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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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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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

...211;they could be disastrously worse. Why roll the dice on this one? It just doesn’t make any sense. For me, this makes anti-bacterial soaps about as needful as evening wear for hogs accessorized with a doomsday device. 3) And finally, the wastefulness of it all makes me cry. Note the the cheap plastic shell and electronic innards assembled in Chinese factories–not to mention the big-ass clamshell package it all comes in. How long wi...

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Peat-free Planting Mix Recipe With Coconut Coir

Nancy’s coconut coir-based planting mix. Here she’s doing the squeeze test, which we talk about below. From an environmental perspective peat moss is a nightmare. Mining of this material is unsustainable, contributes to global warming and destroys habitat for many plants and animals. But, for starting seeds, we’ve used it for years. Our friend Nancy Klehm taught us recently how to make a seed starting mix with coconut...

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Saturday Linkages: Pig’s Milk, Hot Sauce, Clutter

...ports on Use of Non-Traditional Materials for Crop Production: http:// extension.agron.iastate.edu/compendium/ind ex.aspx  …   Cross-contamination: washing chicken or any meat is a bad idea | barfblog: http:// bit.ly/M4pybB   Making hot sauces with wild plants: http://www. urbanoutdoorskills.com/wildfoodlab.ht ml  …   How to Restore an Heirloom Axe | The Art of Manliness http:// artofmanliness.com/2012/07/17/how -to-restore-an-heirloom-axe/  …  ...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

The new compost pile is covered with a tarp to keep moisture in. Eventually it will fill this whole space. In the background you can see our leftover adobe bricks. So–our regular readers will know that we have high levels of lead in our back yard soil. We’re dealing with this by filling most of our yard with mulch and perennial natives to lock down the soil (lead laden dust is bad) and to diversify the local ecosystem. Mea...

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The Sacred Chickens of Ancient Rome

the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens. The most common method of drawing these omens consisted in examining the manner in which the chickens dealt with grain that was presented to them. If they ate it avidly while stamping their feet and scattering it here and there, the augury was favorable; if they refused to eat and drink, the omen was bad and the undertaking for which it was consulted was abandoned. When there w...

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Indigo 101

...s and notes which I hope will help other indigo beginners sort things out. Here’s a stack of stuff he’s working on : And here’s some silk he dyed with bougainvillaea flowers. The two tone effect is just how it happened to dye. You rock, Graham!: But back to the indigo. Indigo seedlings on Graham’s front step. A hint from Graham: to ensure germination, scarify the seed with sand paper and soak overnight before plan...

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Barley Water

Being an American, barley water is not part of my mental landscape. Perhaps it was big in the U.S. back in the Victorian era, but it seems to have faded from our national consciousness. Indeed, if you’re one of our American readers, you may be asking now: what the heck is it? My fellow Americans, barley water is a drink made from barley, lemon and sugar, known to be cooling and refreshing in the summer and perhaps somewhat healthy. Meanw...

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