Saturday Linkages: Composting People, Jujubes, Bumpy Eggs and More

A conceptual drawing of the Urban Death Project's human composting operation.

A conceptual drawing of the Urban Death Project’s human composting operation.

Composting human remains, the Urban Death Project challenges the

Holy Scrap: Jujube to Syrup

The Secret to Keeping Rosemary Alive Indoors via

Amazing Catification in Minnesota –

A Bumpy Egg | HenCam

Death Enhances a Garden | Garden Rant

Monsanto Woos Mommy Bloggers – Modern Farmer

Cool How to store vegetables and fruit without plastic:

Hot? Get a fan:

Urban Change in L.A. – Too Little, Too Slow

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What Vegetables Are You Growing This Winter?

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Showing remarkable restraint, I came home from the Heirloom Expo with only three packages of seeds. I’ve decided to keep it simple this winter (our best growing season for veggies in Los Angeles) and only grow varieties that:

  • Do well with minimal intervention.
  • Can’t be found in the market.
  • Taste better fresh out of the garden (greens and salad mixes).
  • I like to eat (sorry turnips).

And I’m sticking with my favorite seed company: Franchi.

The winners are:

Cavolo Broccolo Spigariello, what I keep predicting will be the new kale, though that trend has yet to happen. It’s a weedy looking primitive broccoli. You eat the leaves and the small flower clusters. I think it’s my favorite green.

Rucola Selvatica a Foglia d’ulivo (“olive leaf” wild arugula). From what little I can gather from English language sources, this arugula has a broader olive shaped leaf and a flavor that is stronger than cultivated arugula, but milder than other wild arugulas. This will be the first time I’ve tried this variety. And this year I plan on sowing successively so that I’ll have a longer harvest period. In my opinion, you can never have enough arugula.

Tuscany salad mix. You can also never have enough lettuces. I’ve always had good luck with Franchi’s salad mixes. They are beautiful and much stronger tasting than the stuff at the supermarket. And store bought lettuce wilts instantly.

What are you growing this winter? If you’re in a cold climate, do you grow year round?

Note: if you’re in the US, Franchi has several distributors. I got my seeds from the Heirloom Seed Store, run by a very nice family that has a farm in Half Moon Bay in Northern California. The seeds I bought are not listed on their website, so you may need to call them. They can also be found on the website of another Franchi distributor, Seeds From Italy.

Are Bees Mammals?

Log hive.

Log hive.

This was the provocative question radical “apiculturlist” Michael Thiele posed at the beginning of his lecture at this year’s Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa.

Thiele pointed out that bees:

  • Maintain a hive temperature of around 94°F/35°C
  • Have a low number of offspring, if you consider a swarm to be their offspring
  • Are nurtured by mother’s “milk” (technically sister’s milk)

These are all characteristics of mammals. Thiele inspiration is a book The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism, by Jürgen Tautz who calls bees,”the mammal in a thousand bodies.”

Golden Hive.

Golden Hive.

Thiele’s next point was that if we think of them as a mammal than we’re going to have a different relationship with them. Practically, this might mean different housing. If a bee is a mammal what they live in becomes their skin and fur. To keep their hive temperature steady they need insulation, both in warm and cold climates. He suggested that the standard Langstroth box is too thin. Maybe they’d be happier in the two hives Thiele had on display, a hollowed out log or the insulated Golden Hive box (which had movable frames).

Thiele’s talk took a metaphysical turn when he said that we need to “go beyond the left brain” in our relationship with bees. He also, provocatively, suggested that we need to “know ourselves” before approaching bees. I took this to mean understanding our intentions, our goals, and our attitudes.

Back to housing. Langstroth was very much the product of a “left brain” industrial age whose point was the domination of nature. Given the problem bees are having, perhaps it’s time to strike a balance between the intuitive and analytical and, literally and figuratively, think out of the box.

017 Heirloom Expo Recap

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On the seventeenth episode of the Root Simple Podcast Kelly and Erik discuss Erik’s recent trip to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California. Some of the things and people we mention during the podcast:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Kimchi Class this Saturday!

