Coffee Chaff Chickens

A hen checks out her fluffy new digs: coffee chaff bedding Image shamelessly stolen from Lyanda Haupt’s Tangled Nest blog Mrs. Homegrown here: Deep litter in the chicken coop is good for chicken health, general aesthetics and good neighbor relations. Chickens need to scratch, so giving them lots of stuff to scratch is kind. It also absorbs odor and protects stray eggs from breakage. Even better, their constant scratching combines their...

Continue reading…

Rapini!

This morning SurviveLA harvested our first crop of the winter, delicious broccoli rabe, from our illegal parkway garden. Broccoli rabe or rapini, is often described as being bitter, but I think it would be better to describe store bought broccoli as band and rapini as “flavorful”. Actually rapini is not related to the broccoli plant and is instead more closely related to turnips. The variety we planted is called Cima di Rapa Quarant...

Continue reading…

Pierce Disease Resistant Grape Vines for Southern California

Pearl River Grape–slightly critter chewed, but still tasty. At the risk of counting our chickens before they’ve hatched, I think we finally have grape vines that are immune to Pierce’s disease. Pierce’s disease is a fatal condition spread by sucking (and sucky) insects known as sharpshooters. Once a vine get it there is no cure. Pierce’s is why your glass of California wine may one day be genetically modified. Over...

Continue reading…

Farm Hack

Farm Hack is an innovative blog that synthesizes high tech and low tech in the service of growing food and community. The blog is run by the National Young Farmers Coalition. While geared towards agriculture, many of the posts will be of interest to backyard gardeners. Recent subjects include a project to develop an infrared camera to monitor plant health, smartphone tools for farmers and open source appropriate technology resources. It’s...

Continue reading…

Straw Bale Garden Update: Success!

Ladies and gentleman, straw bale gardening works. I left town for a week earlier this month and, during my absence, the vegetables in the straw bale garden exploded in size. The Tromboncino squash on the left, is threatening to envelop the entire yard.  The tomatoes are equally vigorous and covered in ripening fruit. Zucchini is on the menu. While it takes an input of outside resources in the form of straw and fertilizer, straw bale gardening i...

Continue reading…

The Elysium Delusion

If the futurist projections of my childhood had come true, by 2013 we should have all been living in a spinning subdivision in earth orbit by now. But space colonization is a concept that’s always bugged me. It strikes me an irresponsible escape: rather than fix things on earth, let’s all get the hell out–it’s the ultimate form of suburban flight. NASA’s 1970s era version of Elysium The heyday of space colonization...

Continue reading…

Gourmet Foraging and Advanced Acorn Processing

It’s acorn season in Southern California. I’ve long been interested in acorns, knowing that they were the staple food of the native people who lived here, and I’ve gathered and processed them before. However, once I have the acorn meal, I’ve never known exactly what to do with it. It’s highly nutritious, but I thought (wrongly!) that it was somewhat bland, and all I could do was incorporate acorn meal into baked go...

Continue reading…

Root Simple Video Podcast Episode 4: Straw Bale Garden Tour

In the forth episode of the Root Simple Video Podcast we take a tour of our straw bale garden as it appears this week. The vegetables varieties you see growing are Tromboncino squash, Lunga di Napoli squash (growing up into a native bush), Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato, Celebrity tomato, eggplant and Swiss chard. And just to take down my smugness a notch I also included a shot of an unsuccessful cucumber plant. Other than the cucumber, thoug...

Continue reading…

Radish Surprise

A volunteer radish–I think it is a daikon–sprouted up in a little clear pocket of our yard. We let it go, ignored it. It grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Usually a radish is harvested early, so we never see how big they can get. This one got huge, then burst out into hundreds of tiny purple flowers. Hummingbirds, honey bees and all sorts of flying insects visit it all day, every day. It has become one of the queens of the garden...

Continue reading…

Straw Bale Garden Part III: Adding Fertilizer

After watering our straw bales for three days our next step is to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer. We’re following West Virginia University Extension Service’s Straw Bale Gardening advice. They suggest a 1/2 cup of urea per bale or “bone meal, fish meal, or compost for a more organic approach.” (I think they mean blood meal as bone meal does not have much nitrogen in it.) Choosing the organic approach, we’re water...

Continue reading…