New Cat Sensation: Faux Rat Tail

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We’ve discovered a thrilling new cat toy: a long tail from a beet root. Yes indeed, it looks exactly like a hairy, dismembered rat tail, right down to the bloody stump. Even better, when batted, it moves like a rat tail.

In fact, the excitement around this toy was so great that I could not capture any decent images of our cat, Buck, and his rat tail, which he would not share with the other cats (who were wildly envious), or slow down his play so I could get an clear shot. By the next day, when he tired of it, the tail had dehydrated into little more than a rat whisker.

This Root Simple Approved Artisanal Feline Play Device contains no artificial flavors or colors. It is 100% organic, raw, vegan, locally grown, cruelty-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, compostable, non-toxic, derived from renewable beet crops and only somewhat staining to carpets.

buckandtail

Saturday Tweets: Dubious Tips, Growing Furniture and So Much More

What does the loving landscape look like?

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A bit of our own loving–if not very tidy- landscape

A post in our Back to the Garden series, organized under the “back to the garden” tag

So, let’s say we want to play nice with the rest of nature. Let’s say we want public parks, yards and gardens which exist for more than show, spaces which support a diversity of life, steward our resources wisely and are a joy to the eye. We’ve got to change the existing lifeless paradigm of lawn and hedge and disposable annual flowers.

How do we do that? What does that look like?

Well, the how part is going to take a few posts to explain–but we can start with what it might look like.

The fantastic thing about this new landscaping paradigm is that it is entirely local. If we remove the heinous, homogeneous, ubiquitous lawn from our tool box, suddenly a yard in Santa Fe looks quite different than a yard in Michigan or a yard in Florida. We return, after a long period of delusion, to the realm of common sense.

Because the new landscapes are entirely local, I can’t even begin to list or imagine all the possibilities, but here are a few of the images I see when I think about a better future:

Continue reading…

043 Growing Vegetables with Yvonne Savio

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Yvonne Savio is the Master Gardener Coordinator for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County. In this episode of the podcast we pick her brain about:

  • Why you should grow your own food.
  • Favorite vegetables.
  • How to harvest vegetables.
  • How to prepare a vegetable garden.
  • Making compost.
  • The problems with municipal compost.
  • Raised beds vs. growing in the ground.
  • Where to buy soil.
  • Testing soil.
  • How to irrigate vegetables in a drought.
  • Buried buckets for watering vegetables.
  • Seeds vs. seedlings.
  • Succession planting.
  • How to plant seedlings.
  • The website and calendar that Yvonne is putting together.
  • Grow LA Victory Garden Program

You can reach Yvonne at [email protected]

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.

Are Rubber Mulches or Tires in the Garden a Good Idea?

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Rubber mulches are used both as a soil cover and underneath artificial turf. Is this a good idea? According to “Garden Professor” Linda Chalker-Scott, the answer is no. She has a new fact sheet on the subject which concludes,

Rubber mulches can be attractive, easy to find and apply, and may not need frequent re-application. However, there are significant problems associated with using these mulches. In the short term, rubber mulch is not as effective as other organic mulch choices in controlling weeds. Furthermore, rubber mulches can attract insects (e.g., cockroaches), and they are highly flammable. In the long term, decomposing rubber mulch releases heavy metals and organic chemicals with unknown effects on human and environmental health. Other organic mulch choices, especially wood chips, are better performers and pose none of the environmental risks attributed to rubber mulch.

One of the principle plant toxins leached by rubber mulch is zinc. We have personal experience with zinc phytotoxicity in our own yard due to air pollution in Los Angeles (many years worth of brake linings blowing around and settling on the soil). I suspect that many of our gardening frustrations are related to our zinc problem.

tirecomposter
What about the use of whole tires in the garden, such as for planters or compost bins? According to a report by an environmental consultant sent to me by Mark, a Root Simple reader, whole tires do not seem to be a problem (at least in aquatic contexts). So it seems that we should keep those tires whole rather than shred them.

Coffee and Tahini Date Balls

date balls

In a nutshell:

We’ve posted about this sort of thing before, and I know many of you already make fruit/nut balls and bars as healthy treats. So all you folks need to know is that these days we’re really liking the flavor combo of dates and tahini, rolled in a 50/50 blend of ground coffee and cacao nibs (these are the dark ones in the pic above). If you don’t have the nibs, you can just roll them in straight coffee–fresh ground espresso is best.

Give it a try. It’s super easy, and super tasty for the adult palate–and if you eat enough of them, you get a caffeine buzz as a well as a sugar buzz!

