Archives from July 2010

Recycled Glass Bottles Could Replace Perlite & Pumice

A Santa Fe-based company is days away from opening up a very cool factory. Located at the Albuquerque city dump and recycling center, Growstone, LLC, is turning used glass bottles into a substitute for perlite, used in hydroponic growing applications and as a hygroscopic (water retaining) soil amendment. My guess is that their product will also soon be seen as an excellent alternative to pumice—at least when replacing the essential ingredient in one of may favorite passive water harvesting techniques, the pumice wick.

07/11/2010 | Books | Ecology | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

Harvest the Rain: An Inconvenient (but Fun!) Tour

At the outset of the Industrial Revolution, the protagonist of Voltaire’s Candide travels extensively in an attempt to discover “the best of all possible worlds.” In the end, Candide realizes that he and his party would have been better off if they’d never gone on tour in the first place. “What’s necessary,” the tired traveler declares in the last sentence of the novella, “is that we cultivate our garden.” Thanks to the slow-food movement made popular by Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingslover, and many others, 250 years later people are finally starting to get this message. From backyard gardens to downtown farmers’ markets, people are realizing the rewards of becoming truly productive human beings.

07/10/2010 | Books | Community | Ecology | Edibles | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

Rooting for Bugs in the War on Backyard Blight

Ranging in size from basketball to softball and spanning the color spectrum between deep-forest green and tangerine, I just counted 20 pumpkins growing in our backyard. It’s unclear if any of these calabasas will grow much bigger this year. All of our pumpkin plants have the same nasty squash-and-tomato-oriented blight that we’ve been fighting here since the first season after we brought in several huge truckloads of ‘topsoil’ to go on top of the cistern.

07/09/2010 | Edibles | (0) Comments

Radioheads: Please Check Out These Two Eco-Shows

Had a blast taping two radio shows this week. On Thursday, Kate Manchester interviewed me for her Edible Radio program. She’s the publisher of Edibles Santa Fe, a magazine for Santa Fe’s local-food movement. Please keep an eye out for my article in the Fall edition. (It’s about cold composting.) Kate’s a great interviewer and an awesome magazine publisher. I’m not sure when the show will air, but I’ll let you know as soon as it’s linkable. Please check out Kate’s work here: and

07/08/2010 | Bike Commuting | Books | Compost | Edibles | Events | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

If You Can’t Be with the Bike You Love, Lock It.

I moved down to Santa Fe from Boulder, Colorado back in 1987 with a 20-year-old, one-speed Schwinn bungeed to the roof of my car. It was the best bike in the world: springy seat, beefy fenders, wide handle bars with hard, groovy grips. Best of all it was an adult bike with foot brakes. When I bought it at a garage sale for $20 bucks, it was striped like a green, yellow, and black zebra, but it also came with two half-jars of paint (green and yellow). The implication was that the new owner should make the bike his or her own. Before officially purchasing the masterpiece, I asked the owner if he still had any of the black, and the guy laughed and said, “Sorry. It’s long gone.” He could see that I was already sold on the beauty, which I ended up spray painting gold and blue and then used the remaining green and yellow in a thick-and-juicy Jackson Pollack style.

07/07/2010 | Bike Commuting | Community | Ecology | Energy Savings | (0) Comments

Desert Turns Green on Client’s Side of the Fence

One of the interesting characteristics of high-desert storm-events revolves around how localized their epicenters can be. After Hurricane Alex hit land earlier this month, we ( received three queries from folks who all lived within a radius of 2,000 feet of each other. Evidently, the northwest corner of the Eldorado subdivision got especially hammered during the wee hours of July 1, 2010.

07/06/2010 | Erosion Control | Events | Grading and Drainage | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

Slow Honey May Taste Better than the Regular Brand

Yesterday at the farmers’ market, I bought a top-bar beehive from Steve Wall. He’s been selling me honey there for about nine years, but he also sells empty hives (more on getting the actual bees later) designed by top-bar proponent Les Crowder. Regular readers of this blog might remember that we already have a beehive. But evidently, about a year after my wife built our hive with Les (about 15 years ago), Crowder changed the design, which meant that our model ultimately needed to be replaced with the new design in order for imported bee colonies to properly fit in their new home.

07/05/2010 | Beekeeping | Edibles | (0) Comments

“Fine Gardening” Features Melissa’s Aesthetic Sense

In my previous post, we explored the power that sex (or at least talking about it) might have on the ever-growing backyard-revolution. Today, we’ll elevate the conversation from sex to attractiveness. The August issue of Fine Gardening is out, and in it (page 34 to be exact) you’ll find expert advice from my wife Melissa. The magazine asked her and six other experts from different regions to describe five of their favorite focal-point plants. Based the magazine’s desire to present a varied palette from all seven regions, one of the five plant descriptions, Fine Gardening said, would not be published.

07/04/2010 | Companion Plantings | Outdoor Living | (0) Comments

Give a Hoot! Bike Commute!

Every year some crisis comes up that makes me believe people might  wise up to the fabulous freedom that bike commuting provides. This year it’s the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Last year, it was the economy.  Before that it was two or three years of high gas prices. Going back further, it was the polar bear animation in Al Gore’s movie. I started switching over from driving to biking after my country picked a ludicrous fight in Iraq. But I don’t think I put the whole bike-commuting deal into full gear until reports started coming out of Abu Ghraib. That just pissed me off and turned me into the relatively hard-core commuter cyclist I’ve become. (Supporting war and torture for oil, even tacitly, just aint my thing.)

07/03/2010 | Bike Commuting | Ecology | Energy Savings | (0) Comments

Staff Writer at “The New Yorker” Enjoys My Book!

“Downey’s anthem to the rain could do for the backyard and the water table --and therefore, let’s hope, for the Earth and its inhabitants-- what the “Joy of Cooking” did for the kitchen, or what “The Joy of Sex” did for the bedroom. It’s one of those rare how-to books that, by way of the author’s wit, warmth, and passion, converts practical wisdom into a kind of transformational incantation.”

--Nick Paumgarten, Staff Writer at The New Yorker

07/02/2010 | Books | Ecology | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments