Get a Soil Test!

...ou buy property–and that means getting a soil test from a soil lab. They’re not that expensive, especially when you consider the high cost of remediation, and the well being of your self and your family. Test soil for both nutrients and heavy metals when: Buying a house or land Starting to grow food in your yard   Are growing food and have never tested Starting a plot in a community garden or a school garden Buying soil in bulk Pr...

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Return of Recipe Friday! Carrot Soup

...it’s something I copied from a magazine onto a card fifteen years ago or so. It’s amazing how such a simple soup can have so much flavor. The sweet-spicy flavor and bright orange color also make it an ideal dish for this time of year. Each time I eat it I feel like I’m doing something really good for my body. Carrot Soup 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter About 2 pounds of carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks* (Peeling is o...

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Earthquake Proofing the Pantry

So I finally got around to earthquake proofing the pantry. All it took was a bunch of four foot bungee cords which seemed to have just about the right amount of stretch to span our seven foot shelves. You could probably use the same four foot bungee cords to span an even longer shelf. I used eye hooks to anchor the ends of the cords. Looking at the picture, the height of the cords on some of the shelves might not be optimal (looks like some of...

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Three Power Tools Every Urban Homesteader Should Own

above I consider essential. Even if you don’t own a house, but would like to build some furniture or help a friend or relative with a repair project, this great triumvirate of tools will get you through 99% of all jobs. For that 1% of problems that require an exotic tool, you can rent one. I prefer corded tools as I hate it when a battery dies in the middle of a day’s work and corded tools have more power. That being said, there are...

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Make a Brigid’s Cross

...t. Brigid’s day is February 1st, and the cross-quarter holiday of Imbolc, which marks the coming of spring, is celebrated around the 2nd. I think this weekend would be excellent time to make a few Brigid’s crosses for fun and luck. A proper reed cross They’re super-easy to make. Just go the Fish Eaters site for very clear weaving directions. Traditionally they are made out of reeds or long pieces of straw. I had neither...

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Cooking With Heritage Grains: Sonora Wheat Pasta

Once you start working with heritage grain varieties it’s hard to go back to the few choices in the flour aisle we have at most supermarkets. I managed to get my hands on some Sonora wheat a few months back and have been experimenting with it ever since. Traditionally used for tortillas, it’s also great for pancakes and bread. Yesterday I made pasta with Sonora wheat using a recipe by Whole Grain Connection founder Monica Spiller. Y...

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A Sonora and Kamut Wheat Field in Los Angeles County!

ing it with a tractor. We sowed the wheat by hand and then covered it temporarily with shade cloth to keep the birds out until the seeds germinate. The seeds were watered in with an overhead sprinkler, but the plan is to pray for rain. If it turns out to be a dry year, monthly waterings will be necessary. Mark, Andrea and Nathan sowing. Andrea plans on sowing in some red poppies to help keep the weeds down. If all goes well, a harvest p...

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Other People’s Poo: Biosolids in the Garden

It’s people! Why not use city compost in your garden? Ecological designer Darren Butler, at a class I was sitting in on, showed a soil report from a site that had used compost from the city of Los Angeles. LA’s compost contain biosolids, a euphemism for sewage. The soil test showed high levels of: zinc 196 ppm copper 76 ppm sulfur 5,752 ppm The problem isn’t human waste, it’s all the other stuff that ends up...

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How to Memorize Numbers

Giordano Bruno’s insanely elaborate memory system. Yesterday we introduced an ancient memory system that can be handy for learning all those new urban homesteading skills. Today I’ll briefly discuss a way to use a related mnemonic called the Major System for committing strings of numbers to memory. To use the Major System you first memorize a set of consonants that represent 0 through 9. From Wikipedia, here’s a tabl...

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Cat Update

Last week was fairly traumatic around here. We learned two scary things–the first was that we might be living on a Superfund clean-up site, and the second was that something was seriously wrong with our kitten, Phoebe. As Erik just posted, the lead issue remains up in the air, and will be for quite some time. But we did find answers regarding Phoebe, and while it is bad news, it is not as bad as our worst imaginings, and it’s good...

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