My Brand New Homebrew Soda Carbonator

Erik won the good husband award this Valentine’s Day. He surprised me with my very own soda making machine. This is not a SodaStream–it’s better. It’s an industrial strength CO2 tank topped with sturdy dials and valves and whatnot, all sourced from the local homebrew shop. He’s going to do a how-to post soon (tomorrow maybe?) on how to put together the parts, and how to use it. So hold on for those details! Right n...

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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 Deal with Extremely Root Bound Plants

First off, don’t buy root bound plants. It’s just a bad business, trouble and tears. In general, you should always try to buy the youngest plants you can find. They are healthier than plants which have spent more time in a pot, and will quickly grow to match the size of older, more expensive–and more likely than not–root bound plants. How do you know if the plant is root bound? Look at the bottom of the pot and see if ro...

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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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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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What the Internet Will Look Like After the Zombie Apocalypse

Enterprising amateur radio operators in Texas, over the past several years, have created a wireless high speed data network, called HSMM-MESH or Broadband-Hamnet, completely independent of the internet. The map above is the network built by HAMs in Austin, Texas. Basically it’s a bunch of hacked Linksys routers connecting wirelessly over a wide area. Plug a laptop into any of the routers and you can trade messages, files and live video ba...

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Prickly Pear Fruit Chips

Prickly pear fruit chip–some specimens are purple, our produces orange fruit It’s prickly pear fruit season. I know this both by the view out our front window and from the comments trickling in on an old post on how to make prickly pear fruit jelly. Thanks to a tip from Oliva Chumacero at the Farmlab, I now have another way of dealing with an over-abundance of this spiny fruit: slice it and dry it to make prickly pear fruit chips....

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Humanure Dry Toilet Made From a Milk Crate

gallon bucket but they have, in my opinion, an unacceptable wobble when you sit on them. For these reasons I designed a sturdy dry toilet making use of a scavenged milk crate. Even if the idea of humanure grosses you out (and it’s definitely the most controversial subject in our book), our milk crate toilet would be great for camping, emergencies or your remote cabin. Putting this toilet together takes just a few minutes. First, find a milk...

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Seedling Disaster!

“No one talks of failure as anything but shameful; this is wrongheaded and foolish . . . Mistakes are synonymous with learning. Failing is unavoidable. Making is a process, not an end. It is true that deep experience helps avoid problems, but mainly it gives you mental tools with which to solve inevitable problems when they come up.” -Tom Jennings, as quoted in Mark Frauenfelder’s excellent new book, Made by Hand: Searching f...

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Laundry to Landscape Legal in LA

ming that you don’t need a permit within LA city limits for “a graywater system in a one or two-family dwelling that is supplied only by a clothes-washer and/or a single-fixture system.” Though, confusingly, it also goes on to say, “Any alteration to the building or plumbing, electrical or mechanical system requires a permit.” I guess we shouldn’t expect clarity from a department that can’t seem to get a...

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