A Straw Bale Urinal

L’Uritonnoir, a plug-in straw-bale urinal. Photograph: Faltazi At the risk of becoming a blog entirely about urine and straw bales, Anne Hars alerted me to an article in the Guardian, “L’Uritonnoir: the straw bale urinal that makes compost from ‘liquid gold’” about French design studio Faltazi’s plug-in straw bale urinal. The device comes as a flat polypropylene sheet, which is folded into s...

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Lady Urine, Water Conservation and Halfway Humanure

I approve of the oval shape of the opening of this funnel– and the sporty color. Fact 1: Human urine is an excellent source of nitrogen for your garden. It can be applied directly to a compost pile, or diluted 10:1 and used on plants. Fact 2: Nature has equipped the male of the species in such a manner that it is easy for him to contribute nitrogen to the compost pile. For women, it’s a bit more tricky. So, how do...

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A Warning About Straw

Claude Monet used straw (or is that hay?) for art. We use straw to catch chicken droppings! Straw is a very inexpensive and useful material for composting, mulching and animal bedding (we use it for all of these purposes). If you use it for mulch you’ll probably get some seeds that will germinate, but I’ve never found it to be a big problem in a small vegetable garden. I get my straw from the feed store, but you can often get it fo...

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Picture Sundays: US Postal Service Creates World’s Ugliest Stamp

I got some stamps out of a machine at the post office yesterday and this is what got barfed out. Is this a sign of the imminent collapse of the US empire or just evidence that the email thing is making the post office go broke? Either way, you’d think the Postal Service would be embarrassed by this graphic design nightmare. How do we get them to reissue this one? I may not be a big fan of the America...

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Straw Bale Gardens

Tasha Via’s straw bale garden. Michael Tortorello (who profiled us when Making It came out) is one of my favorite writers covering the home ec/gardening subjects we discuss on this blog. He had an article last week in the New York Times, “Grasping at Straw” on straw bale gardening. We’ve very tempted to give the practice a try in our backyard. Why? We have lead and zinc contaminated soil so growing veg...

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Vegetable Gardening for the Lazy

One of the problems with growing vegetables is all the labor involved–starting seeds, composting, watering and watching out for bugs. It’s worth it, of course, for the tasty rewards, but many busy folks are simply too exhausted after work or corralling the bambinos to pick up a shovel and garden. For those who’d rather sit on the porch with a martini than laboring in the field, and we often include ourselves in that category, p...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

The new compost pile is covered with a tarp to keep moisture in. Eventually it will fill this whole space. In the background you can see our leftover adobe bricks. So–our regular readers will know that we have high levels of lead in our back yard soil. We’re dealing with this by filling most of our yard with mulch and perennial natives to lock down the soil (lead laden dust is bad) and to diversify the local ecosystem. Mea...

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How To Design a Garden Step I: Identifying Goals

Food, beauty and habitat. Garden design does not come naturally to me. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and continue to make them. One of the biggest of those mistakes is thinking of a garden as a collection of plants. Designing this way leads to lots of money wasted at the nursery and a garden that looks like a hoarder’s living room. Trust me, after years of misguided gardening design, your first step should be to identify goal...

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Other People’s Poo: Biosolids in the Garden

It’s people! Why not use city compost in your garden? Ecological designer Darren Butler, at a class I was sitting in on, showed a soil report from a site that had used compost from the city of Los Angeles. LA’s compost contain biosolids, a euphemism for sewage. The soil test showed high levels of: zinc 196 ppm copper 76 ppm sulfur 5,752 ppm The problem isn’t human waste, it’s all the other stuff that ends up...

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Yet More Urban Homesteading Mistakes

My new excuse: I didn’t write it, the kitten did! Three of my favorite Root Simple compound blunders happened this week. Yesterday I announced a “Vermincomposting” class. I meant vermicomposting, of course, but I’d point out that it is good to remember that vermin are actually compostable, along with everything biological –including bloggers. Earlier this week I meant to mention Native Americans  but, due...

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