Urine as a Fertilizer

How do I spend my Saturday mornings you ask? Answer: scanning the peer reviewed literature for articles about using human urine as a nitrogen source in the garden, i.e. taking a leak in the watering can. As we’re currently hosting some excellent classes at our house taught by Darren Butler, a big proponent of what he calls “pee-pee-ponics,” I thought I’d take a look at the science of urine use. Urine offers a free and re...

Continue reading…

Homemade Cat Toys

Top to bottom: Trout, palm frond, twine, acorn, plastic strip This is advice for new cat owners coming from relatively new cat owners: don’t waste your money on cat toys. Cats are fickle, ungrateful little creatures. Novelty is more important to them than just about anything else. And I don’t mean genuine novelty–they don’t need newer and stranger toys all the time. Rather, individual toys seem to get stale for t...

Continue reading…

Eating In: The Biosphere Cookbook

This has to be one of the strangest cookbooks ever published, Eating in: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2. Author Sally Silverstone was the food systems manager during the much hyped and ultimately disastrous Biosphere “mission” that began in 1991. Without falling down the rabbit hole of discussing what went wrong and why the Biosphere project became fodder for a Pauly Shore movie, I’d just point out the hubris o...

Continue reading…

The Ecology Center of San Juan Capistrano

Kelly and I had the privilege of doing a short talk this weekend at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. If you’re interested in Southern California food forestry, greywater, chickens, you name it, this is the place to visit. They have an amazing garden, classes and a well curated gift store. When people ask us how to design garden and house systems in SoCal, we’re going to send them to the Ecology Center....

Continue reading…

Reseeding Vegetables for the Warm Season

So what edible/useful plants pop up in lead contaminated soil along a hot, dry alternately sun-baked and deep-shaded south side of a house in Southern California? After dumping a load of compost along our side yard, mother nature is doing her own food forestry experiment. This month the following things popped up out of that load of compost: stinging nettle cardoon tomatoes nasturtium fennel sunflowers Elsewhere in the yard, New Zealand spin...

Continue reading…

A Lacto Fermentation Kit Made With a Canning Jar

Chef Ernest Miller gave all of us in the Master Food Preserver class a very clever lacto-fermentation kit he designed and sells at the Farmer’s Kitchen in Hollywood. As a class, we’re all making a batch of sauerkraut. Made out of a Le Parfait canning jar with a hole drilled in the lid to fit a fermentation lock, I already know this handy device will replace the large ceramic crock we have used in the past for pickle and kraut makin...

Continue reading…

How to Store Canned Goods: Take the Screw Band Off!

Right in the center, wrong on the left. Bungee cord ’cause we’re in earthquake country. Another quick tip from the Los Angeles Master Food Preservers: you should store your canned goods with the screw bands off. Why? So you can clean underneath the band to prevent spoilage and bugs. The screw band can create a false seal. Leaving the screw bands on can cause corrosion.  The only time to have the screw bands on is if you...

Continue reading…

Saturday Linkages: Mules, Turfgrass, Foraging and the End of Backyard Citrus

Emily Ho, a fellow Master Food Preserver trainee, foraged a Silver Lake salad. (Photo by Emily Ho) A Silver Lake Salad http://sustainablefoodworks.com/2012/04/09/a-silver-lake-salad/ via @ misschiffonade   Mule-based bookmobiles for remote Venezuelan communities: http://boingboing.net/2012/04/20/mule-based-bookmobiles-for-rem.html   Dismiss Cyclists At Your Own Peril: The Jackson Huang Lesson – Eagle Rock, CA Patch http://eagleroc...

Continue reading…

How to Roast Your Own Coffee in a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

Thanks to the Institute for Domestic Technology, I learned roast my own coffee at home in a Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. It’s a simple, if smokey, process. You heat up the popper on your stove top over a medium/high heat and dump in 10 ounces of green coffee beans. The beans we used were ordered from Sweet Maria’s who carry a wide selection of high-end beans at inexpensive prices. The only trick with the Whirley-Po...

Continue reading…

Tree Tobacco as a Stinging Nettle Cure

Tree tobacco or Nicotiana glauca. Image from Wikipedia. Yesterday’s Solanum nigrum (Black Nightshade) post reminded me of a fascinating tidbit about another plant from the nightshade family that I learned from foraging expert Pascal Baudar: the leaves of tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) ease stinging nettle rash. We were out gathering nettles with Pascal, so the lesson was much appreciated–and field tested. All you have to d...

Continue reading…