Build a Ghetto Solar Cooker

Using crap we had laying around the homestead, SurviveLA fashioned a solar cooker based on plans from Backwoods Home Magazine, the Dwell of the Ted Kaczynski set. We just substituted an old cooler for the cardboard boxes, and we finished it off by using one of Los Angeles’ ubiquitous abandoned car tires as a cradle to keep the cooker oriented towards the sun. It ain’t pretty but it works. In our first test we reached 160º inside the...

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Security

...style freakout here, it’s important to note that Los Angeles’ crime rate is down significantly since the early 90s and is much lower than many other large cities in America. In fact the crime rate in LA is on a par with Denver and nowhere near the high rates of cities like Detroit and Washington D.C. But while we ain’t the gun-toting survivalist types here at the Homegrown Evolution homestead, we do have a security system. It&#...

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Healing the yard with a huge compost pile

...rd soil. We’re dealing with this by filling most of our yard with mulch and perennial natives to lock down the soil (lead laden dust is bad) and to diversify the local ecosystem. Meanwhile, our vegetables must be grown in raised beds from now out. We used to have two main vegetable beds in the center of our back yard–they were our workhorses. Since the lead scare we’ve pulled up those beds. They were semi-sunken beds, the soil...

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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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How to Process Carob

...nds 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” that John the Baptist dined on were not insects but, instead, the pods of the carob tree. After. Photo by Bill Wheelock. In the Middle East carob has a reput...

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My Favorite Lettuce Mix

Earlier this week when I decried the sorry state of our winter vegetable garden, I neglected to mention the one big success: lettuce. We grow lettuce mixes almost every year and we’ve never been disappointed. Homegrown salad greens are much better than store bought. Plus, at least where we live, they are easy to grow. We just sow the seed directly and water them in. We thin by eating the seedlings. Judging from the crow...

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Notes on Mark Bittman’s “Behind the Scenes of What We Eat”

...tch, you should be able to budget for humanely raised meat and dairy. Bittman is not dogmatic about organics, by the way. He emphasized you don’t have shop at Whole Foods. It’s more important to eat vegetables in general, however you source them, than to obsess about eating local organic vegetables. Maybe he’s flexible because things are pretty desperate. Bittman says that in the U.S. only 1 meal in 4 includes an unprocessed veg...

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The Strange World of Artificial Plants

...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 nothing other than provide fake plants. Not just flowers, but everything from corn to . . . hemp. Having a bad year with your tomatoes?...

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One Secret for Delicious Soup–A Parmesan Cheese Rind

...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 that elusive umami (rich, savory) character to the dish. I think it would be redundant to use the rind if you are already using meat or bacon fat or the like in your soup, but for vegetable-based dishe...

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Beans 101 (Return of Bean Friday!)

...ur back. Skeptical? Here are a few very simple dishes you can throw together if you’ve got cooked beans in the fridge: Tacos, of course. Keep a big pack of corn tortillas in the fridge and deploy for fast, cheap eating. Cheapo corn tortillas taste best if they’re toasted in skillet before serving. Fancy them up by chopping up whatever fresh vegetables and herbs you happen to have on hand (radish, cabbage, carrot, green onion, parsley...

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