Mud for the People! Building an Adobe Garden Wall

of the workshop, but pieced together what Kurt and Ben went over. One of the first steps is to determine the clay/sand content of your soil and to do that you do a jar test. When you mix some soil with water in a jar and let it sit, the clay settles on top, the silt below that, and the sand on bottom. You can measure the sample and determine percentages. At the workshop, held in the high desert town of Landers, CA the sand and clay were source...

Continue reading…

Is This Egg Good?

From left: Very Fresh • Pretty Fresh • Bad • Cat When you’re wondering about the age of an egg, put it in glass of water. Really fresh eggs lie on the bottom the glass, flat. These are the eggs you want for poaching and other dishes where the egg is the star. If one end bobs up a bit, as does the middle egg above, the egg is older, but still good. The upward tilt can be more extreme than it is in this picture. In fact, the egg can...

Continue reading…

How To Design a Garden Step I: Identifying Goals

...s space for native plants areas that are semi-wild and not often visited  space for the composting Think and meditate on your goals before drawing up a plan.  And for those of us in the urban homesteading movement, I think it’s important to measure productivity in more ways than just the amount of food you get from your yard.  How will the garden provide peace and well being? Educational opportunities? Ways to commune with nature? Some g...

Continue reading…

Peat-free Planting Mix Recipe With Coconut Coir

Nancy’s coconut coir-based planting mix. Here she’s doing the squeeze test, which we talk about below. From an environmental perspective peat moss is a nightmare. Mining of this material is unsustainable, contributes to global warming and destroys habitat for many plants and animals. But, for starting seeds, we’ve used it for years. Our friend Nancy Klehm taught us recently how to make a seed starting mix with coconut...

Continue reading…

Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

...wash your hands. When you wash you hands, you kill all the germs. It doesn’t matter how “germy” the dispenser is–unless you plan to suck on it. This device is about as needful as evening wear for hogs. 2) In 2002, at the urging of the AMA, the FDA evaluated anti-bacterial soaps. The AMA was concerned that these anti-bacterial soaps (i.e. Triclosan-based products*) may be breeding super-bacteria which are resistant to anti...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

Support AB 1616 To Make Bake Sales Legal in California

...le in California to legally sell bread [and other "non-hazardous" food such as honey, jams and jellies] they bake 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 repr...

Continue reading…

Thoughts on Samhain

Image from the beautiful book, Haunted Air by Ossian Brown  Mrs. Homegrown here: I celebrate Samhain on November 1st because I enjoy marking the changing seasons of the year by making these old festivals my own. It’s so easy to lose track of time in an electronic culture. It’s even easier to lose track when you live in Los Angeles, land of the perpetual sunshine. Samhain marks the last harvest of the year. The weather is...

Continue reading…

Return of Recipe Friday! Carrot Soup

...ple soup can have so much flavor. The sweet-spicy flavor and bright orange color also make it an ideal dish for this time of year. Each time I eat it I feel like I’m doing something really good for my body. Carrot Soup 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter About 2 pounds of carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks* (Peeling is optional but the soup tends to be sweeter/less earthy if you peel. To tell the truth. I never weigh my carrots–I...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…