Animal Tracking

...imal tracking from a pair of wonderful teachers, Jim Lowery and Mary Brooks of Earth Skills. Tracking is the kind of skill that you can easily spend a lifetime, or two, developing. Yet it is also possible, with good teachers, for even a neophite like me to pick up a working knowledge of the art over a couple of days. By the end of the class, I was able spend an enthralling hour tracking a cottontail through a maze of sagebrush–all by myself...

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Are Raised Beds a Good Idea?

Raised bed fail. Our appalling parkway beds. Extra demerits for having used treated lumber! * Raised beds have some pluses and minuses. Lately I’ve been thinking about their drawbacks. Namely: Cost How fast they dry out in a hot climate. Now I can also think of a few reasons one might want to grow vegetables in a raised bed: You do a soil test (and you should do a soil test, especially if you live in an urban area) and the res...

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Emergency water storage

We’re finally ready for The Big One. In terms of emergency preparedness, we were pretty well set in terms of food, light, fuel, etc., but we didn’t have much water. Just some jugs, a rain barrel that’s empty most of the year, and the water in our hot water tank. This lack made me nervous, so we finally did took the bull by the horns–or the bung hole…  How much water should you store?  1 gallon of water p...

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Sonora Wheat at the Huasna Valley Farm

Ron Skinner I had the great privilege this week of visiting the Huasna Valley Farm in California’s central coast run by Ron and Jenn Skinner whose visible joy is infectious. The Skinners grow Sonora wheat, an heirloom variety brought to the Southwest by the Spanish. Sonora wheat is well suited to dry desert and Mediterranean climates. It produces a cream colored flour that was historically used for tortillas and posole. The Skinn...

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4 Vermicomposting Tips

Ecological landscape designer Darren Butler has been teaching a series of classes at the Root Simple compound this month (I think there may be a few open slots in his Intermediate Organic Gardening class if you’re interested. Click here for details). Darren dropped a few vermicomposting tips during the beginning class that we thought we’d share: 1) Worms don’t like empty space in their bin. They dislike voids. They appreciate...

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Anne Hars’ Top Ramen Keyhole Vegetable Garden

...nd a Cow that shows the construction of a keyhole bed in Uganda. Keyhole beds are raised, circular vegetable gardens that contain a compost pile in the center. The compost pile provides nutrients and worm habitat. The keyhole form is said by permaulturalists to maximize space and ease of access. Hars’ keyhole bed replaced two square raised beds that were made out of wood. “Gardens have to be rethought every couple of years and I feel...

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Picture Sundays: Doberman Chariots

“Ready for the race! Brutus of Quintre and his charge are ready for the sulky races, a regular feature of some of the South African sporting events.” Photos via The Doberman Insider. Now that we are without a car, it’s time for us to figure out alternative forms of transportation. Our late dog was a Doberman and I remembered a book we used to have about the breed that showed some unusual events that used to be held in South Afr...

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Our Keyhole Vegetable Bed: What Worked and What Didn’t Work

Here’s what the keyhole bed looked like just after I installed it back in October. Note the compost repository in the center of the bed. I used straw wattle (available where professional irrigation supplies are sold) to form the sides of the keyhole. A month later in November a few seedlings were popping up. I had to robustify the skunk barrier (made out of bird netting) after repeated skunk raids. What worked: The compost decomposed nice...

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Compost and Pharmaceuticals

...t types of pharmaceuticals and other organic pollutants by various crop plants. What about hormones? A paper in the Journal of Environmental Quality concludes, composting may be an environmentally friendly technology suitable for reducing, but not eliminating, the concentrations of these endocrine disrupting hormones at concentrated animal operation facilities. But we’ve got a lot of hormones making their way into the environment due to agr...

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