The Energy Environment Simulator

...s thrift shopping in San Diego with my friend Niklas Vollmer. I can still remember the moment we stumbled on the Energy-Environment Simulator. We couldn’t stop laughing and we realized that we had to buy it. How often do you run into an Energy-Environment Simulator in working condition? t’s been the centerpiece of Nik’s living room ever since, even making a cross country move. The device demonstrates energy inputs and demands. D...

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Making It

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen (Rodale Books, 2011) ISBN-13: 978-1605294629 Buy it at:  Amazon • Abe Books • Barnes & Nobel • Powell’s Making It provides you with all of the tools you need to become a producer instead of a consumer and transform your home from the ground up. Projects range from the simple to the ambitious, and include activities done in the hom...

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The Whip: A Homemade Moisturizer How-To from Making It

...s instead of one big one, and we’ll talk about that later on. Note: This recipe is verbose, but the actual making of the lotion takes all of 10 minutes. It’s really very simple once you have the details down: melt wax into oil, blend oil with water, pour into jars. The Procedure I am going to describe my method for making this. It’s not the only way–you can tinker around to make it work for the equipment you have. I like...

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The Sundiner–A Groovy 1960s Era Solar Cooker

...difficult to clean, unidentifiable space age insulation material. Grilling is really not the best application of solar energy–you lose the smoky flavor and grill marks you get with fire–which is probably why the Sundiner never caught on. More recent solar box ovens that I’ve seen, both commercial and homebrew, have shelves with adjustable angles, making it easier to use them as crock pots. Nevertheless, I admire the efficiency o...

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Summer of Solar Cookin’

...be 4-5 cups You want to make sure to use plenty of water. Beans absorb a lot of water as they rehydrate and the solar cooker looses some moisture as it cooks. So err on the side of extra water. I’m not much of one for measuring. The great thing about making beans, soups and stews is you can add a pinch of this and a sprig of that and adjust the flavoring as you go. It is very forgiving. I put the pot in the solar cooker around 10 a.m. a...

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Permaculture Design Course at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano

...FF-SITE – Guided tour of various farms in Vista, Tour of permaculture plant nursery, build plant lists MAY 10 / WASTE – Composting methods, nutrient cycle overview (nitrogen, carbon cycles), soil science overview, building biomass- focus in permaculture, keeping backyard chickens, composting methods workshop / build a worm bin MAY 11 / ENERGY + SHELTER – Passive solar design, walk through an energy audit, how to read a utility b...

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How To Dry Food With the Sun

...60% humidity. If you live in a desert, humidity isn’t a problem. But in most other places in North America it’s simply too moist to set food out under the sun. It will rot before it dries. In Los Angeles, due to the influence of the ocean, it’s slightly too humid most of the year for sun drying to work well. But there’s an easy way to overcome humidity: convection, i.e. hot air rises. Most solar dehydrators take advantage...

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Our Books

...hat’s the difference between these books? We get this question a lot. The Urban Homestead has projects in it, but overall it is more of an inspirational book, a book to get you thinking about the possibilities of do-it-yourself living. It’s a great place to start. We wrote Making It because we’d had comments from readers of The Urban Homestead that they wanted more projects. Making It is a 100% pure project book. It’s for...

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Making Salves, Lip Balms & etc.: Close of the Calendula Series

My calendula after-bath salve. The camera refuses to capture the deep butter yellow color On Saturday, as a part of this long series on Calendula (here, here and here), I posted about infusing oil with herbs. If you’ve got some herb infused oil, you can make that into a medicinal salve or balm. Salve is nothing but oil thickened by the addition of wax. I prefer beeswax salves, though there are vegan alternatives, like candelil...

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Build a Solar Dehydrator

...ral convection (hot air rises). You put the food on screen covered trays in the upper box. With sliced tomatoes it takes about two full days of drying and you have to take the food indoors at night to prevent mold from growing (a minor inconvenience). We built our dehydrator several years ago and have used it each season for tomatoes, figs and for making dried zucchini chips. You can find plans for this “Appalachian Dehydrator”, desi...

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