Michael Tortorello on Urban Homesteading

...n one place for your reading pleasure: “Heirloom Seeds or Flinty Hybrids?“Yes, hybrid seeds are o.k. and I agree. “The Permaculture Movement Grows From Underground“The wonders of permaculture plus a jab at aerated compost tea. “Finding the Potential in Vacant Lots” Recent boom and bust cycles have left us with a lot of room to grow stuff. “Food Storage as Grandma Knew It“Tortorello actually tracked...

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Legalize Baking!

...or the sale of certain home-made food products, namely: baked goods (but with no cream or meat fillings), jams and jellies, candy, granola and other dry cereal, popcorn, waffle cones and pizzelles, nut mixes, chocolate covered non-perishables (such as nuts and dried fruit), roasted coffee, dry baking mixes, herb blends, and dried tea. Many states already have cottage food laws making it possible for folks to start small businesses out of th...

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CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

...lks at Solar Cookers International gave us permission to reprint plans for their CooKit solar cooker in our book Making It. You can access those plans, as well as many other solar cooker projects, for free, on their website here. I’ve made CooKits out of cardboard and aluminum foil a couple of times. One problem is that I eventually bang up the cardboard and I’ve got to make a new one. This summer I had a lot of  1/4 inch plywood lef...

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Winter Squash Disaster

...” fiasco.  This year I planted a few Marina di Chioggia squash plants (technically a pumpkin) in one of my vegetable beds located in a more secure location. Instead of some homo sapien making off with my squash bounty, it looks like the neighborhood raccoons are having a gnocchi party somewhere. All I’ve got to show for three Chioggia plants is one small squash and the one pictured above. Household animal tracking expert Mrs. Homegr...

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Support AB 1616 To Make Bake Sales Legal in California

...ill finally allow people in California to legally sell bread [and other "non-hazardous" food such as honey, jams and jellies] they bake at home! The Los Angeles Bread Bakers helped draft the legislation and will be organizing community support for it over the next few months. If all goes well, the bill will be signed into law by the governor by the end of the summer. But, of course, it will take a lot of work to make sure this happens, including...

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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

...d rates of antibiotic resistance.” So anti-bacterial soaps are proven to be no better than regular soap and water and maybe, just maybe–there’s still research to be done–they could be disastrously worse. Why roll the dice on this one? It just doesn’t make any sense. For me, this makes anti-bacterial soaps about as needful as evening wear for hogs accessorized with a doomsday device. 3) And finally, the wastefulne...

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The Return of the Fraternal Society

...c divisions. But if fraternal groups have any hope of success they will, this time around, need to stress racial and gender equality and not repeat the discriminatory errors of the past (and unfortunately the present). Meetup.com is a great tool to develop communities unified by interest, but it does not guarantee that you’ll meet people different (by race, economic class, profession) than yourself. And Facebook is just about making Mark Zu...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...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. Meanwhile, our vegetables must be grown in raised beds from now out. We used to have two main vegetable beds in the center of our back yard–they were our workhorses. Since the lead scare we’ve pulled up those beds. Th...

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