Advances in Gardening Series: Thoughts on The Fan, and the problems of overabudance

The Fan late in the season, about to be pulled out. See earlier photos of The Fan here. Mrs. Homegrown here: Last fall we dug up a sort of feral herb bed and replaced it with a more formal, three-part bed that I call The Fan. The idea is to use this bed to plant annual herbs and flowers. While some of these plants are medicinal, it is also a bed dedicated more to aesthetics than the rest of our garden, so it’s also a place where I...

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The grape that ate the world

grapefail or grapewin? We’ve posted about our grape problems before. Pierce’s disease makes it hard to grow grapes in SoCal. We’ve been trying to get resistant varieties to grow on our patio arbor (aka The Masculinity Pavillion) with no success. Our most recent planting attempts are stunted and unhappy, meaning that once again we’re experiencing A Summer Without Shade. While our “resistant” varietie...

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Legalize Baking!

Did you know that in California and many other states it’s illegal to hold a bake sale? That a synagogue in Los Angeles got busted by the Health Department for hosting a bake sale? That you can’t bake bread in a home kitchen and resell it? Obviously, we need to change this. In what looks like an economic climate that won’t change for the better anytime soon, we need to encourage micro-business enterprises, foster a entreprene...

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Michael Tortorello on Urban Homesteading

...;The wonders of permaculture plus a jab at aerated compost tea. “Finding the Potential in Vacant Lots” Recent boom and bust cycles have left us with a lot of room to grow stuff. “Food Storage as Grandma Knew It“Tortorello actually tracked down some folks who have functioning root cellars. “The Spotless Garden“On aquaponics. Don’t name those fish! “Making Flowers Into Perfume“ Build that still...

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CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

The nice folks 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 inc...

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Winter Squash Disaster

Those of you who follow this blog may recall last summer’s “squash baby” fiasco.  This year I planted a few Marina di Chioggia squash plants (technically 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 sm...

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Cat Poop Compost Installment #2

Drum full o’ cat litter WARNING: Human waste and cat waste contain dangerous bacteria.  I fully believe that 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...

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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

...211;they could be disastrously worse. Why roll the dice on this one? It just doesn’t make any sense. For me, this makes anti-bacterial soaps about as needful as evening wear for hogs accessorized with a doomsday device. 3) And finally, the wastefulness of it all makes me cry. Note the the cheap plastic shell and electronic innards assembled in Chinese factories–not to mention the big-ass clamshell package it all comes in. How long wi...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

The new compost pile is covered with a tarp to keep moisture in. Eventually it will fill this whole space. In the background you can see our leftover adobe bricks. So–our regular readers will know that we have high levels of lead in our back yard soil. We’re dealing with this by filling most of our yard with mulch and perennial natives to lock down the soil (lead laden dust is bad) and to diversify the local ecosystem. Mea...

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