Saturday Tweets: Bees, Fireflies and Food Waste

How to Put Together a Small Scale Solar System

How can you use solar panels to power a few lights, run a fountain or charge some tools? It seems like a simple question, and yet I can’t tell you how many books/magazines/websites I’ve combed through in search of a basic tutorial for anything less than wiring up a whole house. Now I know how thanks to a podcast conversation between Eric of Garden Fork and Will of the Weekend Homestead. Will describes how he rigged up a few panels and batteries to power lights and charge tools in his off-grid barn. Check out the show notes for the specific parts Will used to put together his system.

Anima: Animals, Faith, Compassion

The issues surrounding our food, whether we grow or raise it ourselves or buy it at the supermarket, can send you into a deep ethical nettle patch. How do we feed a growing population and not destroy the planet? How does our food impact our health? How do we keep the costs of food reasonable? What kind of diet should we follow? What about GMOs? We might be tempted to rely purely on the scientific method or economic statistics for these answers but life is not so simple. All too often we forget that our bonds to the natural world are also defined by meaning and spiritual practice.

This short film by Jennifer Jessum with music by Moby was produced by the Guibord Center. The film showcases the astonishing diversity of our hometown, Los Angeles, and features a dozen faith leaders discussing their tradition’s relationship with animals. I must note the appearance of the clergy (and official mascot dogs) of our spiritual home, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, who explain the human relationship to creation as one of “stewardship,” often mistranslated as “dominion.” Wether one eats meat or not is just part of the issue. Right relationship to our fellow creatures is what is important. Home gardeners, chicken keepers and permaculturalists well know the difference between stewardship and dominion, the difference between working with as opposed to our culture’s mad control freakery.

A personal note. I had, in the past few months, fallen off my ethical eating wagon and taken to occasionally consuming what I knew to be factory farmed chicken. In some sort of digestive karmic justice I seem to have come down with gallbladder issues forcing me, at least temporarily, to eat a vegan diet. This has granted me the opportunity to meditate on the issues raised in this film. While I may return to eating meat in the future I’ve decided to avoid the factory farmed “dominion” based stuff.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, the Guibord Center offers many lectures and visits to sacred sites. If you’re not a local they have an archive of past events on their website

Saturday Linkages: Beetle Party, Floating Homes and Cilantro

Luddite’s Moonshot: Dealing With Leafy Green Pests

In my post soliciting “Luddite moonshots” Kyle replied, “How to grow any sort of brassica or leafy green without having to constantly poison these jerks. I opted for none of the above this year because it is so demoralizing.” Then he linked to the Wikipedia article for the banana slug.

While we have no banana slugs down here in the southern reaches of California we have plenty of other brassica and leafy green pests, principally the cabbage leaf worm. I’ve come to much the same conclusion as Kyle and grow only arugula and lettuce during our cool winter season. I leave the kale cultivation to the professionals. There’s nothing wrong with growing the crops that do best in your climate and passing on the rest. The nicest brassicas I’ve ever seen were on a farm in perpetually foggy and cool Bolinas, California.

That said, I had one season of flawless leafy greens through the combination of rich compost and row cover, specifically Agribon 15. The row cover thickness you use will depend on your climate. I opted for the lightest available as we often have freak heat waves in the winter here.

But I haven’t deployed any row cover in years. It’s a pain to use. You have to be diligent in making sure the whole bed gets covered and it’s hard to see the plants under the cover without having to pull it on and off. And row cover won’t prevent slugs. Here’s UC Davis’ advice for dealing with slugs and snails. LA’s abundant mouse and rat population keep our snails and slugs in check. We can send you some if you’d like.