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Archive for January, 2011

Orienteering: Navigating with Map & Compass

Years ago in Boy’s Club (something like scouting), I learned to use a map & compass. These days, people are much more likely to use a GPS to figure out where to go. Knowing how to use a map and compass is a important low tech skill to have, in the case your GPS fails to function, and it’s important to know how to get someplace, especially if off road. One of the best resources to learn orienteering is Kjellstrom’s “Be Expert with Map & Compass: The Complete Orienteering Handbook. With an inexpensive (but quality) compass, and a map, you have the ability to navigate anywhere you need to go, with no electricity, no dependence upon high technology. Just your own skill, and a low tech tool. My compass is a Silva Explorer. For about $30, you can pick up a entertaining, potentially lifesaving skill. I own and recommend these two items.

Get your free USGS Topo maps here!



World-renowned soil biology expert to join Rodale Institute

Kutztown, PA, January 24, 2011—The Rodale Institute, a non-profit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach, today announced the appointment of Dr. Elaine Ingham as Chief Scientist. Dr. Ingham has lead Soil Foodweb, Inc. as president and director of research since 1996, helping farmers all over the world to grow more resilient crops by understanding and improving their soil. She is also an affiliate professor at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa and has served in academia for two decades.

In her new role as Chief Scientist, Dr. Ingham will take the lead on all Rodale Institute research projects; act as the scientific voice for the Institute as she travels worldwide; and help create a vision for the future of food and farming.

“Dr. Ingham is a true, card-carrying Soil Biologist—a rare entity. As one of the foremost authorities on practical soil biology management, she is uniquely qualified to pioneer new frontiers of organic research with the Rodale Institute,” says Executive Director Mark Smallwood. “We are very excited to have her join our team.”

Since it’s founding in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, the Rodale Institute has been committed to groundbreaking research in organic agriculture, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating people about how organic is the safest, healthiest option for people and the planet. The Institute is home to the Farming Systems TrialTM (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture. Consistent results from the study have shown that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming. In years of drought, organic corn yields are about 30% higher. This year, 2011 marks the 30th year of the trial. New areas of study at the Rodale Institute include rates of carbon sequestration in chemical versus organic plots and new techniques for weed suppression.

Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For over sixty-years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest options for people and the planet.


Prevent Forest Fires From Outdoor Wood Burners

Add a DIY Spark Arrestor to Your OWB Stack

By Robert Saunders

The Wisconsin DNR recommends, but does not yet require, that an Outdoor Wood Burner (OWB) includes a spark arrestor in its stack. They recommend a ¼ inch wire mesh to prevent larger flaming objects from being discharged from the stack or chimney. The design described and illustrated below is an efficient and cost effective method for assuring that no flaming particles larger than ¼ inch can pass through the wire screen installed in the unit. In fact, the path includes passage through two ¼” screens. The whole assembly consists of a Tee, a ¼ inch wire screen cut to fit, and a cap to seal the unit. The cost for parts is approximately $30.00.

OWB Spark Arrestor


Seed Starting, Potting Soil, and more

It’s that time of year when I start thinking about getting my seeds together, making my seed pots, mixing my potting soil and related activities. I have my non-gmo heirloom seeds, my seed cups (used yogurt cups), my LED Grow Lights, and I’m getting the materials together for my potting mix. I’m using Mel’s Mix (1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost) for the seed starting, as well as the soil in my containers I transplant into. I’m hoping to do some raised beds (Square Foot Gardening) this year, instead of the 5 gallon pails I used last year. I’ll fill the raised beds with the same recipe above. I had 8 raised beds in NY done this way and they worked very well.


Green Trends for 2011

Amazing Green Trends to Watch For 2011 – by Eric Carlson

As 2010 comes to a close and 2011 begins there are some definite trends and changes that you are going to want to keep an eye on in the coming year. With most media companies focusing their attention on new gadgets and technologies that are hitting the market in the New Year, there are others that are quietly taking hold behind the scenes that are making huge impacts in our lives. While green technology may be mainstream in the media right now, the work and advancements that are happening are left by the wayside, and these changes are happening in unlikely places such as satellite TV networks and the manufacturing hub of the world.

