Grow Warm-Weather Plants Year-Round with a Chinese Greenhouse: New Book Shows You How

For those gardeners who wish to grow year-round longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributing Editor and home-energy expert Dan Chiras has a solution for you: the Chinese greenhouse. Typically earth-banked into a hillside or girded by mounded earth, Chinese greenhouses bring many principles of passive-solar design into the greenhouse in order to grow using 100-percent solar radiation.

5 Considerations for Year-Round Greenhouse Growing

Many people believe they can grow anything anytime when they just got their own greenhouse. You can, but that’s not always the case. Sure, it depends on what you’re planting in the first place. But, it also depends on the greenhouse itself and how you plant it.

Homemade Coffee-Lemon Body Scrub

Eager to make some yummy, detoxifying scrubs for my arms and legs, I mixed some simple ingredients to my trusty epsom salts to achieve clarity, exfoliation, and moisture using coffee grounds, lemon zest, and coconut oil. Brilliant? Yes! Simple? You bet. Here are DIY instructions on how to make a homemade coffee-lemon body scrub!

5 Ways to Get Growing Earlier (Video)

Looking to do some early seed starting to get a jump on the gardening season? Late-winter seed starting is possible if you follow these easy techniques.

Stacking Functions in the Greenhouse

ne of the principles of Permaculture is “Stacking Functions” or making every structure/addition to your plan serve at least two, if not more, functions in the landscape. When we added solar panels to the homestead, we wanted to honor this principle—and constructing a small greenhouse allowed us to install the panels, as the light was not great on the roof of the house. The number of functions we have stacked on this small structure became very clear to me as I prepared for an upcoming solar homes tour.

DIY Decorative Tray

Learn how to make your own decorative tray using repurposed materials!

2016 Goals for the Garden

Solstice Night is the traditional time to set goals. On that night, we sit by the fire, review the year, and plan for the next. I’ve been thinking about the goals for the garden already; two are building upon existing systems and the third is new. Once I am clear on my goals, I am going to post them in the greenhouse, so I will see them almost every day!

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 4: Food

This is part four in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small house.

Technological Challenges of Off-Grid Homestead Living, Part 2: Electricity

This is Part 2 in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off-grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. The author is currently entering the first winter of full-time off-grid living at his mountain homestead after completing the construction of a small house.

Mistakes to Avoid When Putting New Plastic on Your Hoophouse

After four changes of plastic on our hoophouse (high tunnel we are ready to tell you some mistakes to avoid, mostly involving hoophouse plastic too tight or too loose, or cut wrong, and inflation blowers that didn't perform well enough. Our experience can save you from the same mistakes.

DIY Ring Holder Jewelry Dish

Welcome to the world of repurposing — taking items and giving new life as gifts, home décor, and accessories that you and your friends will love. Follow along the four easy steps to make your own eco-inspired ring holder.

Livable Space Design for Tiny Homes

Designing a tiny home can seem like a Rubik’s cube challenge—finding ways to shift things around when needed and out-of-the-way when done. Find out how to integrate inside/outside rooms, single/multiple rooms, and built-ins and fold-outs into your tiny house design; plus learn about the “14 Basic Requirements of a Livable Home.”

The Heart of the Home: Planning a Sustainable Custom Kitchen

Planning a custom kitchen design that incorporates sustainable materials and supports a self-reliant lifestyle can be done. Read one couple’s experience and thought process as they do just that. The graphic shown here is a computer-generated draft modeling of the cabinet design for their future kitchen, but note that the colors and materials do not reflect what will be the final look.

Home Construction Timeline: Plans vs. Reality

A home-construction timeline is often a moving target: Rain, subcontractor schedules and various other conflicts can cause frustrating delays. One couple finds ways to cope with record rainfall that halted progress on their home-building process by working ahead on other decisions they’ll eventually need to make.

An Educational Visit to Four Season Farm

While building their own home and farm, one couple decides to learn from other talented and experienced market farmers about how to set up year-round gardening production. Here are some tips and photos from a trip to Four Season Farm, home of Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch, in Maine.

A Greenhouse, Chicken Coop Combo

These two structures for creating a sustainable homestead are not often associated, but with the right planning they can be integrated into a single multi-use structure that enhances both environments. A greenhouse/chicken coop becomes a year-round food-producing machine, giving you a bounty of fruits, vegetables and protein all in one.

