Michael Tortorello on Urban Homesteading

Michael Tortorello, who wrote that nice piece about us a few months ago, “Living Large, Off the Land,” is one of my favorite writers on gardening and “urban homesteady” topics. He’s critical without being curmudgeonly and manages to separate the truth from the hype (and there’s an awful lot of hype in this movement!). Plus he managed to get an entire paragraph about my thyrsus into the New York Times. Thyrsus...

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Winter Squash Disaster

...echnically a pumpkin) in one of my vegetable beds located in a more secure location. Instead of some homo sapien making off with my squash bounty, it looks like the neighborhood raccoons are having a gnocchi party somewhere. All I’ve got to show for three Chioggia plants is one small squash and the one pictured above. Household animal tracking expert Mrs. Homegrown assures me that the nearby scat pile belongs to some raccoons. My thoughts...

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The grape that ate the world

...e maybe five years ago now. While the rest of our grapes wilt and struggle, this one is completely the opposite. It is monstrously huge, cheerfully indestructible, and absolutely out of control. Without water or any encouragement whatsoever it has grown all along the side of the house, from the back yard to the front yard–some 50 feet. It long ago swamped the 6′ chain link fence and now entertains itself by making grabs at both our ho...

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National Wildlife Federation Teams with Scotts

Time to take down those “certified wildlife habitat” signs as it seems the National Wildlife Federation has entered into a “partnership” with Scotts, manufacturers of a host of wildlife unfriendly synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Some thoughts: Scotts products do grave injury to microbial and fungal life in the soil to say nothing of insects. The NWF has too narrow an idea of what constitutes “wildlife”...

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Support AB 1616 To Make Bake Sales Legal in California

...at home! The Los Angeles Bread Bakers helped draft the legislation and will be organizing community support for it over the next few months. If all goes well, the bill will be signed into law by the governor by the end of the summer. But, of course, it will take a lot of work to make sure this happens, including visits to elected representatives. For those of you who need more info about it, please visit cottagefood.org. Many states have cottage...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...ollutant) is located and 2) to harvest the clay beneath to use in our earth oven. Between the clay harvested for making the adobe bricks and cob, and the supplemental clay that we’ve put aside for future repairs and maintenance on the oven, the pit has grown to be about 12 feet wide and 2 feet deep. This pit is going to be our new planting area, but obviously it needs to be filled in. Instead of buying imported soil, we’re going to gr...

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The Sacred Chickens of Ancient Rome

...038; d’Alembert: Sacred chickens were chickens raised by priests in Roman times, and which were used for making auguries. Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens. The most common method of drawing these omens consisted in examining the manner in which the chickens dealt with grain that was presented to them. If they ate it avidly while stamping their feet a...

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Indigo 101

...era suffruticosa, which is native to Mexico and South America. • You can grow your own indigo (any seeds you buy labeled as Indigo will probably be tictorium or suffructicosa). Indigofera is a pretty plant from the legume family. That family is valuable in the garden because it draws nitrogen into the soil. It would be nice to grow just as a conversation starter. I don’t know much about making the dye from scratch, but it is quite possible...

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