  • Changing The Face Of Power

Over the last year there have been some huge improvements and breakthroughs in the areas of solar power. While this may seem to be trivial to you, think for a moment what this means to your wallet. Traditional power sources such as coal and oil are depleting and though we are in no danger of running out right now, the prices only keep rising. The cost of mining, then producing the power from the resources is getting astronomical and that cost is passed on to us as a consumer. Now what if there was a way to produce large amounts of power for a fraction of the cost that it takes to produce power from coal or oil? That would mean a huge reduction in the costs for the consumer, both in the energy and the service. While nuclear power was supposed to be the power alternative it has proven to be just as expensive if not more so, albeit cleaner energy. This brings us to the huge advances that have been made in solar power. You may have noticed that there are solar panels going up everywhere from peoples roofs to farmers fields. These solar panels are taking them off the grid partially if not completely and providing cheap clean energy. This is just the beginning of the advances in this form of energy and is something to keep an eye on.

  • Technological Efficient Upgrades

With this green imitative has come some interesting tends that are helping to reduce the use of energy by making our lives more efficient. Imagine your fridge sending you a message telling you what you need to pick up on the way home from work, so that you don¡¯t have to waste the time and energy later to go out again and get it. While the technology is not completely there right now it is getting there.

Ford has started with the SYNC service in its new cars, which incorporates music, news, weather, GPS, hands free cell phone, and many other features built into one unit in the vehicle. While this may just seem to be a convenience, think about it this way, you will not need to purchase a GPS unit, which saves you money and reduces the amount of resources used in producing that unit. The GPS and weather service, along with the traffic alert service, will help to get you where you need to go in a timely fashion, meaning you are on the road less, burning less gas and helping the environment as well as your wallet at the same time.

  • Manufacturing Going Green

The manufacturing hub of the world is going green both in the processes they use in development and the technologies they produce. We are of course talking about China. Being the manufacturing hub of the world has given them an interesting advantage in the green market. They get to implement the technology first hand and lead the way. Also they are making huge advances in the green energy field as well, as they have a high population and not a lot of space to put everyone.
Investing In Tomorrow

With green technology and energy taking off, there have already been some huge investments made, but there needs to be more. Many companies around the world and specifically America have been calling for substantial investments to be made now for tomorrow. Such investors and advocates include Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Bank of America Chairman, Chad Holiday. Only with the investments now can we change the face of the world tomorrow.

  • Taking Transportation Green

You may or may not remember the electric car. It was a big sensation when it was first introduced years ago, and was also quite the controversy. It faded from media coverage as well as production after only a few years for many different reasons. It has started to make a comeback though and looks like the innovations in the technology are making waves as well. With the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf taking hold in the American market, the rise of the electric car is in motion.

Analysts predict that within a few years as electric transportation develops that most of our public transportation will also make the switch and thus become a cheaper solution to commuting to and from work.

  • Changing The Grid

With the advent of green energy, the grids that transport our power have undergone some major overhauls recently. These improvements have not only upgraded the system, allowing for a better distribution of power, but also made them more efficient. These changes are further proof of the advancement in green technology.

  • Green Entertainment

At last count there were enough televisions in the United States to put 3 televisions in every persons home and still have a surplus. This is a staggering number when you consider the population of the United States. Television is mainstream entertainment for everyone and everything about it uses an immense amount of energy. From the production of a movie or show, to the distribution and the final viewing of that show, the drain on our power systems continues to rise. There have been many advancements in the technology that the networks and satellite distributers have made that have lowered the energy needed and changes continue to be made all the time.

These are only a few things you are going to want to keep your eye on. With 2011 only just begun, there are sure to be many breakthroughs and great technologies that come onto the market.

About the Author

Eric Carlson is the Publisher of He lives in San Francisco, CA with his family. He is passionate about everything to do with satellite TV providers and can often be found discussing the different changes and advancements that the Satellite TV network has to offer. Keep your browser turned towards his blog for an interesting and fresh perspective on the world of satellite TV.


Tenzicut’s Personal Seed List

By Tenzicut

After Steve sent his article to me on his Seed Report this morning, it was right on the heels of finally updating my personal seed list for my own garden until 3 am this morning. I have saved seed for many reasons for many years now.

My love for seed starting began in the late 1970’s when I was still a child, helping my father collect them out of his quarter acre garden. Although dad is gone now, I still raise certain varieties because they were dear to him, although I have favorites of my own. It links me to him still.

