Book Review: Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat

How can we save the world? Simple. Get everyone to read and understand the contents of a new book, Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat. Why? There’s the obvious–pollinating insects provide a huge amount of our food–but they also have a few unappreciated roles. Without pollinators, plant communities that stabilize river banks disappear. Ma...

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Loofah Sponges

We talk about the joy of loofah–or luffa– (Luffa aegyptiaca) all the time, but I don’t believe we’ve every blogged about it here. I was reminded of it when we received a letter from Candace, who heard us on a podcast talking about how much fun it was to grow loofah sponges. She said: I wanted to thank you for that part of the interview in particular.  I decided to grow some this summer and it has been a great joy.  It i...

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Why we moderate comments

  When you leave a comment on this blog, it doesn’t appear immediately. It’s held for us to approve. We’re not afraid of what our readers have to say (Root Simple readers are always very civil) but we have to protect the comments from the inanities of spam. We thought you’d might like to see some of it, so you know why you have to wait for your comment to go up. The majority of the spam is of the False Reader sort. Thes...

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Miner’s lettuce

Miner’s lettuce reminds me of tiny lily pads I was delighted to find a specimen of this delicious little weed growing in our yard among the poppies: miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), but I don’t think it will thrive. This plant is native to the West coast of the U.S. (and down into S. America, I believe) but it doesn’t do well in LA.* I never see it on the streets in my neighborhood, it’s too hot and...

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Tree Tobacco as a Stinging Nettle Cure

Tree tobacco or Nicotiana glauca. Image from Wikipedia. Yesterday’s Solanum nigrum (Black Nightshade) post reminded me of a fascinating tidbit about another plant from the nightshade family that I learned from foraging expert Pascal Baudar: the leaves of tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) ease stinging nettle rash. We were out gathering nettles with Pascal, so the lesson was much appreciated–and field tested. All you have to d...

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Natural Dyeing with Woad

Earlier in the month while the boys stayed at home with Eric, I attended a French General workshop on dyeing with woad (Isatis tinctoria). Woad (from the Brassicaceae family, a cousin to broccoli & cauliflower) has been cultivated in Europe since ancient times. Woad was prized by Napoleon and used to dye his army’s uniforms. At one time, the production of woad was the cornerstone of the economy of the south of France. Indigo o...

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Side Yard Hops Trellis

A little hard to see in these crapular photos: the new south side hops trellis. I love looking out our bedroom window in the summer at the hops I’ve trained up the east side of the house. And I also like the beer I’ve made with those hops, so much so that I decided to expand my hops growing project to the south side of the house. Otherwise useless, the narrow side yard on the south side of the house is the perfect place for...

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Why we love fennel

Fennel is an invasive plant, and there are plenty of fennel haters out there, many of them our friends, but every year we let a stand or two of wild fennel take root in our yard anyway. We just had to pause now, while the fennel is high, to say that we love it, because it is hardy and beautiful and grows with no water and no encouragement. Feral fennel bulbs aren’t as good as cultivated bulbs for eating, but we eat the flowers, the fronds...

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Backwards is the New Forwards

Our beekeeping mentor Kirk Anderson had some words of wisdom on Facebook yesterday, Hey, the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Better plant that garden get those chickens plant a tree and get some bees. I have spoken. Got nothing more to add to that. And, about getting those bees, watch Kirk’s instructional videos on the website of the Backwards Beekeepers. ...

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Magenta Spreen Lambsquarter

Magenta Spreen Lambsquarter (Chenopodium giganteum a.k.a. “tree spinach”) has reemerged in our garden via the compost pile. It’s a striking edible weed, part of the family that encompasses spinach, quinoa and epazote. Seeds of Change sells this beautiful variety, oddly named “Magenta Spreen.” Like other members of the Chenopodium family it has a fair amount of oxalic acid which could be a problem if it’s all...

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