A Parvati Solar Cooker

Damn, is solar cooking easy! Put some rice in a pot, place the pot in this simple panel cooker, made with cardboard and aluminum foil, stick it out in the sun and two hours later you have lunch. We built our “Parvati” solar cooker with plans designed by Shobha Ravindra Pardeshi that can be found here. Pardeshi, who runs an “appropriate technology” company with her husband in India has another design for a similar dish-sha...

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The Sundiner–A Groovy 1960s Era Solar Cooker

Backywards beekeeper Dennis of The Buzz in the Dale, was nice enough to gift me his vintage Sundiner solar cooker that he found at a garage sale a few years ago. Resembling a cross between a portable 1960s record player and a satellite, the Sundiner is compact, light and easy to carry. A built in thermometer lets you know when you have hit cooking temperatures. The unit is so efficient, that when I set it up at noon it hit 350° F within minut...

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Solar Light Hack

We wanted a solar powered light over our new entrance arbor. The problem is that most of the lights available are just plain ugly. And the solar panels on the cheaper models are usually mounted on the light itself making it impossible to place them in a shady spot. I came up with a simple solution. First, I bought an inexpensive solar light intended to be mounted on a fence. I took it apart and desoldered the LEDs off the circuit board. Nex...

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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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Steal this Book!

Our book has been released! It’s available wherever books are sold, or you can get an autographed copy from us over on the right side of this page. Tell your friends and family! Blog, twitter, friend, digg and yell! From the press release: The Urban Homestead is the essential handbook for a burgeoning new movement: urbanites are becoming farmers. By growing their own food and harnessing natural energy, city dwellers are reconnecting with t...

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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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The Food and Flowers Freedom Act

website: Problem: In 1946, a Los Angeles municipal code known as the Truck Gardening Ordinance was written to allow the growing of vegetables in a residential (R1) zone for sale off-site. What this means, however, is that it is prohibited for city dwellers in R1 zones to grow fruits, nuts, flowers or seedlings and sell them off-site – at local farmers’ markets for example. Furthermore, no one at City Hall can agree on what Truck Gardeni...

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Remember to Label Those Jars!

e no idea. They were probably the result of some late night canning frenzy two years ago. At the time I probably thought to myself, “I’ll label them in the morning.” Not only should the jars be labeled, but it would also have been nice to have some notes on the recipe I used and where the fruit was sourced from. To this end I’ve started a preservation diary in a useful program called Evernote. Perhaps I should get a tatto...

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CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

I’ve been experimenting with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard. It has a couple of nice features: It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles. When you fold it up it takes up no more space than a...

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How to make a Calendula oil infusion

Love that golden orange color. It’s prettier in real life. So finally I get around to finishing off this mini series on Calendula (pot marigold). This post will be on infusing oil, and next week we’ll have the one on salves. We’ve already covered the growing and drying Calendula: Why not plant some Calendula Harvesting and drying Calendula Oil infusion is as simple as can be.  Oil infusion is soaking. Think of...

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