Made in the shade- Passive cooling

...a to Long Island, and all the climate zones in between. Just stick an air conditioner on top, put in a heating unit, and you’re done. Sadly, most buildings are an energy efficiency disaster. Poor design is so prevalent, it is shocking once you know what to look for. Have you ever leaned up against a stucco or brick wall on a hot day? Ouch! You can literally burn your skin off. However, a passive building in the humid South, might feature c...

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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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Maintaining a Worm Bin

This image might represent a new low in aesthetics from the Root Simple Photo Department. And that’s saying something. I freshened up our big worm bin today and I thought I’d report on what I did because I get a lot of questions about worm bin maintenance. First, I want to say this is just how I go about it. Other people will have different methods and habits. Worms are forgiving and reasonably adaptable, so you have a whole lot of l...

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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

We just got our hands on Gary Paul Nabhan’s newest book, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty. It couldn’t have arrived at a better time. In the spirit of full disclosure, I heard about this book on the grapevine a good while back, and requested a review copy from the publisher because we’ve met Gary and like his work. Getting free books once in a while is one of...

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Did Kelly follow her 2012 resolutions?

I cringed when Erik said he’d be reviewing his resolutions today, which meant I’d have to take the walk of shame and review mine. Actually, I couldn’t even remember what I’d said I’d do, but at the same time, I was pretty sure I’d not done any of it. If 2012 had a theme, it would be “wheel-spinning” — or at least that’s how it felt to me. Now that I’ve read over what I wrote last...

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Saturday Linkages: Alphabet Birdhouses, Ancient Cheese and the World’s Worst Cookbooks

Aviary Alphabet: Birdhouses Shaped Like Letters http://dornob.com/aviary-alphabet-birdhouses-shaped-like-letters/ … How much does it cost to decorate your house with Christmas lights?: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/10/how-much-does-it-cost-to-decor.html … Archaeologists Find Ancient Evidence Of Cheese-Making http://n.pr/TUyVLZ New Research Links Pesticides in Tap Water to Rise in Food Allergies http://inhabitat.com/new-research-links-pesticides...

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Garden Design: Quantity vs. Quality

...that he most talented creative folks I’ve met crank out lots of material. So how do we apply the quantity over quality principle to laying out a garden–especially since you often get only one chance a year to get it right? Above you see some of Kelly’s ideas for the parkway garden we planted in the fall. I think it is at this first point in the process–when you’re just sketching out ideas–when it’s best...

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How to make your soup wonderful: Wild food soup stock

We’ve mentioned urban foragers and foodie extraordinaires Pascal Baudard and Mia Wasilevic before. They not only forage food, but go on to make really good stuff with it. One of their websites is Urban Outdoor Skills, and I like to go there to check out a section called the Food Lab, where they talk about food products they’re experimenting with, and give how-to’s. A few months ago Erik brought home a beautiful bouquet of nett...

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The Sundiner–A Groovy 1960s Era Solar Cooker

Backywards beekeeper Dennis of The Buzz in the Dale, was nice enough to gift me his vintage Sundiner solar cooker that he found at a garage sale a few years ago. Resembling a cross between a portable 1960s record player and a satellite, the Sundiner is compact, light and easy to carry. A built in thermometer lets you know when you have hit cooking temperatures. The unit is so efficient, that when I set it up at noon it hit 350° F within minut...

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A Review of Masanobu Fukuoka’s Sowing Seeds in the Desert

...ed by Chelsea Green. Fukuoka’s writing deals with the tricky practical and spiritual issues involved with our place in nature’s synergistic complexities. To intervene or not to intervene is often the question when it comes to what Fukuoka called his “natural farming” method. Fukuoka councils a humbleness before nature, a cessation of the materialist drive to understand and control. Fukuoka illustrates this approach in a pe...

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