The Homegrown Mailbox: How and Where Do I Get My Soil Tested?

When you write a book you get questions. In our case, due to the sinking economy in California, they are delivered by Kevin Costner on horseback rather than by email or regular federal postal trucks. No problem, we like questions. A caveat here: like Nancy Klehm, the Green Roof Growers and Black Swan author Nassim Taleb, we prefer the term “practitioner” to describe what we do as opposed to “expert”. We favor experience o...

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A New Reality

We received an email from a casting agency searching for talent for a reality show where the participants will live on a remote farm, grow their own food and come up with their own method of governance.  The series will make use of the usual reality show plot device of having participants vote each other off the show. The agency wanted us to put out a casting call. We won’t do that. I’m tired of stories that sow discord and hold up...

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Row Cover as an Insect Barrier

It ain’t pretty but it works. As one would expect, cabbage leaf worms love cabbage and nearly every other member of the brassica species.  Which  is why I’ve become a real fan of row cover material as an insect barrier. The perp in question. It rarely freezes here so I use the thinnest row cover possible, specifically a product called Agribon-15. If you live in a cooler climate and want to use row cover for frost pr...

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Los Angeles is One Step Closer to Legalizing Bees

Hats off to the folks at HoneyLove for the hard work they are doing to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles. This Wednesday they got a unanimous vote out of the city council to ask city staff to come up with a way to legalize beekeeping in residential areas as well as ways to encourage humane bee removal. While much hard work is ahead, HoneyLove’s strategy should serve as a model to people everywhere who are taking a look at our overly rest...

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The Perfect Chicken Coop?

Do a Google image search for “chicken coop” and a solid majority of the results will look very much like this nearly 100 year old coop featured in The Gardener’s and Poultry Keeper’s Guide and Illustrated Catalog. Why is this basic design still with us? The attached run gives chickens some space to scratch around in while keeping them safe from predators if you can’t make it home by dark. You can hang a feeder in...

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Campfire Cooking: Fish in Clay (& Vegetarian Options!)

The foraging and culinary partnership of Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich continue to make amazing discoveries. I’d describe their work as elemental–start with wild, local ingredients, use direct but often novel techniques to create a cuisine at once sophisticated and neo-primitive. We blogged about their acorn processing workshop back in October. This month we were fortunate to have taken their class on cooking with clay. This is...

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A New and Improved Self Irrigating Pot System

A very cool improvement on the self irrigating pot (SIP) idea from Larry Hall of Minnesota. Rather than the two bucket system we’ve blogged about in the past (see a roundup of our SIP resources here), Hall uses one long rain gutter to supply water. He’s even got a clever double rain gutter system for growing strawberries that I’m tempted to try on our back patio. I spotted this video on Inside Urban Green always a good sourc...

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Help us With a Fodder System for our Hens

A big commercial fodder system. We need something much smaller! I feel somewhat guilty about having our five hens in a confined coop/run. Ideally they’d be grazing on green pasture all day. But our abundant urban predators, lack of space and dry climate make the vision of hens clucking on verdant fields a challenge. I’m thinking of building a DIY fodder system but I’m a bit confused by the instructions I’ve seen floating...

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How To Calculate Anything

It needn’t come to this! (Though we think this is pretty cool.) Need to calculate Ohm’s law? Convert women’s clothing sizes? Calculate the area of a circle? Figure out whether its better to buy or rent a home? It’s all at www.calculatoredge.com. The site has lots of formulas for the urban homsteader even if you never have to perform a Sallen-Key Butterworth Low Pass Filter equation (except, perhaps, for recreational reaso...

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Gardening Resources in Los Angeles County

Perhaps because the real estate market is heating up again, we’re getting a lot of requests for gardening resources in the Los Angeles area. It thought I’d list our favorite resources in this blog post that I can refer people to. But I need your help–please let me know in the comments if you know of a resource that I should have included. Soil Testing Wallace Labs. When you fill out the form check off the box for “Stand...

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