Tips on Composting from Will Bakx of Sonoma Compost

Sonoma Compost’s composting operation. On Thursday at the National Heirloom Exposition, Will Bakx, soil scientist and operations manager of Sonoma Compost, gave a rapid fire lecture on the nitty gritty details of composting. Here’s some of his useful tips: Temperature and Turning Compost should stay above 131ºF for 15 days to kill pathogens. Bakx recommended getting a thermometer to check the temperature every day during the...

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Radical Beekeeper Michael Thiele Ventures Into New Territory

Thiele with an unorthodox hive–picture from his website Gaia Bees. One of the lectures I went to at the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa earlier this month has really stuck with me. It was a talk by radical biodynamic beekeeper Michael Thiele that, frankly, I walked into biased against. But by the conclusion I could tell that the whole audience, including myself, left deeply moved by what Thiele had to say. The reason fo...

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The Return of the Paper Collar?

During the summertime in the warm climate we live in I often find myself wishing for the return of the paper collar. What better way to deal with ring around the collar than to just throw out the old collar and put on a new one? I have a theory (unproven, admittedly) that using paper collars would have less environmental impact than all the water and detergents we use to scrub out ring around the collar. Of course, the best solution would be to...

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Comopost, Compost, Compost

As if I didn’t need a reminder of how important compost is to a vegetable garden, note the tomato above. It’s on its way out, but it grew with no supplemental water in hard-packed clay soil contaminated with lead and zinc in a hot side yard. Why did it do well while the rest of my vegetable garden did not do as so good this summer? Homemade compost. I didn’t have enough compost for the rest of the veggie garden so I bought som...

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How To Ice Glaze Fish

Photo by Portable Soul Ice glazing is a process of creating a thin layer of ice to help preserve foods, usually chicken or fish. Ice glazing prevents freezer burn and helps preserve texture and flavor. The big processors do it, but it can also be accomplished at home. To ice glaze fish you need to do some pretreatment. You dip fatty fish in an ascorbic acid solution. Lean fish are pretreated in a brine. Once treated, you then p...

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New Zealand Spinach is the New . . . Spinach

Spotted in a neglected corner of our backyard: New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides). What’s interesting is that it self-seeded and grew with no supplemental water in the middle of summer in lead and zinc contaminated soil.  We’ve never been able to grow regular (and unrelated) spinach here. But there’s no stopping the New Zealand spinach. Due to the heavy metal problem we won’t be eating this particular specim...

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Update: Citrus Vinegar for Cleaning

In a previous post we talked about soaking citrus peels in white vinegar to make scented vinegar for cleaning. I’ve been doing this for a while now, using a 50/50 water and vinegar blend in my spray bottle, and I like the scent, but I’ve realized that because the vinegar is tinted by the orange peel if it is left to dry on a white surface it will leave yellow marks behind. This is not a big deal, because when using vinegar spray you...

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Avoiding Hyperthermia

When spending a day baking pizzas at a public event in front of a 1000º F oven in the full Southern California sun remember to drink water and take breaks. Otherwise you will spend the next day in bed with a splitting headache, unable to eat, barely able to drink anything and at the mercy of two young cats. The first time I pulled off a case of hyperthermia was after a long bike ride. I would not call it fun, nor would I like this to happen whe...

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Joshua Tree Earthen Finishes Class – March 2nd, 3rd & 4th

Another adobe workshop with Kurt Gardella–this one in Southern California. I’ll be at this one, so hope to see some of you there: adobeisnotsoftware is pleased to have Kurt Gardella return to California for three days of intensive instruction in interior and exterior earthen finish practices.  Kurt developed much of the online curriculum for Northern New Mexico College’s adobe program, and has great expertise in both adobe const...

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Growing Greens Under Fruit Trees

In the photo above is Scott Kleinrock showing off a section of the edible garden he designed at the Huntington Gardens. At first glace it looks like a lot of weeds, but it’s a clever idea: growing greens in the understory of fruit trees. In this picture, which was taken last weekend, you see a field of: mallow daikon radish arugula mustard  vetch calendula cabbage Except for the vetch, which helps build soil, all are edible and nutrit...

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