Thursday, April 29, 2010

julian's speakerwire shoelace


urine is a valuable source of nitrogen for gardens that is often overlooked. used correctly, it is not only a safe and extremely effective fertilizer, it saves water (if you have a non-composting toilet) and reduces effluent that causes eutrophication (over nitrification that causes algae blooms) of lakes, streams, and rivers. there's an excellent book out on the subject called liquid gold.

some rules of thumb: keep urine separate from solid waste (pee in a bottle or bucket), dilute at least 5 to 1 (more for tender plants and seedlings), use it right away (or it will turn to ammonia), water at the base of plants (not on leaves), and generally don't overdo it.

why let all that tea go to waste?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


we just planted two rhubarbs that we got from a local nursery for a couple of bucks each. a neighbor recently gave us some strawberry plants that he'd culled from his own patch, so getting some rhubarb (mmmm - pie...) suddenly seemed urgent. rhubarb can live a long time and likes a cool spot, so we picked a place on the north side of the house that we didn't have any other big plans for.

so far this year, aside from the usual greens and various herbs, we've planted a pear (a mate for another pear we planted two years ago), two apples, two blueberries (we've got one that's two years old and going gangbusters - they love acid soil, and that's what we've got), several jujubes (a great tree for our climate, native to asia. it bears little apple/date-like fruits and has a fantastic latin name: ziziphus zizyphus), sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and peanuts! we read that you can grow peanuts from plain old raw peanuts you can get from the grocery store. they need a long growing season...we've got we soaked about 10 nuts in rainwater for an hour or so and stuck 'em in the ground. peanuts are a great source of fat for vegetarian diets - we hope they'll work out.

tiny tea

we drink a LOT of tea, and it's one of the products we buy that often travels vast distances before it reaches our cup. we did a little research on what tea needs to grow, and decided that we have the exact same climate here as they do in darjeeling. well, maybe that's a little bit of wishful thinking, but we do have a good bit of elevation...

back in february, we planted 6 little tea plants (camillia sinensis) that we ordered from camillia forest nursery in north carolina. we planted them in a spot where they'll be right outside the kitchen of the cabin we're about to build, so they should get pretty constant moisture from graywater runoff from the sink. for the past few months we've kept them covered with blankets on cold nights, though when they get a little bigger, they should be able to tolerate the winter cold and frost. right now they are only about 6 inches tall - in a few years, they could reach as high as 15 feet. so far, they seem to be doing great!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

today's harvest

the last of the beets that have been growing in the greenhouse all winter.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

solar for under $500

my art studio (housed in a converted 1970's school bus) runs off of a solar set-up that can be installed for around $500. i've got three 15W solar panels that came in a kit with a charge controller, plus two deep cycle batteries, and a power inverter. i can run a sewing machine, lights, stereo, printer, and scanner (make sure if you're running computer equipment you spend a little extra on a "true sine wave" type of power inverter).

papercrete blocks arrive!

papercrete is a mixture of paper pulp made from recycled newspapers, water, cement, and sand molded into blocks. we are about to begin construction of a tiny cabin made from stone and papercrete bricks with a metal frame and roof. papercrete blocks are cheap to make, fairly light (about 25 lbs each when dry), fire resistant, and have an extremely high insulation value. we'll be posting much more about papercrete as we go along.