Damned Figs!

“In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.”-Matthew 21:18-19 We find it hard to cut down a mature tree, especially a fruit tree. But after living with a substandard fig tree for ten years we finally understood t...

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A Parvati Solar Cooker

Damn, is solar cooking easy! Put some rice in a pot, place the pot in this simple panel cooker, made with cardboard and aluminum foil, stick it out in the sun and two hours later you have lunch. We built our “Parvati” solar cooker with plans designed by Shobha Ravindra Pardeshi that can be found here. Pardeshi, who runs an “appropriate technology” company with her husband in India has another design for a similar dish-sha...

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A Prickly Harvest

...sters immediately see the foolishness of not wearing gloves even when wielding those tongs. We know better, yet we’re feeling the the pain of a few dozen almost microscopic barbed glochids sticking out of our palms. But it’s worth it. Prickly pear fruit, despite those painful glochids, are one of our favorite crops here on our humble urban homestead (though, truth be told, a certain co-homesteader here resents the invisible glochids t...

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Homegrown Revolution at the Alt-Car Expo

Riding a bicycle puts us in touch with the spaces we live in and the people who inhabit those spaces. As the Situationist Guy Debord said, “Traffic Circulation is the organization of universal isolation. In this regard it constitutes the major problem of modern cities. It is the opposite of encounter, it absorbs the energies that could otherwise be devoted to encounters or to any sort of participation.” By riding a bike we break out of th...

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An open letter to Trader Joes

Dear Trader Joes, First off we’re not an animal rights activists, nor are we even vegetarians. We’re just people who like honesty in packaging. So let’s take a look at the carton for your Grade AA Cage Free eggs and assess the truthfulness of the illustration on its cover. Now conventional wisdom says that you are to be congratulated for selling only cage free eggs in contrast to many other food retailers who continue to sell e...

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In Praise of Disorder

...poultry, and front yard vegetable gardening, to mention just a few. Ideally you have a balance between order and disorder–neither gunfire nor the prying eyes of city inspectors. Where I’m staying in Houston, with its flocks of loose chickens, packs of feral dogs, and broken down bungalows seems just about right. Our neighborhood in Los Angeles is seeming less ideal with the news from Mrs. Homegrown Evolution, that we’ve earned...

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June: National Bathroom Reading Month

By bikin’ friend Colin informed me last week that he had heard a report on National Public Radio about June being, “National Bathroom Reading Month”. Doing a little digging revealed that, sadly, it was just a publicity stunt for a series of un-funny bathroom humor books and did not have the backing of our congress, senate or president. Nevertheless we thought we’d celebrate bathroom reading month anyways with a look at wh...

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Online Adobe Classes With Kurt Gardella

Kurt Gardella, who built our adobe oven, will be teaching a few online classes. More information after the jump. Dear adobe friends, I wanted to remind you that I am teaching 2 Adobe in Action online classes beginning next Monday, March 17th. The History & Basics class will give you all of the skills you need to find and test soils for use in adobe construction and also take you through the process of making your own adobe bricks: Class: Hi...

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The Theme of a Great Garden

Today we toured one of the finest gardens in California, the new garden at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The occasion was the opening of the new pollinator habitat. Head gardener Richard Hayden showed us around, taking us to the edible area as well as the new pollinator and Nature Gardens. This garden gave us so many ideas that we’re going to do several posts about it. One important design lesson I learned today is that great ga...

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How to Keep Skunks Out of the Yard

Skunks love to dig up our vegetables in search of grubs. Our late Doberman used to enjoy late night backyard skunk hunting expeditions which never ended well for him. For years I’ve used bird netting to keep them out of my vegetable beds. The problem with bird netting is that it’s a pain to work with–it catches on things, tangles up, and occasionally traps a bird. I hate the stuff. It took me 16 years to realize that I could ex...

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