Is Kombucha Safe?

We love to ferment things, with one notable exception: kombucha. During the last kombucha craze, in the mid-90s, we picked up a “SCOBY” blob and dutifully fed it tea and sugar until we stumbled upon an article written by mycologist Paul Stamets, “The Manchurian Mushroom: My Adventures with “The Blob.” In that article Stamets tells a convoluted story of having a kombucha culture tested by a lab. He didn’t tell...

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Moving Bees Out of a Meter Box

Nuc box (new home) on left–utility box enclosure (old home) on right. I got an email the other day from someone who had a beehive in his electric meter box, a popular destination for bees in this area. It was a very small hive that had taken up residence just a few weeks ago. The house was about to be put up for sale so I had to get them out pronto. I brought along a cardboard nuc box–a temporary hive box used to transport b...

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Medlar: The Best Fruit You’ve Never Heard Of

This week we were luck enough to tag along with Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms on a jaunt to the hills near Tehachapi to help harvest an allusive fruit called the medlar.  Erik and I were just extra hands–the plan was hatched between Tara and Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms. See, Craig has a place up in those hills, and just happened to know his neighbors had a little grove of medlars, and these neighbors agreed to sell them to Craig an...

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The Pinnacle of Permaculture: Tending the Wild

Book review: Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson, University of California Press, 2006 When the white man came to California, he found a verdant paradise: meadows thick with wildflowers and clover, stately groves of nut trees, abundant, healthy game and rivers full of fish. It was a land of endless bounty. The natives, often derogatorily called “Diggers...

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Staking Tomatoes with Concrete Reinforcing Mesh

For years we’ve been using concrete reinforcing mesh to stake our tomatoes. It’s a 6-inch square grid of wire and is used to reinforce concrete slabs. I buy it in 3 1/2-feet by 7-feet sections at my local home improvement center. To make a tomato cage with it you find a flat stretch of patio or driveway and bend the wire into a tube. I overlap it a bit and tie it together with wire. This year, thanks to a tip from Craig Ruggless,...

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Parkway Plantings

The cow dookie in the spinach scandal of the past month (for more on that read this excellent article) should prompt everyone to consider planting your own garden. Hopefully Homegrown Evolution won’t be buying any bagged vegetables this winter since we just planted our parkway garden this afternoon after installing a drip irrigation system (more on the drip system in a later post). Winter is the best growing season for vegetables here in L...

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Los Angeles: Swag Town USA

We love bikes and we love community here at the Root Simple compound, so today we ventured down to the Metropolitan Transit Authority headquarters to attend Bicycling Magazine’s Bike Town USA bike giveaway. The truth is, of course, that we also love free shit and these events, where city officials line up to pay lip service to cycling, tend to overflow with swag. But today, in the shadow of the swanky MTA tower, only cosponsor Lipton Tea h...

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The Sound of One Hand Snapping

We’ve had to do a fair amount of carpentry around the compound – part of that self-sufficiency thing – and countersinking nails with a nail set, those pen like things you use to get the nail head below the surface of the wood, is a pain in the ass. Which is why we think that this tool, the “Noxon Two Bit Snapper” by the mysterious Spring Tools Corporation may be the handiest tool in the SurviveLA compound tool box....

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Tomato Can Stove

Here’s another stove based on the Penny Wood Stove by Mark Jurey for heating up that pot of coffee when the gas and electricity go out. It’s a bit simpler than the Pepsi can stove and doesn’t require fuel other than some sticks or small scraps of wood. The stove works on the same principle as a charcoal chimney starter and it is simple to build.1. Use a 28 ounce can – I used a Trader Joes tomato can. First, drill a bu...

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Broadleaf Plantain

Today we introduced some weeds into our garden, planting some broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) seeds that we collected on our bike camping and wild food excursion with Christopher Nyerges. As Nyerges noted, this is one of those plants that Martha Stewart hates, and that makes the purveyors of toxic herbicides and lawn care products rich. You can’t eat your lawn folks. You can, however, eat broadleaf plantain. The young leaves are edible...

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