The Sacred Chickens of Ancient Rome

I stumbled on an odd historical anecdote last week: the use, by the ancient Romans, of sacred chickens as a form of divination. From the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert: Sacred chickens were chickens raised by priests in Roman times, and which were used for making auguries. Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens. The most common method of drawing...

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Only at Home: Huntington Ranch Symposium Nov. 18

Not to be missed: the Huntington is putting on an exciting program this Friday November 18. I’m going and hope to see some of you there. If you’re interested in growing edibles in Southern California, this is the place to be! Only at Home: 2011 Huntington Ranch Symposium The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical GardensSan Marino, CA Marking the second year of Ranch operations, this one-day symposium focuses on aspects...

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Cargo Bike Roundup

First, thanks all, for your help with my cargo bike review that I’m writing for Urban Farm Magazine. For those of you not familiar with the new crop of cargo bikes here’s what I’m writing about: Longtail Bikes Xtracycle FreeRadical The “longtail” revolution began with the invention of the Xtracycle “FreeRadical” back in 1998. The FreeRadical extends the back wheel and allows for the installat...

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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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As Above, So Below

Inspired by the response to my post on the need to keep our gardens dark, I decided to reclaim my childhood telescope from my mom’s garage and get it working again. It occurred to me that I haven’t looked up at the night sky in a long time. What a shame. This past week I’ve been thinking about how important it is to look up at the stars–just as important, I think, as staying in touch with the plants, insects and animals...

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Keep Those Bikes Locked, Even in the Garage!

It goes without saying that you must lock your bike when out and about. Leave it unlocked for one second in most urban areas and you can bet it will be gone when you return. In San Fransisco, for instance, bike theft outstripped iPhone theft 3:1. But there’s another kind of bike theft that a lot of folks don’t think about–theft from your home or apartment. Yes, even at home base your bike needs to be locked up. Some thieves dr...

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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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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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Lasagna Gardening Simplified

First popularized back in the 1970s, “lasagna gardening” involves piling up thick layers of cardboard and uncomposted kitchen scraps on top of (sometimes) double-dug soil. The practice is touted as a way of removing lawns and improving soil with little work. Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension Urban Horticulturist at Washington State University, proposes a vastly simpler version of lasagna gardening.  Chalker-Scott suggests skipping th...

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SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Resource

One of the highlights of the California Master Gardener Conference I just spoke at was a lecture by Toby O’Geen, Ph.D., Assistant Soil Resource Specialist at UC Extension. O’Geen mentioned an amazing online soil resource called SoilWeb, avaliable at http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/drupal/node/902. SoilWeb overlays detailed soil information on Google Maps and Google Earth. There’s even a SoilWeb iPhone app allowing you to use...

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