Closed vs. Open Floor Plans

One of the things that attracted us to our house is that it had been neglected for most of the 20th century. With the exception of the bathroom, there was no horrendous 70s or 80s era “remodeling.” Our home’s most unfashionable characteristic is a closed floor plan. Even the kitchen still has an almost 100 year old swinging door. I’m nearly certain that the next owners of this house will knock out the kitchen wall and pu...

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How To Stop Powdery Mildew

My winter squash has what Mud Baron once described as “jock itch for plants:” powdery mildew. I’ve tried all kinds of notions and potions in the past, but this year I decided to see what the science says about powdery mildew. Our climate where I live in Los Angeles is, unfortunately, ideal for producing this vexing fungus. IPM Let’s begin with some condensed advice from UC Davis’ Integrated Pest Management page: P...

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The Africanized Bee Myth

Photo: Larsinio on en.wikipedia Beekeeping is on the way to being legalized in Los Angeles. But there’s one issue that keeps coming up: Africanized bees. African honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata) were introduced to the Americas in Brazil in 1957. Over the years, on their journey north, they have hybridized with European honeybees (Apis mellifera). African and hybrid “Africanized” honeybees can’t tolerate cold temperat...

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Extreme Low-Tech Communication

This has to be the ultimate achievement in low-powered long-distance communication. Ham radio operator Michael Rainey, AA1TJ, transmitted a message over a distance of over 1,000 miles by yelling Morse code with his own voice into this primitive home-made transmitter, nicknamed “El Silbo.” No power was used other than that generated by his own voice vibrating the microphone (which was a re-purposed speaker). If you want to build your...

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Does Sourdough Offer Hope for the Gluten Intolerant?

Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. In the last 20 years bakers around the world have revived the art of baking with a sourdough culture. At first this revival was related to flavor, but increasingly bakers are turning to sourdough cultures in the interest of health. It’s possible that the unique qualities of sourdough cultures may offer hope to those who think they are gluten intolerant or have an allergy to wheat.  A very short history of br...

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Live Like a Stoic for a Week

Image: Rugu. A group of British academics are asking an important question: “Can the ancient philosophy of Stoicism help us to lead better and happier lives?” This week they’ll be providing everything from a Stoicism Handbook to recorded meditations to help wake your inner Seneca. They are also asking for people to participate in a week-long experiment to see what kind of effect Stoic philosophy can have on day to day living. C...

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Self-Righteousness Fail: We Bought a Car

At least we got something interesting to drive. Image: Paleofuture. Back in March, a video producer who was texting-while-driving slammed into me and totaled the early 90′s hatchback that Kelly and I shared. We went from a one car household to a car-free household overnight. A combination of environmental guilt and distaste for car shopping led us to a six month car free living experiment in Los Angeles. That period ended in late September...

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Have We Reached Peak Kale? Franchi’s Cavolo Laciniato “Galega De Folhas Lisas”

I’ve heard murmurings of a kale backlash. Apparently, too many restaurants have kale salads and fancy city folks like us are losing sleep worrying what the next hip vegetable will be. I have a proposal. Let’s keep with the kale for awhile longer. I propose a Franchi kale “Galega De Folhas Lisas” as the new big thing. Translated, the variety name is something like “Galacian smooth leaf.” To add to the confusio...

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Last of the Saddle Tramps

Mesannie Wilkins riding Rex,  Depeche Toi on Tarzan A wise man once told me it’s good practice to read books published before you were born. Last of the Saddle Tramps just makes the cut. Published in 1966, it is a memoir, Mesannie Wilkin’s accounting of her great journey from Minot, Maine to Los Angeles. On horseback. In 1954, Mesannie was 63 and she didn’t think she’d survive another winter in Maine. She’d been a f...

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Defining a Garden’s Purpose

Organic Mechanic’s Garden in San Francisco I’m an idiot when it comes to garden design. To up my skills in this department I attended the annual Garden Blogger’s Fling last week, which took place this year in San Francisco. Thankfully the Fling did not involve sitting in a sterile hotel conference room. Instead, we boarded two buses and took a look at fifteen spectacular gardens in the bay area over three days. I’ll share...

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