Sourdough Rye Bread Class at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano

...anic ingredients. Other benefits of baking at home include using less energy (used in harvesting, processing, and shipping store-bought bread), using less plastic packaging, and spending less money. Become a baker and join us for the rye class on Sunday, June 22, 1-3p. We’ll provide ingredients, and everyone will go home with a jar of starter ready to make bread. Instructor: Erik Knutzen For more information or to sign up head over to the...

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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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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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The Upside Down Fire

any which way and light it. It’s like Goldilocks. I think the first guy has too little tinder, the second guy, too much. But to each, his own. You’ll find your own way–and you’ll love this fire. ETA: I forgot to mention that a Vaseline soaked cotton ball or a lint firestarter or some pieces of fatwood or something similar can really help foolproof the fire. Just tuck the firestarter under the small stuff. Not at all necess...

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Growing Your Own Food is Like Printing Your Own Money: Ron Finley’s TED Talk

Please take a moment and watch gangster/guerrilla gardener Ron Finley’s inspiring Ted talk. I first heard about Ron after he got busted for planting a vegetable garden in what used to be a weed strewn parkway. He’s gone on to plant many more gardens around Los Angeles. The end of this talk really hit home for me, “Don’t call me if you want to sit around and have meetings. If you want to meet with me come to the gard...

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How do you care for cast iron?

They really knew how to rock cast iron in those days. A couple of months ago I found an 8″ cast iron skillet on the sidewalk. It was a newer model pan, already seasoned, hardly used. One of my neighbors had apparently decided they didn’t like it, or need it. I snatched that puppy up. Not that I need more cast iron–I have three skillets in varying sizes, and no room for another. But to me, cast iron is solid gold. So I gave it t...

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Straw Bale Garden Part III: Adding Fertilizer

After watering our straw bales for three days our next step is to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer. We’re following West Virginia University Extension Service’s Straw Bale Gardening advice. They suggest a 1/2 cup of urea per bale or “bone meal, fish meal, or compost for a more organic approach.” (I think they mean blood meal as bone meal does not have much nitrogen in it.) Choosing the organic approach, we’re water...

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Piet Oudolf’s Enhanced Nature

A garden designer has the difficult task of balancing texture, color, and space while simultaneously dealing with the unpredictability of nature. Long ago I gave up on the idea of ever being good at garden design. But help has come from an unlikely source, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s revolutionary book Planting A New Perspective. High Line Park. Piet Oudolf is probably best known in the US as the plant designer for the High Line park...

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What’s in Worm Leachate?

Garden Professor Jeff Gillman analyzed worm leachate (the liquids the flow our of your worm bin) from a home vemicompost setup. It’s pretty strong stuff! Gillman concludes, this could be a great liquid fertilizer if it were used properly.  I’d recommend diluting it somewhere between 1:1 and 1:5 worm juice : water before applying it, and I’d only apply it once every week or two.  If you want to use it, try it on something that you’re not t...

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The Sundiner–A Groovy 1960s Era Solar Cooker

...h. Directly below the apex of the mirrors is an oven enclosure. Plastic foam insulation and a pair of glass plates prevent excessive heat loss. The solar energy grill works in this simple way: point the mirrors toward the sun for a few minutes until the right temperature is reached (built-in heat indicator dial) and pop a tray of food into the oven. There is no fire or fuel to handle. Sole source of cooking stems from the collected, concentrated...

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