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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CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

...lks at Solar Cookers International gave us permission to reprint plans for their CooKit solar cooker in our book Making It. You can access those plans, as well as many other solar cooker projects, for free, on their website here. I’ve made CooKits out of cardboard and aluminum foil a couple of times. One problem is that I eventually bang up the cardboard and I’ve got to make a new one. This summer I had a lot of  1/4 inch plywood lef...

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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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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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Cat Poop Compost Installment #2

...composting is a safe and sane solution to a waste stream problem–that’s why I’m writing about it, after all– I also know that it can be handled badly. (The stories we hear!) So please, read up on the subject before starting. You should have a solid foundation in regular compost to begin with, because all the basics apply. Take a good composting class or find a compost mentor. Read the Humanure Handbook. For complete safet...

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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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Phoebe Update and a Question: Is Pet Insurance Worthwhile?

Many of you have asked for an update on our cat Phoebe. She was born with a very defective heart. Instead of being separated into chambers, basically Pheobe’s heart is one big sack. Even her heart valves are defective. If she were a human being, in a prosperous country, she would be waiting for a heart transplant. Cats, however, can’t have heart transplants. Our vet has said that we should enjoy every day we have with her, but that...

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How to Roast Your Own Coffee in a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

...nutes. The next thing you’re listening for is the “second crack.” As soon as those beans start making noise again you dump them on a cookie tray to cool down. That’s really all there is to it. Sweet Maria’s has a pdf sheet with more detailed Whirley-Pop instructions as well as a review of other home roasting methods. Our instructor at the Institute class, Ian Riley, suggested storing the beans at room temperature in...

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