DIY Outdoor Shower

Photo by the MacAllen Brothers Showers are overrated. The first step in considering whether to build an outdoor solar heated shower is to take a step back and consider boring old conservation. Shower less and make sure that your domicile is equipped with a low-flow shower head. Not only will you be saving water and burning less fossil fuels to heat that water, but your body odor will soon separate your real friends from superficial hangers-on....

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Backwoods Home Magazine

Imagine Martha Stewart as a gun-toting radical libertarian and you’ll have some idea what the always informative and entertaining Backwoods Home Magazine is like. Even though its primary emphasis is rural off-grid living, every issue has something to offer for the urban homesteader. The current January/February issue features a detailed article on how city dwellers can maximize their vegetable production in small spaces. Even the article on runn...

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Row Covers in a Warm Climate

The aftermath of a skunk rampage. Here’s an unintended organic gardening chain of events: 1. Scoop up multiple trash bags full of fruit scraps from Fallen Fruit’s jam making event at Machine Project. 2. Add this large bounty of organic material to the compost pile. 3. Watch as a bunch of beetle larvae hatch and devour the fruit and other goodies in the compost pile. 4. Sift compost and feed most of the larvae to a happy flock of hen...

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Raccoon Proof Chicken Coop

Homegrown Neighbor here again: Things aren’t always idyllic in the world of urban farming. Actually, they rarely are. There is literally a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into what we do. I’m still recovering from a scare we had a few days ago. After two years of trying, the other night at 2:30 a.m. a raccoon managed to break into my chicken coop. My housemate and I were up there in our pajamas shrieking while the hens flapped and...

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Red Cabbage Kraut

Homegrown Neighbor here: Red cabbage sauerkraut is my new favorite condiment. I put it on everything including stir-fry, pasta, eggs, salads and soups. The kraut is salty so it is a great addition. No need to add salt or soy sauce to anything- kraut will kick up the flavor. Then of course there is the color. Sure, I could eat ordinary green cabbage kraut. But where is the fun and excitement in that? Green cabbage turns grey and colorless when...

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Gathering of Community Gardeners

This weekend is the third annual Gathering of the Gardens in Los Angeles. While the event is put together by the non-profit L.A. Community Garden Council, it is open to all interested parties. You don’t have to be a member of a community garden to attend, just interested in community building and gardening. There will be workshops and discussions on topics such as vegetable gardening, composting, native plants, beekeeping and even a worksh...

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Chicken Coop Deconstructed

Homegrown Neighbor here. I volunteer at a local high school with an agricultural program. Remember that we are in the middle of Los Angeles and agriculture is largely a thing of the past here. This school is one of the last public high schools in the area to have space devoted to an orchard, garden and farm. Right now it is home to a goat, a Vietnamese pot bellied pig, dozens of rabbits and two hens. As can be expected, the program hasn’t...

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Mushrooms and Yard Sharing

Mr. Homegrown contemplates his many writing tasks. Mr. Homegrown needs your help with two topics. First, for our second book, I’d like to talk to someone who has successfully grown oyster mushrooms from spawn. I’m looking for advice on preparing and inoculating the growing medium. I’m not looking for folks who have grown oyster mushrooms from kits which, in my humble opinion, are not cost effective. If anyone knows of well wri...

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Least Favorite Plant: Ficus benjamina

Photo by Elon Schoenholz While Ficus benjamina, a.k.a. “weeping fig”, is one of my least favorite trees, my most favorite photographer, Elon Schoenholz is currently posting a series of ficus tree images on his blog. Schoenholz, wisely, takes a neutral stance on this hot button tree describing Ficus as, “L.A.’s favorite underappreciated, unheralded, unfavorite curbside flora. I have no real love for these trees, per se, n...

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Birds on a Wire

A neighbor told me this morning that when the house next door to him was for sale the owners asked him not to hang laundry on his clothesline because it would, “bring down their property value.” And, of course, many housing developments have the same anti-clothesline restriction. Is it some distant cultural memory of 19th century tenement buildings, an id-based Ralph Kramden, an intense fear of anything urban? Maybe this clever desi...

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