Stinkhorn NSFW!

Proof that the mind of Gaia has a crude sense of humor–something along the lines of, “Let’s find another design context for that dog reproductive appendage, only this time we’ll make it slimy and smell like carrion.” I guess you gotta do whatever it takes to get those spores around even if it means pandering to blow flies.  Extra points to the mycologist out there who pins down the scientific name of this fly attr...

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Easy to Make & Delicious Fermented Veggies

Inspiration hit at Camp Ramshackle and I finally made fermented vegetables. I loosely followed the Golden recipe from The Versatile Vegetable by Miranda Barrett and Colleen Pollard with cabbage, golden beets, carrots, celery, ginger, lemon and garlic. I omitted the Granny Smith apple because every person/book I consulted said use only the freshest apples and my stash had been sitting for quite some time. I made a stop at Culture Club in Pasad...

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Summer Urban Homestead Failures: Exploding Beer Bottles

Somehow in last week’s roundup of the summer’s failures I blocked out of my memory the most exasperating: exploding beer bottles. I think I may have had a contaminated siphon hose which passed on some nasty, yeasty bacterial bug to every single bottle of two batches of beer I had made this summer. Three of those bottles over-carbonated to the point that they became beer grenades and exploded. One blew up on the kitchen counter and...

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Free Preparedness E-Books

Camp loom, for making mats and mattresses from the 1911 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook Through a circuitous bit of aimless interweb searching I came across a huge list of downloadable urban homesteading/gardening/survivalist manuals on a site called hardcorepreppers.com. Unfortunately, this site is so popular that it seems to be down every time I’ve checked. But thanks to Google’s caching feature I was able to access a li...

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Urban Homesteading Mistakes: Landscape Fabric

Since you all seem to enjoy accounts of our many failures around the Root Simple compound, I thought I’d share what must be one of the worst mistakes I’ve made. It’s a error up in our great chandelier of failures along with buying a 91 year old house on a hill with a bad foundation. Two words for you: landscape fabric–that plastic stuff sold in rolls at big box stores that allegedly blocks out weeds. Just after we bough...

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The World’s Most Beautiful Okra

If you live in a warm climate, okra is easy to grow and both beautiful and tasty. I spotted this variety growing at the Huntington Ranch: Burgundy Okra from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.The stems and seed pods are a deep and vibrant burgundy–a very stunning plant for your vegetable garden. While not as striking, this year I grew Clemson Spineless okra from seeds I saved. And thanks to a tip (can’t remember where I heard this) I’...

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The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush

“There are a few rules of thumb that are useful guides. One is that when you are confronted with some problem in the apiary and you do not know what to do, then do nothing. Matters are seldom made worse by doing nothing and are often made much worse by inept intervention.”-Richard Taylor Michael Bush, in his new book on natural beekeeping, The Practical Beekeeper Beekeeping Naturally, begins with Taylor’s quote, which could just as eas...

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Kitten Meet Kitten: How to handle kittten introductions?

photo by Anne Hars I’m leaving behind the gloomy chicken news of the last couple days to announce that we’ve been suckered blessed yet again by our neighbor Anne with a locally grown sustainable kitten. We are now officially “cat people.” Everyone, meet Trout, a bouncy brown tabby boy with white boots. We’ve had Trout for a couple of day and are trying to convince Phoebe (our older kitten) that this is not,...

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Another Chicken Fatality

We lost another chicken last night meaning that we’ve got something infectious. I didn’t have the stomach to do a post-mortem exam, nor would I know what to look for anyways (chicken CSI would make a nice class if only there were someone to teach it). I thumbed through Gail Damerow’s Chicken Health Handbook, but I don’t have much evidence to go on. I didn’t see any obvious symptoms other than a very small amount o...

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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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