Ghost Town Tour

Ransom Riggs, over at the mental_floss blog, has a great pictorial tour of Bodie, California--America's quintessential ghost town. I remember reading about Bodie in my Childcraft Encyclopedias back in the day, and I'm excited to finally see the whole thing up close...

A mining boomtown, it was the third most populous city in the state of California in 1880. By the 1940s sickness, wars, bad weather and exhausted mines had led to the town's desertion, and its isolated, inhospitable location made certain that it stayed that way; no one eyed this high desert waste, 8,000 feet above sea level between Yosemite and the lonely Nevada border, and imagined a shopping mall in its place.

Only five percent of Bodie's structures are still standing, but considering how large Bodie was, that's still a lot for a ghost town -- more than two hundred. And unlike Tombstone, Calico or any number of other "preserved" ghost towns in the West, it's not a tourist trap where you can buy cotton candy from gunfight-staging actors playing oldey-timey cowboys; the town is kept in a state of "arrested decay,"

Gloriously haunting photos (pardon the pun) and some nifty history await. Check it out.

Image courtesy Flickr user mulmatsherm, via CC Read the rest

Tiny bug could wipe out California's citrus trees

The tiny Asian citrus psylid is killing citrus trees in California (High res image from UC Davis here).

Homegrown Evolution has an interesting story about Asian citrus psylid, and ant-sized insect that could spell doom for California citrus.

The Asian citrus psylid is not a problem in itself, but carries an incurable bacterial disease called huanglongbing (HLB). HLB, first reported in Asia in 1919, renders citrus fruit inedible and eventually kills the tree. Parts of Africa, Asia and South America are infected with HLB and in some regions of Brazil the disease is so bad that they've given up growing citrus altogether. HLB is in Florida and is adding to a nightmarish collection of other diseases afflicting citrus in the Sunshine State. Now California growers are panicking with the appearance of the psylid.
The State of California is taking all sorts of measures to stop the spread of the pest (including spraying dangerous pesticides), but Erik and Kelly of Homegrown Evolution are taking a Stoic approach to the problem.
Seneca [author of Letters from a Stoic] would say, do what is in your power to do and don't worry about what you can't fix. Taleb [author of The Black Swan] would advise always maximizing upside potential while minimizing exposure to the downside. My unsentimental conclusion: don't try to grow citrus. If I had a mature tree I'd leave it in place and rip it out at the first sign of HLB. Despite the state's offer to replace any HLB infected tree with a free citrus tree I wouldn't take them up on the offer.
Read the rest

Gallery of old timey seed catalogs

The Smithsonian Institution has an online collection of seed catalog art. If King Corn ever runs for president, I'll vote for him, because his crown is cool. (Via City Farmer) Read the rest

Photos from Kraut Fest 2009

About 160 heads came to Kraut Fest 2009, held at Machine Project in Los Angeles on Sunday, September 6.

Of those 160 heads, 40 were human and 120 were cabbage. The humans were there to learn how to change the cabbage into sauerkraut (based on my Russian grandmother's recipe), kimchi, and choucroute garni (a "meat fiesta" from the Alsace region in France).

I recognized the nice couple in the photo above from Picklefest 2008, which was held last year at Machine Project. The couple that ferments together stays together!

Many thanks to Machine Project founder Mark Allen for hosting the event, Slow Food LA for sponsoring it, Urban Homestead authors Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen for organizing it, Granny Choe for the kimchi lessons, and Jean-Pail Monsché for the mouth watering choucroute garni!

Photos of Krautfest 2009 Read the rest

I will teach you how to make sauerkraut this Sunday in Los Angeles at Kraut Fest 2009

If you want to learn how to make sauerkraut, kimchi, and choucroute garni, head over to Machine Project in Los Angeles this Sunday, September 6, for Kraut Fest 2009!

I'm teaching how to make sauerkraut (ridiculously easy) but I really am looking forward to learning how to make kimchi from Granny Choe!

UPDATE: the class is now SOLD OUT. If you signed up, I'll see you there!

Taught by Mark Frauenfelder, Erik Knutzen, Kelly Coyne, Jean-Paul Monsche, and the winner of Critter’s 2009 Kimchi Competition, Oghee “Granny” Choe.

Come learn how to make your own sauerkraut, kimchi, and choucroute garni, the signature dish of Alsace (described to us as a ridiculous meat fiesta).

11am - Making Sauerkraut - click HERE for a list of ingredients to bring!

12pm - Making Kimchi - click HERE for a list of ingredients to bring!

1pm - Choucroute Garni presentation & sampling

You can register to make either kimchi or sauerkraut for $10, or both for $15. Registration gets you a “kraut kit” consisting of a bucket, a plate to fit in the bucket and a limited edition, hand-silkscreened poster (see here).