How Do We Finalize Our Home Construction Loan?

Bank loans, especially new home construction loans, require some legwork on the part of the future homeowner. One couple explains how they got a loan to build their new house.

How to Design a Year-Round Solar Greenhouse

How can you create a lush naturally abundant indoor garden year-round? With these 7 simple principles, you can create a greenhouse that is completely self-sufficient, relying only on the sun to provide all of its heating needs. Moreover, solar greenhouses can grow much more than traditional greenhouses - citrus, avocados, guava - using less energy, water and resources.

The Lowdown on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs are very energy efficient, but disposing of them can cause complications because of the mercury in them. It is good to be informed about proper recycling and make informed decisions to minimize greenhouse gases.

Who Will Draw Our House Plans?

After finding some basic online building plans, the next step to getting a future home built is to find a designer to draw the house plans.

How Do We Choose a Passive Solar House Design?

One homesteading couple reads up on passive solar house design and then modifies online options to create their own custom passive solar plans. Here are their recommended resources.

How Do We Design a House? First, Set Priorities

Whether you are buying a house, purchasing land, or getting ready to build your own home, we recommend starting by setting your priorities and then matching a house design to your needs.

How Do We Get an Entrance Permit for Our Driveway?

In order to access our land and put in a driveway, we need to secure an entrance permit. If you're planning to buy land and build a home, check what your entrance permit requirements are before you purchase the property.

How to Build a Smokehouse for Smoked Cheese and Meat

A homemade smokehouse can be built to give you a new way to preserve and flavor your meat and cheese. By building the firebox at a distance from the smokehouse, you will have a cold smoker that can preserve meat and flavor cheese.

Complete Biogas: Food Waste and Biogas, Part 1

There’s a gold mine out back of your local restaurant in the form of wasted food. Learn to think like an ecologist and discover how nature turns “waste” into useable, renewable energy.

Hoop House Transformation

The hoophouse on our farm is filled with greens all winter long. It’s almost hard to switch gears for summer tomatoes.

Building a Cheap Greenhouse

HOMEGROWN Life blogger and Bay Area homesteader Rachel shares how she built a cheap greenhouse out of mostly scavenged materials - and how you can, too.

'Grass, Soil, Hope' by Courtney White

"Grass, Soil, Hope" by Courtney White is a new book from Chelsea Green Publishing that discusses combating climate change through land-based carbon sequestration efforts such as composting and increasing biodiversity.

Passive House vs. Passive Solar: A Continuing Discussion

The ongoing debate between the merits and faults of Passive House design and passive solar design is important for those looking to build an energy-efficient home and for all enthusiasts of energy-efficient building. We've opened up the discussion to our online audience in this blog post. Please share your thoughts!

Egyptian Walking Onions

Egyptian walking onions are one of my favorite crops because they produce food for my family from early spring until late fall.

How to Avoid Unsafe Chemicals in Plastic

Learn about Bisphenol A (BPA) and its prevalence in plastic manufacturing, and get tips on how to limit your exposure to BPA, phthalates, and other unsafe chemicals in plastic.

Fix a Leak

Chase down household leaks and fix them to save water and money during the Earth Gauge #FixALeak Week.

Creating Your Own Micro-Climate

Creating a micro-climate is an essential tool for your survival and homesteading skills. Making the right micro-climate for your plants specific needs will not only help them survive, but thrive as well.

Let It Shine: Solar Heat for Gardening

The invention of clear window glass allowed the ancient Romans to trap solar energy to enhance their gardening techniques to grow vegetables out of season and exotic non-native plants in Rome. A thousand years later, empire builders in Europe rediscovered the trapping of solar heat with clear window glass so they as well could enjoy the foreign plants in their own back yard and grow native vegetables throughout the year.

Genetic Engineering and Cell Fusion CMS

Cell Fusion genetic engineering is emerging as a hot topic in the Certified Organic seed and food industry. We can expect the resolution of this issue to impact both small-scale and large-scale growers.

Survival Seed Banks, Part 3: Seed Storage Common Problems

A landrace market farmer’s perspective on survival seed banks. Part 3: Storing the seeds. With careful forethought, it is possible to store seeds in a manner that will allow them to avoid or survive common seed destroying events.