I guess I started saving seeds more hardcore since 1996 and it has become an obsession since then. After I learned about the plight of our heritage seeds and how we are losing them at a rate of 10,000 a year, lost forever… is when I got more into the conservation part of things. Even if I might not personally like a type of vegetable, such as beans and peas, I grow them anyway, to pass the seed along to others who will grow them and enjoy them, such as the “Orca” bean that Seeds of Diversity Canada has listed as endangered with poor distribution. It is to save bio-diversity.

Two of my favorite seeds are the “Siberian” Kale which the Bird family gave to me in Williams Lake, British Columbia and the other is the “Bob Campbell Family” Hollyhock which has been in their family since the 1800’s starting in Ontario, Canada.

Trying to educate people about our heritage seeds, I hold “Seedy Saturdays”. “Seedy Saturday” is an event where people get together to swap seeds, especially heirloom varieties, or varieties that have been in the family for years if not several generations. I started holding them when I lived in Canada and brought the idea back to Oregon when I moved back. This Spring will my third year in hosting them through “Down to the Roots” Homesteading magazine. I suggest you find one or host one in your community.

The idea of conserving heritage varieties of garden and field crops was in its infancy in Canada in 1989. It was very difficult to find heritage varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers and grains, although that tend is starting to turn around. I generally have several hundred varieties of seeds at the seed table that are sent in from the big seed conservation banks in the USA, Canada, the UK, Israel and France, as well as from my own seed bank and from those people who bring in extra to share from their stashes of gardening seed.

“Seedy Saturday” was designed to develop a feeling of ‘community’ focused around seed that was ‘open pollinated’ not hybrid and could be saved year to year. The heart of local food security starts with having a collection of seed that people can save and grow year after year. However each “Seedy Saturday” from location to location, to year to year is unique.

If you would like to see my personal seed list, it is located HERE.

You do not have to have hundreds of seeds like I do, but even just saving one or two varieties helps every little bit to keep some of our heirlooms from dying out and helps you to learn to be more self sufficient.


Grow Tents – The Affordable Grow Room Solution

Grow tents are best suited for those growers with limited space or those with the need to keep light from leaking into their home. Grow tents are a perfect solution for any indoor grower looking to maximize their yields with the least amount of capital and time invested.

Popular Grow Tent Sizes
Grow tents range in size from 1ftx1ft to 5ftx10ft with an average height at about 8ft tall. The most popular sizes of grow tents are the 2ftx4ft, the 3ftx3ft and the 4ftx4ft sizes. The 2ftx4ft size is perfect for anyone using a rectangular grow light or a pair of LED UFO grow lights. The 2ftx4ft sizes is also best suited for a 400w HPS grow light but is probably too small for a 600w and definitely too small for a 1000w HPS due to extreme heat issues. The 3ftx3ft and the 4ftx4ft are perfect for a high output grow light such as the 740w LED Grow Light or a 600-1000w HPS grow light although heat will still be an issue with the HPS lights.

What Benefits Do Grow Tents Offer?
Grow tents offer many benefits over hand-made or pre-built grow rooms and grow boxes. Here are a few of the key benefits that grow tents offer:
1. Low Upfront Costs – Many grow tents cost less than $500.
2. Minimal Assembly or Setup Time – Usually less than 1 hour of assembly time.
3. Built-In Air Circulation Ducts and Light Hanging Points – Made to fit most grow light setups.
4. Light Tight – Reflective interior that keeps all the light close to the plants.
5. Side Entry Access Points – Makes tending your garden very easy.
6. Removable Bottom Panel – Usually watertight which keeps any leaks inside the grow tent.
7. Modular – Growers can use different tents for clones, vegetation and flowering cycles.
8. Lightweight and Mobile – Most grow tents weight less than 50lbs and are easily moved.

Quality Grow Tents vs Cheap Grow Tents
Quality grow tents are built with parts such as steel support bars, premium zippers (important), and top quality canvas and Mylar materials. Cheap Grow Tents on the other hand are built from the most economical parts available and usually will have issues with zippers or support bars in less than one year with steady use. We always suggest to buy quality grow tents over cheap grow tents because the upfront cost of even the most premium grow tents is still well under the cost of building a custom room or buying an expensive grow box. When choosing to buy a grow tent please remember this, “The cheap man pays twice.”