Participants will need to bring their own ingredients (we’ll provide the shopping list). Funded in part by a grant from Slow Food LA. Thank you Slow Food LA!

Kraut Fest 2009! at Machine Project Read the rest

Alan Graham's automatic chicken door

Alan Graham's home made automatic chicken door has mine beat by a country mile, because he can run it from his iPhone. His hens sure are cute. Read the rest

Gallery of chicken coops

"Beautiful coop built by Jeff Taylor and his granddaughter, Jayda, pictured."

My Pet Chicken (the place I ordered my baby Barred Plymouth Rocks hens from) has a gallery of chicken coops built from scratch.

Also, My Pet Chicken has a great "Cash for Cluckers" sale. They'll send you 25 chicks (all hens) for $41.50 with free shipping. That's a great deal, because the regular price is $100.

Chicken coops

Previously:Urban chickens of the Bronx - Boing Boing Phone call: Can I keep chickens in Chicago - Boing Boing Setting free the chickens - Boing Boing Plymouth Rock Monthly -- old magazine for chicken aficionados ... Urban chicken controversy in Montana - Boing Boing Screams kill chickens - Boing Boing Clothing for chickens - Boing Boing Boing Boing: Zombie chickens rise from mass graves Plymouth Barred Rock chicks - Boing Boing Hen lays green eggs (no ham) - Boing Boing Photos of chicken forming in egg - Boing Boing Plymouth Barred Rock chicks - Boing Boing Read the rest

How to harvest honey from a bee hive

Kirk, the leader of our Backwards Beekeepers club here in LA, shows how to harvest honey. Film made by fellow bee club member Russell Bates.

Backwards Beekeepers TV: The Honey Harvest Read the rest

My favorite nearby waterfall, once the home of rockets (iPhone video snapshot)

Here's a quick video snapshot I took over the weekend from one of my favorite local hikes here in Southern California: the Solstice Canyon trail above Malibu. The video's nothing special, but as I was shooting it (on my iPhone 3GS, with a twig for a tripod) I thought "this might be an inspiring little ambient morsel for BB readers to zone out to during their work day. So here it is. I mention the device used because I was pretty wowed by the video and audio quality. Here's my Flickr set of more video snapshots from the waterfall (others are higher-quality and less compressed than this).

There are some spots on the trail where you can look out over the Pacific, and if the season's right you may view a migrating gray whale or two. According to an LA Times article published in 1988 when this land became a state park,

[The site] was formerly used as a laboratory to test payloads for space shots for TRW Inc. and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (...) [T]he aerospace firms picked the site because they needed a "non-magnetic setting," or an area far removed from telephone lines and electrical cables. One of the buildings had a removable roof so that heavy equipment could be lifted from the structure.
Near this 30-foot waterfall, there's an old stone cabin from the late 1800s, one of the oldest residences in the area. Also on this trail: the burnt-out remains of an amazing midcentury ranch mansion designed by African-American architect Paul Revere Williams. Read the rest

Dude lives in spaceship house

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Bees swarm under bike seat: the thrilling conclusion

Yesterday, Mister Jalopy reported a swarm of bees under the seat of one of his bikes for sale at Coco's Variety in Los Angeles. Upon hearing the news, neighbor Amy Seidenwurm headed over to the store, donned her bee suit, and bravely herded the bees to a cardboard box, transferring them to "greener pastures where the flowers are dripping with nectar and hives are clean and commodious."

2 Wheels, 2000 Bees Read the rest

Keeping the Googling Good Life Going in a Post-Box Store era: Doug Fine

We covered Doug Fine's radical off-the-grid lifestyle experiment last year on Boing Boing TV -- embed above. He is the author of Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, and he's still going strong out there on the Funky Butte Ranch. When he's not out in the fields turning the compost heap or feeding chickens, he's working on his next book, which I'm looking forward to reading. Doug has a thought-provoking piece out in this Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, here's a preview:

I have a fiancee and a son to provide for, so I decided to take a hard look at our prospects for survival if our consumer safety nets went away. For now, my green lifestyle choices at my remote 41-acre outpost in the American Southwest are optional. You know, growing lettuce instead of buying Chilean. Using organic cotton diapers instead of buying Pampers. But what if one morning in, say, 2049, I wake up to milk my goats and find out that supplies are no longer streaming in from China and California? What would I do if both box stores and crunchy food co-ops suddenly were no more? In other words, I'm examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.

Now, I'm not rooting for such a thing. Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it. I love that I can email a musician in Mauritania and ask to download his latest album.

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Alaska: Geeks dwell here, too, it's not all Palin and mush-dog races.

Pat Race of Alaska Robotics, whose "Buy Back Alaska" video was featured here a couple years ago, has created a new video about crushing absurdity of national economics. It's embedded above, and I think it's sweet and funny in a homey, dorky, "I made this!" way.

