Showers to Flowers

...g. The minimum fall for waste pipes is 1/4 inch per foot — any less and you’ll risk a backup. 2. Cut the waste line from your shower, making sure that you are cutting the pipe before the point it meets up with anything coming out of the toilet. Remember you don’t want blackwater in your garden. If possible (i.e. if easily accessible via a trap door or some other configuration), install a three way diverter valve like the one pi...

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Book Review: My Side of the Mountain

...es various solutions, and most often fails on the first two or three attempts. He makes mistakes and learns from them. More significantly, he often finds his solutions in the library or from helpful mentors. For instance, he could not make fire with flint and book-learning alone. He needs a kindly old man to demonstrate the whole fire making process to him. So not only does the book show that failures are the merely part of the road to success, i...

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Make a Pepsi Can Stove

...stove uses denatured alcohol solvent, sometimes called shellac thinner which is available at any hardware store. The stove is fabricated with the bottom of a Guinness beer can and the bottom of a Pepsi can and the end result is incredibly light. I cut the top off of a 24 ounce Heineken can to make a pot and I used some chicken wire and aluminum foil for a stand. Basically this setup is good for boiling a cup of water, so don’t plan on makin...

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Trapping bees out of a kitchen vent

...way exit for bees that are somewhere they aren’t wanted, in this case a kitchen vent. Foraging bees leave the hive but can’t come back in. Next to the one way exit you place a “nuc” box (a cardboard box that holds five frames) that contains open brood comb, cells with eggs and larvae, from another hive. The workers can’t get back into their old home, adopt the brood comb in the box and use it to create a new queen....

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Solar Light Hack

We wanted a solar powered light over our new entrance arbor. The problem is that most of the lights available are just plain ugly. And the solar panels on the cheaper models are usually mounted on the light itself making it impossible to place them in a shady spot. I came up with a simple solution. First, I bought an inexpensive solar light intended to be mounted on a fence. I took it apart and desoldered the LEDs off the circuit board. Nex...

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Summer of Solar Cookin’

...rock pot or slow cooker, just using solar energy instead of electricity. I’ve made a lot of black beans in it, but I’ve also used it to cook pintos, adzukis, mung beans and white beans. I usually grab a sprig of an herb or a bay leaf from the garden to throw in the pot. Here is what I made today: Solar Powered Navy Beans 2 cups navy beans a handful of celery leaves 5 garlic cloves, whole 1/4 cup pickled red onion (just sliced red...

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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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Laundry to Landscape Legal in LA

...se google. Any standard that can’t compete with “free” and “zero time for compliance” is doomed to irrelevance. The only way government agencies can compete is to offer “free”, “zero time for compliance” legal systems that are better, and can be installed by professionals instead of having to do it yourself. This involves surrendering the illusion of control, in trade for actually making things better on the ground.” By foreg...

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My Big Fat Greek Squash

...lot better than most pumpkin I’ve had. We roasted one squash to make squash tortellini among other dishes. The best recipe, however, was for a savory winter squash pie (galette) out of Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (thanks to Bruce of the Green Roof Growers for suggesting this book). Bittman’s spicy winter squash galette recipe is here on MSNBC along with a video of him making it. I’ll note that th...

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CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

...ain’t gonna deep fry things with a panel cooker, but they are great for slow-cooked crock pot type dishes. The only disadvantage to this design is having to cut curves, but with a sharp knife it wasn’t difficult. The other improvement would be a stand to lift the pot off the aluminum foil for more efficiency and to keep the cooker un-scuffed. When panel cooker season returns to LA in the springtime, you can bet I’ll be making a...

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