The Stages of Alchemy as a Metaphor for Composting

I’ve been struck, for a long time, at the connections between alchemy and composting. I thought it might be interesting to “thoughtstyle” on the alchemical process and what it has to teach us as a metaphor for composting. Though there’s not universal agreement on this, western alchemy is often divided into four stages identified by color: Nigredo or blackening “The ever deepening descent into the unconscious sudde...

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Earth Based Finishes for Walls

...er advantages: it absorbs sound, regulates humidity and is a good insulator. Drywall seems flimsy in comparison. There’s something about traditional plastering techniques (even the lath and plaster of our 1920s house) that give a room a comforting feeling. Of course, plastering with a hawk, trowel and darby take a lot of skill and time which is why they are seldom done anymore. It’s a pity. Image from japanesetrowels.com...

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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

...spenses Lysol anti-bacterial soap, which comes packed into special cartridges–meaning you can’t fill the dispenser with whatever soap you like. The tagline for this product is, “Never touch a germy soap pump again!”  I love the double-speak of Healthy Touch/No-Touch. Is the underlying logic that no touch is healthy? Time to evacuate to our plastic bubbles! Three cranky thoughts on this product: 1) First, the obvious. Wh...

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Media Fasting

...a duty to be engaged in political change.  But I believe that most of us are better off focusing on politics at the local level where our voices can actually make a difference. I really like the stoic flowchart Mark Frauenfelder posted on BoingBoing some time ago. It works really well for deciding if a particular political situation is worth paying attention to: I want to be abundantly clear that I am not a Luddite.  Communications technology,...

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How to Store Canned Goods: Take the Screw Band Off!

Right in the center, wrong on the left. Bungee cord ’cause we’re in earthquake country. Another quick tip from the Los Angeles Master Food Preservers: you should store your canned goods with the screw bands off. Why? So you can clean underneath the band to prevent spoilage and bugs. The screw band can create a false seal. Leaving the screw bands on can cause corrosion.  The only time to have the screw bands on is if you...

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Of Makers and Bowyers

Film One: Harry (Archer & Bowyer) from Dylan Ryan Byrne on Vimeo. I had a great time yesterday as a guest on a panel discussion at the LA Times Book Festival with Mark Frauenfelder and David Rees (thanks to Alisa Walker for being the best moderator ever). We talked about DIY culture and the ethos of being a “maker”. I think it’s safe to say that all of us on that panel have great admiration for talented “makers̶...

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Picture Sundays: Giant Crops of the Future

...rospect is the use of radiation to create more uniform and dependable crops that will end famine everywhere in the world. Gamma ray fields now operating on the east coast point to a day when crops will grow to giant size, vastly enlarging yield per acre. These super-plants will be disease and insect resistant — more tender and tasty — and controllable as to ripening time. Seasonal vegetables like corn will be available fresh nearly everyw...

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Update: Citrus Vinegar for Cleaning

...I’ve been doing this for a while now, using a 50/50 water and vinegar blend in my spray bottle, and I like the scent, but I’ve realized that because the vinegar is tinted by the orange peel if it is left to dry on a white surface it will leave yellow marks behind. This is not a big deal, because when using vinegar spray you are usually spraying and wiping at the same time, and I’ve never seen yellow streaks left behind from usin...

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Tiny Homes Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn

Full admission, I’m a bit of a Lloyd Kahn fanboy. So when he announced a new book Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter I knew I had to have a copy. Kahn has profiled the alternative building scene since the 1960s and edited the building section of the Whole Earth Catalog. I often thumb through a tattered copy of his seminal book Shelter that I picked up at a garage sale. Want to live in a driftwood shack? Shelter will show you how. I heard Kahn s...

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