Tomatoes in December

It ain’t pretty but I’m not complaining. Note to self: the tomatoes that sprout on their own are always the healthiest. The cherry tomato above has reseeded itself for at least 12 years. Sometimes its offspring survive the winter and grow as a perennial. Our climate sort of permits this but occasionally a cold night will kill tomatoes off. And each year the fruit declines in quality. This summer I transplanted two tomato se...

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A Parvati Solar Cooker

Damn, is solar cooking easy! Put some rice in a pot, place the pot in this simple panel cooker, made with cardboard and aluminum foil, stick it out in the sun and two hours later you have lunch. We built our “Parvati” solar cooker with plans designed by Shobha Ravindra Pardeshi that can be found here. Pardeshi, who runs an “appropriate technology” company with her husband in India has another design for a similar dish-sha...

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How Not To Bake Bread

Homegrown Neighbor here: So Mr. and Mrs. Homegrown are away on book tour while I’m holding down the fort in L.A. and looking after their chickens. I figured that while they are away and not blogging much, I can step in and entertain you with tales of my epic baking failures. Sure, lots of blogs have pretty pictures of food and neatly typed recipes, but everyone likes a good tale of failure now and then. Now, my neighbor Erik, aka Mr. Home...

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Cat Litter Composting

Pocket Nitrogen Generator  Mrs. Homegrown here: Apologies to you googlers looking for solid answers. This is what Erik calls a probe. I’ve decided to compost our kitten’s litter box waste, and this is how I plan to go about it. However, I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I go, so this post isn’t instructional. I will post a report once the system gets going. The real reason I’m posting is because I’d...

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Growing Artichokes on the Sly

Artichokes also provide shade for lazy cats It is possible to grow vegetables around the grounds of an apartment building, especially if the landlord is neglectful. Often the biggest challenge you’ll face is the gardeners, who will weedwack everything to lawn level. If you can negotiate with them, or somehow put a protective barrier between your plants and the whirling cord of death, you can grow stuff. Take this lovely artichoke....

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Geoff Lawton Soils Video

Help, I’m turning into a soil geek. I just spent an evening viewing a video entitled Soils featuring permaculturalist Geoff Lawton. What I like about this video is that it’s not just about soil, but Lawton actually shows you what you can do to improve your soil. In the DVD he demonstrates how to build a compost pile (lots of carbon material), contoured vegetable beds, a compost pile heated shower and a simple vermiculture system usi...

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Zombie Apocalypse Poll Results

2012—year of the goat? The poll results are in and a solid majority thinks that things will get worse in 2012. The results, with 617 votes: 187 30% things will get better 309 50% things will get worse 121 19% things will stay the same I had intended to editorialize about how I see 2012 going. But I can’t say it better than this anonymous comment: I could not answer the poll. My first thought was that things will get worse...

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New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a week for formulating New Years resolutions and I have two that stem from reading Ferran Adrià’s A Day at elBulli . Adrià is one of the main proponents of “molecular gastronomy” (though he rejects the term) a style of cooking that involves not just unusual ingredients, but the creation of entirely new forms of cooking. Think dry ice, freeze drying and culinary thoughtstylings such as “Spherification.” B...

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Medlar: The Best Fruit You’ve Never Heard Of

This week we were luck enough to tag along with Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms on a jaunt to the hills near Tehachapi to help harvest an allusive fruit called the medlar.  Erik and I were just extra hands–the plan was hatched between Tara and Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms. See, Craig has a place up in those hills, and just happened to know his neighbors had a little grove of medlars, and these neighbors agreed to sell them to Craig an...

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Accidental Garden Design: Pomegranate and Prickly Pear

Can good garden design be taught or is it something you’re born with? If it’s inherited I didn’t get that gene, unfortunately. But at least a garden can sometimes put on a good show despite the gardener’s lack of design sense. Above, the view out our front window of our pomegranate tree (Punica granatum ‘Wondeful’) against our overgrown prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica). These two plants have a lot...

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