Does Sourdough Offer Hope for the Gluten Intolerant?

Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. In the last 20 years bakers around the world have revived the art of baking with a sourdough culture. At first this revival was related to flavor, but increasingly bakers are turning to sourdough cultures in the interest of health. It’s possible that the unique qualities of sourdough cultures may offer hope to those who think they are gluten intolerant or have an allergy to wheat.  A very short history of br...

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Phytoremediation of Heavy Metals

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) Us city slickers have fouled the sandboxes we play in. Find an open field in a big city like Los Angeles or New York and the odds are that it’s a former toxic waste dump. Here in our neighborhood we’ve got a lot of lead and zinc–lead from paint and gasoline and zinc from brake linings. These heavy metals don’t magically go away. They are elements, and short of an alchemical transformation you...

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What To Do With Old Vegetable Seeds

In short, throw them around. We’ve got a lot of expired seed packages sitting in a shoe box. And I’ve been reading a newly published translation of a book by the late, “natural farmer” Masanobu Fukuoka (review coming soon). Fukuoka inspired me to distribute those old seeds around our micro-orchard to see what comes up. Fukuoka has some tips in his book The Natural Way of Farming for creating a semi-wild vegetable garden:...

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Straw Bale Garden Update: Success!

Ladies and gentleman, straw bale gardening works. I left town for a week earlier this month and, during my absence, the vegetables in the straw bale garden exploded in size. The Tromboncino squash on the left, is threatening to envelop the entire yard.  The tomatoes are equally vigorous and covered in ripening fruit. Zucchini is on the menu. While it takes an input of outside resources in the form of straw and fertilizer, straw bale gardening i...

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Poison in the Compost

No, not that Poison I’ve blogged about the dangers of  herbicides in compost before, but it’s worth repeating. Mother Earth News has been doing some excellent reporting on two herbicides, clopyralid and aminopyralid, that can decimate your garden for years should your compost get contaminated by them. I received the following note from Mother Earth news: “As the garden season ramps up, we at Mother Earth News want to let you...

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Can our landscapes model a vibrant future? Not according to the LA DWP.

California is suffering from drought. In Los Angeles, we’ve experienced back to back two of the driest winters on record (winter is our rainy season). Last year’s rainfall total was under 6 inches. The governor has asked California residents to cut their water use by 20%.  Apparently, we’ve only managed to cut it by 5%. There’s a strange sense of unreality about the drought. I think that’s because we’re just...

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How To Manage a Compost Pile Using Temperature

I’ve always been confused about when to turn a compost pile. Some people suggest lots of turning while others don’t turn at all. I built a pile in December using a technique I learned from Will Bakx, soil scientist and operations manager of Sonoma Compost. Bakx recommends keeping the pile between 131° F (55° C) and 163°F (72°C) for a period of 15 days. The only time you turn is when the pile starts to dip below 131° F or to prevent...

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Failed Experiment: Bermuda Buttercup or Sour Grass (Oxalis pes-caprae) as Dye

The “dyed” t-shirt is on the left. The shirt on the right is a basic white tee. I could have achieved similar results by entropy alone. Chalk this one up to the failures column. In an attempt to use Bermuda Buttercup (aka Sour Grass) and various mordants to dye a couple of white t-shirts yellow and green, I succeeded in dyeing both snowy white shirts a pale shade of …let’s call it ecru. Let’s not call it “grimy old...

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More on our gardening disasters

We need to put the heart back into our garden. (Our Heart of Flax from way back in 2011) I thought I’d chime in on the subject of this year’s garden failures. Before I do, I’d like to thank you all for your kind advice and commiseration that you left on Erik’s post. First, I will agree that it really, truly has been a terrible year in the garden. Sometimes Erik gets a little melodramatic when it comes to the crop failure...

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Extension Service Webinars on Organic Agriculture

When it comes to doing research for articles and books I lean heavily on research based advice from our Cooperative Extension System. It’s a great resource. I just discovered a treasure trove of Extension Service webinars on organic farming practices that you can watch here: http://www.extension.org/pages/25242/webinars-by-eorganic. You can watch archived sessions or sign up to participate live. While the webinars are aimed at small farme...

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