CooKit Solar Cooker Made Out of Wood

...lks at Solar Cookers International gave us permission to reprint plans for their CooKit solar cooker in our book Making It. You can access those plans, as well as many other solar cooker projects, for free, on their website here. I’ve made CooKits out of cardboard and aluminum foil a couple of times. One problem is that I eventually bang up the cardboard and I’ve got to make a new one. This summer I had a lot of  1/4 inch plywood lef...

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How to start a chicken retirement community

...m. He went veggie–more or less. Somehow we did a polar flip. While keeping chickens made him a vegetarian, it made me less sentimental. It’s not that I dislike them. I love having them around. All I can say is that somehow my relationship to them was clarified through experience. I’d sit out by the coop and think, “Yep, I wouldn’t mind eating one of those–and sure as heck they wouldn’t mind eating me, e...

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The Big To-Do List

...ts on that paper, everything from vegetable gardening to cargo bikes, ended up in the book or in our second book Making It. Now, we don’t expect everyone to master all the things in our books, but it doesn’t hurt to have a cursory knowledge of, say, greywater plumbing or compost pile construction, even if you live in a Manhattan apartment. You never know when you might have to roast a pig in a pit (that will be in our next book!). On...

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Food Preservation Resources

Due to a popular post on making prickly pear jelly, we get a lot of emails asking for advice on canning. So I thought I’d list three favorite food preservation resources. I like to go to respected sources when canning for reasons of both safety and reliability. While botulism is fairly rare, it’s a highly unpleasant way to pass this vale of tears. But beyond the safety issue, if I’m going to go through the work of canning, I w...

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Thoughts on Samhain

...Homegrown here: I celebrate Samhain on November 1st because I enjoy marking the changing seasons of the year by making these old festivals my own. It’s so easy to lose track of time in an electronic culture. It’s even easier to lose track when you live in Los Angeles, land of the perpetual sunshine. Samhain marks the last harvest of the year. The weather is cold enough to keep meat, so it is also the time when all non-breeding livest...

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Winter Squash Disaster

...echnically a pumpkin) in one of my vegetable beds located in a more secure location. Instead of some homo sapien making off with my squash bounty, it looks like the neighborhood raccoons are having a gnocchi party somewhere. All I’ve got to show for three Chioggia plants is one small squash and the one pictured above. Household animal tracking expert Mrs. Homegrown assures me that the nearby scat pile belongs to some raccoons. My thoughts...

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What you control

Erik cited a Terence McKenna quote deep in his last post on bacon. It’s a good one, and deserves more attention so I’m giving it this space. If Erik and I have a single message to offer, it is that you can’t control the world, but you can control your life. There’s plenty in this world to be outraged over, or worried about, but those feelings don’t get you anywhere. What you have to do is tend your own garden: Your...

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Advances in Gardening Series: Thoughts on The Fan, and the problems of overabudance

...arlier photos of The Fan here. Mrs. Homegrown here: Last fall we dug up a sort of feral herb bed and replaced it with a more formal, three-part bed that I call The Fan. The idea is to use this bed to plant annual herbs and flowers. While some of these plants are medicinal, it is also a bed dedicated more to aesthetics than the rest of our garden, so it’s also a place where I particularly want to plant flowers and plants of strong visual...

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Compost Bin Project From Our New Book

Natural Home and Garden magazine has excerpted a shipping pallet compost bin project from our new book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World . I’ve been using shipping pallets as a compost bin for a few years now and they work great. A compost pile, in my humble opinion, should be a minimum of a cubic yard in order to jump start the heat and microbial life that makes for good compost. Nail together a couple of pallets a...

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