The recipe:

Continue reading…

Picture Sundays: Agave Roast

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We had the great pleasure of attending a feast at the Malki Museum on the Morongo Reservation to sample a large assortment of Native American foods as well as celebrate the end of a agave harvest and roast. I’ll nudge Mrs. Homegrown to blog about it, but let’s just go over a few of the delicious items on this plate: agave, yucca, beavertail cactus, chola buds, two forms of acorn mush, venison, rabbit stew, fry bread and a salad with a white sage dressing. I didn’t get to the fried crickets in time!

Saturday Tweets: Trade Your House For an Entire Medieval Italian Village

Grief is the pathway to action

clearcut forest

Clear cutting near Eugene, Oregon. Photo by Calibas. Courtesy of Wikimedia

Grief

Day before yesterday we had a little rain here in Los Angeles, a late season shower in a drought year.

I suspect we won’t see rain again until December. This long interval of dryness is normal in a Mediterranean climate, but what is not normal is how little rain fell this winter (or last winter, or the one before that, or the one before that), and how parched we are already as we look toward a nine month long summer with no hope of relief.

So I sat on the porch and experienced the rain, happy just to feel the cool, wet air on my skin one last time, yet at the same time feeling angry and frustrated and sad.

And as I sat there, I thought of conversations I’ve had with people who’ve confessed that they are grieving for what is being lost all around us, or they are grieving for a world their children will never know. Often they feel alone, as if no one else cares, or is much bothered at all.

I don’t think we like to acknowledge this grief, the deep sadness that comes from witnessing the diminishing of the world and the death of species due to human influence of various sorts. There isn’t any public forum for airing it.  (“Tonight at 9, a public gathering to weep over the disappearing starfish.”)

Yet I don’t think it’s all that uncommon to be sad, and what’s more, it is, of course, entirely appropriate to be sad. We’ve been discussing environmental degradation since the 70’s, if not before, but I feel like now it’s beginning to hit home, and hit hard. It’s not uncommon to feel sad because:

  • That little wilderness you loved playing in as a kid has been covered by a housing development
  • You can’t see the stars from your parents’ house anymore
  • You don’t hear the frogs sing at night anymore, either.
  • When you hike you feel like it’s awfully quiet. Where have the birds gone?
  • The fish seem to have left that spot you used to fish at with your grandpa
  • As you drive in the mountains you notice half the trees are turning brown

Or maybe you grieve or things you don’t witness, but hear about, like the plastic gyres in the ocean, worldwide deforestation, those last four white rhinos in Africa, quietly grazing away the final days of their species, the polar bears swimming in circles.

Often we don’t talk about these things because we don’t want to be a downer. Nor do we want to be labeled morbid, pessimistic, impractical, oversensitive or even (gasp!) a tree-hugger.

(FYI I was reprimanded in kindergarten for repeatedly arriving at school covered in sap because I’d been hugging trees all the way to school.)

But the grief is there, the endangered elephant in the room, which we walk around and talk past, and do our best to ignore by making our lives ever busier.

And anyway, what are we supposed to do about it?

Suburbia by David Shankbone. Tract housing in Colorado Springs

Action

I think there is something to do about it–about both the grief and the problems which lead to the grief.

I’m talking about work and atonement.

First, we in the developed world must own that our lifestyle has cost this planet dearly, and impacted all our fellow creatures as well as our fellow men. No matter how “good” we try to be with our recycling and organic produce, we are the heart of the problem. Us. Not other people. We use the roads. We fly. We shop. We use gas and petroleum and electricity and coal.

We all carry the responsibility for what is happening now. Not just the politicians. Not just your clueless sister-in-law. Not that guy driving the SUV. You.

I’m beating this point over the head because it’s way too easy to blame others for this, or to blame abstractions, like “the consumerist lifestyle”, or to think if everyone was like you, things would be better. I doubt it. Even if you’re some kind of off-grid saint, I’d still ask where you came from, and how you got there.

Too often I tell myself I’m doing “good enough” and “all I can” and that anyway, “I’m doing more than most people.” This leads to inaction.

Also, when I tell myself those things, I am lying.

This brings me back to the grief. Grief doesn’t allow me to lie to myself for long. Grief calls me to action. Grief alone can be paralyzing, but when paired with action, it becomes an ally, a compass, a burning fire in our hearts.  Grief can motivate us and activate us and spur us to do more than we’ve ever tried before.

Atonement

When we hurt someone, we apologize. But as you know if you’ve ever been on the other end of the hurt, an apology alone isn’t enough. It’s not enough that the one who injures feels bad about it, they have to learn from the mistake, so they don’t do the same thing again. They have to re-form their hearts.

That is the path of atonement between us and the natural world. Grief is not an end, it’s a beginning.

Can we re-form our hearts to make them big enough to encompass the world? I think we can.

And then we begin the work.