Bleach Alternatives for Disinfecting Pruning Shears

Apples with fire blight: one reason you should disinfect pruning sheers. Photo by Peggy Greb Neighbor Anne tipped me off to an interesting fact sheet on disinfecting pruning sheers by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, a horticulture professor at Washington State University. I’ve been using bleach which, it turns out, is not the best choice. Bleach is both toxic to humans and to plants as well. It also stains clothes and damages tools. Chal...

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Bee Rescue Hotline

Backwards Beekeeper Kirk Anderson with the hot tub bees, via the Backwards Beekeeper blog. First off: bee swarm seasons is approaching and, if you’re in the Southern California area and end up with a bunch of bees you don’t want, give the Backwards Beekeepers a call. The number is (213) 373-1104. I’ve put it on the right side of the page. When you call state: How to reach you. Please give us a phone number that you will answ...

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping

We’re very lucky, here in Los Angeles, to have the Backwards Beekeepers whose meetings are led by beekeeper Kirk Anderson, who teaches a radical form of beekeeping that includes: Letting the bees form their own comb (most beekeepers use pre-made foundation). Capturing feral swarms, rather than ordering bees. Using no treatments of any kind. The result is healthier bees with much more robust immune systems than their over-bred and drugg...

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Recipe for Raising Chickens

Mrs. Homegrown here: We were sent Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens for review, and have been enjoying it so much we thought we’d tell you about it. It was first released in 1975, and this 2009 version is the 3rd edition. It’s a charming little book, paper covered and staple bound, totaling only 31 pages. In fine 70s style, it is handwritten (in neat calligraphy) rather than typeset, and copiously illustrated...

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Pakistan Mulberries

Lora “Homegrown Neighbor” Hall was nice enough to drop off some freshly picked Pakistan mulberries (Morus macroura) gleaned from a house sitting gig. It’s one of the tastiest fruits I’ve ever had, very sweet, kinda like nature’s version of a Jolly Rancher. If you’ve never had a Pakistan mulberry it’s not surprising as it’s a fruit that simply doesn’t ship well. Here’s what the Califo...

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Chill Hour Calculator for California

Please excuse another California-centric post, but if you’re in the Golden State and like to geek out on keeping track of your chill hours here’s a handy tool bought to you by UC Davis: Cumulative Chilling Hours. Each year this page keeps track of chill hours between November 1 through end of February. If you know of a similar resource for other states/countries leave a link in the comments. As cool (so to speak) as this tool is, wh...

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The Making of a Great Olive Oil

Kelly admires the olives Thanks to our good friend Dale Benson, Kelly and I got to see how a really high quality olive oil is made. Dale knows Matt Norelli, the wine and olive oil maker at Preston Vineyards of Dry Creek, an organic family farm near Healdsburg in Northern California. Matt was nice enough to let us watch the complicated olive oil machinery in action. First the freshly picked olives go into a big hopper (above). They are...

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Local Bite Challenge Starts Today

Sorry for the last minute notice, but I thought some of you might be interested in a project that our internet neighbor, Melissa, at Ever Growing Farm is launching her Local Bite Challenge today, and is hoping some of you will join her. She and her partner will be eating locally for 100 days on a budget of 100 bucks a week.  There’s all sorts of activities and mini-challenges over the 100 day period to keep you inspired. So if you’v...

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Root Simple Video Podcast in the iTunes Store

The Root Simple Video Podcast is now available in the iTunes store here. Currently there are two episodes, one on how to make a sourdough culture and the second on how to make a cotton ball fire starter. The videos can also be viewed on our website on our video page. The Root Simple Video Podcast is still in beta mode as we get the hang of editing for display on mobile devices. New episodes will appear soon including one on how to make a basic...

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How to Search for Science-Based Gardening Advice

Agricola’s search page. In the course of writing our books and this blog we’ve had to deal with a lot of thorny gardening questions such as the effectiveness of double digging, the toxicity of persimmons, compost tea, lasagna gardening and how to mulch to name just a few. While the internet is an amazing tool, the number of conflicting commercial interests, biases and crazy talk in the eGardening world can make it difficult to, as Ma...

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