Book Review: My Side of the Mountain

...a boy from New York City who runs away to live on his own in the Catskill Mountains–in 1959.  Since then, it has won the Newbery Medal and been consistently ranked high in recommended reading lists for children. Recently I re-read My Side for the first time in many, many years. I suspect that many Root Simple readers will be familiar with this book, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I’d rank this book as one of the most...

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Maggots!

...tion for apartment dwellers. But let’s get to the real reason we’ve brought up the topic of maggots. It’s really just to mention an exotic cheese from the island of Sardinia called formaggio con vermini, a pecorino cheese infested with live maggots. It’s apparently somewhat of a macho thing to eat this stuff and connoisseur insist that the maggots be active and wiggling. Like compost, cheese is a living system and formaggi...

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Row Covers in a Warm Climate

...scrap PVC pipe to create hoops to hold the row cloth above the plants. Agribon is so light that you can just put it on top of many plants without hoops. Now I can sleep at night knowing that my beds are locked down in a kind of “vegetable Guantanamo”. Johnny’s Seeds sells Agribon 15 in 250 foot rolls for $45. Seeds of Change sells it in 5o foot lengths for $26. It would make sense for most urban homesteaders go in with a few f...

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Nettle Harvest

...to eat here on the streets of L.A., I would be happy to find nettles. Luckily, nettle thrives in both locations. It reseeds readily, making it an annoying weed if you don’t know how to make use of it. I found a weedy nettle patch while hiking one day. I dug up a little bit and put it, roots and all, in my backpack. I transplanted it into my front yard when I got home. The nettle grew and set seed. So now I have a nice big nettle patch in m...

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Solar Light Hack

...ights 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. Next, I soldered four wires to the former connections to the two LEDs. Basically, I created a extens...

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Summer of Solar Cookin’

...use plenty of water. Beans absorb a lot of water as they rehydrate and the solar cooker looses some moisture as it cooks. So err on the side of extra water. I’m not much of one for measuring. The great thing about making beans, soups and stews is you can add a pinch of this and a sprig of that and adjust the flavoring as you go. It is very forgiving. I put the pot in the solar cooker around 10 a.m. and got home around 6 p.m. The pot was...

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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

...ime 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 foregoing permits, city government can play a role in encouraging greywater. Legalizing the practice makes it possible for professional plumbers to do the installations in addition to plucky DIYers. Kin...

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Make a Spore Print

Making a mushroom spore print is a fun activity for the kidlings and it’s simple: 1. Pick a mushroom (from the wild or the supermarket) and break off the stem. 2. Put your mushroom, spore side down, on a piece of white paper (or a 50/50 split of of dark paper and white paper to check subtleties in the color). 3. Put a glass over the mushroom and wait 24 hours. The next day you should have something that looks like the picture above. Spore...

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The Sound of One Hand Snapping

...il and pull the spring back. The spring bangs one end into the other, thereby driving the nail. We’ve used it for years, and driven hundreds of nails with it, hanging molding, fixing windows, making furniture, and countless other tasks. It’s possible, in fact, to drive nails with this thing without using a hammer and it’s especially useful in tight spaces where there is not enough room to swing a hammer. If SurviveLA ever sells...

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