Behold the Western Electric 500

There’s much to love about the Western Electric 500 telephone. It’s easily serviceable and built like a tank. Why? When it was manufactured you didn’t own your phone, the telephone company leased it to you. This relationship served as a powerful incentive to manufacture a device that would last. In the 90s I went through three or four cheap cordless phones that broke after a few months of service. I switched back to an old tou...

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Squash Baby Stolen!

Squash Baby’s empty cage This morning we woke to find that Squash Baby had been taken during the night. Erik just returned from searching the neighborhood, hoping to find traces, remanants or, heaven help us, the perp him or herself.  Needless to say, he is cursing. He’d planned on harvesting Squash Baby today, so it is particularly heartbreaking. It had stopped adding inches (I believe it held at 36″), and had start...

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Plantago coronopus, a.k.a. Buckhorn Plantain, a.k.a. Erba Stella

Cruise down the produce isle of a supermarket in the United States and you’ll only find highly domesticated foods. Thumb through the pages of the Silver Spoon (the Joy of Cooking of Italian Cuisine) and you’ll discover entire chapters devoted to the use of wild or semi-wild plants. This summer I grew one of these semi-cultivated Italian vegetables, Buckhorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) also known as Erba Stella and Barba di frat...

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Asian Citrus Psyllid Eradication Program Causes Outbreak of Citrus Leafminer

Florida citrus farmers have been blanketing their orchards with pesticides in an attempt to eliminate the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an insect that caries a fatal citrus disease. But the campaign has had unintended consequences, namely the eradication of the natural predators of another citrus pest, the leafminer. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, “The leafminer moth, Phyllocnistis citrella, forms channels as it feeds inside...

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Self Irrigating Pot Patent from 1917

I’ve often blogged about the convenience of self irrigating pots (SIPs), containers that have a built-in reservoir of water at the bottom. They work well for growing vegetables on patios and rooftops. You can make your own or purchase one from several manufacturers. I had thought that Blake Whisenant, a Florida tomato grower and Earthbox company founder, had invented the SIP in the 1990s, but it turns out that the idea came much earlier....

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Ridiculous Press Release Tuesday

I’m not making this up I’m getting so many off-target press releases clogging my inbox that I’ve decided to share them until the publicists who send them get a clue and actually spend some time reading this blog. One release in particular should get an award for crassness. The American Dietetic Association has, apparently, teamed up with industrial food giant ConAgra (am I the only person who sees that pairing as a con...

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Waiting for our tomatoes/Tomatoland

grow! grow faster! Mrs. Homegrown here: Via Boing Boing, I found this excerpt on Onearth Magazine’s website, from a new book called Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, which is apparently a document of all the indignities suffered by the industrial tomato–the tomato that sits, bright red, useless and flavorless, on store shelves year round, country-wide. Here at the Root Simple compound, we choose to eat tomatoes seasonally̵...

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Mellow Yellow: How to Make Dandelion Wine

Today on Root Simple we welcome another guest post from our Midwest correspondent Nancy Klehm: In the past week, we Midwesterners have experienced three hard frosts – killing back the growth, that emerged too early of my grapes and hardy kiwis and zapping peach blossoms. We will see if there is any fruit onset and if my vines recover. Meanwhile, it is dandelion wine time! I first tasted dandelion wine when I bought a bottle of it at a folksy gi...

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How to Prep Fabric for Dyeing: Scouring

Check out the water after boiling my supposedly clean sheet! As usual, I’m taking my shibori challenge right to the deadline. One important preparatory step to dyeing is a cleansing process called “scouring.” I’d never heard of this before now, which may be why all my casual attempts at dyeing thus far have not turned out so great. I spent my weekend scouring so I can move on to dyeing. And then on to sewing! Yik...

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Kelly’s Shibori Challenge

...;m going to tell you all my plan so I can’t get lazy, back out, and watch Netflix instead of working.  As I execute this plan, I’ll post some more and so hopefully will share some useful information with you along the way, The plan is in three parts: Part the First: I’m going to make natural dyes using common plants like red cabbage and sour grass, following the instructions in The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize You...

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