Poo Salon and Urban Forage Classes with Nancy Klehm

Our good friend Nancy Klehm is coming to town for a visit. We’ve invited her to be a guest lecturer at our “Academy of Home Economics” and she’s agreed to teach a couple of classes. If you live in the LA area, this is a chance not to be missed.

First, who is Nancy?

Nancy Klehm is a radical ecologist, designer, urban forager, grower and teacher. Her solo and collaborative work focuses on creating participatory social ecologies in response to a direct experience of a place. She grows and forages much of her own food in a densely urban area. She actively composts food, landscape and human waste. She only uses a flush toilet when no other option is available. She designed and managed a large scale, closed-loop vermicompost project at a downtown homeless shelter where cafeteria food waste becomes 4 tons of worm castings a year which in turn is used as the soil that grows food to return to the cafeteria. 

More information on Nancy can be found at her website, here: http://www.spontaneousvegetation.net/

Class #1:

Poo Salon
Friday, February 18th, 2011
7-9pm, Echo Park, $15

Have you heard about the concept of humanure composting? It’s the practice of composting human waste. It’s practical, easy, green as can be, and totally off the grid. Better still, all the cool people are doing it. Whether you’re interested in a viable emergency toilet, dream of living off the grid or are considering a revolutionary urban lifestyle, you’ll want to know these techniques. Nancy, a world class humanure expert, describes this class as part philosophical discussion, part problem solving session, part introduction to the technology of composting.
• Foraged snacks provided. BYOB to share.

SOLD OUT. But you can put yourself on a waiting list for a possible second session by sending an email with “Poo Salon waiting list” in the subject line to: [email protected]

Class #2

Urbanforage with Nancy Klehm (aka Weedeater)
Sunday, February 27th
2-4:30 pm, Echo Park, $25

Learn about the plants that share this city with us!

Urbanforage is an informally guided walk through the spontaneous and cultivated vegetation of the urbanscape. Along the walk, we learn to identify plants, hear their botanical histories and stories of their use by cultural use by animals and humans and share antidotes of specific experiences with these plants.

This walk will start with sharing an herbal beverage and end with a simple herbal food shared over discussion of the experiences and questions generated by the walk.

SOLD OUT. But you can put yourself on a waiting list for a possible second session by sending an email with “forage waiting list” in the subject line to: [email protected]

Los Angeles Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops

Homegrown Neighbor here:

Growing fruit trees has obvious rewards. You can eat the fruit at its peak, straight off of the tree, full of flavor, aromatic and juicy. And the sight of an apple, peach or other deciduous tree in bloom is an ephemeral yet breathtakingly beautiful sight. But many of these trees will not bear good fruit without proper pruning. Good pruning encourages stronger limbs able to hold heavy fruits, prevents limb breakage, improves air circulation and light penetration and overall makes for a more attractive tree. Improper pruning or sheer neglect can mean weak, spindly limbs, a chaotic looking, ugly tree and puny fruits.

But how do you know what to cut? I’ll be teaching two workshops this weekend for the locals. The first is this Saturday, January 15th at The Learning Garden in Venice. The workshop will run from 11 am-12:30 pm and there is a suggested donation of $25. The Learning Garden is at the southeast corner of Walgrove Avenue and Venice Blvd.

Then on Sunday, the 16th at Milagro Allegro Community Garden in Highland Park at 1pm as part of their ‘Organic Sundays’ series I’m teaching another one.

And for those of you who aren’t local, the Homegrown Evolution team is going to work on some web based stuff for you. I’m going to teach Mr. Homegrown how to prune (in exchange for help baking bread, which I’m terrible at) and we will take photos for a blog post explaining the basics of fruit tree pruning.

Help save our oaks

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Sometimes I hate this city. And county. Tonight I learned two things: the first, that the city thinks it would be a great idea to create a parking area for idling buses in the center of one of our most vibrant pedestrian zones; the second, that the county plans to allow the Dept. of Water and Power County Department of Public Works to level a gorgeous oak grove this Wednesday, Jan. 12th to make a dumping area for flood debris. The first is just silly, the second is tragic. We’ve destroyed so much of our native landscape that what remains is incredibly valuable and irreplaceable. The thought of leveling 100 year old oaks for such a wasteful, temporary use makes me want to cry.

