Solar Garden Helper Thingy

From the always cool Build It Solar blog, a “garden helper machine” built by Randy, aka “PD-Riverman”. I really Love gardening but I have a bad back and when it comes to staying bent over in the garden it gets rough. So I built this Helper Machine. I  call it My P-Machine. Planting/Picking/Pulling weeds/Putting around the garden machine.  It’s powered by two 12 volt 80 watt solar panels that charge some golf c...

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In Chaos Order, In Order Chaos

Periodically Mrs. Homegrown and I teach vegetable gardening classes. For the students, I’ve been looking for a way to illustrate nature’s complex, non-linear dynamics that, paradoxically, seem ordered. I stumbled across this cool sculpture that neatly summarizes the idea of “in chaos order, in order chaos.” Imagine each of the hammers standing in for one of the systems in your garden, insect life, nutrients, microbes, f...

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Lucius Annaeus Seneca on Living Within Limits

Writing in the 1st century AD, Seneca makes a good case for common sense limits: Is it not living unnaturally to hanker after roses during the winter, and to force lilies in midwinter by taking the requisite steps to change their environment and keeping up the temperature with hot water heating? Is it not living unnaturally to plant orchards on top of towers, or to have a forest of trees waving in the wind on the roofs and ridges of one’s...

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Erik Speaking at Maker Faire

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Bay Area Maker Faire on Saturday May 19 at 6:30 pm on the Maker Square Stage (located in the Homegrown Village). The talk I’m giving will be about the appropriate tech projects we’ve been up to around the Root Simple compound–our new chicken run, greywater, solar cooking and Mediterranean edible gardening. I’d love to hang out, after the talk, with any...

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A Question About Gophers

Pocket gopher, courtesy of Wikipedia We’re putting together a short vegetable gardening pamphlet and could use some advice, specifically about gophers. Thankfully, we don’t have any experience dealing with them. Something about our neighborhood, either the lead in the soil or the police helicopters, seems to have made gophers extinct here. Standard advice when planting a tree or installing a raised bed in gopher infested a...

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Tomato Report: Blush

I think I’ve tasted my new favorite tomato variety: Blush. I got to tuck into a box of these delicious tomatoes at the farm of Shu and Debbie Takikawa near Los Olivos. Yellow with red streaks, Blush tomatoes have the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The blush tomato was developed by geneticist and tomato geek Fred Hempel and are available via Seeds of Change. Due to a series of gardening blunders that I’ll blog about at s...

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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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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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Vertical Garden Success!

Regular readers of the blog know that we’re dubious about vertical gardening, but this is a vertical garden we can really get behind. Here, a cherry tomato is growing out of a crack in a retaining wall in our neighbor’s yard. (It’s just off our front stairs, and is almost certainly an offspring of one of our tomatoes) It is thriving with no water whatsoever. You can’t see them in this picture, but there’s tons of f...

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