Rewriting Holiday Traditions

Ilene Freedman and her family reshaped their Chanukah tradition to feature family activities instead of presents.

Landrace Gardening: Seed Swaps

Grow enough seed for yourself and a little extra for seed swaps and you may never have to pay for seeds again.

Landrace Gardening: Sunroots

Sunroots are a typically-cloned crop with great potential as a locally-adapted survival-of-the-fittest landrace

Landrace Gardening for the Casual Grower

Exploring my hopes and dreams for the landrace seed movement with suggestions about how farmers, merchants, and gardeners could cooperate to create a more robust, secure, and locally adapted food system.

Landrace Gardening: Foreign Imports

A photo essay documenting imported landraces that I started incorporating into my existing landraces during the current growing season.

Build an Outhouse With 1909 Plans

The "Household Discoveries" book from 1909 instructs how to build an outhouse, with plans simple enough for any average 14-year-old schoolboy to follow.

Landrace Gardening: Survival of the Fittest

A photo essay showing off the stunning success of landrace gardening on my farm. This success was achieved because I changed my growing methods to embrace one of the key elements of landrace growing; “survival of the fittest."

Strawberry Bliss

Springtime happiness can be measured by the sweetness of your strawberry patch.

Naturally Cool Cob Playhouse

If you're searching for kids' playhouse plans, look no further — this whimsical cob building provides an inexpensive child's oasis with a natural cooling system.

Landrace Gardening: Localize Your Garden For a Better Harvest

Joseph Lofthouse, seedsman from Paradise Utah, is now blogging about “Landrace Gardening” on Mother Earth News. The blog is a practical hands-on manual about how to improve crop production by localizing your plants to your unique garden.

The $30 Greenhouse

The joy and sustainability of a greenhouse made of salvaged everything (well, almost).

Simple and Green Building

To me, the most important features of a sustainable building are not its technological wonders but its simple design features: common-sense strategies that should be incorporated whether the building becomes LEED certified, Energy Star certified, or is just trying to be environmentally friendly.

Mini-Hoop Keeps Seedlings Warm

Baby greenhouse plants are spring babies too, just like the birth of baby animals. Here’s a way to keep them warm in the hoophouse.

Cooking at home…on vacation

Cooking meals on a vacation can be easy. Bring some essential items with you and enjoy homecooking, on vacation.

Making Clementine Candles

How to make candles you can really light from the peel of Clementine oranges. A wintertime craft...just oil and an orange peel!

Dipping Beeswax Candles

We dipped candles from our hive's beeswax to celebrate winter. Candlemaking is a nice seasonal craft. Here’s how we did it, plus some tips to get you started.

Raising Chickens: Farming in the Great Depression

This story recounts one father's hard work to help his family survive by raising chickens and farming during the Great Depression. The author also describes his family-owned homemade brooder house, which helped shelter the chickens that provided meat and eggs during hard times.

Winter Chicken Care

Learn details regarding winter chicken care including ventilation for a cozy chicken house, heat for baby and grown chicks, and recommended poultry books.

Dinner Rolls for a Crowd

If you just happen to need white dinner rolls for a crowd at Thanksgiving, here's the recipe. Also, check out some really cool contests and special offers from King Arthur Flour.

Putting the Community in a Community Garden

Describes the process of forming a community garden from the physical and energetic standpoints. The power of teamwork, the joy of accomplishment and the building of a feeling of group unity are described.

Modular, Prefab, and Compact Green Homes and Structures

A listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab, manufactured, compact, or mobile structures. These days, many such options are available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost.

How to Keep Your Home Clutter Free

We’ve been living in the little house for nine months and one of the things I’ve noticed is this: If I don’t pick up my stuff the house looks like a bomb went off. I don’t have a lot of stuff, but it’s still easy to create clutter piles with my limit

How to Pick the Right Chicken Coop

How do you find the best chicken coop design for your new flock? We'll help you walk through the evaluation process AND get a free analysis spreadsheet to help you decide.

A Two-Holer Outhouse of Memories

This blog post tells about Barbara Lee's memories of her grandpa who built a two-holer outhouse for his family and surrounded it with peonies so that there would not be an unpleasant odor.

My Tiny House Saga

It was a cold, windy New Years evening. Logan and I were wrapped up in the covers; he was surfing the internet and I was reading a book. It was a perfect and cozy night to be at home.

