Made in the shade- Passive cooling

...eated and cooled buildings are adapted to local climate conditions. Current construction practices tend to favor the same type of ramshackle 2×4 and drywall buildings from California 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 l...

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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: C...

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Humanure Dry Toilet Made From a Milk Crate

...s grungy. Alternatively, you can buy plastic camping toilet seats that will clamp on to a five 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...

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Farm in a Box

...d Farm in a Box Aquaponics from Earth Solutions. Farm in the Box is a combined fish tank/planter box. Waste from the fish circulates into the planter box via a pump to provide fertilizer for the plants as well as removing nitrogen and ammonia from the water. From the Earth Solutions website: “By integrating fish with vegetables, naturally balanced aquatic ecosystems are established making it unnecessary to add fertilizer, chemicals or remov...

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Trapping bees out of a kitchen vent

...way exit for bees that are somewhere they aren’t wanted, in this case a kitchen vent. Foraging bees leave the hive but can’t come back in. Next to the one way exit you place a “nuc” box (a cardboard box that holds five frames) that contains open brood comb, cells with eggs and larvae, from another hive. The workers can’t get back into their old home, adopt the brood comb in the box and use it to create a new queen....

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Seedling Disaster!

...t 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 for Meaning in a Throwaway World   Oh, but those...

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Laundry to Landscape Legal in LA

...se google. Any standard that can’t compete with “free” and “zero time for compliance” is doomed to irrelevance. The only way government agencies can compete is to offer “free”, “zero time for compliance” legal systems that are better, and can be installed by professionals instead of having to do it yourself. This involves surrendering the illusion of control, in trade for actually making things better on the ground.” By foreg...

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Solar Light Hack

We wanted a solar powered light over our new entrance arbor. The problem is that most of the lights available are just plain ugly. And the solar panels on the cheaper models are usually mounted on the light itself making it impossible to place them in a shady spot. I came up with a simple solution. First, I bought an inexpensive solar light intended to be mounted on a fence. I took it apart and desoldered the LEDs off the circuit board. Nex...

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Summer of Solar Cookin’

...ing) Lots of water- maybe 4-5 cups You want to make sure to use plenty of water. Beans absorb a lot of water as they rehydrate and the solar cooker looses some moisture as it cooks. So err on the side of extra water. I’m not much of one for measuring. The great thing about making beans, soups and stews is you can add a pinch of this and a sprig of that and adjust the flavoring as you go. It is very forgiving. I put the pot in the solar...

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Seltzer Works Doc Screens on PBS

...those old bottles allows for dispensing seltzer without the entire bottle losing pressure. As Gomberg points put it in Seltzer Works, good seltzer should tickle the back of the throat when you drink it. And, of course, those bottles get reused over and over again.   A publicist for PBS sent me a copy of Seltzer Works, and the shots of Gomberg’s beautiful old machinery alone are worth making sure to catch this short, which screens along wit...

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