If you are in the market for a quality grow tent at a great price you can find them at and if you buy one of their high output LED Grow Lights you can get your grow tent at 20% off! LED Grow Lights are the perfect solution for a grow tent application because the amount of heat produced with an LED grow light is far less than an HPS light of the same wattage which saves you money and headaches from dealing with extreme heat.


DOWN TO EARTH SEEDS – non-hybrid, heirloom, open pollinated, non-GMO seed

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a people to rely less on worldly (outside) sources for their food supply, one of the very first steps of action is to acquire a supply of open-pollinated vegetable seed.  With a good supply of non-hybrid seed, and simple instructions on seed saving, one is well on his way to self-sufficiency.  Add a small piece of land and the willingness to work and you can produce all the vegetables you need for all year round, every year.
In 1998 a friend requested that we design and package a seed kit that would last for many years for emergencies.  I had been taught gardening and preserving food as a child and continued this all my years.  We had experienced gardening in different parts of the country and knew the challenges and successes each year presents.  We knew that if lives depended on this seed kit, we had to make it good.  We could not choose really exotic varieties of vegetables; we needed varieties that prospered under many varied conditions.  We needed open pollinated seed that would tolerate heat, cold, drought, poor soil, short seasons, inexperienced gardeners, weed competition, etc.  So we chose those varieties that have proven their reliability.  They have been grown all over the country, in all different conditions for many decades, by gardeners of varying abilities.  They are very common, because they are survivors.  This is what we wanted.  We specialized in packaging seed so that it can be frozen and stored for 50 years with almost no loss of germination rates.
We also wanted plenty of seed.  Experience has also taught us that there are many reasons for crop failure.  Besides heat and drought, there are insects, poor soils, soil with poor drainage, critters (rabbits, moles, deer, chickens, cows that don’t stay in fences, etc.) in addition to gardener mistakes, such as planting too early or late, too deep or shallow, untimely harvesting, weather conditions, etc. etc.  So we put in plenty of seed to allow for mistakes.  Tomatoes have 600 seeds.  Now tomatoes produce alot and 100 plants is plenty for a family of eight including canning tomatoes, and salsa and pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce, and tomato sauce and plain tomatoes.  But when you start your tomatoes, you may have damping off problems and lose some plants.  And when you set them out in the garden, you may set them out too early and some may freeze.  And a fat cutworm may come along 3 days after you set them out and chew it off at ground level.  After that, they usually grow pretty good, but there are a host of other insects that can bother them.  So while gardening is very enjoyable and most often quite successful, we wanted to be sure you had a second chance.  So we put in a lot of seed.   For each variety of squash we give you 70 seeds, for peppers 560, for green beans 800-1600 seeds, for corn 2000 seeds, for cabbage, 1000 seeds, etc.
We considered how easy each crop is to start, the ease of transplanting, the quality of food produced, what you can do with the vegetable, (we love watermelon, but besides fresh eating, what can you do with it?)  We considered the success rate of saving seed (biennials are more difficult).  We looked at the labor involved in growing and harvesting the crop.  Can you use it for winter food? And can it be used to feed animals (and neighbors?)
All our seeds are non-hybrid, heirloom, open pollinated, non-GMO seed.  There is no fantastic secret about this seed.  It is just seed the way it was created by nature.  This seed will reproduce themselves just like they have done for hundreds of years.  NO, they aren’t necessarily all that old.  But there is a major difference between these seeds, and the modern hybrids.  Hybrids are produced for various reasons and not all of them are evil.  Some are more productive, some are resistant to a disease or insects; some ripen all at once for commercial production.  Some travel better across the country than for example, softer, old-time tomatoes.  But they do not reproduce seed that will grow a plant just like the parent.  So each year, hybrids must have man’s intervention to produce the hybrid seed.  GMO seeds are a giant step further away from nature.  This involves splicing genes of plants and animals from outside the species, into its genes to produce the desired crop.  For example, splicing arctic fish genes into a tomato to make it cold hardy.  Our kits include a simple seed saving book.
  We also include a wonderful gardening book that discusses how to grow each crop. The Vegetable Growers Handbook by Frank Tozer covers everything you need to know about cultivating all the common vegetable crops. It includes planning, soil preparation, where and when to plant, raising transplants, direct sowing, fertilizing, watering, weeding, pest control, harvesting, open-pollinated seed saving, storage, and cooking.