From the land of Sarah Palin, meth shacks, and aerial elk-massacres, he emails Boing Boing:

Alaska Robotics is Pat Race, Aaron Suring, Lou Logan, Sarah Asper-Smith, and whoever else falls into our cast of friends and family. We live in Juneau where we make short films, draw comics, and eat halibut. We organize screenings of locally made short films twice a year and also work to bring filmmakers, animators and writers north to teach workshops.

If you're interested, there are a bunch of other films on our site, I like these ones: Socks, The Big Joke, Butterfly Kisses, Town vs. Valley, Nipple Fire, High Five.

Previously:Boing Boing: Proposal to buy back corrupt Alaskan legislators Read the rest

How to make kombucha

I first started making kombucha in 1995, but when we had our first child in 1997, I was knocked out of many patterns, including making this tasty fermented beverage. About a month ago I started making it again. It's really easy.

Before you make your own kombucha, here are a few reasons why you might not want to: Paul Stamets: "The danger of misuse should be a prevailing concern for us all" CDC: Unexplained severe illness possibly associated with consumption of kombucha tea Journal of Intensive Care Medicine: A case of kombucha tea toxicity

Why do I drink it? Because it's fun to make and the flavor is almost addictive. The benefits outweigh the risks, at least for me. Here's how I make it. (Click on photos for enlargement.):

1. Get some live kombucha. I foolishly paid $25 to an online store that sells the culture in little vials (as seen above). As I later found out, you can buy a bottle of kombucha for a few dollars at grocery store and use that as your starter. If you have a friend who makes it, ask them for a "mother" (the floppy, blobby, disc that floats on top of a batch of kombucha) and a cup of the kombucha tea.

2. Collect the ingredients: sugar, vinegar (or a half cup of the kombucha tea from your last batch), tea bags (any kind). I used green tea for my first batch, but I'm now using decaf black tea.

3. Add 4-8 tea bags into a little less than one gallon of water. Read the rest

Colorado passes law to allow rainwater harvesting

In March I pointed to an LA Times story about people in Colorado who were breaking the law by collecting and saving rainwater from their roofs to water their gardens during dry spells.
Holstrom's violation is the fancifully painted 55-gallon buckets underneath the gutters of her farmhouse on a mesa 15 miles from the resort town of Telluride. The barrels catch rain and snowmelt, which Holstrom uses to irrigate the small vegetable garden she and her husband maintain.

But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

But the NY Times reports that Colorado passed a couple of laws to make this practice legal.

A study in 2007 proved crucial to convincing Colorado lawmakers that rain catching would not rob water owners of their rights. It found that in an average year, 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver, never got anywhere near a stream. The water evaporated or was used by plants.

But the deeper questions about rain are what really gnawed at rain harvesters like Todd S. Anderson, a small-scale farmer just east of Durango. Mr. Anderson said catching rain was not just thrifty – he is so water conscious that he has not washed his truck in five years – but also morally correct because it used water that would otherwise be pumped from the ground.

Read the rest

Goats enjoy living in their own tower

Jim Leftwich says:

"I'm thinking the next step beyond raising chickens in the backyard is to have your own Goat Tower!

"Currently there are only three Goat Towers in the world (which I think you'll agree is not nearly enough!). The original Goat Tower was built in 1981 by Charles Back at the Fairview Wine and Cheese Estate in Paarl, South Africa. The estate has 750 Saanen goats and some of these are allowed access to the tower.

"The other two Goat Towers are the "Tower of Baaa" in Findlay, Illinois and one built in 2006 in Ekeby, Norway, both of which are modeled on the original.

"Here's an interview with David Johnson, who built one in Illinois, and which is interesting because it contains a lot of great details about the Goat Tower's construction."

"Goats love it and people driving by can't believe it," says David Johnson of Findlay, Ill., about his 31-ft. tall, 7-ft. dia. "goat tower" built with the help of the late Jack Cloe, Herrick, Ill. The tower was constructed with 5,000 hand-made bricks, each one a different size and shape. The tower has 276 concrete steps, arranged to form a spiral staircase, that allows Johnson's goats to climb up and down with ease.

Johnson has 34 Saanen milk goats that use the tower. "Goats are the most curious animals in the world so they use the tower a lot. They come and go, passing each other on the ramp as needed."


The roof is supported by wheels that ride on a circular steel rail along the upper edge of the tower wall.

Read the rest

Yellow Oleander - another "Least Favorite Plant"

My friends Kelly and Erik at Homegrown Evolution have an interesting post about another one of their least favorite plants -- the poisonous Yellow Oleander.

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 change that to unlucky nut please), Be Still Tree (presumably because you'll be still if you eat any of it), and yellow oleander (it's a relative of Southern California's favorite freeway landscaping flower).
Yellow Oleander - another "Least Favorite Plant"

Previously:Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other ... Read the rest

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