Polyculture

Here at SurviveLA we are experimenting with something called polyculture in the the garden. We read about it first in the worthy permaculture guide, Gaia’s Garden, by Toby Hemenway. Polyculture is the practice of planting a community of interrelated, interdependent plants, mimicking in your garden (in our case a raised vegetable bed) the complex relationships that are found between plants in nature. In the case of food crops, a polycultu...

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Leaf Litter

My people were entirely Nordic, which is to say idiots . Every wrong idea which has ever been expounded was theirs. Among them was the doctrine of cleanliness, to say nothing of righteousness. They were painfully clean. But inwardly they stank. Never once had they opened the door which leads to the soul; never once did they dream of taking a blind leap into the dark. After dinner the dishes were promptly washed and put in the closet; after th...

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Cichorium intybus a.k.a. Italian Dandelion

Our illegal parkway garden has got off to a slow start this season due to low seed germination rates. We’ve compensated with a trip to the Hollywood farmer’s market to pick up some six-packs of seedlings. One plant we made sure to get is Cichorium intybus, known in Italian as “cicoria” or chicory, but somehow, in the case of leaf chicory, mistranslated as “Italian dandelion,” probably because the leaves resem...

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We Are the Festival!

Here in Los Angeles we’ve got a number of lame Christmas traditions including the low-rent Hollywood Christmas parade and the L. Ron Hubbard Winter Wonderland (no joke). But the lamest of all has got to be the Department of Water and Power’s annual Christmas light show, which turns one of our few parks into a exhaust clogged traffic jam during the holiday season. Worst of all the city bans bikes from the light festival in spite of t...

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Make Mag

Readers of this blog will really enjoy the current issue of Make Magazine. “Volume 18: ReMake America! These challenging times have presented us with a rare chance to try out new ways of doing things. The opportunities for makers are terrific — we can start at home to remake manufacturing, education, food production, transportation, and recreation. In MAKE Volume 18 you’ll learn how to make an automatic garden, heat your water with t...

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Vertical Micro-Farming

I was at Cal Poly Pomona the other day and saw this interesting display. The school has several small farm plots that demonstrate innovative or new practices, from hydroponic lettuce to intensive mini-orchards and now this strange setup. They sell the produce at the adjacent farm store. From looking at it I can tell that this setup is meant to utilize vertical space and grow vegetables in a small footprint. Water drips down from the top, irrigat...

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Real Estate Bubble Bananas

There’s a house in our neighborhood that’s been for sale for over a year. Two months ago the for sale signs disappeared, junk mail littered the front porch and the mow and blow guys stopped showing up, leaving the lawn to go wild. A busted sprinkler head creates a nightly fountain as the houses’ infrastructure lapses into a timer operated zombification. We knew the nice young family that used to live here and I hope that they w...

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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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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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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: ad...

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