Rambling Rose Ramblings

A beautiful old, old, rambling rose bush that grows on my moms corner fence post greets us with pink blooms each spring.

Compost: The Other Prize from the Business End of a Chicken

Eggs aren't the only things that come from the business end of a chicken. But with a little time and materials, and even less ingenuity, the rest can set you up with a free and steady supply of valuable organic fertilizer.

Spring Planning

Starting flats of seedlings begins this year's growing season.

The Hoophouse Tomato: In the Ground!

Spring is here and those tomato plants that were started in January are settled into their new hoophouse home. I have hopes for early tomatoes; will a late freeze stifle this goal?

An Unintended Death

The unintended death of a charming little creature raises the realities of life on a farm homestead.

Tiny Birds and Tall Grasses

One of our most common grasses is limiting the bobwhite quail population, killing broodmares and their foals, rotting cow hooves, and cutting milk production.

Living Off Grid - Home and Energy Options Part 2

This part of the series deals with window size and location, ceiling heights, eave length, and other design and passive design choices you can make for your new home. These choices apply whether you are on or off the grid.

Trade and Barter

Sharing can become a network of trading and bartering within your community.

Resolve to Build a Hoophouse This Year

We’ve been growing in unheated hoophouses for a decade now, and we can’t recommend them highly enough for commercial growers. If you have any dreams of market farming, the first thing you should buy is a hoophouse.

End-of-Season in the Greenhouse

As winter descends a three-season hoop house is weeded, compost spread, and a straw mulch applied. Next spring will be here soon.

Harvesting Ice for the LeDuc Ice House

A historic ice house on the LeDuc-Simmons Estate and a local ice harvest at Lake Rebecca demonstrate how ice and other perishables were kept cold in the hot summer months during the 19th century.

Learning in a One Room School House

Robert Zwald talks about his days in a one room school house, learning with all eight grades at once. This is part four of eight in Robert Zwald's stories, as compiled by his daughter, Ruth.

Backyard Vegetable Gardeners: Go Get a Hoop House for Winter!

It is not difficult to set up a backyard hoop house to extend your growing season. The result is abundant, delicious greens and extra months with your hands in the soil. Share information here on backyard hoop house gardening and cuisine.

A Hoophouse on the Horizon, part 2

Time to pick out the right hoophouse for my growing needs and install it! It will be a lot of work, but will offer a new farming experience that will expand my harvesting season.

A Hoophouse on the Horizon

Putting up a hoophouse expands the growing opportunity into the barren winter months. A USDA program is helping market growers purchase a hoophouse to find out if local farmers and consumers reap benefits from extending local growing seasons.

Green Homes: Online Case Studies and Project Profiles

One of the best ways to learn about green homes is to explore real-world examples--by touring homes or reading about them online. This article links to free online collections of case studies and in-depth profiles of green homes.

Spring Awaits Us!

Getting ready for the new garden season is full of anticipation and ideas!

Hand-Built Circular Stone House For Sale

A beautiful round stone home, hand built and located outside of Bisbee, Ariz., is for sale to the right person who appreciates handcrafted artisan work and self-sufficient living.

Disaster Resistant Earthbag Housing

One of the greatest needs in the world is disaster resistant housing – houses that can hold up against hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Properly designed structures can save millions of lives and millions of structures every year.

Fossil Fuel and Atmospheric Levels of Carbon Dioxide

We discuss the concept that carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels is partly responsible for the current atmospheric carbon overload. We also briefly discuss other human activities that contribute to the atmospheric carbon overload.

Recycled Plastic Block Houses

Turn low value plastic trash into valuable building blocks with a $300 homemade press. Free plans for a hand operated press are available. A mechanized version could be made by converting a log splitter.

Key Considerations for Building Affordable Housing

Building housing projects in developing regions is extremely rewarding, but also quite challenging. It’s prudent to draw ideas from as many resources as possible to improve the process. The following guidelines have proven effective.

Reinforced Earthbag Specifications

Precision Engineering has generously provided drawings and specifications for building earthbag structures in seismic areas to meet code. The documents have been combined into one 6-page PDF and are now available online.

Earth Building in Thailand

I had heard there are thousands of new earthen houses in Thailand. That really amazed me, so I set out to learn the details about the modern earth building movement in Thailand.