If you’d like to help, consider the following:

–It’s late notice, but there’s a protest tomorrow: 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11th at 500 West Temple in Los Angeles. 

–Sign a petition

–Send a message to 5th District Supervisor Michael Antonovich, and while you’re at it drop a note to the whole LA County Board of Supervisors.

–Get updates on this situation from our friends at LA Creek Freak or in Facebook.

Thanks for your help.

The Great Cellphone Debate

The one that worked–with bail bond ad!

Kelly and I share a cellphone, and I’m always trying to think of ways to ditch it, if just to have one less bill every month. I often deliberately leave it at home when out of the house. I hate being interrupted by it and I dislike the social awkwardness of public phone conversations. Not that many people call our cellphone anyways as we don’t give out the phone number much. When I need to text someone (them young folks!) I use my laptop and Google Voice.

Yesterday, on a bike errand sans cellphone, I found myself in a situation where I needed to call home to get some information. Five payphones later, I finally found one that worked. Payphones have been in decline for years, of course, with the advent of cellphone service. Kind of a shame since I wonder if cellphone networks will work in an emergency. And what about people too poor to afford a cellphone?

Now, I don’t want this to turn into a anti-technology rant. I recognize that many people have to carry cellphones because of job and/or family obligations. And they certainly are convenient when it comes to things like finding someone at an airport, not to mention all the features of those smart phones (our phone ain’t “smart,” so others must think of me as crazy when I’m surprised at what you can do with one of those iPhone thingies).

But I wonder if we need a time out to consider the unintended consequences of cellphones. Are cellphones creating a generation of less independent children, always tethered to parents and civilization? Is all that RF radiation good for us? Then there’s the Miss Manners questions: all that texting at the dinner table, at parties, at school, in houses of worship.

At the same time I’m intrigued with developing some of the how-to content of this blog into a phone-friendly format. It’s not like cellphones are going to go away. Maybe it’s better to work with the technology.

Leave some comments! How do you all negotiate cellphone usage with a non-consumerist lifestyle? What positive things come from cellphones? If you’re cellphone free, why and how do you manage?

The Kingdom of Bolinas

In Ernest Callenbach’s 1975 novel Ecotopia, Northern California, Oregon and Washington break away from the union to form their own highly groovy utopia. What Callenbach predicted may never have happened on such a big scale, but the small town of Bolinas, CA sure feels like it broke off from the rest of the country. Callenbach, in fact, featured Bolinas in the prequel to Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging.

Bolinas residents, famously, remove the turnoff signs on the highway on a regular basis, giving the town an independent vibe. One of the first things you see on approaching Bolinas is a series of picturesque organic farms, including Gospel Flat Farm which runs an honor stand along the road. When we visited they had some nice looking beets:

And a quirky mobile facility:

Bolinas also has a free store:

With its own unique signage:

And a multi-denominational alter thingy on the main drag:

With yet more creative signage:

The list of former residents reads like a who’s who of American art and poetry. It’s easy to see why. Bolinas has natural beauty, a good set of small businesses and all that fresh produce. It’s also the home of my favorite bloggers, publisher and author Lloyd Kahn

Kind of hard to find myself back in Los Angeles, the most un-Bolinas of cities!

Why My Poultry Waterer Kept Breaking

This is not a handle! How not to carry a poultry waterer.

After breaking two poultry waterers I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. Thanks to instructions that came with my third waterer I learned not to carry it by the outer handle. After filling the waterer you carry it with the inner handle as seen below:

The inner handle.

Using the outer handle with the waterer full puts stress on the metal and ultimately breaks the vacuum.

Our backyard “egganomics” took a hit–gotta account for those three waterers now!

