Why We Travel By Train

Amtrak ain’t this grand, but it’s a lot better than flying! Photo via the Library of Congress. We’re headed up to Northern California, Oregon and Washington to promote our new book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World . And, with the exception of the San Francisco to Seattle leg, we’re traveling by train. Why do this when it’s more expensive, time consuming and probably makes our dear publis...

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My Big Fat Greek Squash

...few mystery Greek vegetables growing in the garden. This spring he gave me a squash seedling he had propagated. It grew into a massive vine and produced two winter squashes whose weight exceeded the capacity of my kitchen scale. I harvested them last month and we’ve been eating a lot of squash! The skin turned a kind of manila envelope color and the flesh was a deep orange. It kind of looks like a butternut squash on steroids. The flavor r...

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CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

...ing with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard. It has a couple of nice features: It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles. When you fold it up it takes up no more space than an album (do I have to explai...

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Maggots!

...We’ve never tried one of these things and reviews that we’ve seen are mixed. With any compost pile it’s best to maintain a 50-50 ratio of carbon material to nitrogen materials. Carbon materials are essentially everything that is brown, like dead leaves, sawdust and dry grass. Nitrogen materials include fruit, vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. The type of pile you construct depends upon the materials you have available to co...

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Make a Pepsi Can Stove

Preparedness means having a backup system for all of the things we depend on. If the gas goes out in an earthquake how are you going to cook? Thankfully the world of backpacking offers a number of solutions. Our favorite is the Pepsi can stove which you can build using these incredibly detailed instructions. [Editor's note 7/27/08: looks like the author of that Pepsi can stove site failed to renew the url and, sadly, the link no longer works. We...

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The Sound of One Hand Snapping

...il and pull the spring back. The spring bangs one end into the other, thereby driving the nail. We’ve used it for years, and driven hundreds of nails with it, hanging molding, fixing windows, making furniture, and countless other tasks. It’s possible, in fact, to drive nails with this thing without using a hammer and it’s especially useful in tight spaces where there is not enough room to swing a hammer. If SurviveLA ever sells...

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Book Review: My Side of the Mountain

...a boy from New York City who runs away to live on his own in the Catskill Mountains–in 1959.  Since then, it has won the Newbery Medal and been consistently ranked high in recommended reading lists for children. Recently I re-read My Side for the first time in many, many years. I suspect that many Root Simple readers will be familiar with this book, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I’d rank this book as one of the most...

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Red Cabbage Kraut

...But now I am converted. I think if the kraut on my hot dog when I was a kid was bright pink, I would have liked it a lot better. This is my weird and wonderful urban farmer breakfast: raw kale, pinto beans, a spoonful of homemade pesto, eggs and kraut. Trust me, its delicious. I need a nutrition packed breakfast to go clean the chicken coop and garden all day. I got my kraut making ideas and recipes from Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutriti...

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Row Covers in a Warm Climate

...scrap PVC pipe to create hoops to hold the row cloth above the plants. Agribon is so light that you can just put it on top of many plants without hoops. Now I can sleep at night knowing that my beds are locked down in a kind of “vegetable Guantanamo”. Johnny’s Seeds sells Agribon 15 in 250 foot rolls for $45. Seeds of Change sells it in 5o foot lengths for $26. It would make sense for most urban homesteaders go in with a few f...

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Seedling Disaster!

...t shameful; this is wrongheaded and foolish . . . Mistakes are synonymous with learning. Failing is unavoidable. Making is a process, not an end. It is true that deep experience helps avoid problems, but mainly it gives you mental tools with which to solve inevitable problems when they come up.” -Tom Jennings, as quoted in Mark Frauenfelder’s excellent new book, Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World   Oh, but those...

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