How To Design a Garden Step IV: Clues to Care

rm, or anything that looks too “wild.” Clues to care include: Defined pathways Raised beds Mulched beds and paths (vs. bare soil) Artwork Trellises and other attractive supports Birdbaths Benches While the above items fall under the category of hardscape, clues to care also include aesthetic choices in planting and arranging the yard. For instance, it’s never a bad idea to plant lots of flowers, even if you’re more inter...

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The Secret to Japanese Cooking: Dashi

Bonito flakes, available at any Japanese market. We conclude our Japanese themed week with the sauce that’s sort of the unified field theory of Japanese cooking: dashi. It’s in everything from noodle dishes to sauces to miso soup and it cooks up in just minutes. Dashi contains two ingredients, kombu (a kind of kelp) and bonito (shaved, fermented fish flakes). It’s the backbone of Japanese cooking, but we think it’...

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Dry Climate Vegetables

t of reseeding rogue veggies from our garden that have thrived with just the small burst of rain we got last month. New Zealand Spinach The one I’m most excited about is New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides). It’s reappeared for at lest three years now. And for us it’s much easier to grow than (unrelated) spinach. Fennel Fennel also comes back every year–so much so that if we don’t stay on top of weeding...

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How to Get Skunks Out of Your Basement and Yard

Basements and crawl spaces under houses make idea dens for urban critters. If we could charge rent for all the skunks, raccoons and feral cats that have taken up residence under the house we’d have paid off the mortgage by now. Our particular crawl space critter B&B was opened by virtue of a flimsy access door. Some animal, most likely a raccoon, pried it open. The problem with this situation is that you can’t just close up the...

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Have We Reached Peak Kale? Franchi’s Cavolo Laciniato “Galega De Folhas Lisas”

ile longer. I propose a Franchi kale “Galega De Folhas Lisas” as the new big thing. Translated, the variety name is something like “Galacian smooth leaf.” To add to the confusion I get the feeling that Italians don’t distinguish between kale and collards—what we call collards they consider just a smooth leafed and lighter colored version of kale. This makes sense as they are both just primitive forms of cabbage...

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Of Skunks, Sauerkraut and Stoicism

We were honored when the nice folks behind Stoic Week 2013 asked us to write a blog post. It begins, Practicality is why stoicism works so well as the philosophical operating system of urban homesteading. While Foucault and Hegel might help me navigate the epistemological frontier, when I’m staring at a carefully tended vegetable bed that just got destroyed by a skunk, you can bet I’ll reach for the Seneca. Read the rest here....

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California’s Drought and What To Do About It

...over what we’re doing at the Root Simple compound. We’ve expanded our drought tolerant plantings over the past few years. These plants use less water and encourage beneficial wildlife. I consider them part of the vegetable garden, in a way. I just made a major change to our laundry to landscape greywater system–more on this in another post. I’ve consulted historical irrigation data to more intelligently program our drip i...

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Natural Products Expo West: The Good and the Ugly

The Natural Products Expo West, which took place this past week, is one of the largest conventions in the US. It’s a high stakes dating game between retailers and food, cosmetic and supplement producers. This year I promised myself that I would not sample every power bar and gluten free pizza thrust into my hands. I failed and paid unmentionable consequences later. Imagine the center snack aisles of Whole Foods dumped into a funnel and sh...

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One Secret for Delicious Soup–A Parmesan Cheese Rind

Our cats seem to sneak into every food related photo session. This is simple, but it works so very well. If you use real Parmesan cheese, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, save those rock-hard rinds. They are magic flavor bombs. All you do is add them to soup or bean dishes. Add them at the start of cooking, because they need a good long while to soften up and release their flavor goodness. They don’t make the dish taste cheesy, but rather add tha...

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The Strange World of Artificial Plants

...ighbor Anne Hars once showed me Home Depot’s astonishing selection of fake grass–some that even has fake dead grass mixed in for realism. Perhaps in some ironic post-modern house this artificial turf could fit in. It did remind me of the time a neighbor, who is a Hollywood art director, grabbed me late one evening to help her fake a vegetable garden for a movie. From her I that learned that their are businesses in Hollywood that do no...

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