The Arctic Feedback Factor and Climate Change

In this posting we discuss the role of the positive Arctic Feedback Factor in amplfying climate change. We also discuss how this feedback factor triggers the release of methane from the floor of the Arctic Ocean and from the permafrost.

The Carbon Cycle

This blog explains how the carbon cycle regulates atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. The blog also discusses how the burning of fossil fuels has disrupted the carbon cycle which increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Solar Activity, Greenhouse Gas Levels and Climate Change on Our Earth

An introduction to Richard Hilderbrand’s new blog discussing climate change, plus the first installment. Learn how Earth utilizes greenhouse gases to ensure stable temperatures, or thermal equilibrium, as well as how fluctuations in solar activity relate to changes in global temperatures.

Earthbag Building: The Next Big Thing?

Earthbag building has just received engineering approval. This is probably the greatest news ever for earthbag building. With engineer-approved plans, we see unlimited potential for earthbag building for homes, shops, schools, you name it.

Insulated Earthbag/Geotextile Basement Walls

The earthbag/geotextile basement wall system described here has excellent potential to save on initial construction costs and long-term energy costs. No concrete is used. The same principles have been used to build retaining walls for decades.

Playhouse Dreams ’n Doin’

A playhouse can be a physical structure or a place to escape to in your imagination. Tell us about your favorite playhouse.

Durable & Affordable Crafty Kids Playhouses Now Perfectly Pint-Sized

Sometimes less is more as parents will appreciate with Crafty Kids Playhouses™ two new a-durable cardboard craft models – a pint-sized space shuttle and cozy cottage. Award-winning Crafty Kids has scaled down its playhouses to about 1/3 their original sizes and about 2/3 their price tag!

A Clean and Green Home

Simran Sethi discusses what it takes for a home to be truly clean by avoiding harsh chemicals and using natural cleaning products.

Be Here Now

Environmental journalist Simran Sethi spends her first night in her new home and reflects on the struggles and triumphs of the journey thus far.

Moving On Up

Environmental journalist Simran Sethi investigates the greenest way to move to a new house.

Photo of the Day: Solar Bathhouse

This bathhouse from CU user "Solar Lady from Norwood" proudly uses the sun to power it through the day. Making good use of alternative energy, the bathhouse surrounded by lush grass looks like a great little escape. Adorned with a sign and additional artwork, this

Cozy Abode

On the brink of settling into her new home, environmental journalist Simran Sethi shares some tidbits of eco-information, such as how to box and save for the move, and how a few simple changes can make your home cozier and more energy-efficient.

Attitude of Gratitude

Environmental journalist Simran Sethi stays thankful for what’s important in the midst of a big move.

Color Me Healthy

So many paint colors to choose from for Simran Sethi’s home, but one standard must be met: no VOCs or harmful chemicals.

Zero-VOC Me

Environmental journalist Simran Sethi goes through the process of rejuvenating her hardwood floors, and describes how to avoid harmful ingredients in cleaning products, such as volatile organic compounds, in the process.

Greening the Green Girl

Environmental journalist Simran Sethi talks about buying her first home and discusses what eco-friendly goals she has for her new abode.

Senate Starts Hearings For Energy Bill

Since the U.S. House of Represenatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the U.S. Senate started work on its own energy and clilmate change bill.

Convert a Used Grain Bin to a New House

Recycling a steel grain bin makes great use of an existing structure. You can probably find an inexpensive used grain bin and use it for a home, office, shop or storage.

What is (a) Passive House?

Could you heat your house with a hair dryer? Super-efficient Passive Houses use very little energy.

Now Showing: The Coolest Cactus

Old strains of holiday cactus are easy to grow, but updated varieties rebloom more often and produce bigger, showier blossoms.

Treehouses for Dreaming

Enjoy viewing these unique treehouses in this colorful 16-month calendar, based on Peter Nelson's book, Treehouses of the World.

Build a Houseboat

Here is a plan for how to build your own floating cabin, "The Live Aboard Houseboat."

Paint the Town Green

This Friday, Beijing will show off its green improvements when the Olympics begin.

Mother's Readers Rock

A thank-you letter from a reader for advice to assist Amish families who are being challenged by the state of Pennsylvania to cease and desist from using outhouses.