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...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

Al Pacino Closed My Bike Lane

It’s the classic urban cycling problem: when faced with the indignities of riding in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, do you make it all one big fun challenge or become what Bikesnob calls “the righteous cyclist?”  Righteous cyclists, according to Bikesnob, are “convinced that the very act of turning the pedals will actually restore acres and acres of rainforest, suck smog from the sky and refreeze the ice caps....

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

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...

Continue reading…

How to Prevent Bees From Living in Your Walls . . . or Welcome Them In

...stories told by exterminators (they are, after all, selling poison). But if you have to remove bees from a wall it can be an expensive job if done correctly. I’ve removed hives from walls and it’s both hard on the bees and the beekeeper. Thankfully you can take a few easy steps to prevent a hive from moving into your house. Bees like dark hollow spaces–think of a dead tree or an empty stud wall. Here in LA many old houses, suc...

Continue reading…

Avoiding Hyperthermia

When spending a day baking pizzas at a public event in front of a 1000º F oven in the full Southern California sun remember to drink water and take breaks. Otherwise you will spend the next day in bed with a splitting headache, unable to eat, barely able to drink anything and at the mercy of two young cats. The first time I pulled off a case of hyperthermia was after a long bike ride. I would not call it fun, nor would I like this to happen whe...

Continue reading…