Least Favorite Plant: Yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana)

Thumbing through a book of toxic and hallucinogenic plants, I finally manged to i.d. the neighbor’s shrub that looms over the staircase to our front door. The popular name given for this plant in the book was “suicide tree”, so named for its use in Sri Lanka, though I’ve found other plants with this same moniker. The scientific name is Thevetia peruviana, and it’s also known as “lucky nut” (can we chang...

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How To Make a Sourdough Starter

Here’s the first in a series of Root Simple how-to videos. Look for them on the blog and, soon, on your mobile thingies. I started with a little edit on how to make a sourdough starter. And I take requests–if there’s a topic for a video you’d like to see just leave a comment.  Making a sourdough starter is as simple as mixing flour and water. There’s no need for all the crazy things I’ve heard suggested: a...

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Bird Netting as a Cabbage Leaf Caterpillar Barrier

UPDATE: This idea is a complete failure–see the ugly details here. Last month I sang the praises of floating row cover as an insect barrier. The only problem is that floating row cover retains heat, and so when our fall and winter days turn hot, as they so often do, it gets way too hot and humid inside the “tent.” So as Marshall McLuhan was fond of saying, “If you don’t like that idea, I’ve...

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How to Cook Broadleaf Plantain

The last plantain in our yard–the only one which survived the long, brutal summer without water. The winter rains, which are just beginning, will have plantain sprouting all over Southern California soon. We’re big fans of foraging teacher Pascal Baudar. He approaches wild foods like no one else we know–as a gourmet experience. Combining Old World traditions, Native wisdom and a good deal of culinary inventio...

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How to Cook Perfect Scrambled Eggs

How do you make perfect scrambled eggs? Two words for you: double boiler. It’s a method I learned from a book I had out from the library, Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto . I can’t say that I read the rest of the book, but the double boiler egg method sure works well. You melt some butter in a double boiler first to help keep the eggs from sticking. You can also use a pan...

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A New and Improved Self Irrigating Pot System

A very cool improvement on the self irrigating pot (SIP) idea from Larry Hall of Minnesota. Rather than the two bucket system we’ve blogged about in the past (see a roundup of our SIP resources here), Hall uses one long rain gutter to supply water. He’s even got a clever double rain gutter system for growing strawberries that I’m tempted to try on our back patio. I spotted this video on Inside Urban Green always a good sourc...

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Steve Solomon’s Soil and Health e-Library

I’m really enjoying the incredible variety of obscure old books being scanned and put up on the interwebs. Of interest to readers of this blog will be the archive of free e-books maintained by gardening author Steve Solomon. His Soil and Health e-library contains books on “holistic agriculture, holistic health and self-sufficient homestead living” You can download the books for free, but Solomon requests a modest $13 donation....

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Rainwater Harvesting and Beyond

If you live in a dry climate like we do here in Los Angeles your bookshelf should have a copy of one of Brad Lancaster’s amazing books. Through very simple techniques, most of which can be executed with a shovel and a free afternoon, Lancaster shows you how to turn a barren landscape into a Garden of Eden. Lancaster empasizes earthworks which capture and channel water where you want it to go, instead of uselessly sending it down the gutter...

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California’s New Greywater Code: Common Sense Legalized!

...ft is our yard which is irrigated by the washing machine. On the right, the neighbor’s yard which is never watered. This Tuesday the California Building Standards Commission legalized our formally outlaw greywater system. For several years now, we’ve sent our washing machine waste water out to fruit trees in the front yard. The new regulations are a rare common sense moment for our otherwise troubled state government. Let’s hop...

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Humanure Dry Toilet Made From a Milk Crate

Modern toilets take two valuable resources, water and nitrogen rich human waste, and combine the two to create a problem: sewage. In a dry or “humanure” toilet, you cover your deposits with a layer of non-toxic sawdust. Once the toilet is full you dump the contents into your outdoor humanure pile and compost the waste at high temperatures for at least a year. You can then use that compost as fertilizer for plants. The ubiquitous fi...

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