Category: Outdoor Living

It’s Lovely Weather for a Hoop House

Here's a shot of our hoop houses under this afternoon's fresh blanket of snow. Inside, we've got lots of lettuces, kale, chard, cabbage, beats, peas, and any number of herbs. I hope to have a greenhouse someday but for now these cold frames are working well.


The hoops are made of 1/2" diameter PVC (a terrible product if you live downstream from an irresponsible manufacturer) pipe which is a light, strong, flexible, rigid, inexpensive and basically perfect material for making low arches in between rebar stakes. Three hoops and pairs of stakes are set within a 4' x 8' rectangle of 2-by lumber. The hoops are covered in a

12/10/2012 | Climate | Companion Plantings | Ecology | Edibles | Energy Savings | Outdoor Living | (0) Comments

The Reality of Eating Animals

One of the largest subdivisions in the state of New Mexico, Eldorado, just went through an electoral fight by which it was determined that residents CAN own chickens!!! Here's my current "Permaculture in Practice" column about the issue.

11/27/2012 | Children | Community | Ecology | Edibles | Energy Savings | Outdoor Living | (0) Comments

Tincture Time!

As I mentioned in my last post, making hawthorn-berry tincture is simple:

1) Fill a jar halfway with vodka. 2) Put hawthorn berries in the jar.

3) Close jar tightly. 4) Wait six months. 5) Strain out berries.


6) Put tincture in dropper bottles.

7) Use as directed. (See below).


11/14/2012 | Ecology | Outdoor Living | (0) Comments

Plant Your Cistern!

Here's a precipitation-collection tank, or cistern, that's patially burried and hidden by a raised planter bed and a combination of beautiful and edible plants. The easiest way to see where the cistern is in this photo is to look for a brown downspout that elbows from the right post of the portal. That goes into a 650 gallon cistern from which water is pumped and distributed through the backyard with a hose. I took this shot at our a client's residence around this time of year several years ago. One of the reasons to go this route when installing a cistern is to save money on exacavation, but don't forget to figure in the cost of the wood and labor involved in the screening  with the  landscape timbers that make up the raised bed. You will also be limited to plants that sprawl and cover ground even with root systems that get shrunk by the tank which is only 4" to 12" below the ground.

10/26/2012 | Companion Plantings | Ecology | Energy Savings | Lawns | Outdoor Living | Shade | Water Harvesting | (0) Comments

Catch Our 16 Minutes of Fame on HGTV Today!

When I was my kids’ age (5 and 7), every child had goals. Highest among them was being on TV. One time my sister and I got on “Wonderama,” a show where kids were picked out of a large audience to be contestants in a quasi game-show. I wasn’t chosen, but I sure relished the one glimpse of my madly waving arms in an ecstatically joyful sea of madly waving arms.

08/09/2010 | Children | Edibles | Events | Greywater | Outdoor Living | Water Harvesting | (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

Chicken-Coop Addition Provides Shade, Curb Appeal

We had various vague notions as to how to proceed with our months-long goal of increasing the size of our chicken coop. In the end, we wanted to create an almost invisible fenced area under an existing evergreen tree right outside our chickens’ 110 sq. ft. abode. Whenever we let the chickens range free, if they were not in our compost pile, they were typically kicking around under this one tree next to their coop, a tree that we can easily see from many parts of our backyard. If successful, the project would not only add 50% more square feet to the coop, but it would also do so in a visually appealing way. Just as the functionality of our backyard is paramount, aesthetics are equally supreme for us—in part because we do not see the sustainability movement happening if it is seen as anything other than beautiful.

06/03/2010 | Compost | Edibles | Outdoor Living | (1) Comments

One Lesson Learned from Double Digging: It Works!

As you may have already read, I spent a heap of time this spring double digging our garden beds. Following John Jeavons’ techniques (described in “How to Grow More Vegetables”), I mixed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of homemade compost deep into the soil. Although I never got the six-pack abs that I had hoped to gain from all of the upper-body exercise, I’m happy to report that the work itself has paid off.

06/01/2010 | Compost | Edibles | Outdoor Living | Shade | Windbreaks | (0) Comments

Sorrel Tortillas Make Perfect Home-Grown Burritos!

Stepping out of our back door, the first thing you might see is a huge patch of sorrel, the leafy green that most people have no idea what to do with. On line, you’ll find lots of recipes for sorrel soup and sorrel punch (a favorite Caribbean rum drink), but its too strong to put large quantities into a salad. Steamed-green dishes featuring sorrel can be incredibly tasty, but in too-large doses its simply overwhelming. A great substitute for both salt and vinegar, sorrel has a lemony taste that quickly makes your mouth pucker if you eat too much of it.

One of the best uses of sorrel is as the tortilla part of a burrito (or for all ya’all on the other side of the Mississippi, the wrap part of a wrap). This week, I been making scrambled egg burritos, pinto bean burritos, and farmers-market-beef-mushroom-garlic-red-chile burritos. They’ve all been wheat free, full of minerals, perfectly flavorful, and wrapped in a delicious dark-green package from just outside the kitchen door.

05/01/2010 | Edibles | Outdoor Living | (0) Comments