Advances in Gardening Series: Thoughts on The Fan, and the problems of overabudance

...arlier photos of The Fan here. Mrs. Homegrown here: Last fall we dug up a sort of feral herb bed and replaced it with a more formal, three-part bed that I call The Fan. The idea is to use this bed to plant annual herbs and flowers. While some of these plants are medicinal, it is also a bed dedicated more to aesthetics than the rest of our garden, so it’s also a place where I particularly want to plant flowers and plants of strong visual...

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Legalize Baking!

Did you know that in California and many other states it’s illegal to hold a bake sale? That a synagogue in Los Angeles got busted by the Health Department for hosting a bake sale? That you can’t bake bread in a home kitchen and resell it? Obviously, we need to change this. In what looks like an economic climate that won’t change for the better anytime soon, we need to encourage micro-business enterprises, foster a entreprene...

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How to start a chicken retirement community

...m. He went veggie–more or less. Somehow we did a polar flip. While keeping chickens made him a vegetarian, it made me less sentimental. It’s not that I dislike them. I love having them around. All I can say is that somehow my relationship to them was clarified through experience. I’d sit out by the coop and think, “Yep, I wouldn’t mind eating one of those–and sure as heck they wouldn’t mind eating me, e...

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Michael Tortorello on Urban Homesteading

Michael Tortorello, who wrote that nice piece about us a few months ago, “Living Large, Off the Land,” is one of my favorite writers on gardening and “urban homesteady” topics. He’s critical without being curmudgeonly and manages to separate the truth from the hype (and there’s an awful lot of hype in this movement!). Plus he managed to get an entire paragraph about my thyrsus into the New York Times. Thyrsus...

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CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

...lks at Solar Cookers International gave us permission to reprint plans for their CooKit solar cooker in our book Making It. You can access those plans, as well as many other solar cooker projects, for free, on their website here. I’ve made CooKits out of cardboard and aluminum foil a couple of times. One problem is that I eventually bang up the cardboard and I’ve got to make a new one. This summer I had a lot of  1/4 inch plywood lef...

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Winter Squash Disaster

...echnically a pumpkin) in one of my vegetable beds located in a more secure location. Instead of some homo sapien making off with my squash bounty, it looks like the neighborhood raccoons are having a gnocchi party somewhere. All I’ve got to show for three Chioggia plants is one small squash and the one pictured above. Household animal tracking expert Mrs. Homegrown assures me that the nearby scat pile belongs to some raccoons. My thoughts...

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Cat Poop Compost Installment #2

...n…but what are you going to do? The stuff works really well and is compostable. Now that we’re using it we’ll reduce our overall litter waste volume.  (Of note: our friend John, a madman with six cats, swears by Swheat Scoop, which is wheat based. I don’t find it works for me, but he blames my litter management skills. It’s an alternative.) 2) We’re offloading half-finished cat compost to My Big Fat Worm Bin. R...

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Cheap and Natural Handsoap–and a rant

...n you touch a soap dispenser, you are about to wash your hands. When you wash you hands, you kill all the germs. It doesn’t matter how “germy” the dispenser is–unless you plan to suck on it. This device is about as needful as evening wear for hogs. 2) In 2002, at the urging of the AMA, the FDA evaluated anti-bacterial soaps. The AMA was concerned that these anti-bacterial soaps (i.e. Triclosan-based products*) may be bree...

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