bale garden. Michael Tortorello (who profiled us when Making It came out) is one of my favorite writers covering the home ec/gardening subjects we discuss on this blog. He had an article last week in the New York Times, “Grasping at Straw” on straw bale gardening. We’ve very tempted to give the practice a try in our backyard. Why? We have lead and zinc contaminated soil so growing veggies in the ground...

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Sourdough Pancake Recipe

Yes, that’s a real children’s book from the 1970s. A question came in as to what to do with extra sourdough starter. First off, check out the new way we feed our starter, which wastes a lot less flour. But another answer is to use all that tangy delicious starter to make pancakes. For years we’ve used Nancy Silverton’s recipe. Basically, the starter fills in for the flour and milk used in standard pancake recipes. That...

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A Primitive Bow Workshop

...ithout breaking. A bow is actually a very complicated tool, something that should inspire respect for our distant ancestors. Paul Campbell author of an excellent book Survival Skills of Native California was along to co-teach the class and help us all shape our bows. The first step was to find some suitable wood. We used willow, a wood used by Native Americans in our region. It’s plentiful and makes an acceptable if short lived bow. Ash an...

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City Repair LA

Mark Lakeman stares down the new Bimini Street salamander. Portland architect and activist Mark Lakeman, founder of the City Repair movement, is in Los Angeles for a week of lectures and activities. Lakeman believes in actions that correct what he believes is our disassociation from nature and our alienation from each other. He’s a passionate opponent of the grid, the imposition of street networks and regimented thinking that he traces ba...

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Humanure Dry Toilet Made From a Milk Crate

Modern toilets take two valuable resources, water and nitrogen rich human waste, and combine the two to create a problem: sewage. In a dry or “humanure” toilet, you cover your deposits with a layer of non-toxic sawdust. Once the toilet is full you dump the contents into your outdoor humanure pile and compost the waste at high temperatures for at least a year. You can then use that compost as fertilizer for plants. The ubiquitous fiv...

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Keeping it Local

A depression ear local currency The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating article, Cash-Strapped California’s IOUs: Just the Latest Sub for Dollars on the history of IOUs and local currencies. It seems that Depression 1.0 spurred quite a few improvised currencies, including the “Minneapolis Sauerkraut Note”, for a good reason. Just as today, a lot of people want the rewards for our labor tied to tangibles rather than moneti...

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Apron Contest Winner

...e me laugh, so I had to choose her as our winner. Lots of people cook and craft, but Katie cooks and crafts with an irreverent and sassy sense of humor. My kind of girl. Her entry was rather long, so I’ll just give you the highlights. She said she would first roll around on the floor and wrap herself up in the apron like a “sexy burrito.” She cooks, of course. She even makes her own recipe books of tasty treats. In addition t...

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When the Crate’s Better Than the Chair

Steve Badgett of the design/art/architecture collective Simparch tipped me off to Dutch furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld’s set of chairs built out of crates, done back in the 1930s. As Rietveld put it, “A piece of furniture made of high-grade wood and manufactured completely according to traditional production methods is transported in a crate to avoid damage…no one has ever ascertained that such a chest embodi...

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Out Of The In Box

res, which contains plans for everything from a simple chair to a multi-level home, all in a distinct modular style. Best of all, it’s available as a pdf for free here along with a couple of other interesting books from the period. Above is Isaac’s clever cube crapper. Not much headroom in the head, but what a nice view. Isaac’s work has a playful plywood-meets-the-moon lander vibe. I think I would have loved this modular bunk b...

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