Remember to Label Those Jars!

...ult 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 tattoo on my forearm that says, “Lab...

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2011 in Review: Urban Homestead Trademark Dispute

...steading, and the Santa Monica Public Library. In addition DI successfully manged to get Facebook to take down a page about our book The Urban Homestead, that our publisher had put up, in addition to Denver Urban Homesteading’s Facebook page. As of this date both of those Facebook pages are still down. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Winston & Strawn LLP have generously assisted us in challenging the DI’s trademarks. The D...

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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

...ndula Harvesting and drying Calendula Oil infusion is as simple as can be.  Oil infusion is soaking. Think of it like making sun tea. You take a nice clean jar with a good lid, and fill that about half way full of dried herb, top it off with oil, and let that sit in the sun. The resulting oil is medicinal. It can be used straight on the skin, or fashioned into salves and balms. I’m particularly fond of Calendula. As a skin treatment it...

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What’s the Best Solar Food Dryer?

...makes this approach risky. Food can spoil before enough moisture is removed. That’s why you should build a solar food dryer. Brace Direct Food Dryer. Image: FAO. There are two basic designs for solar food dryers: direct and indirect. Direct dryers are just a box with a piece of glass on the top. Indirect dryers use a box to collect the heat of the sun and then, thanks to the fact that hot air rises, take that heat up into...

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DIY Outdoor Shower

...that water from uselessly running down the sewer line. Secondly, placing the shower outdoors makes rigging up a solar heating system somewhat easier and less expensive. Of course, the solar heating part isn’t completely necessary, and it’s possible to run the hot water line out into the garden, especially since you don’t need to worry about the pipes freezing here in sunny LA. One thing to remember–however you rig the sho...

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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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The Making of a Great Olive Oil

Kelly admires the olives Thanks to our good friend Dale Benson, Kelly and I got to see how a really high quality olive oil is made. Dale knows Matt Norelli, the wine and olive oil maker at Preston Vineyards of Dry Creek, an organic family farm near Healdsburg in Northern California. Matt was nice enough to let us watch the complicated olive oil machinery in action. First the freshly picked olives go into a big hopper (above). They are...

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Our Books

...and out on the streets. Provides step-by-step instructions for a wide range of projects, from building a 99-cent solar oven to making your own laundry soap to instructions for brewing beer. Making It is the go-to source for post-consumer living activities that are fun, inexpensive and eminently doable. Our goal in this book was to provide really stripped down, simple projects that use only inexpensive, easy to source materials. We also tried to...

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Broom Corn–or is it Broomcorn?

...some unripe stalks for the lighter colors. How much do I plant? I finally found some good instructions on broom making (links later), long after planting, and those said that you need 45 nice big heads to make a standard flat broom. Each plant yields one head. My harvest was 50 heads total, including scrawny ones. This means I won’t be making a standard broom. Keep that number–45–in mind, and then pad it to make allowance for s...

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