The Energy Environment Simulator

Photo: Niklas Vollmer. Sometime in the mid-nineties I was thrift shopping in San Diego with my friend Niklas Vollmer. I can still remember the moment we stumbled on the Energy-Environment Simulator. We couldn’t stop laughing and we realized that we had to buy it. How often do you run into an Energy-Environment Simulator in working condition? t’s been the centerpiece of Nik’s living room ever since, even making a cross country m...

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A viewing suggestion from the media arm of Root Simple

I really enjoy learning about technologies that are basic enough that I feel like I can understand them–and maybe even replicate them. The technology of Tudor-era in England is by no means primitive, but it also is not as complex and machine-based as the tech which takes off in the 19th century and accelerates so quickly into the present era. I would be hard pressed to explain how anything around me works–from this machine I’...

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What the Internet Will Look Like After the Zombie Apocalypse

Enterprising amateur radio operators in Texas, over the past several years, have created a wireless high speed data network, called HSMM-MESH or Broadband-Hamnet, completely independent of the internet. The map above is the network built by HAMs in Austin, Texas. Basically it’s a bunch of hacked Linksys routers connecting wirelessly over a wide area. Plug a laptop into any of the routers and you can trade messages, files and live video ba...

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How Much Can You Carry on a Bicycle?

How I transported the 8-foot poles for our new trellis. We’re overdue for an update on our car-free Los Angeles lifestyle experiment, but one thing that has made it possible is the cargo bike I’ve had since 2006, the Xtracycle. Xtracycle pioneered the “longtail” bike, essentially a bike stretched out in order to accommodate large panier bags. My Xtracycle was an add-on to an existing mountain bike. Xtracycle and their com...

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Homestead Academy: A Two Day Course in Kitchen Self-Reliance

I’ll be doing a keynote speech at the end of an intensive weekend of classes in bread baking, vinegar brewing, yogurt making and more. The event, which will take place on July 6th and 7th is presented by Growcology and the Emerald Village and will take place in Vista, CA. This weekend intensive is designed to catapult you into a life of self-reliance through homesteading. Join Growcology and the Emerald Village Volunteers as we share the...

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How to make your soup wonderful: Wild food soup stock

We’ve mentioned urban foragers and foodie extraordinaires Pascal Baudard and Mia Wasilevic before. They not only forage food, but go on to make really good stuff with it. One of their websites is Urban Outdoor Skills, and I like to go there to check out a section called the Food Lab, where they talk about food products they’re experimenting with, and give how-to’s. A few months ago Erik brought home a beautiful bouquet of nett...

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The Sundiner–A Groovy 1960s Era Solar Cooker

Backywards beekeeper Dennis of The Buzz in the Dale, was nice enough to gift me his vintage Sundiner solar cooker that he found at a garage sale a few years ago. Resembling a cross between a portable 1960s record player and a satellite, the Sundiner is compact, light and easy to carry. A built in thermometer lets you know when you have hit cooking temperatures. The unit is so efficient, that when I set it up at noon it hit 350° F within minut...

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Is Bob’s Red Mill’s Farro Actually Spelt?

...a, “sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro medio, farro grande, and farro piccolo, respectively.” To add to the confusion spelt and einkorn, are also known as faricella, or “little farro” in Italian. Confused? According to a 1997 article in the New York Times, “Farro, Italy’s Rustic Staple: The Little Grain That Could,” “true” farro is emmer (Triticum dicoccum) and considered superi...

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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 veggies in the ground...

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Supper for a buck?

Recently someone asked me how much it cost us to make a loaf of no-knead bread. I had no idea, but was intrigued by the question, so I went home and did the math on the flour. We buy our flour in bulk from fine company called Central Milling through the Los Angeles Bread Baker’s Club. A 50lb bag of general purpose flour costs $30.00. This works out less per pound than the cheap-0 flour at the supermarket. We actually go through so much fl...

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