Archive for June, 2009

Wild Strawberries!

I was hanging out in a field of daisies the other day, and look what I found:

Wild strawberries! I seriously recommend wild strawberry hunting. They’re like candy, and tastier than domesticated varieties. just look for leaves that look like this:

but don`t confuse them with snakeberries. If it looks like fake fruit, don`t eat it.


June 30, 2009 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

vegetable orchestra

These folks are combining two of my favourite things: art and food. It’s strange and quirky and beautiful. How did I not see this before?

More interesting, though, is the controversy in the comments on youtube. Their statement:

just one word to all the people who are concerned about people dying of starvation:
we are concerned too. but not doing this project does change nothing. it doesn’t make the world a better place.
if you are really concerned about the distribution of wealth then do something about it! read books about the real cause of hunger. talk with your friends and family about it. change your own life and try to change politics. buy and support the right things. it is not people using vegetables differently than usual that make the world a bad place. it’s all of us wanting too much. our own car, a new cellphone, a bigger house with air condition, more money…
sending the vegetables to africa does not help. on the contrary it destroys the markets there, so people can not sell their own produce, because the imported one is too cheap.

and by the way: people have used vegetables for music for centuries. also in africa.

June 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

complete energy system by a 15 yr old boy

“An invention that is narrowly focused on solving a single problem often inadvertently creates more problems because nature is highly complex and interconnected.” – Javier Fernandez-Han

Who is Javier Fernandez-Han? He’s a 15 year old boy, who invented an energy system, centred around salt-water algae. The system is made up of six subsystems, which “can treat waste, produce methane and bio-fuel, and is a source of livestock and human food production… produces oxygen and sequesters greenhouse gasses”. He calls it the VERSATILE system.

The system uses waste from one part of the system, to fuel others. Not unlike feeding rabbit poo to a garden that will feed rabbits (I wish mine did). My understanding of permaculture is still very shallow, but this seems to sum up the principles pretty well: work with the interconnectedness of ecosystems to make things easier, rather than trying to beat nature into submission to accomplish a single thing. The more I pay attention to the world around me, the more I realize how much more sense it makes.

The benefits of the VERSATILE energy system include better health for villagers due to cleaner burning methane stoves, less deforestation due to wood scavenging for fuel, possible income from the sale of algae biomass for pharmaceutical or nutraceutical products, easier livestock production because of more availability of feed, LED lighting powered by electricity generation from the PlayPump, and a source of fuel for machinery (from algae oil).

Do yourself a favour and read more about VERSATILE on Clean Technica. It’s fascinating.

Javier’s idea won the “Invent Your World Challenge” sponsored by Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. The program empowers youth (“a global community of young changemakers”) to create positive social change, which seems like a pretty freaking good idea to me.

From their website: “everyone in society could take initiative and address social needs, rather than looking to the elite few who lead today.”

June 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

Garden Warfare: Deer

One of my gardening clients has a terrible deer problem. The deer have a taste for her phlox. The entire property is surrounded with wild phlox, but the deer would rather destroy the domestic ones in her garden. They just have a bad attitude.

I told her that Irish Spring keeps deer away. It’s not surprising, given the smell. I would stay away too. Just use an old stocking to tie the soap to shrubs that are a problem. She wasn’t interested in decorating her garden with soap (again, I don’t blame her). You can also string fishing line around the garden, because it confuses the deer when they walk into it. But if you’re like me, you’ll probably also walk into it yourself.

Human hair is also a good solution. Sprinkling it around the garden means that the deer are deterred by human scent, and your plants get nitrogen. But unless you have a deal with a barber, or spend a lot of time cutting your hair, a fresh supply of human hair is hard to come by.

The thing that finally worked was so simple it’s absolutely brilliant. She cut a small hole in a little garbage can, put a radio inside with an outdoor extension cord running through the hole, and tuned it into the CBC. Unlike some fear-based deterrents, the diverse range of music and talk radio changes enough to keep the deer away. For now, anyway.

June 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm 1 comment

Build your own Low Impact home. Seriously.

Simon Dale built his own low impact house with £3000, 1000-1500 man hours, and almost no previous experience. And with few exceptions, the only tools he used were a chainsaw, a hammer and a chisel. It’s absolutely stunning, and looks like it came straight out of the pages of a fairytale.
hobbit house exterior

He says,

Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.


His website is packed with information about how and why he did it, including plans for the house. I’m absolutely floored.

hobbit house kitchen

Via Bad Time.

June 10, 2009 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

Drought-Proof Planting

How to drought-proof new plantings:
Drought-proof planting makes your plants strong enough to wait for the rain so you don’t have to water them.

1. Dig the hole twice as wide and 1.5 times as deep as the root ball.

2. Fill the hole with water.

3. Drop some composted manure in the bottom. Regular kitchen compost is okay, but the addition of composted manure makes it better.

4. Let the hole finish draining, and put a handful of bone meal at the bottom. Bone meal is high in phosphorus, which promotes vigorous root growth. If you want to, you can mix it up with the compost at the bottom, but it’s not 100% necessary.

5. Fill the hole back up with water.

6. Carefully plant right there in the muck. You will get terribly dirty. You will need to squish your fingers into the mud to get enough dirt underneath. But trust me, it’s worth it. The happy fertilized roots will follow the water down, instead of remaining shallow from watering on top after planting.


1. Mulch around your plants to keep the soil cool.
2. Water in a doughnut around your plants, rather than on the crown. This will encourage your plant to continue to stretch out its roots. Plus, many plants (especially tomatoes) hate to be watered on the crown, so this will keep them happier as well.
3. Water deeply, when you do.
3. DON’T over-water. Don’t even bother getting out the watering can for a week, unless your plants are really droopy. Decide this early in the morning, because many plants naturally wilt in the sun but will perk back up in the evening without help. Water them no more than once a week for the first 3 weeks, and then wait two weeks before watering again. By that point, your plants should be just fine waiting for the rain.

June 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm 1 comment

The “Bee Issue”: monoculture is endangering the food supply

Because we depend on bees for “1 in 3 of every bites of food we eat,” the collapse of bee colonies is a pretty big deal. Michael Pollan suggests that pesticides may not be the only problem. Did you know that 75% of the bees in America are shipped out to California to pollinate the almond crops? Why would they need to do that? Because there’s nothing but almonds in the Central Valley, so “there’s nothing [for bees] to eat for 50 weeks of the year.” Oh, and to get the bees “in shape” for their road trip, they feed them high fructose corn syrup. (No word yet on the scary things GMO corn may be doing to bees.) Would it kill them to plant something else so they could sustain their own bees?

Have you heard of Backyard Bee Keeping? I’m fascinated by the movement even though I’m not that hardcore. Yet. 🙂

June 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

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