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Chef Hae Jung Cho, our guest on episode 006 of the Root Simple Podcast is holding another Kimchi class on Saturday September 20th from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. in Koreatown:

The 3-hour class is a hands-on experience where you make two kinds of fermented kimchi – napa cabbage (poggi) and radish (kkakdugi) – and one quick pickle. We then share a light meal of rice, kimchi, soup and other side dishes. You leave the class with three containers of kimchi and pickles that you have made, printed recipes and the know-how to replicate the kimchi at home. Cost: $75

To sign up head over to Hae Jung’s Facebook page.

Frida Paints Luther

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Sometimes an artist’s works are reproduced so much that familiarity obscures meaning. Da Vinchi and Andy Warhol have fallen victim to this. I’ve seen Frida Kahlo’s portrait in Mexican restaurants so often I’ve come to associate her work with combo platters and Margueritas.

A slide in John Valenzuela’s Heirloom Expo lecture of Kahlo’s portrait of horticulturalist Luther Burbank reminded me of how great an artist Kahlo was. That Kahlo painted Burbank also says something about people’s priorities in the 1930s.

Kahlo liked to blur the boundaries between human consciousness, the vegetable and the animal. In her portrait of Burbank she touches on themes of life, death and transformation. You could write a book about what’s going on in this painting.

Burbank’s work lives on inour backyards and orchards in the form of the fruit varieties he developed. I’ll view his Santa Rosa plum in our front yard differently after encountering Kahlo’s virtuosic painting.

A Report from the 2014 Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa

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If you like this blog you’d like the annual Heirloom Expo, which takes place in Santa Rosa in Northern California in September. I just got back from attending this year’s event and had a great time, as usual. I’ve attended every year since its inception in 2010.

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The Expo features mind boggling displays of what can only be called vegetable porn. Hint: if you hang around after the conclusion on Thursday evening you can score the display items. For two years in a row we’ve gone home with a rental car stuffed with heirloom watermelon and squash.

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But the real draw for me are the seminars and panel discussions. Above, some of the leading figures in the Northern California permaculture scene: Toby Hemenway, Penny Livingston, Erik Ohlsen, Grover Stock and John Valenzuela.

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There’s also a huge vendor hall. I have to keep a tight grip on my wallet.

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Santa Rosa was the home of horticulturalist Luther Burbank and the local chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers is particularly fervent and knowledgeable. I used the opportunity to chat up a CRFG operative and get all my quince and pineapple guava questions answered.

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You’ll be hearing a number of Expo speakers on our podcast and I’ll do some blog posts inspired by what I learned. If you didn’t make it this year, I hope to meet some of you at next year’s event. I always stay at the nearby Spring Lake campground. Perhaps we can all camp together next year.

Picture Sundays: Root Simple Compound Caught On Google Street View

streetview

It appears that Google Street View, back in April, caught me in the act of contemplating cleaning the garage. You can tell from my posture that I’m in the intellectual rather than the physical stage of garage sorting. In the front yard the fruit trees have leafed out, clarkia is blooming in the sparse parkway, the nopal is loaded with immature fruit and the roses have yet to climb the entrance arbor.

If only I had a Root Simple banner and and an alpaca to take to lunch.

Saturday Linkages: Attic Bedrooms, Septic System Scams and Water

attic room of my dreams

Dreamy attic bedrooms:

Late-Summer Scenes from DC | Garden Rant

Septic System Scams – Homeowners, Beware!

Sustaining Water

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Checking in on Kelly’s projects

tote bag

Today a tote bag, tomorrow the world!

Okay, so this is not the most useful post for the world at large, but I figure that when I mention on the blog that I’m going to try to learn something new, I should report back, to stay honest.

Mattress making:  My post on mattress making has, surprisingly, turned out to be one of our most popular posts ever. I think that shows there’s just a wee bit of dissatisfaction with our available mattress options. (Note that the post has been updated with linkage to an interesting how-to pdf).

Here at home, however, we’re still sleeping on our old mattress. We turned it again and found a side which doesn’t bother my back so much, so this very ambitious project has gone on hold until the crisis arises again. Making a mattress is intimidating, just because of the sheer cost and scale of the materials needed, and as far as I can tell, there’s no one out there to help you do it.  If I ever do make a mattress, it will be like summiting the Everest of homesteading. On the other hand, if I ever learn how, I think I could make a mint teaching other desperate people how to do it themselves!

