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 era energy crisis and...

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Gardening Mistakes: Six Ways We’ve Killed Plants

In the years we’ve gardened we’ve killed our share of plants. I’d like to think we’ve learned from our errors. To that end, I thought I’d run down some of the big mistakes we’ve made. 1. The right plant in the right place Our front yard is a hillside. Our backyard has two tall trees that cast shade towards the north. The soil varies in color, texture and quality largely due to almost a hundred years of constr...

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Saturday Linkages: Solar Projects, John Cage and Cat Litter

Image: Build It Solar. Build-It-Solar Blog: Four Interesting New Projects from Around the Web http://www.builditsolarblog.com/2014/04/new-and-interesting-solar-projects.html?spref=tw … John Cage: Mushroom Hunter http://hyperallergic.com/118615/john-cage-mushroom-hunter/ … The lasting legacy of the Dobson telescope http://www.scpr.org/programs/brand-martinez/2012/09/12/28381/amateur-astronomers-stars-john-dobson-telescope/ … The most epic Ikea ha...

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Nesting Box Plans in SketchUp

SketchUp is a free and easy to use 3D modeling program. And users have created a library of 3D models you can download. Up until recently most of these models were not particularly useful to DIY urban homesteady types. Enter SketchUp model contributor Rick whose collection of models includes the chicken nesting box above, raised garden beds and a couple of other useful projects. I’m really looking forward to seeing more open source projec...

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A Year after The Age of Limits: 5 Responses to the End Times

photo by Sansculotte on de.wikipedia Ever since Erik and I and our friend John attended the Age of Limits conference a year ago, I’ve been meaning to offer some kind of measured response to the conference.  (The Age of Limits conference is a sort of woodsy fiesta for doomers held annually in Pennsylvania. For more info, follow the link.).  I’ve hesitated to do so, though, for two reasons. The first reason was that I wasn’t sure...

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The High Cost of Golf

Though I’m partial to my Xtracycle cargo bike, once in a while I’ll rent a pickup truck to haul some big items. Yesterday it was time to get a bunch of straw bales to use as bedding for the chickens. While driving by a public golf course on the way to the feed store, the windshield suddenly shattered startling me and my passenger, Ari of Islands of LA, who had come along to help out. Instictively, we ducked thinking that someone was...

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Piet Oudolf’s Enhanced Nature

A garden designer has the difficult task of balancing texture, color, and space while simultaneously dealing with the unpredictability of nature. Long ago I gave up on the idea of ever being good at garden design. But help has come from an unlikely source, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s revolutionary book Planting A New Perspective. High Line Park. Piet Oudolf is probably best known in the US as the plant designer for the High Line park...

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On Living in Los Angeles Without a Car: A Debate

Photo by Sarah Sulaiman LAStreetsblog.org. Walkin’ in L.A., nobody walks in L.A. Walkin’ in L.A. Walkin’ in L.A., only a nobody walks in L.A. - Missing Persons Erik: It’s been nearly two months since a texting video producer totaled the car that Kelly and I shared: a 1993 teal Acura Integra hatchback. Except for a few car rentals, we haven’t been doing much driving. In short, we get to claim the olive wreath of...

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A New Reality

We received an email from a casting agency searching for talent for a reality show where the participants will live on a remote farm, grow their own food and come up with their own method of governance.  The series will make use of the usual reality show plot device of having participants vote each other off the show. The agency wanted us to put out a casting call. We won’t do that. I’m tired of stories that sow discord and hold up...

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