Our New Straw Bale Garden–Part I

...raw bale gardening a promising solution. Bales and fertilizer are easier to carry up the stairs than bulk soil. It will be cheaper than buying soil. No lead and zinc. I was also inspired by this attractive straw bale garden in Arizona. It will be a garden that changes over time. I like the idea of watching the bales turn into compost and their gradual replacement with more permanent structures. I’m hoping that the view from the two Adiron...

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Airing Our Dirty Laundry

Let’s face it folks, clothes dryers suck and even Martha Stewart agrees with SurviveLA that the way to go is the old-fashioned clothes line. SurviveLA put a retractable line up in the back yard this week to replace our hated Kenmore dryer. May the bastards at Sears suffer Pharaoh’s plagues sprinkled with Job’s scabies for designing this ugly, awkward and inelegant machine. Besides, with the blazing hot sun of Los Angeles, it ma...

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Journal of the New Alchemists

“Six-Pack” Backyard Solar Greenhouse, 1975. Image: Journal of the New Alchemy. After reading an article by Paul Ehrlich, “Eco-Catastrophe!,” Nancy Todd turned to her husband John and said, “We must do something.” The year was 1969 and the Todds along with Bill McLarney went on to found the New Alchemy Institute. History repeats itself. What the New Alchemists did, in response to the 1970s er...

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The Elf and Ethics

The Elf is a kind of aerodynamic, electric assist tricycle with solar panels to charge the batteries. It’s a type of vehicle, somewhere between a bike and a car, that a number of inventors have tinkered with over the years. Good arguments exist for and against this type of transportation. On the one hand it uses far fewer resources than an automobile. But one could also argue, as does the owner of a bike shop in this video, that we̵...

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Learn to Build with Adobe

Kurt Gardella made me an adobe convert and helped us build an oven in our backyard that is responsible for many delicious pizzas. I’ve taken a few classes he’s taught, both in person and online. If you want to learn adobe, Kurt’s your man. Here’s some info on upcoming classes he’s teaching: Are you looking for college credit for your adobe construction coursework? I am teaching the following spri...

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Our Keyhole Vegetable Bed: What Worked and What Didn’t Work

...the remaining vegetables to our chickens and the compost pile. Ignore the large pot–that’s a future solar powered fountain that will be incorporated in a new vegetable garden we’re working on. Here’s what the keyhole bed looked like just after I installed it back in October. Note the compost repository in the center of the bed. I used straw wattle (available where professional irrigation supplies are s...

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Saturday Linkages: Straw Bales and Bike Hacks

Photo by Tracy Walsh/Poser Design Gardening Straw bale gardening in the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/10kt1Hf DIY How to fix a bicycle tube http://www.afrigadget.com/2013/02/22/how-to-fix-a-bicycle-tube/ … Bike headlight displays speed: http://boingboing.net/2013/03/20/bike-headlight-displays-speed.html Build-It-Solar Blog: A Inexpensive DIY Blower Door http://www.builditsolarblog.com/2013/02/a-inexpensive-diy-blower-door-t...

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The Stages of Alchemy as a Metaphor for Composting

I’ve been struck, for a long time, at the connections between alchemy and composting. I thought it might be interesting to “thoughtstyle” on the alchemical process and what it has to teach us as a metaphor for composting. Though there’s not universal agreement on this, western alchemy is often divided into four stages identified by color: Nigredo or blackening “The ever deepening descent into the unconscious sudde...

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Book Review: More Other Homes and Garbage Designs for Self-Sufficient Living

If I could have only one book on my zombie apocalypse bookshelf it would be this one. Though it has to be one of the worst book titles ever, More Other Homes and Garbage: Designs for Self-Sufficient Living, by Standford University professors, Jim Leckie, Gil Masters, Harry Whitehouse and Lily Young has everything you need to set up your off-grid compound. This book, first published in 1975 and revised in 1981, grew out of a heady period in appr...

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Mitchell Joachim’s Techno-Utopian Future

...House. Mitchell Joachim At the risk of being a nattering nabob of negativity, I just have to say that I think it’s time to grow up and stop fantasizing about jet packs, hydroponic farms and electric cars.  We need to get realistic about our future and explore design work that lives within the resource limits of this planet. Like Greer, I believe it’s time to return to what came to be called, in the 1960s and 70s, appropriate techno...

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