A Favorite Tool: Canning Funnel

I heart my funnel

Mrs. Homegrown here:
If you are a home canner, you probably already have one of these and know how useful they are. If you don’t can, you might never have seen one before. I hadn’t before we started canning–and I don’t know how I lived so long without one. See, a canning funnel is just a wide mouthed funnel made to fit the mouths of canning jars. It allows you to quickly and efficiently ladle up hot food from the stove top into the jars. If you’re canning without one, heaven help you! Go get one! 
Even if you don’t can, you still need one. If, like me, you’re buying more dried goods and bulk foods, or drying herbs and vegetables, you probably use a lot of jars. Canning jars are an easy, efficient way to store food–far better than a cabinet full of random bags and boxes.You can see what you have and exactly how much you have. They line up in attractive rows. They’re also moth safe, if you’re using proper canning lids. I’m always transferring something or another into a jar–a bag of beans, a batch of dried mint, fresh yogurt–whatever. The canning funnel makes this a snap. Before I had one, I was either winging it and spilling a lot, or fashioning funnels out of newspaper. Life is just to short to chase beans around the kitchen. I use this thing every day.
Here’s a hint: If you have one of those little mesh tea strainers made to fit in the top of a tea pot (they always sell them in Asian markets), you’ll find it fits perfectly both into the funnel and into the mouth of a quart jar. Using one with your funnel, you can strain off tea, oil infusions, vinegar, etc. with no fuss or muss.

Garden Bench Ideas

I’ve been contemplating building a garden bench for our backyard so whenever I see a nice one I take a picture. The first example (above) resides in a nursery in Bolinas, California. Looks like one end is the ubiquitous cinder block and the other a pre-cast concrete pier. Add some driftwood (there’s a lot of it in Bolinas) and you’ve got a bench.

This arts n’ craftsy bench is in the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. If I want to recreate this I’d have to pull out the router to do the fancy lettering. Would be kind of funny to offer naming rights to objects in our backyard, though.

Also in the Arboretum, this massive stone bench. Kinda hard to get those heavy stones up the steps to our house. It’s beautiful, but if I recreated it poorly I’d have an object that recalls the tiny Stonehenge gag in This is Spinal Tap. The amusing back story to many of the stones in the San Francisco Arboretum is that they came from a Medieval Spanish monastery that William Randolph Hearst bought and had disassembled, crated and shipped to California at great expense. A couple of fires destroyed the crates and markings and years of acrimonious debate on where to put Hearst’s monastery ended with many of the stones getting distributed around the park as benches and walls. Most went to the construction of a new abbey near Sacramento.

Really nice stonework here–a bench midway up a staircase on the Lands End trail overlooking the entrance to the bay. It’s the most beautiful place on the planet with a nice bench to enjoy the view. 

A bench at the Preston Winery, home of that olive oil I blogged about yesterday.

I don’t ‘think a short bench like any of these would work in our backyard. At home I’m either running around or completely horizontal. Perhaps some kind of lounge chair might work better or a really long bench with some cushions.Will have to consult with the boss . . .

The Making of a Great Olive Oil

Kelly admires the olives

Thanks to our good friend Dale Benson, Kelly and I got to see how a really high quality olive oil is made. Dale knows Matt Norelli, the wine and olive oil maker at Preston Vineyards of Dry Creek, an organic family farm near Healdsburg in Northern California. Matt was nice enough to let us watch the complicated olive oil machinery in action.

First the freshly picked olives go into a big hopper (above). They are then crushed and churned (below).

After the churning process (called malaxation) the pulpy olive mass goes into a high speed centrifuge:

Matt (left) Dale (right) with the centrifuge

At the end of all this machinery the oil pours out of a spigot and into a steel drum:

We all had the great privilege of tasting the freshly squeezed oil. I won’t soon forget that heavenly flavor. Matt told us that it takes around a ton of olives to make 25 to 30 gallons of oil. The olives come from a thousand trees that are tucked around the vineyards.

If you’re ever in Northern California the Preston Vineyard is well worth a visit. We got to taste a Barbera wine that they make–quite amazing. They also bake a delicious sourdough bread, keep a flock of laying hens and sell cured olives. And the scenery? Let’s just say it was difficult to come back to gritty Los Angeles.

Preston Vineyards website with visiting hours and map.

Lou Preston’s olive curing recipe (scroll down towards the bottom of the page).

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