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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Broom Corn–or is it Broomcorn?

Mrs. Homegrown here: This summer I suggested we plant broom corn for no other good reason than I saw the seed pack at the nursery and thought it would be fun to make a broom. (This sort of temporary insanity often overtakes me in the seed aisle.) So without knowing anything at all about broom corn or broom making we planted a block of the stuff. Maybe I should have done a little research into broom making before planting, but I let it slide ...

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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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Winter Squash Disaster

Those of you who follow this blog may recall last summer’s “squash baby” 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 sm...

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Which fruits and vegetables should I buy organic?

Want the rest? You’ll have to visit the site. Mrs. Homegrown here: My recent post about tomatoes reminded me that I needed to post this–I’ve been meaning to for a while.  The Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Shopping Guide has a listing of foods most contaminated with pesticides, and those least contaminated: the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. Keeping this list in mind help you make choices as to where layi...

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Are Raised Beds a Good Idea?

Raised bed fail. Our appalling parkway beds. Extra demerits for having used treated lumber! * Raised beds have some pluses and minuses. Lately I’ve been thinking about their drawbacks. Namely: Cost How fast they dry out in a hot climate. Now I can also think of a few reasons one might want to grow vegetables in a raised bed: You do a soil test (and you should do a soil test, especially if you live in an urban area) and the res...

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Droopy Leaves are Not a Good Thing

Droopy Dawg Mrs. Homegrown here: So I just learned I’ve been taken in by a popular myth. You know how in the summer, the leaves of some plants go droopy in the heat of midday, then bounce back when it cools off? I’d heard…somewhere…who knows how these things get planted in your brain…that this was nothing to worry about. I’d also heard that was ineffectual, anyway, to water them midday. Well, I was wr...

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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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