CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

I’ve been experimenting with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard. It has a couple of nice features: It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles. When you fold it up it takes up no more space than a...

Continue reading…

Make a Spore Print

Making a mushroom spore print is a fun activity for the kidlings and it’s simple: 1. Pick a mushroom (from the wild or the supermarket) and break off the stem. 2. Put your mushroom, spore side down, on a piece of white paper (or a 50/50 split of of dark paper and white paper to check subtleties in the color). 3. Put a glass over the mushroom and wait 24 hours. The next day you should have something that looks like the picture above. Spore...

Continue reading…

Laundry to Landscape Legal in LA

...ming that you don’t need a permit within LA city limits for “a graywater system in a one or two-family dwelling that is supplied only by a clothes-washer and/or a single-fixture system.” Though, confusingly, it also goes on to say, “Any alteration to the building or plumbing, electrical or mechanical system requires a permit.” I guess we shouldn’t expect clarity from a department that can’t seem to get a...

Continue reading…

Scarlet Runner Bean Stew

Homegrown Neighbor here: Apparently a block away, Mrs. Homegrown has also been having bean cravings. Maybe there is something in the air. Maybe its just that beans are hearty, filling, inexpensive and all around awesome. I happened to get my hands on a bag of dried scarlet runner beans from Rancho Gordo specialty beans. Scarlet runners are a favorite garden bean as they are great climbers and produce beautiful red flowers. If you want to grow...

Continue reading…

Seltzer Works Doc Screens on PBS

...him to carbonate at much greater pressure than either store bought or home carbonating systems. And the valve on those old bottles allows for dispensing seltzer without the entire bottle losing pressure. As Gomberg points put it in Seltzer Works, good seltzer should tickle the back of the throat when you drink it. And, of course, those bottles get reused over and over again.   A publicist for PBS sent me a copy of Seltzer Works, and the shots of...

Continue reading…

Summer of Solar Cookin’

Homegrown Neighbor here: I was lucky to recently receive a really nice solar cooker from a family friend. Apparently it had been sitting in her garage for a while, and I was happy to take it off of her hands. The model is called an SOS Sport. It is a box style cooker with a black interior and clear, insulated lid. It also has a removable reflector to help concentrate the light in the box. The reflector is helpful, but I’ve seen the tempe...

Continue reading…

Solar Light Hack

We wanted a solar powered light over our new entrance arbor. The problem is that most of the lights available are just plain ugly. And the solar panels on the cheaper models are usually mounted on the light itself making it impossible to place them in a shady spot. I came up with a simple solution. First, I bought an inexpensive solar light intended to be mounted on a fence. I took it apart and desoldered the LEDs off the circuit board. Nex...

Continue reading…

Trapping bees out of a kitchen vent

...c” box (a cardboard box that holds five frames) that contains open brood comb, cells with eggs and larvae, from another hive. The workers can’t get back into their old home, adopt the brood comb in the box and use it to create a new queen. The process takes at least four to six weeks since you have to wait for the old queen to stop laying eggs and for all the bees in the wall to make their way out. At then end of the six weeks the bee...

Continue reading…

Root Simple Redesign

We’re getting ready to make some big improvements to our website. Roman Jaster, the designer of our book Making It (seen at the console in the picture above taking some last minute refinements from Mrs. Homegrown), is just about to pull the switch on the new design. We’re switching from Blogger to WordPress. Our new website design will feature: improved search functions an easier to navigate interface improved comment moderation be...

Continue reading…

Maggots!

...n make out of a garbage can, or you can buy a specialized composting bin. This is what we use around the Survive LA compound. The process is simple – put compostable materials (no meat, fish or oils!) into the bin, keep it moist but not wet, and wait a year. Also remember not to put weeds in the pile as the seeds can spread to wherever you use the compost. To speed up the decomposition process in a single pile composter, you can remove the...

Continue reading…