When It Gets Hot in Chicago: Make Tempeh!

Tempeh image from Wikipedia. Today, a guest post from Nancy Klehm, writing to us from Chicago, in the midst of an epic drought and heat wave. Here’s Nancy: A Drought of Inspiration Until last week, we were at 12% of our normal precipitation for our eight month growing season. This, plus extreme temperatures, made us delirious when some humidity blew south from Canada and was sticky enough to grab ahold of some clouds and build th...

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Four Ways to Preserve Prickly Pear Pads (Nopales)

For my final project in the Los Angeles Master Food Preserver Program I attempted to see how many ways I could preserve the abundant pads of the prickly pear cactus that grows in our front yard. Of course they are best fresh, but I like them so much that I wanted to see if I could preserve some for use later in the year. Incidentally, I prepare them fresh by first cutting them into strips and boiling them for five minutes to remove the mucilagi...

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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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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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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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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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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

Kurt demos proper hawk and trowel technique. I just spent a blissful weekend in the California desert learning earth based finish techniques from adobe master Kurt Gardella. Some observations: Earth plastering is not something you can learn from a book. It takes practice and hands-on experience. In this excellent workshop we got three full days of learning the techniques both for indoor and outdoor surfaces. Clay, sand, wheat...

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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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