Earth Based Finishes for Walls

...roportions of clay/sand/straw by doing test patches. Too much clay and the surface will crack. Too much sand and it wont stick to the wall when you try to trowel it on. Straw can be used to strike a balance. We did a second scratch coat on the first day that ended up cracking badly. We tried to add more sand but that made the plaster too hard to trowel on. The solution was to add more straw, which allowed us to keep a higher clay content in the m...

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How to Make a Mosaic Stepping Stone

...r, with the sticky side up. to a piece of melamine coated fiberboard. Melamine is a good material to use because it helps it has a very smooth, even surface and is unlikely to warp. In addition, using melamine for the sides of the mold helps it release more easily. I built this mold out a piece of a discarded Ikea bookshelf. While I was cutting the bottom piece, I cut four additional small pieces of the bookshelf to form the sides of the mold.The...

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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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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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Home Food Preservation Resources

I’m honored to have been included in this year’s class of the Los Angeles Master Food Preservers, a program offered by our local extension service to train volunteers to teach food preservation in under-served communities. I thought I would share the textbook resources from the class as they are an excellent set of reference books for your homesteading library. And many are available for free online. Like all information from the ex...

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Top Tasting Tomato Varieties

Sakura Honey, image from the Master Gardeners of Frankly County It’s the time of year to start figuring out what tomatoes to plant here in the northern hemisphere. How about using taste to decide? The Master Gardeners of Franklin County Pennsylvania do a taste test every year. Here’s the top ten from last year’s results: 1 Sakura Honey 2 Red Pearl 3 Five Star 4 Principe Borghese 5 Old Brooks 6 Arbason 7 Fabulous 8 Heri...

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Sun Boxes: A Solar Powered Public Art Project

It’s not often that my unused music degree intersects with the topic of this blog, but I got an email from Craig Colorusso describing a neat, solar powered public art project that he’s touring the US with called Sun Boxes. From the description on his website: Sun Boxes are an environment to enter and exit at will. It’s comprised of twenty speakers operating independently, each powered by the sun via solar panels. There is a differ...

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Four Ways to Preserve Prickly Pear Pads (Nopales)

...one minute. I then packed them in to freezer bags. Freezing is the best method in terms of taste and nutrition. It’s easy and it works great. Pickled I used the this okra recipe from the National Center for Home Preservation for my pickled nopalitos. They turned out very tasty. Pressure Canned Prickly pear is sold canned both in water and with a small amount of vinegar.  Unfortunately there are no tested home canning recipes for pressure c...

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