Rain Barrels

Constructing a cistern large enough to supply potable indoor water is an ambitious project involving pumps, filters, UV purifiers, and very large and expensive tanks. We don’t want to discourage anyone from making an attempt at it, but for most urban homesteaders it won’t be economical or practical given the space requirements and weight of thousands of gallons of stored water. Thankfully, there are simpler strategies for harvesting...

Continue reading…

How to Deal with Extremely Root Bound Plants

First off, don’t buy root bound plants. It’s just a bad business, trouble and tears. In general, you should always try to buy the youngest plants you can find. They are healthier than plants which have spent more time in a pot, and will quickly grow to match the size of older, more expensive–and more likely than not–root bound plants. How do you know if the plant is root bound? Look at the bottom of the pot and see if ro...

Continue reading…

The Theme of a Great Garden

Today we toured one of the finest gardens in California, the new garden at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. The occasion was the opening of the new pollinator habitat. Head gardener Richard Hayden showed us around, taking us to the edible area as well as the new pollinator and Nature Gardens. This garden gave us so many ideas that we’re going to do several posts about it. One important design lesson I learned today is that great ga...

Continue reading…

What the Internet Will Look Like After the Zombie Apocalypse

Enterprising amateur radio operators in Texas, over the past several years, have created a wireless high speed data network, called HSMM-MESH or Broadband-Hamnet, completely independent of the internet. The map above is the network built by HAMs in Austin, Texas. Basically it’s a bunch of hacked Linksys routers connecting wirelessly over a wide area. Plug a laptop into any of the routers and you can trade messages, files and live video ba...

Continue reading…

Made in the shade- Passive cooling

...a to Long Island, and all the climate zones in between. Just stick an air conditioner on top, put in a heating unit, and you’re done. Sadly, most buildings are an energy efficiency disaster. Poor design is so prevalent, it is shocking once you know what to look for. Have you ever leaned up against a stucco or brick wall on a hot day? Ouch! You can literally burn your skin off. However, a passive building in the humid South, might feature c...

Continue reading…

How to Keep Skunks Out of the Yard

Skunks love to dig up our vegetables in search of grubs. Our late Doberman used to enjoy late night backyard skunk hunting expeditions which never ended well for him. For years I’ve used bird netting to keep them out of my vegetable beds. The problem with bird netting is that it’s a pain to work with–it catches on things, tangles up, and occasionally traps a bird. I hate the stuff. It took me 16 years to realize that I could ex...

Continue reading…

Online Adobe Classes With Kurt Gardella

Kurt Gardella, who built our adobe oven, will be teaching a few online classes. More information after the jump. Dear adobe friends, I wanted to remind you that I am teaching 2 Adobe in Action online classes beginning next Monday, March 17th. The History & Basics class will give you all of the skills you need to find and test soils for use in adobe construction and also take you through the process of making your own adobe bricks: Class: Hi...

Continue reading…

Saturday Linkages: DIY Coffee Roasting and That Crazy Rhubarb Lady

...bsite Where You Can Design Your Own Street » good read http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/08/12/meet-streetmix-the-website-where-you-can-design-your-own-street/ … Werner Herzog Made a Documentary About Texting While Driving. And It’s Haunting. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/08/09/werner_herzog_texting_while_driving_documentary_from_one_second_to_the_next.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=button_chunky … As City Consider...

Continue reading…

Cat Litter Compost, Installment #3

No, our cats aren’t privileged or anything. A gentle reader reminds us that it’s been too long since we updated you all on the cat litter compost. For background, see Installment One and Installment Two Long story short, cat litter composting can work (under the care of an experienced composter, mind), especially in conjunction with a worm bin–but I’ve found a method I like better. On the composting experiment: In our las...

Continue reading…

How to make your soup wonderful: Wild food soup stock

We’ve mentioned urban foragers and foodie extraordinaires Pascal Baudard and Mia Wasilevic before. They not only forage food, but go on to make really good stuff with it. One of their websites is Urban Outdoor Skills, and I like to go there to check out a section called the Food Lab, where they talk about food products they’re experimenting with, and give how-to’s. A few months ago Erik brought home a beautiful bouquet of nett...

Continue reading…