Damned Figs!

...the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.”-Matthew 21:18-19 We find it hard to cut down a mature tree, especially a fruit tree. But after living with a substandard fig tree for ten years we finally understood this biblical...

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A Parvati Solar Cooker

...our first pot of rice we used a black enamel pot to better absorb the heat of the sun’s rays, and wrapped it in a roasting bag to increase the efficiency of the cooker. A five gallon bucket made a convenient stand and did not have to be rotated in the two hours it took to cook the rice. Longer cooking times would require re-aiming the cooker as the sun moves across the sky. Temperature in the pot quickly went over 180º F, the point at whic...

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In Praise of Disorder

Loose chickens in Houston A neighborhood whose demographics fall somewhere between the extremes of the crack den and the country club presents just the right level of civic inattention to allow the urban homesteader to get away with many of the illegal projects profiled in this blog: greywater, backyard poultry, and front yard vegetable gardening, to mention just a few. Ideally you have a balance between order and disorder–neither gunfir...

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Saturday Linkages: Naked Gardening, Ticks, Walking in LA and Eating Giant Rats

...out of the first world naked gardening day. Watch out for the nettles . . . World naked gardening day–May 4: http://www.wngd.org [Editors note: NSFW and no we won't be participating in WNGD, but I once saw a neighbor doing so while I was walking our dog a few years ago.] Making Things Paul Elkin, Maker of Many Things http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2013/04/paul-elkin-maker-of-many-things.html#.UYSMGz1dyX8.twitter … The Climbing rope...

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Spent Grain Bread–We Brew Econo

...de our first attempt at beer, in the improvised two gallon plastic tub on the right, and next week we’ll know if it’s worth drinking or if it’s compost. We’ll do a taste test and report back on the whole process when we crack the first bottle. What we do know was a success is using the spent grains, the leftover malted barley and crystal malt that we used in the beer recipe, which are strained out before the beer is put away to ferment, as a flav...

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An Echo Park Weed Salad

...on the right behind the chain link fence. Oxalis is sometimes known as Iron Cross Plant because of the shape of its leaves–see the Plants for a Future Database entry on Oxalis for more information). It’s a relative of sorrel, which we have growing in our garden and has a similar taste. Oxalis contains vitamin C, but also contains oxalic acid which can interfere with calcium absorption, though you’d have to eat vast quantities to have an i...

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Mead!

...17;ve tasted the Ethopian honey wine known as Tej, we’ve never had mead, so we decided to cook up a batch. It’s way too early to tell if we have a tasty beverage or a gallon of home brewed Listerine–it will be many months before the stuff is drinkable. But we thought we’d note how we made it, based on a recipe in Ken Schramm’s book The Compleat Meadmaker. We downsized the recipe from five gallons to one gallon, figur...

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An open letter to Trader Joes

...t what exactly does “cage free” mean? Unfortunately the USDA does not regulate the term cage free so its definition in terms of the actual living conditions of the hens who laid the eggs is uncertain. Perhaps you could redesign your packaging to give us an actual representation of where these eggs came from to clarify a few issues for us. To save your marketing folks some time we’ve done it for you: First off we removed the chic...

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Physalis pruinosa a.k.a. “Ground Cherry”

...on several hybrids exist of these plants. Clammy ground cherry pie anyone? As for the fruit of Physalis pruinosa itself, it does not ship well, hence you’ll never find it in American supermarkets, which only seem to carry things that have been shipped for thousands of miles and are therefore both durable and, inevitably, tasteless. Cultivating strange things like this is one of the best arguments for growing your own food–access to fl...

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Bike to Work Week

It’s bike to work week and time to RIDE! That being said, we’re a little disappointed by the iconography our Metropolitan Transit Authority is using to advertise what we otherwise think is a worthwhile cause. It reminds us of an essay by Michael Smith about a poster designed for the equally clueless New York City Department of Transportation. Our MTA seems to feel that only children should ride bikes–at least that’s the u...

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