Least Favorite Plant: Ficus benjamina

Photo by Elon Schoenholz While Ficus benjamina, a.k.a. “weeping fig”, is one of my least favorite trees, my most favorite photographer, Elon Schoenholz is currently posting a series of ficus tree images on his blog. Schoenholz, wisely, takes a neutral stance on this hot button tree describing Ficus as, “L.A.’s favorite underappreciated, unheralded, unfavorite curbside flora. I have no real love for these trees, per se, n...

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How to Memorize Numbers

Giordano Bruno’s insanely elaborate memory system. Yesterday we introduced an ancient memory system that can be handy for learning all those new urban homesteading skills. Today I’ll briefly discuss a way to use a related mnemonic called the Major System for committing strings of numbers to memory. To use the Major System you first memorize a set of consonants that represent 0 through 9. From Wikipedia, here’s a tabl...

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Mushrooms and Yard Sharing

Mr. Homegrown contemplates his many writing tasks. Mr. Homegrown needs your help with two topics. First, for our second book, I’d like to talk to someone who has successfully grown oyster mushrooms from spawn. I’m looking for advice on preparing and inoculating the growing medium. I’m not looking for folks who have grown oyster mushrooms from kits which, in my humble opinion, are not cost effective. If anyone knows of well wri...

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Is Peat Moss a Sustainable Resource?

Two very different views on the ethics of using peat moss: one from garden writer Jeff Ball via Garden Rant, Here are the simple facts. Canada has over 270 million acres of peat bogs which produce peat moss. Each year the peat moss industry harvests only 40,000 acres of peat moss mostly for horticultural use. If you do the math that comes to one of every 6,000 acres of peat moss is harvested each year. And here is the cherry on top. P...

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Santa Monica Legalizes Beekeeping

Last night the Santa Monica city council voted to amend their municipal code to allow beekeeping on single family properties. Now, legalizing beekeeping is a bit like legalizing sunshine. Bees, after all, do their thing whether or not the government permits it or not. For every beekeeper in an urban area there must be hundreds of feral bee colonies living in walls, roofs and compost bins. Nevertheless, Santa Monica took a big step forward, join...

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Emergency Toilet Sanitation

I was asked by our local neighborhood council to talk about emergency turlets for their public safety committee. Doing some preliminary research about what our government suggests concerns me. FEMA and, it seems, all the state and local agencies I looked into rely on a poop in a bag, throw in some enzymes or bleach and throw it into a pit approach. In a short term emergency, a day or two let’s say, this might work fine. But if the emerge...

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SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Resource

One of the highlights of the California Master Gardener Conference I just spoke at was a lecture by Toby O’Geen, Ph.D., Assistant Soil Resource Specialist at UC Extension. O’Geen mentioned an amazing online soil resource called SoilWeb, avaliable at http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/drupal/node/902. SoilWeb overlays detailed soil information on Google Maps and Google Earth. There’s even a SoilWeb iPhone app allowing you to use...

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Only at Home: Huntington Ranch Symposium Nov. 18

Not to be missed: the Huntington is putting on an exciting program this Friday November 18. I’m going and hope to see some of you there. If you’re interested in growing edibles in Southern California, this is the place to be! Only at Home: 2011 Huntington Ranch Symposium The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical GardensSan Marino, CA Marking the second year of Ranch operations, this one-day symposium focuses on aspects...

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Photo Tour of the Root Simple Compound

New, as yet unnamed, kitten enjoying homebrew. Photo by Emily Ho for re-nest. In case you’ve tired of the continuous coverage of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, how about a look at ours? Writer and photographer Emily Ho sure did a nice job putting together a photo tour of our crib over at re-nest in a post entitled “Kelly and Erik’s Urban Farm.” Funny, when I look at our house I see all the work I have left to...

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Congrats Denver!

From the Denver Post:   Denver City Council eases way to own chickens, goats at home Apparently it was previously legal, but more difficult because you had to pay steep fees and inform all your neighbors. Now, thanks to citizen action by urban homesteaders, the fee has been reduced to 20 bucks and you don’t have to inform your neighbors in order to keep 8 chickens or ducks and up to 2 pygmy goats. No roosters, natch. Congrats Denver! IR...

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