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

...ightly overpriced booklet that you can order along with the test. Another approach, especially if you live in an old house like ours, is to assume that your soil is contaminated, skip the test, and grow things in raised beds, containers or stick to ornamentals. You could also try bioremediation: each season plant a cover crop, let it grow, and then pull it up and dispose of it. Test the soil until it comes out clean. This works well, but it can t...

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The Chicken and the Egg

...sider the consequences of the economic and quality race to the bottom of factory farming’s economy of scale–an abundance of cheap, tasteless and nutritionally deficient eggs that like the endless flood of shipping containers full of plastic crap from China poisons both our bodies and souls. Here’s a list of questions to ask the folks who provide your eggs. And more Francine Dancer for those without chickens....

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Bisphenol-A

Above, the bisphenol-A or BPA molecule, a type of plastic found in all kinds of products including baby bottles, plastic food containers, Nalgene bottles, some wines (from the plastic stoppers and the lining of fermentation tanks) and the lining in metal cans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it’s safe, a viewpoint contradicted by at least 100 studies. The problem: BPA is a endocrine disruptor linked to a host of problems, acco...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...d beds and fill them with imported soil (soil which has, hopefully, been tested for lead!). Some people put plastic sheeting or rock barriers between the imported soil or native soil, which in effect makes the beds into giant containers. We did something a little different–and a lot harder. We dug out a huge pit where our beds used to be. When I say “we,” I mean Erik dug a huge pit. (Somehow I weaseled out of this project.) This...

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Hops Growing Resources

Reader Matt sent a couple of detailed links on growing hops. First an organic hops growing manual (pdf) by Rebecca Kneen of the Left Fields organic farm in British Columbia. Secondly, a PowerPoint presentation by hops farmer and breeder Jason Perrault here (pdf) along with the transcript here (pdf). I’m going to go through these resources before transferring the hops I’ve been growing in containers to the ground in the spring. Thank...

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4 Vermicomposting Tips

...it can harm them. To use it on plants, dilute it with 4 parts water, put it in a spray bottle, and spray on foliage. They’ll uptake the nutrients through their leaves. Alternatively, you can use it as a soil drench (for watering) when diluted with 16 parts water. In its straight form it can be used as an insecticide. 4) Darren’s favorite way of using worm castings is new to us and quite interesting. Castings are fertilizer, but more t...

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Goat Worship: A Halloween Exclusive!

...The kind of yard where you can play fetch with a big dog or toss a football–but by no means a pasture or huge space. Within that space is the goats’ shelter, a pile of logs for them to climb on, their feeding and watering stations and a chicken coop. The specific codes of your city or county might specify a certain size lot for livestock or a certain distance the animals must be from neighboring structures. Th...

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Saturday Linkages: Keeping It Cool

Watering the roof. One of the low-tech home cooling tips on the Build It Solar Blog. Tiny Home in Italy made out of pallets http:// bit.ly/NGWlPS Build-It-Solar Blog: Cooling Without Power http://www. builditsolarblog.com/2012/07/coolin  … Build-It-Solar Blog: DIY Solar Water Heating for 7 Unit Apartment http://www. builditsolarblog.com/2012/07/diy-so  … Measure for Measure – Beth Schaleben’s Yardstick Table http:// bit.ly...

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Urine as a Fertilizer

concentrations in urine samples were low compared with other organic fertilizers, but copper, mercury, nickel and zinc were 10–500 times higher in urine than in precipitation and surface waters. In a pot experiment with15N labelled human urine, higher gaseous losses and lower crop uptake (barley) of urine N than of labelled ammonium nitrate were found. Phosphorus present in urine was utilized at a higher rate than soluble phosphate, showing...

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Tomato Report: Franchi Red Cherry

I don’t have much to say about this variety from Franchi named, somewhat generically, “Red Cherry”. It grew well and is very productive considering the compact size of the vine. The taste, however, was acceptable but not exciting. This could be because of over-watering on my part. I could find very little information about this tomato on the interwebs other than that it is an indeterminate, early variety that grows well in pot...

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