Hugo, humanure and nettles

One of the original illustrations to Les Misérables (1862) Mrs. Homegrown here: Anne, our neighbor with the pea-ravaging Chihuahua, brings to our attention the fact that Victor Hugo was a humanure enthusiast, and in fact dedicates long passages of Les Misérables to it. This is taken from Volume V, Book 2 (The Intestine of the Leviathan), Chapter One, provided by Project Gutenberg: Paris casts twenty-five millions yearly into the wate...

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Appletastic Apple Cake

Here’s something easy and delicious for you to make this weekend. You might even have all the ingredients on hand. It’s a light, flavorful, not-too-sweet cake which is comprised mostly of apples held together by an egg batter. I suppose you could think of it as an apple quiche. It’s very pleasing, and versitile, too–it would be a good addition to brunch, or an afternoon snack, or, if dressed up with ice cream or whipped...

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Geoff Lawton Soils Video

Help, I’m turning into a soil geek. I just spent an evening viewing a video entitled Soils featuring permaculturalist Geoff Lawton. What I like about this video is that it’s not just about soil, but Lawton actually shows you what you can do to improve your soil. In the DVD he demonstrates how to build a compost pile (lots of carbon material), contoured vegetable beds, a compost pile heated shower and a simple vermiculture system usi...

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Backyard Rebirth

Our shack as spied by Google. Our yard is a disaster. There’s some randomly planted natives, vegetable beds lying fallow after a mediocre summer and large areas of, well, nothing. However, this ongoing landscaping disaster brought a valuable lesson: sometimes it’s best to bring in someone from outside the household for design advice, particularly if that person knows what they are doing. Thank you Tara Kolla of Silver Lake...

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Contest Winners!

An excuse for another kitten photograph It’s the release day for Making It , and we’re celebrating by giving away two copies of the book. First, we want to say again how much we enjoyed reading all of your tips. They are excellent, without exception, and should be compiled into a book or something. We’re pondering on some way to highlight that post so that future readers can find the tips. Second, we’re glad we d...

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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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How to Process Carob

Before. Photo by Bill Wheelock. Our neighborhood has an abundance of carob (Ceratonia siliqua) trees that, around this time of year, drop thousands of pounds of pods. Now many of us may have unpleasant associations with carob as a 1970s era chocolate substitute, but the tree has a long history in the Middle East, where it’s used to make a tea, as a source of molasses, as a vegetable and as animal feed. The “locusts” th...

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Bean Fest, Episode 4: Frijoles Refritos

Refritos are not photogenic, so I decided to show the more tempting end use. Photo by Ernesto Andrade. Mrs. Homegrown here: I can’t believe I’ve never made frijoles refritos--refried beans–before. All these years of scooping that suspicious stuff out of the can–what was I thinking??? Now I see refritos as the natural destiny of any leftover beans. Refried beans (that name is a mistranslation–refrito me...

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Return of Recipe Friday! Carrot Soup

We had a party at our house last week and lots of people brought baby carrots. And no one took their baby carrots home with them when they left. So I took the pile of baby carrots and made a pureed carrot soup with them–one of my all-time favorite soups, in fact. Working with baby carrots was kind of fantastic. No chopping! No peeling! Doing this reminded me that I haven’t shared this recipe on the blog, so I dug up the original re...

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Chop and Drop: Leaving Plant Residues in the Garden

Image from California Agriculture Since 2004, University of California scientists have been studying “conservation tillage,” a suite of techniques that includes practices such as reducing tillage and leaving crop residues in the field after harvest. Leaving crop residues, in permacultural lingo, “chop and drop,” it turns out has a number of important benefits. According to a research paper in the April-June 2012...

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