Extreme Low-Tech Communication

This has to be the ultimate achievement in low-powered long-distance communication. Ham radio operator Michael Rainey, AA1TJ, transmitted a message over a distance of over 1,000 miles by yelling Morse code with his own voice into this primitive home-made transmitter, nicknamed “El Silbo.” No power was used other than that generated by his own voice vibrating the microphone (which was a re-purposed speaker). If you want to build your...

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Composting the Deceased/ My DIY Funeral Fantasies

or anyone who finds my barbequed corpse floating about, nor such a good thing in smaller bodies of water, where I’d be a pollutant. A low end version of this would be setting my ashes afloat in a wicker basket and using it for target practice with flaming arrows, while the Immigrant Song plays. Not great, because my ash is feeding no one, and it cost a lot of BTUs to turn me to ash, but at least I’d not be in a coffin, and there would...

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Yes, We Do the Pinterest Thing

What do I use Pinterest for? To gather design ideas for home and garden. I just built this trellis to grow vegetables vertically. It’s part of a plan I have to deck over an ugly concrete patio. The inspiration for the trellis came in part from an image I pinned off the interwebs: Not having a natural design sense, I gather images and synthesize them to come up with plans I can build. Google image search and Pinterest are great inspiratio...

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Roots Simple’s Last Minute Gift Guide

A KCET blogger asked a couple of Master Food Preservers, including myself, what we thought would be good gifts for homesteady types. We all came up with, pretty much, the same items. Here’s the ones I suggested: Saving the Season by Kevin West. We reviewed this book a few months ago but I’ll say it again: this is my favorite book on food preservation. Excalibur dehydrator with stainless steel trays. Expensive, but this thing works a...

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Video Tour of the Root Simple Compound

Johnny Sanphillippo from Faircompanies.com shot a nice video tour of our house. Excuses for the audio–it was shot during a very windy day. And I really need to get around to painting the garage! You’ll see our chicken coop. The video also features our rocket stove, horno and emergency potty plus a spin around the pantry. But the real star of this video is our 1920 bungalow. I wish they still build houses like this (sorry Dwell). Th...

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2013 in Review Part I

needs and weaknesses. After many hours at the YMCA I’ve got PT syndrome under control but I’ve still got a lot of work to do. Thankfully, I’m back to running and fencing. February In February in Los Angeles it should rain. It didn’t. The year was the driest on record: 3.6 inches, making it a desert not the Mediterranean climate it should be. It seems to be a dry winter again this year and I’m worried. March A texti...

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Initial Thoughts on the Age of Limits 2013 Conference

festyle–what with the chickens and the canned goods and the funny relationship with urine–puts us somewhat on the fringe of American culture. Although, in our heads, we think our lifestyle is perfectly normal, and it is in fact getting more normal all the time.  I mean, since the advent of Portlandia we are at least a part of an identifiable subculture. But this weekend, at the Age of Limits, we ventured into the deep fringe. We’...

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Joshua Tree Earthen Oven Class With Kurt Gardella

Kurt Gardella measures the radius of the horno dome. Joshua Tree Earthen Oven Class March 8-10, 2013 Earthen ovens are inexpensive to build, fun to use, and provide baking environment impossible to recreate in the kitchen. This Spring, Kurt Gardella returns to California for three days to teach you how to make your own earthen oven. Kurt has built dozens of these ovens in New Mexico, and has great expertise in both adobe construction and earth...

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Growing Strawberries in a Self Irrigating Gutter (SIG).

I got this idea from Larry Hall, who made a video showing how he uses gutters as self watering containers. In the first part of the video Larry shows how to use a gutter to supply water to a row of pots. In the second part he shows a two gutter strawberry growing system. I decided to build Hall’s self-irrigating gutter (let’s call it a SIG) to grow strawberries. Here’s how I did it: With some scrap wood I made a support system...

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Hops in Southern California

arming experiment ended in the spring of last year after we accidentally plopped some home built scaffolding on top of the tiny vine while undertaking the heinous task of scraping and painting the front of the house. Planting it in terrible soil doomed it to failure anyways. We’re experimenting with growing both Cascade and Nugget hops in a big self irrigating planter with the hope that we can transfer them to the ground next year or the ye...

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