Peat-free Planting Mix Recipe With Coconut Coir

Nancy’s coconut coir-based planting mix. Here she’s doing the squeeze test, which we talk about below. From an environmental perspective peat moss is a nightmare. Mining of this material is unsustainable, contributes to global warming and destroys habitat for many plants and animals. But, for starting seeds, we’ve used it for years. Our friend Nancy Klehm taught us recently how to make a seed starting mix with coconut...

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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

....  Ah, but yes–liquid castile soap is runny. Indeed. I can hear the complaints already.  The way around that problem is to use one of them fancy-schmancy foaming soap pumps. You can buy them at specialty retailers, but it’s probably cheaper to buy one at the supermarket, use up the soap and then start refilling with liquid castile soap. The one in our bathroom is an old Method pump and is still working fine after three years. The se...

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Boycott Hollywood!

Photo by Carlos Morales from LA Streetsblog In a story that made international headlines last month the film industry voiced its disfavor with a bright green bike lane the City of Los Angeles painted downtown. Hollywood’s complaint? An editorial in the LA Times claims that “the green lane spoiled the shots that made Spring [Street] the perfect stand-in for Anytown, USA.” To add insult to injury, film production vehicl...

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The World’s First Lamp

Erik’s link to the orange lamp on Saturday reminded me to post this. This is Project #1 in Making It, and we often open our lectures by building one of these, but I realize I’ve never talked about oil lamps here on the blog. Forgive the somewhat atmospheric photo. What you’re looking at is the simplest thing in the world: an oyster shell filled with olive oil and balanced in a small dish of sand. Three pieces of cotton stri...

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A Review of Williams-Sonoma’s Agrarian Line

Last week upscale retalier Williams-Sonoma announced an urban homesteady line of goods they call “Agrarian”. A number of Root Simple readers responded to the news after I linked to a Wall Street Journal article about the Agrarian line. One reader likened the “Agrarian” items to Marie Antoinette’s 18th century cosplay mini-farm. Another hoped that mainstream acceptance of things like chicken coops and beehives might...

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Candied Grapefruit Peel

Erik sourced some nice grapefruits from our friend’s tree and used the flesh to do some homework for his Master Food Preserver program. This left a big pile of organic, unwaxed grapefruit rind on our counter, so I decided to do something about it, and set off to make candied grapefruit peel. This is the technique I came up with by mashing together a bunch of different internet recipes and making two batches of the stuff. The results are d...

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Kelly’s Shibori Challenge

...like red cabbage and sour grass, following the instructions in The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft with Organic Colors from Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients by Sasha Duerr. It’s a gorgeous little book and very inspirational–we’ll see if the instructions work. Part the Second: I will apply these dyes to fabric using shibori techniques. Shibori is the art of dying fabric using p...

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Introducing Nancy Klehm With Tips on Growing Jerusalem Artichokes

...annual plants such as basil, tomatoes, melons, etc. We have had a mild winter and a very early Spring this year – almost a month ahead according to any record. As a true farmer said: ‘This is the warmest April on record.’ And it was still March when he said it. In the past 10 days, dodging rain and wet soil, I have planted out potatoes, asparagus, peas, collards, chard, kale, radishes, carrots, beets, turnips, salsify, and cress. I have many veg...

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Return of Recipe Friday! Spicy Korean Tofu

Ummm…Our food stylist is on vacation! This was lunch today. It would look much better if the tofu sheets were reclining whole on snowy rice and artfully sprinkled with green. We’ve been eating a lot of this lately. It’s Erik’s favorite meal these days, in fact. I make it for him whenever he’s grumpy and he perks right up. I like it too, and I especially like that it’s fast cooking and I usually have a...

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Advances in Gardening Series: Thoughts on The Fan, and the problems of overabudance

The Fan late in the season, about to be pulled out. See earlier photos of The Fan here. Mrs. Homegrown here: Last fall we dug up a sort of feral herb bed and replaced it with a more formal, three-part bed that I call The Fan. The idea is to use this bed to plant annual herbs and flowers. While some of these plants are medicinal, it is also a bed dedicated more to aesthetics than the rest of our garden, so it’s also a place where I...

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