What I Found Interesting This Week – 28 April 2013

Bike Wheel Solar

I spent a good portion of this week foodscaping my home.

What is foodscaping?  It’s the act of creating a landscape that produces food.

I’ve found it to be both fun and challenging.  In fact, it’s proven to be such a rich topic of exploration that I’m writing a report on it (it should be out next month).

In the meantime, here’s what I found interesting this week.

Natural Disasters

A good reason to become resilient is that natural disasters are on the rise (mostly due to climate change).

Not only are the number of natural disasters increasing (mostly storms), the number of people impacted as well as the costs are growing quickly (see below, click to enlarge).

Intl Database of Natural DisastersCosts of Disasters

Is there a silver lining?  Yes.  The data also shows that fewer people are dying from these disasters.

This data implies that natural disasters are becoming more about frequent economic loss than loss of life.

The best way to mitigate this type of danger is to produce more locally and network for the rest. That way, your economic well-being isn’t dependent on your location.  Fortunately, this strategy is exactly what we’re learning about here, on this site.

DIY Solar Tracker

Solar panels are substantially more efficient if they face the sun.  Unfortunately, solar tracking equipment is more expensive than it’s worth.

Of course, there are DIY options.  Here’s a way to use old bicycle wheels and an LED light sensor to build your own solar tracker.

Bike Wheel Solar

I’m surprised that someone doesn’t smooth out kinks on this approach and productize it.

Flexible Raised Beds

Here’s a way to get started with gardening quickly.

It’s a raised bed made of fabric (woven polypropylene that’s both very strong and UV resistant).  It’s also something you can sew yourself (thanks for that Niall).

Fabric Bed

Kim (a reader) found that her long bed, like the one above, lost structural integrity when the sides bowed.  This can be addressed by connecting the long sides together using an interior strap.

A Living Air Filter

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a bit about how plants can clean the toxic chemicals found in the air in almost every home.  Here’s another way to look at it.

In the US alone, people buy 14.5 million air purifiers and filtering systems a year!  That’s nuts.  Imagine 14.5 million rubber plants, ferns, and other living filters being installed instead.

Rubber plants

I’m back to my foodscaping.  I have some blueberry bushes to plant.

If you have any recommendations on other fruiting bushes to plant with them, I’m all ears.




JR Small

This is just one aspect of self-reliance. You'll find more in our 100% free online Self-Reliance Catalog, a carefully curated collection of the best in self-reliance & resilience

The goal of The Self-Reliance Catalog is to help you know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting, whether that “thing” is a plant, a tool, a book, or even a design for a home or greenhouse.

Set up your free account here for instant access



Suggested Videos

Self-Reliance is Hard
We Make It Easier

Solutions for Smarter Self-Reliance:

You'll find them in The Self-Reliance Catalog; a carefully curated collection of the best plants, tools, shelters and systems for self-reliance and resilience.

Free Registration

  • d.fish

    how bout goji’s?

    or hawthorns (native to your area methinks) or sea buckthorns?

    …think high antioxidant superfoods…

    • John Robb

      Hmmm. I like the medicinal uses, not sure about the thorns. JR

      • d.fish

        thorns might be good on the periphery to create a deer-proof barrier.

        just brainstormin…have fun!

  • Susan

    Try planting something that has something you wouldn’t mind if the birds ate, for instance a Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis). Otherwise, you’ll find that you must cover your blueberry bushes with netting so that you’ll have something to harvest.

    good luck!

    • John Robb

      Susan, Good idea. Thanks. JR

  • Kate

    Why mess with plastic – just make a straw bale garden. Instant raised bed, creates compost. Next year when it’s done, you just rake the straw into your compost pile or onto other beds for organic weed control and start a new one, in a new place if you like.

  • Erwin

    I picked up “foodscaping” last year and I have noticed – using the more traditional approach – that a lot of effort, time and $ are wasted. Recently and just prior to building my first raised beds, I ran into square foot gardening. Just to be straight, I’m still a novice and not at all affiliated with them, but their approach makes sense.

    Marking smaller (sqft) plots in a larger raised bed make it far easier to grow stuff but the added benefit is that I know exactly where I planted my seed(s) so I can immediately spot weeds. Last year I eyeballed it and ended up using too much soil, too much seeds, too much water and harvested too much radishes, too much… Not at all efficient. I believe square foot gardening and container gardening are worth some time to analyze and see which benefits can be ported to any other approach.



  • Jeannie

    the 5 strawberries plants in the herb garden increased themselves thus far to 20. I love raspberries..red ,black doesn’t matter (the jam is absolute heaven on earth) and they seem to be increasing themselves too. I’ve got a little goji berry bush to put in and it has NO prickers! We put a bunch of blueberries in and anti bird defense system will be key… the raspberries take massive bird hits if not netted and it’s a pain getting the stuff off after the season but SO well worth the jam payoff!

    • John Robb

      Thanks again Jeannie. It’s got me thinking about how to simplify bird defense. JR

  • http://pennypincherpersonalfinance.blogspot.com Penny Pincher

    Blackberries – you can take a piece of root and plant it, and it will grow into a new bush. Easier than messing with seeds.

    If you have space and time, mulberry. There were both mulberry and apple trees in Arlington on Summer Street, near Forest St. in the town playground, at least back in 1990 when I lived nearby. Get some seeds from it, or just enjoy its fruit. I do believe there is also a white mulberry somewhere near there as well – fruit looks like grubs but tastes the same as the black kind.

  • http://pennypincherpersonalfinance.blogspot.com Penny Pincher

    PS I think I once saw a ghost on the bike path near there. Maybe it was Sam Whittemore…

  • kunkmiester

    I was going to look at the synthetic deck lumber for making raised beds. They may not be as resilient in some ways as wood, but for direct contact with soil you don’t want treated lumber–the poisons leach into the soil, and they’ll last a lot longer than plain wood. Not sure how they compare to stuff like cedar for price though.

    Raised beds should also not be limited to squares and rectangles. You can probably hit all sorts of interesting shapes which will help improve the appeal of the landscaping.

  • -->