Shoe making: Shoes are as ambitious as mattresses in their way, and very hard to get your head around. Fortunately I’m going to be taking that turn shoe class I posted about a while back.

I’ve finally realized that I am not a lone wolf when it comes to learning new things. I know people who’ve made beautiful shoes just by figuring them out in their head. I don’t have that kind of head. I like and need teachers. So from now on, I’m just cutting to the chase, kissing the confusing Internet and 70′s how-to books goodbye, and seeking out teachers. (Yes, and it is ironic, being that I’m an Internet how-to teacher.) As of October, I should have my first pair of homemade shoes.

Sewing my uniform: Sewing is also a hard-earned skill, and history has proven I’m no natural born seamstress. Yet, I want my uniform. So instead of blinking stupidly at patterns and sewing books, I’m getting some professional help here, too. I took a “meet the sewing machine” class this week at Sew LA, figuring it could not hurt to start over from scratch. I came out of it with the tote bag you see above–and I only screwed up the bobbin feed three times while making it. Yay me and my special bobbin confusing abilities! Very soon I’ll follow up with a basic skirt class or something similar. I’m on the road to being a crazy homemade dress lady, shod in medieval shoes.

Surfing:  Why do I keep choosing hard things to do??? Some small progress. I have been out a few times. I have been up. (Once. Or twice.) I really like it. And truly, I enjoy falling into the water over and over and over again, and it’s a good thing I do, because for me, surfing is mostly about that. A big shout out to my friend Ellie for being my surf mentor. Thank you, also, to everyone who offered to take me out when I first posted about it! None of you are safe yet: I may come knocking on your door soon as I’m out of the whitewater.

Natural dyes/Shibori/Indigo:  This has been a lost cause as a solo project. I’ve blogged about my plant dye failures. The furthest I got toward my own indigo was collecting a huge amount of urine in a bucket, which I then had to dispose of when it became clear I was not going to turn it into dye. Pouring out all that stale urine, I had one of those out of body moments in which I realized that normal people don’t deal with urine quite as I do.

Yet there’s hope for me still.  Some of you may recall when we posted about our friend Graham’s indigo project. He’s crowd-sourced indigo growing, and has promised some sort of community dyeing fiesta for the growers at harvest time, which should be soon.  Graham is a wizard with natural dyes and shibori technique, so any time spent working with him over a dye vat is time well spent. We’re growing three indigo plants for him, and I’m looking forward to harvesting and dyeing. I suspect that if I take dyeing up more actively, it will be after I get better at sewing.

Pottery:  I did not post about this, but I got it into my head that I wanted to learn ceramics, so I can make ollas, a clay tippy tap, a clay rocket stove, and in my wildest dreams, beautiful earthy modernist ceramics like those sold by Heath Ceramics.  I took a  wheel class earlier this summer, and I was the sorriest potter in the entire class. I am not being modest. It was embarrassing. All around me people were raising beautiful pots on their wheels and I just got lots of clay in my hair. In the end I came home with three wonky, heavy bowls that a kindergartener would shun. I’m making the cats eat out of them.

But I’m getting back on the clay horse, because I’ve never failed at anything that I actually thought, going in, that I’d be pretty good at. To be sure, I’ve tried many things which I knew I’d be hopeless at, and so was not surprised when I sucked. But with pottery, I feel like I should be able to get the hang of it, because I’m good at sculpture and plastering and that kind of thing–additive processes. In other words, I’m good at building things out of gunk. But then again, the wheel is really it’s own thing, and not an additive process at all. At any rate, I’m going to try again, at a different clay studio. I didn’t mesh well with the teacher at the first place, so a change might help.

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Looking at this list, I’m realizing that I do have a tendency to choose ambitious projects. (Ya think???) All of these arts require a great deal of commitment and skill and time just gain competency, and any one could absorb a lifetime of devotion. So, I know I won’t do it all. The interesting question, though, is which of them will stick, and what will I learn along the way?