Qualitites of a Good Outdoor Room

...rd (could just be mulch or could be concrete or wood) A place to sit Art, objects, i.e. some human touch With these ideas in mind, how can I improve the outdoor spaces in the photos in this post? On the front porch I could add a small table to hold a book and a glass of beer. The space with the stove needs shelter from the sun during the morning (in another year the grapes will cover the arbor but until that time maybe I need to string up some...

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Fall 2012 Adobe Classes With Kurt Gardella

I’ve taken three adobe classes with Kurt Gardella–and he built the amazing earth oven in our backyard. Kurt has a couple of classes coming up and I thought I’d help get the word out. He’s a great teacher. From an email he just sent: Dear adobe friends, Intro Fall is a great time for natural plastering and interior finishing work. Interior mud plastering and installing an earthen floor finish the normal adobe house constr...

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Eating In: The Biosphere Cookbook

...ng what went wrong and why the Biosphere project became fodder for a Pauly Shore movie, I’d just point out the hubris of thinking that you can simulate mother nature in her infinite complexity.  Watch episode 2 of Adam Curtis’ All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace for more on that problem. Philosophical quibbles aside, what’s interesting about this cookbook is that ambitious suburban homesteaders might be able to, like th...

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Picture Sundays: Makin’ Adobes

From the Library of Congress image archive “Spanish-American removing form shaped adobe brick. The adobe brick is next dried by the sun. Chamisal, New Mexico. July 1940.” This is exactly what I’ve been doing in my spare time for a few weeks now in preparation for an upcoming earth oven workshop. I’m on adobe #50–45 more to go! And, from the same archive, an adobe chicken coop: “Scene in the adobe brick chic...

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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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How to Prep Fabric for Dyeing: Scouring

...ave that, I’d have turned to Bronner’s Sal Suds or dish soap. How to: How much water should you use? The fabric has to have lots of room. If you pack it into the pot it won’t clean properly.  Liles recommends 1 quart of water per ounce of cotton yarn and 2 quarts per ounce of cotton fabric.  This may mean you’ll have to scour in batches to do it properly. Allow time for this. Recommended quantities of soap and soda vary so...

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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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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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Don’t be so quick to clean up

A lot of magic happens in the “dead” parts of a garden. Flowers gone to seed feed birds. Dead stalks support important insect life–from spiders to pollinators. Fallen leaves and sticks give habitat to lizards and toads and mushrooms and myriads of invisible creatures. Yet dead growth is not attractive to the human eye, and around about this time of year we’re all itching to make a clean sweep of all that brown stuff. I...

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Shibori Challenge Proves Challenging

...ht, deep yellow with no fuss. And I just happened to have a big container of stale turmeric just wasting away on the shelf. I tried some shibori techniques with that, with some okay first time results — though also with plenty of beginner mistakes. In the pic above, the white cloth with the yellow lines on it was done by folding the cloth into accordion folds, like a paper fan, then folding that shape into a stack of triangles, then clampin...

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