The grape that ate the world

grapefail or grapewin? We’ve posted about our grape problems before. Pierce’s disease makes it hard to grow grapes in SoCal. We’ve been trying to get resistant varieties to grow on our patio arbor (aka The Masculinity Pavillion) with no success. Our most recent planting attempts are stunted and unhappy, meaning that once again we’re experiencing A Summer Without Shade. While our “resistant” varietie...

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Michael Tortorello on Urban Homesteading

...;The wonders of permaculture plus a jab at aerated compost tea. “Finding the Potential in Vacant Lots” Recent boom and bust cycles have left us with a lot of room to grow stuff. “Food Storage as Grandma Knew It“Tortorello actually tracked down some folks who have functioning root cellars. “The Spotless Garden“On aquaponics. Don’t name those fish! “Making Flowers Into Perfume“ Build that still...

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Legalize Baking!

Did you know that in California and many other states it’s illegal to hold a bake sale? That a synagogue in Los Angeles got busted by the Health Department for hosting a bake sale? That you can’t bake bread in a home kitchen and resell it? Obviously, we need to change this. In what looks like an economic climate that won’t change for the better anytime soon, we need to encourage micro-business enterprises, foster a entreprene...

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4 Vermicomposting Tips

...terested. Click here for details). Darren dropped a few vermicomposting tips during the beginning class that we thought we’d share: 1) Worms don’t like empty space in their bin. They dislike voids. They appreciate it very much if you bury their entire working area under a very thick layer of light dry carbon material, like shredded newspaper or chopped straw. Yes, it’s standard practice to put a layer of cover material over the...

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Building With Adobe

Architect and Root Simple friend Ben Loescher, along with Kurt Gardella, is teaching a class on adobe construction. I’m going to attend the second day, November 6th, and hope to see some of you there. Adobe has a storied past and a promising future in the Southwest U.S., in my opinion. Here’s the info on the class: adobeisnotsoftware is pleased to host Kurt Gardella for the first in a series of classes on adobe construction within C...

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The Big To-Do List

...iece of taped together paper to come up with our version of Heinlein’s skill set. Most of the subjects on that paper, everything from vegetable gardening to cargo bikes, ended up in the book or in our second book Making It. Now, we don’t expect everyone to master all the things in our books, but it doesn’t hurt to have a cursory knowledge of, say, greywater plumbing or compost pile construction, even if you live in a Manhattan a...

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How to start a chicken retirement community

Mrs. Homegrown here: So–here’s the story of another mistake we made. When Erik and I first got chickens we didn’t lay out a plan for dealing with the chickens as they aged. That was the mistake. Simple as that. Make your plans, people! We learned how to slaughter chickens–we knew we could do it if we needed to–but we never really sat down and decided what would happen to our ladies when they stopped laying. We̵...

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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

....  Ah, but yes–liquid castile soap is runny. Indeed. I can hear the complaints already.  The way around that problem is to use one of them fancy-schmancy foaming soap pumps. You can buy them at specialty retailers, but it’s probably cheaper to buy one at the supermarket, use up the soap and then start refilling with liquid castile soap. The one in our bathroom is an old Method pump and is still working fine after three years. The se...

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Peat-free Planting Mix Recipe With Coconut Coir

Nancy’s coconut coir-based planting mix. Here she’s doing the squeeze test, which we talk about below. From an environmental perspective peat moss is a nightmare. Mining of this material is unsustainable, contributes to global warming and destroys habitat for many plants and animals. But, for starting seeds, we’ve used it for years. Our friend Nancy Klehm taught us recently how to make a seed starting mix with coconut...

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