Book Review: The Urban Bestiary

...ry to remember that I am a creature of nature, living in a vast human habitat which exists as part of a web with the entire ecosystem. Remembering that I am not apart from nature sometimes requires a little mental judo–and some well chosen bedside reading. Thus my recent reading has included books like Being Animal and What the Robin Knows (reviewed here) and most recently The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild by Lyanda Lynn Ha...

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CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

The nice folks at Solar Cookers International gave us permission to reprint plans for their CooKit solar cooker in our book Making It. You can access those plans, as well as many other solar cooker projects, for free, on their website here. I’ve made CooKits out of cardboard and aluminum foil a couple of times. One problem is that I eventually bang up the cardboard and I’ve got to make a new one. This summer I had a lot of  1/4 inc...

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Essential System #9 – Hydration

...y reverse-osmosis system like boats have to turn seawater into drinkable water. Lastly we must put in a plug for the geniuses behind the artistic collective Simparch who are experimenting with solar stills to distill water as a method of purification. Distillation takes care of 99.9% of the bad stuff and the Simparch folks have created a solar still as a part of the border art shindig InSite. Solar stills can also be improvised. One homestead pr...

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The Secret to Japanese Cooking: Dashi

Bonito flakes, available at any Japanese market. We conclude our Japanese themed week with the sauce that’s sort of the unified field theory of Japanese cooking: dashi. It’s in everything from noodle dishes to sauces to miso soup and it cooks up in just minutes. Dashi contains two ingredients, kombu (a kind of kelp) and bonito (shaved, fermented fish flakes). It’s the backbone of Japanese cooking, but we think it’...

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It Quacks Like a Duck

The Happy Ducks of the Petaluma Urban Homestead It seems a new lifestyle is taking shape, in part born of the ashes of the World Trade Center, the aftermath of Katrina, and the endless resource wars our country feels the need to fight. There’s a great desire out there to “do something” and a refreshing DIY spirit of self-sufficiency is beginning to emerge. Two of the indicators of this new lifestyle seem to be the mixture o...

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Countdown

Our new book comes out just about a month–April 26th–and today two super-advance copies came to us by mail. Believe me, it’s awfully strange to see something that has existed only as computer files suddenly materialize on your porch! We realize we haven’t given our new book a formal introduction yet, so here goes.  Making It: Radical Home-Ec for a Post Consumer World is our follow up to The Urban Homestead . The...

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Why Urban Farm?

Nicolas Poussin’s “Et in Arcadia ego“ It’s been a challenging week at the Homegrown Revolution compound. We lost one chick, bringing our nascent flock down to two. We decided that since chickens are social animals to add two more in case of other unforeseen problems bringing our total up to four. Such are the cycles of life and death on the new urban homestead. Bryan Welch, who raises livestock and is also the publish...

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The Very First Urban Homesteading Book

The urban homesteading shelf at your local bookstore, thanks to the great recession, sure has gotten crowded in recent years. There are many fine volumes now alongside our two books with a great diversity of authors opining on chicken coops, homemade soap and composting. This is a good thing–we need as many voices as possible. But there’s nothing new here. On a serendipitous trip to the library last week I stumbled across what must...

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Urban Homesteading Thing Catching On

I have a Google alert set up for the phrase “urban homestead”. Lately I’ve noticed more real estate and apartment listings using this phrase. Our neighbors Anne and Bill even used it to rent out their duplex. A rental listing that includes the photos in this post came from a real estate concern renting out an apartment in Edmonton, Canada. For $1,600 Canadian dollars a month you get:  hot water on demand system.  sunroom has...

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Casting out the lawn

...s. Thankfully there’s a growing awareness that our city’s negative spaces are in fact negative, that they contribute to blight, profligate use of resources and our general unhappiness. But a consciousness shift is underway led by forward thinking folks like the parishioners of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in West Los Angeles who have teamed up with the non-profit organization Urban Farming to rip up their entire 1,200 square foot so...

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