Google Sketchup as an Urban Homesteading Tool

I just completed a new chicken run, greatly assisted by an amazing and free 3d design program: Trimble SketchUp (formerly Google SketchUp). While it takes some time to learn (I’m still learning!), this program helped me visualize the chicken run as well as estimate the amount of materials I’d need to buy. Here’s how I used it to create the run: Previous runs either did not work (chickens squeezed out and flew over) or were hid...

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A Sonora and Kamut Wheat Field in Los Angeles County!

heats like Kamut to see if people with wheat allergies can tolerate them better. We purchased both varieties (certified organic) from the Sustainable Seed Company. Discing the field The field was prepared by discing 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 fo...

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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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Carlo Petrini and Slow Food: A Joyful Revolution

traditional farming practices. Petrini spoke eloquently and without notes through a translator. He called our food system “entropic,” adding that our agricultural system is, in fact, in a crisis of entropy.  When it takes 300 calories to produce 100 calories of food, according to Petrini, we clearly have a system headed towards collapse. When it comes to the health consequences our out of control food system, he noted the ironic fact...

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How to Juice Prickly Pear Fruit

Joseph working the thrift-store mill I always know it’s prickly pear fruit season when questions start coming in on a recipe I did for a prickly pear fruit jelly. Unfortunately, the mucilaginous and seedy texture of the fruit makes it difficult to work with. The only tested recipe I could find, for a prickly pear marmalade in the Ball Blue Book, says nothing about how to seed or juice the fruit. With the assistance of two fellow...

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A DIY Whole House Fan

Our DIY whole house fan. How hot is our unairconditioned, uninsulated old house? Kelly has temporarily banned bread baking and I’m thinking of opening my own Bikram hot yoga franchise. But seriously, a few summers ago I decided to install a whole house fan. What’s a whole house fan? It’s a large fan, mounted in the ceiling, that pushes hot air into the attic while simultaneously drawing cool air in from the outside. Yo...

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How to Memorize Numbers

ers have a similar sound. 1 d, t d & t have one downstroke and sound similar (some variant systems include “th”) 2 n n has two downstrokes 3 m M has three downstrokes and looks like a “3″ on its side 4 r last letter of four, also 4 and R are almost mirror images of each other 5 l L is the Roman Numeral for 50 6 j, sh, soft “ch”, dg, zh, soft “g” a script j has a lower loop / g is al...

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Barefoot Running With Ken Bob Saxton

Kelly discovered a barefoot running website, barefootrunning.com. many years ago. When she showed it to me I thought the idea was crazy. Then I had a series of running related injuries: plantar fasciitis, and arthritis in the knee. In desperation (I’m addicted to running) I gave going barefoot a try. The plantar fasciitis went away. Knee pain was greatly, but not entirely, reduced. Old habits are hard to give up. When you spend your who...

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A Question About Gophers

...er wire as an underground barrier. We even mentioned this in our first book. The main problem I have with this advice is that the galvanized metal used for hardware cloth and gopher wire leaches significant amounts of zinc as it breaks down. Zinc, in high quantities, is toxic to plants. And, when using cages for trees, I’d worry that the cages would not break down soon enough, causing the roots to circle. Plastic, I’m fairly certain,...

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Don’t store your cucumbers in the fridge

Image courtesy of UC Davis. Photographer: Don Edwards Just in time for cucumber season, some news that surprises me. Did you know that you should store cucumbers at room temperature? Credit for my enlightenment goes to UC Davis. (May I just say bless UC Davis for all the good it does?) In this case I’m referencing their department of Post Harvest Technology. According to them, cukes should be stored at room temperature. If you do...

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