Mud for the People! Building an Adobe Garden Wall

...and/clay mixtures drying in the sun. You can also make a brick out of whatever soil you have on hand and see how it holds up. The first test Kurt did was drop one on a corner from about waist high. It didn’t break and thus passed the test. Another test is standing on a brick. Even though the brick we used weren’t really finished drying, they still passed. For a building that will be inspected you will probably have to send bricks to...

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How Not to Grow Potatoes

...d a more bountiful than expected harvest of potatoes this summer season. We grew our ‘taters in a stack of tires. Used treads, due to their ubiquity along the sides of our blighted streets, ought to be named the official city flower of Los Angeles, but we digress. The idea with ‘tater tire stacks is that you add another tire as the plant grows and in so doing encourage the plant to throw out more roots. At the end of the season you ki...

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A Sports Utility Bicycle

...straight from the company as the kits don’t seem to be selling on ebay at a significant discount. Putting it together was relatively simple – it took two trips to the Bicycle Kitchen, an extra length of chain, a rear derailleur cable made for tandem bikes, as well as a general tune-up for the old bike we used. If you ride on paved streets remember to use slick tires The Xtracycle has been a significant step in reducing our dependence...

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Revolution: A New TV Series About Extreme Suburban Homesteading

...the stories we tell ourselves, magical flash drives can still save the day and maybe even power the whole world. It’s also telling that the voice over in the opening credits of Revolution reflects a fundamental confusion between an energy source and the means by which it’s delivered, “We used electricity for everything–even to grow food,” says the narrator. “Electricity” is not how we grow our food. Elect...

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2011 in Review: The Garden

It’s was a difficult year in the garden. A lead and zinc issue screwed up my winter vegetables garden plans. At least we managed to find some river rocks and put in a path. I found this photo from December 2010. I was certainly a lot more organized that year. For 2012, I’m putting in raised beds to deal with the heavy metal issue and we’ve already planted more native plants. But most importantly one of my New Years resolution...

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More on our gardening disasters

...engaged gardener again. Erik may not agree with my diagnosis, but I’m applying  it to him as well. To me, it’s clear he’s not having any fun either. We need to approach our land with the joy and wonder we used to have.  There’s a huge difference between hopeful expectations and dull expectations–or worse, cranky demands (Grow, damn you!). How do we find that spirit again? I can’t speak for Erik, but for me,  i...

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Poo Salon and Urban Forage Classes with Nancy Klehm

...rea, this is a chance not to be missed. First, who is Nancy? Nancy Klehm is a radical ecologist, designer, urban forager, grower and teacher. Her solo and collaborative work focuses on creating participatory social ecologies in response to a direct experience of a place. She grows and forages much of her own food in a densely urban area. She actively composts food, landscape and human waste. She only uses a flush toilet when no other option...

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Homemade Teeccino

...st ground chicory at the health food store and brewed a cup using a teaspoon of carob and a teaspoon of chicory. It was deelish. This is a classic case of Two Great Tastes Taste Great Together. The chicory keeps the carob from being insipid. The carob smooths out all of the chicory’s rough edges, making it mildly sweet. This blend is robust and flavorful, and good for you. The roast chicory (a good coffee sub. all by itself, btw) is particu...

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Natural Dyeing with Woad

...lly, left to ferment in a vat for over a year. The pH of the vat was maintained with the urine of the male work force. The woad industry of the past supported what I imagine to be a coveted job of drinking beer & urinating. The fermented leaves were then dried into woad ball that were later pounded into a powder used for dyeing. During the elaborate cultivation and processing of the woad, it is impossible to tell if the work will yield a...

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Moonshine

...but feel envious of some comrades of ours in France we visited a few years ago who recounted how their families used to ferment the excess fruit in the yard and take it to a licenced farmer to distill into the French version of moonshine, eau de vie. Here in the states it’s illegal to distill anything yourself but perfectly o.k., as a recent article in the Wall Street Journal points out, for agricultural corporation, Archer-Daniels-Midland...

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