DIY Outdoor Shower

y will you be saving water and burning less fossil fuels to heat that water, but your body odor will soon separate your real friends from superficial hangers-on. But we urban homesteaders don’t need to be stinky since it’s possible and easy to build an outdoor solar shower. There are two reasons this makes sense, particularly in a place with as warm a climate as LA. First of all, you can direct the water straight into the garden and...

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Build a Ghetto Solar Cooker

Using crap we had laying around the homestead, SurviveLA fashioned a solar cooker based on plans from Backwoods Home Magazine, the Dwell of the Ted Kaczynski set. We just substituted an old cooler for the cardboard boxes, and we finished it off by using one of Los Angeles’ ubiquitous abandoned car tires as a cradle to keep the cooker oriented towards the sun. It ain’t pretty but it works. In our first test we reached 160º inside the...

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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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Bean Fest, Episode 2: Falafel and Babaganoush Recipes

Welcome back to Bean Fest 2010, our ongoing celebration of the humble dried bean. Last week we got a lot of great tips and hints in the comments. If you haven’t read those, I’d encourage you to take a peek. We also got a couple of recipes via email that we’re going to test out. Thanks, ya’ll! Again, if anyone has a favorite bean recipe, please send it this way ([email protected]). One lesson to take away...

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Harvesting and Drying Calendula

Mrs. Homegrown here: Okay, so in a previous post I talked about growing Calendula. This post I’m going to talk about harvesting and drying it. The next post I’ll do on the topic will be about making a skin-healing salve from the dried petals, olive oil and beeswax. When to harvest:  Start harvesting your Calendula as soon as the first flush of flowers is in full bloom. Don’t try to “save” the flowers. The more you...

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The Making of a Great Olive Oil

...e At the end of all this machinery the oil pours out of a spigot and into a steel drum: We all had the great privilege of tasting the freshly squeezed oil. I won’t soon forget that heavenly flavor. Matt told us that it takes around a ton of olives to make 25 to 30 gallons of oil. The olives come from a thousand trees that are tucked around the vineyards. If you’re ever in Northern California the Preston Vineyard is well worth a v...

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Our Books

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World , by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen This book, written by a husband-and-wife team of die-hard DIYers, will leave you thinking you can take on the world and win. –Milwaukee Journal Sentinal My favorite of all these recent books by far… — Kirkus Reviews A how-to book providing you with all of the tools you need to become a producer instead of a consumer and transform your h...

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Broom Corn–or is it Broomcorn?

Mrs. Homegrown here: This summer 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 ...

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DIY Solar Space Heating

Photo: Build It Solar. Mrs. Homegrown, who spent her formative years in the mountains of Colorado, made fun of me this morning as I noted the “cold” temperature . . . 60°F. It was the first ironic “brrrrrr” out of her mouth, letting me know that we’ve transitioned from the hot smoggy season to the the less hot smoggy season here in Los Angeles. In the northern hemisphere it’s time to consider heating. The alwa...

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Back on the Yogurt Train: How to Make Yogurt

...what I can. Lately I’ve realized that one consistent source of waste plastic in our kitchen comes in the form of yogurt tubs. This is a little silly, because we know how to make yogurt. In fact, I do believe we covered it in our book. Thing is, back in the day when we made yogurt, it was Erik’s job. When he slacked on it, I didn’t even consider picking it up. Chalk it up to the mysteries of division of labor in a household. An...

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