Broom Corn–or is it Broomcorn?

...mer I suggested we plant broom corn for no other good reason than I saw the seed pack at the nursery and thought it would be fun to make a broom. (This sort of temporary insanity often overtakes me in the seed aisle.) So without knowing anything at all about broom corn or broom making we planted a block of the stuff. Maybe I should have done a little research into broom making before planting, but I let it slide ’til harvest time. It’...

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The Whip: A Homemade Moisturizer How-To from Making It

This 2011 post has been edited on 7/8/14, also to include new tips and new pictures. Most important of these are directions on keeping the lotion fresh. Confession: I can’t live without my homemade moisturizer. This recipe appears in Making It as Olive Oil Whip. It’s my everyday body lotion/face cream and I figured it was about time to share it with you. It only has three ingredients. It’s safe and wholesome and very effecti...

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Grow the Soil

...ss folks coming around to see things we’ve been doing too much planting and not paying enough attention to soil quality. Here’s two options we should have taken to help out that sickly eggplant in the raised bed (other than the expensive route of new potting soil): 1. Sheet Mulch A concept from the permacultural toolbox, sheet mulching involves making a soil boosting lasagna consisting of a layer of compost or manure, newspaper to hol...

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Making It

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen (Rodale Books, 2011) ISBN-13: 978-1605294629 Buy it at:  Amazon • Abe Books • Barnes & Nobel • Powell’s Making It provides you with all of the tools you need to become a producer instead of a consumer and transform your home from the ground up. Projects range from the simple to the ambitious, and include activities done in the hom...

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Five Lessons We Learned About Lead in Soil

...alchemy to turn lead to gold, I think the most productive thing I can do is to help get the word out about lead soil and how common this problem is in urban areas. Towards that end I though I would share five things that we learned from our backyard lead crisis: Buyer Beware. When you are shopping for a house do multiple soil tests. Once you buy the house it’s too late. Real estate contracts in California (and I suspect elsewhere) have b...

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

...op for compost and try our best. Here’s one question we get a lot: Q: Y’all know where I can get my soil tested? I’ve started HUGE garden in my side yard and it just occurred to me that it is where people used to park their cars. I’m concerned about Oil or other pollutants from the cars that might still be in the soil. Any experience with this? Can I test without it costing an arm and leg? J.R., Los Angeles A: See my upda...

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UMass Soil Testing

...mics about some of her ideas and her commercial endeavors, particularly related to aerated compost tea. However, soil foodweb testing makes intuitive sense to me, though I have not tried it. You can read her interesting Soil Biology Primer here, and make up your own mind. There’s also an excellent book based partially on her research, Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web. Thanks to Cool Tools for t...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...ollutant) is located and 2) to harvest the clay beneath to use in our earth oven. Between the clay harvested for making the adobe bricks and cob, and the supplemental clay that we’ve put aside for future repairs and maintenance on the oven, the pit has grown to be about 12 feet wide and 2 feet deep. This pit is going to be our new planting area, but obviously it needs to be filled in. Instead of buying imported soil, we’re going to gr...

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Making Salves, Lip Balms & etc.: Close of the Calendula Series

My calendula after-bath salve. The camera refuses to capture the deep butter yellow color On Saturday, as a part of this long series on Calendula (here, here and here), I posted about infusing oil with herbs. If you’ve got some herb infused oil, you can make that into a medicinal salve or balm. Salve is nothing but oil thickened by the addition of wax. I prefer beeswax salves, though there are vegan alternatives, like candelil...

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Till vs. No-Till

...plied to home gardens as well. You’re right, you can boost production with a more aggressive approach to soil amendment – a similar argument is often made in conventional agriculture (compared to organic agriculture) to till, use excessive fertilizers, pesticides, etc. I guess it depends on how you regard the soil – as a medium for growing vegetables or as an ecosystem (and I’m not being judgmental). It’s a p...

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