The Great Sunflower Project

Help determine the health of urban bees with a citizen science experiment called the Great Sunflower Project. It’s simple and free. Just register at the Great Sunflower Project website and you’ll be sent a package of wild annual sunflower seeds ( Helianthus annuus). Twice a month you’ll get an email to remind you to time how long it takes for five bees to visit your sunflowers. Sounds like it has drinking game potential, though...

Continue reading…

Homegrown Revolution at the Alt-Car Expo

...definitely what Socrates would call, “the considered life”–it demands your full attention. But there are ways to minimize the danger and maximize the fun. Two good sources: the League of American Cyclists Road 1 class and Robert Hurst’s excellent book, The Art of Urban Cycling Lessons from the Street. Route choice, i.e. going out of the way if you have to to choose mellow streets, will also greatly reduce the hassle of dea...

Continue reading…

How Much Can You Carry on a Bicycle?

...t and transport home just as many items as we used to in the car. Longtail bikes handle just like regular bikes. Their long wheel base, in fact, makes them more stable. And I’m always surprised at how easy it is to climb hills even with heavy groceries. One need not be car-free to enjoy a cargo bike. For many years Kelly and I shared a car. The Xtracycle was a big part of making that car-light arrangement work. When people ask if urban home...

Continue reading…

In Praise of Disorder

Loose chickens in Houston A neighborhood whose demographics fall somewhere between the extremes of the crack den and the country club presents just the right level of civic inattention to allow the urban homesteader to get away with many of the illegal projects profiled in this blog: greywater, backyard poultry, and front yard vegetable gardening, to mention just a few. Ideally you have a balance between order and disorder–neither gunfir...

Continue reading…

Something for Nothing – Wild Mustard Greens

Sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch, which was the case for us yesterday after discovering a large stand of white mustard (Sinapis alba) growing at the end of a nearby dead end street. Mustard grows all over the neighborhood, but rarely in a place out of dog pee range like this little patch. Classified by the USDA as a noxious weed, the leaves have a pleasant and pungent flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. From the Plants for a F...

Continue reading…

Mulberries

The Mulberry trees (Morus nigra) along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou are producing their delicious fruit. The picture above is an immature berry–this particular tree produces a dark purple berry when ready to eat. Some sources on the internets, as well as Delena Tull’s excellent book Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest warn against consuming the unripe fruit, claiming that doing so produces an unpleasant, mildly psyc...

Continue reading…

A Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights Part II

...ificant road space. 3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement. 4) Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law. 5) Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements. 6) Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development a...

Continue reading…

Tell the Bees

Anderson removing a hive from a fence. Photo from the Backwards Beekeepers. Urban beekeeper Kirk Anderson has a vision: bees, kept without the use of chemicals, in backyards all over Los Angeles. Homegrown Evolution was lucky to be able to attend a beekeeping class taught by the very knowledgeable and entertaining Anderson, who has a theory: “There has been a lot of news stories about the bees dying. They became infested with a parasitic...

Continue reading…

City Farm Chicago

...stand and provides opportunities for economically under-developed neighborhoods. City Farm is a mobile endeavor. The basic idea is to take advantage of some vacant land and, when the inevitable development comes, pull up everything and move on. Assuming that urban land is contaminated, the City Farm folks simply piled up about three feet of compost, soil and mulch right on top of the broken concrete and asphalt of its current location. All that s...

Continue reading…

On Living in Los Angeles Without a Car: A Debate

...re. I know it’s possible–we’ve been doing it. But it’s not pleasant. Have you ever heard the term “pole shade”? It’s the thin sliver of shadow thrown down by the pole of a street light. People waiting for buses in LA huddle in the pole shadows, trying to shelter from the insanely intense LA sun. There are very few bus shelters here. Bus stops are ill-marked afterthoughts in an already unlovely urban lands...

Continue reading…