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...

Continue reading…

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...

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…

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…

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…

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…

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...

Continue reading…

Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

  This is just a quick tip. If your family prefers liquid soap to bar soap, one easy way to avoid all the creepy, expensive, colored, perfumed, anti-bacterial liquid soaps on the market  (and all the plastic they come in) is to just use liquid castile soap to wash your hands.  Ah, but yes–liquid castile soap is runny. Indeed. I can hear the complaints already.  The way around that problem is to use one of them fancy-schmancy foaming soap...

Continue reading…