CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

The nice folks 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 inc...

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How to start a chicken retirement community

Mrs. Homegrown here: So–here’s the story of another mistake we made. When Erik and I first got chickens we didn’t lay out a plan for dealing with the chickens as they aged. That was the mistake. Simple as that. Make your plans, people! We learned how to slaughter chickens–we knew we could do it if we needed to–but we never really sat down and decided what would happen to our ladies when they stopped laying. We̵...

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The World’s Most Beautiful Okra

If you live in a warm climate, okra is easy to grow and both beautiful and tasty. I spotted this variety growing at the Huntington Ranch: Burgundy Okra from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.The stems and seed pods are a deep and vibrant burgundy–a very stunning plant for your vegetable garden. While not as striking, this year I grew Clemson Spineless okra from seeds I saved. And thanks to a tip (can’t remember where I heard this) I’...

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Gardening Tip: Senecent Seedlings

With seedlings, small is good. Mrs. Homegrown here: Senescence is the “change of the biology in an organism as it ages after it reaches maturity” (see Wikipedia). I believe I’m experiencing it right now. What we’re here to warn you about today is buying plants which are old before their time. Seedlings which are senescent. What are senescent seedlings? Basically, these are seedlings whose roots have met the botto...

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Thoughts on Samhain

Image from the beautiful book, Haunted Air by Ossian Brown  Mrs. Homegrown here: I celebrate Samhain on November 1st because I enjoy marking the changing seasons of the year by making these old festivals my own. It’s so easy to lose track of time in an electronic culture. It’s even easier to lose track when you live in Los Angeles, land of the perpetual sunshine. Samhain marks the last harvest of the year. The weather is...

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Eco Blogging, Tin Foil Hats and Convention Mania

Yesterday’s post on the Natural Products Expo West reminded me that I never published a post I did on a large “Eco” convention I attended last year. I have a secret and embarrassing fondness for conventions of any kind. So, at the risk of never being invited to a convention again, here’s that old post I failed to publish until now: Most of the “eco” conventions I’ve attended in the past, to be honest, b...

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The Cat Poop Portal: Litter Box Composting, Installment #1

View up the side yard, looking toward the back yard. The new bin is all pretty and shiny. Mrs. Homegrown here: I posted about cat litter composting a while back, and got lots of interesting comments and suggestions. If you’re researching the topic, I suggest you check out that post, the comments especially. Since then, Erik and I have decided on the method we’re going to try. We’re just going to do straight up, classi...

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Acquainted with the Night

Light from Sunday Paper on Vimeo. This poetic video, shot in my own overlit hometown, likely expresses the filmmakers ideas about wasting electricity. But like all good art it has multiple interpretations. I’m going to suggest that it shows how electric lighting has stolen the gift of night, robbing us of our night skies and peaceful sleep. There’s a large body of evidence that artificial light plays havoc with our sleep patterns, h...

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In Chaos Order, In Order Chaos

Periodically Mrs. Homegrown and I teach vegetable gardening classes. For the students, I’ve been looking for a way to illustrate nature’s complex, non-linear dynamics that, paradoxically, seem ordered. I stumbled across this cool sculpture that neatly summarizes the idea of “in chaos order, in order chaos.” Imagine each of the hammers standing in for one of the systems in your garden, insect life, nutrients, microbes, f...

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Two Vegetable Gardening Commandments

Two of our vegetable beds looking kinda shabby. I spent the Thanksgiving weekend up on the vegetable gardening equivalent of Mount Sinai receiving a set of revelations. Someday I’ll have Mrs. Homegrown transcribe the complete stone tablets (urbanite rather than stone, technically) I received in their entirety. In the meantime, I’ll share two of the commandments: 1. Thou shalt not have more vegetable beds than thou canst ma...

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