The Strange World of Artificial Plants

Ikea’s Fejka. On a recent pilgrimage to Ikea, I ended up staring at a large display of fake plants while Mrs. Root Simple found a replacement for our kitten-shredded drapes. Viewed from a distance Ikea’s plastic plants were realistic, though seemingly outside of any known plant genus. I found myself pondering the question of what permacultural context in which these plastic plants would be an appropriate design solution. I couldnR...

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Biochar: Miracle or Gimmick?

Cornell University illustration showing biochar as a means of sequestering greenhouse gases. I’m always skeptical of what I call the “notions and potions” school of gardening. Every few years there is some new substance touted as the secret to a lush vegetable garden. One such substance is biochar, a kind of charcoal used as a soil amendment. The University of Minnesota Extension service is in the midst of a four year study to...

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Why are the pockets on women’s clothing so lame?

Trout likes himself a sewing project. Especially one he can lay on. Or gnaw on. What is with women’s clothing? Why are all of the pockets sized somewhere between tiny and non-existent? There seems to be some misguided belief that women inherently carry lots of stuff, therefore must carry bags, therefore do not need pockets. This is false. Women carry bags because we have inadequate pockets, and we figure we may as well carry extra stuff...

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Philosophical EDC: Seneca

The most important part of my “everyday carry” is not my pocket knife. It’s my slim and easy to tote copy of Seneca’s Moral Essays, Volume II . Why? Passages like this: But it does no good to have got rid of the causes of individual sorrow; for one is sometimes seized by hatred of the whole human race. When you reflect how rare is simplicity, how unknown is innocence, and how good faith scarcely exists, except w...

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This Is Why Mint Is Invasive

Mrs. Homegrown here: That’s me pulling out a mint plant from our garden, as part of The Great Renovation. Check out those amazing roots! This container was filled with a 5 inch thick mat of thick, tangled roots. No wonder mint is unstoppable. I adore mint, but we had two big mint plants, and under the new scheme, I’m trying to be more efficient about the way space is used in the yard. So this guy had to go. I thought I’d be di...

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Defining a Garden’s Purpose

Organic Mechanic’s Garden in San Francisco I’m an idiot when it comes to garden design. To up my skills in this department I attended the annual Garden Blogger’s Fling last week, which took place this year in San Francisco. Thankfully the Fling did not involve sitting in a sterile hotel conference room. Instead, we boarded two buses and took a look at fifteen spectacular gardens in the bay area over three days. I’ll share...

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Return of Bean Friday: Bean Broth or “Tuscan Crazy Water”

Yep, Bean Friday rears its head again–or is it Frugal Friday? Whatever it is, I’ve got this thrifty idea for you. I read about in The Italian Country Table , by Lynn Rossetto Casper. We’ve had this book for years and years, and it has some really good recipes in it that have become standards in our house, along just with a couple of duds. I’d not paid attention to her entry on “Crazy Water” before, but by her...

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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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Organic Egg Scorecard

Chino Valley hen houses, identified by the Cornucopia Institute as “ethically deficient.” The Cornucopia Institute has released an “Organic Egg Scorecard” to assist in the ethical minefield that is shopping for a dozen eggs. The scorecard identifies 29 “exemplary” and, not surprisingly given recent news, a whole bunch of “ethically deficient” organic egg producers. The study used a 0 to 2200 point sc...

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Pot o’ Goodness: Low, Low-Tech Water Conservation

Mrs. Homegrown here: Continuing on the greywater theme, on big cooking days, when I’m doing a lot of boiling, steaming, soaking and rinsing, I collect all that used water in a big pot and take it out to the garden to water the plants. It’s full of nutrients, and won’t cause any blackwater* problems as long as you: Use it immediately. It will turn foul if left to sit too long. Pour it straight into the soil–don’t s...

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