The Sacred Chickens of Ancient Rome

I stumbled on an odd historical anecdote last week: the use, by the ancient Romans, of sacred chickens as a form of divination. From the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert: Sacred chickens were chickens raised by priests in Roman times, and which were used for making auguries. Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens. The most common method of drawing...

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Three Front Yard Vegetable Gardens

I spotted some nice front yard gardens while I was out for a walk the other day. Check out these finds: Above, these gardeners have used some scrap lumber as retaining walls to allow them some extra soil depth for planting. In this small front yard bed they’re growing beautiful kohlrabi (my new favorite vegetable), some climbing beans and a few different kinds of squash. Keeping a veggie garden doesn’t have to be either complicated...

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World’s Largest Chard Grows in SIP

...o show people what a SIP was and to blow their minds with the beauty of chard. I wish I had a pic of SuperChard in full leaf. In the photo above all his energy has gone into the flower, so the leaves are a sad shadow of their former glory. Basically, SuperChard used to look like an exotic, pampered tropical plant. One that did not mind rattling around in our hatchback and getting dragged all over tarnation. Chard reproduces in its second year, an...

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Phoebe Update and a Question: Is Pet Insurance Worthwhile?

Many of you have asked for an update on our cat Phoebe. She was born with a very defective heart. Instead of being separated into chambers, basically Pheobe’s heart is one big sack. Even her heart valves are defective. If she were a human being, in a prosperous country, she would be waiting for a heart transplant. Cats, however, can’t have heart transplants. Our vet has said that we should enjoy every day we have with her, but that...

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No-Knead Artisinal Bread Part I

You can make a decent loaf of bread with one of the many popular no-knead recipes on the interwebs. With just a little bit more effort you can make a much better loaf of bread with a “levain” (or “sourdough starter” in less yuppiefied parlance). For about ten years, I used to bake the loaf I blogged about here and put in our first book The Urban Homestead. Lately, however, I’ve completely changed the way I bake th...

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Homemade Teeccino

A carob tree heavy with pods Mrs. Homegrown here: A while back I kicked coffee, and reduced my caffeine intake down to maybe one cup of green tea a day, and it’s been a really good thing. At that time, Root Simple readers wrote in to suggest all sorts of coffee alternatives for me, and I tried a bunch of them. One of them was Teeccino, with which I quickly developed a love-hate relationship. Teeccino is a line of coffee substit...

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It’s Elementary

I’m writing another article for Urban Farm Magazine, this time on elementary school gardens. If you have a hand in running or organizing an elementary school garden, outside of California, send me an email at [email protected] I need another interview or two, though I can’t guarantee I’ll talk to everyone. I took the picture above at a volunteer work day at the 24th Street Elementary School in the West Adams d...

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Sundiner

Beekeeper Dennis made one of those once in a lifetime garage sale finds earlier this year: a solar oven from the 1960s called the “Sundiner.” I couldn’t find much on the interwebs about it except for a brief mention in the  April 1963 issue of Desert Magazine, “Here’s a new product that suits desert living as few others can—it collects and concentrates the heat of the sun and allows outdoor cooking without fuel...

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Poison in the Compost

No, not that Poison I’ve blogged about the dangers of  herbicides in compost before, but it’s worth repeating. Mother Earth News has been doing some excellent reporting on two herbicides, clopyralid and aminopyralid, that can decimate your garden for years should your compost get contaminated by them. I received the following note from Mother Earth news: “As the garden season ramps up, we at Mother Earth News want to let you...

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Be a question. Be an answer.

Kotex Ad from 1971. Is that Susan Dey Cybill Shepherd? And what’s that oddly eroticized blur in the foreground? Okay, time to wrest the blog out of Erik’s hands. He’s gone crazy with the geek-boy subject matter of late. I’m going to bring this baby down to earth with a resounding thud. Let’s talk menstruation. We’re writing a new book, as we may have mentioned. It’s a project book focused on making som...

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