Lead Update

This week I thought I’d do a series of posts about soil and heavy metals beginning with a few more details about the possible lead contamination situation in our backyard. Two weeks ago Darren Butler, who is teaching a vegetable gardening series at our house, led a class project where we took four samples from different locations in the backyard, mixed them together and sent them off to Wallace Laboratories, a local soil testing lab with...

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A Grand Tour

Say howdy to Wendy and Mikey, intrepid homesteaders from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Thanks to the wonders of internet video we can all see what they’ve been up to: a long list of activities that includes, papercrete, oyster mushroom cultivation, DIY drip irrigation, vegetable gardening, rainwater harvesting, dome building and more. The Grand Tour from Mikey Sklar on Vimeo. Wendy and Mickey blog about their activities at blog.holy...

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Compost Rebuttal

Kelly’s secret compost pile. I found out via a blog post last week that Kelly had secretly constructed a compost pile to deal with a surplus of kitchen scraps. She knew I’d be unhappy with this due to my anal retentive approach to composting. So why am I unhappy with this pile? The reason is simple: it’s too small and will never generate enough heat to: Kill weed seeds. Kill human and plant pathogens. Kill root nemat...

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4 Vermicomposting Tips

Ecological landscape designer Darren Butler has been teaching a series of classes at the Root Simple compound this month (I think there may be a few open slots in his Intermediate Organic Gardening class if you’re interested. Click here for details). Darren dropped a few vermicomposting tips during the beginning class that we thought we’d share: 1) Worms don’t like empty space in their bin. They dislike voids. They appreciate...

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Urine as a Fertilizer

How do I spend my Saturday mornings you ask? Answer: scanning the peer reviewed literature for articles about using human urine as a nitrogen source in the garden, i.e. taking a leak in the watering can. As we’re currently hosting some excellent classes at our house taught by Darren Butler, a big proponent of what he calls “pee-pee-ponics,” I thought I’d take a look at the science of urine use. Urine offers a free and re...

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Question for you: Do you like giveaways?

The more we blog, the more offers we get from people willing to provide goods for giveaways that we host–we’re talking new books, gardening tools, seeds, that sort of stuff. (Although we have been endlessly spammed by an antique replica sword company who is desperate that we share their information with you. Their marketing focus is obviously rapier sharp.) We’re of two minds on this. We like free stuff, and are happy to be a c...

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UMass Soil Testing

I finally got around to trying out the University of Massachusetts’ soil testing service and can report that it’s fast and cheap. I tested two areas of my yard for both nutrients and heavy metals and found out, more or less, what I expected, that I need to add a small amount of nitrogen. Surprisingly, for having such an old house, I don’t have a lead problem. It costs just $9 for the basic test and $13 for the basic test + hea...

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Homemade Cat Toys

Top to bottom: Trout, palm frond, twine, acorn, plastic strip This is advice for new cat owners coming from relatively new cat owners: don’t waste your money on cat toys. Cats are fickle, ungrateful little creatures. Novelty is more important to them than just about anything else. And I don’t mean genuine novelty–they don’t need newer and stranger toys all the time. Rather, individual toys seem to get stale for t...

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Mallow (Malva parviflora) an Edible Friend

In late February, towards the end of our winter rains, it’s high weed season here in Los Angeles–folks in other parts of the country will have to wait a few more months. We await this season with anticipation, since it’s the best time of year to forage for wild edible weeds. We’ll highlight a few of these edible weeds in the next few months beginning today with Mallow (Malva parviflora also known as cheeseweed because the...

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