Till vs. No Till Poll Results

US Department of Energy

Our highly unscientific till vs. no-till poll results are in:

17% of you said you till
43% of you don’t till
23% of you double-dig
15% are undecided

Looks like most of you fall into the permacultural no-till camp.

For more information on no-till ag see the no-till section of our publisher Rodale’s website.

Meanwhile, we’re on our book tour of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Check out our schedule here and we hope to meet all you all!

Meet us this weekend in the Bay Area

This Friday, April 29, we’ll be talking and signing at Book Passage in Corte Madera: 7:00 PM

Saturday, April 30th, we’re gathering for a forage at Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco. It’s supposed to be a pretty day. Bring drinks, and we’ll gather a salad to share. Feel free to bring more food, your guide books, gathering implements, things to sit upon, and most especially, any local knowledge you have. Very casual. Meet up at the lookout point. 12 noon.

Why We Travel By Train

Amtrak ain’t this grand, but it’s a lot better than flying! Photo via the Library of Congress.

We’re headed up to Northern California, Oregon and Washington to promote our new book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. And, with the exception of the San Francisco to Seattle leg, we’re traveling by train. Why do this when it’s more expensive, time consuming and probably makes our dear publisher Rodale think we’re crazy?

One word: dignity. With train travel:

  • No porno-scanners or groping, i.e., no unconstitutional searches.
  • I can carry my multi-tool.
  • Leg room.
  • If I don’t like where I’m sitting I can move.
  • I can relax, sit at a table, read, work and write.

I could rant about the superiority of rail travel at length but Archdruid John Michal Greer sums it up better than I can in a blog post, “Too Much Energy?” No more flightmares for the Root Simple team!

See a list of our appearances here

Contest Winners!

An excuse for another kitten photograph

It’s the release day for Making It, and we’re celebrating by giving away two copies of the book.

First, we want to say again how much we enjoyed reading all of your tips. They are excellent, without exception, and should be compiled into a book or something. We’re pondering on some way to highlight that post so that future readers can find the tips.

Second, we’re glad we don’t have to choose among them–because that would be impossible.

So we went to an online random generator and asked it to generate 2 numbers between 1 and 203.

It came up with 42 and 119.

(Yes, 42! This delights Kelly’s inner geek. Erik doesn’t know why it delights her.)

Then we counted the comments, grumbling over the fact they are not numbered. Twice.

And the winners are:

42:

Rachel said…
Birds will not peck at the same fruit/vegetable they pecked yesterday. They’ll go for a new piece every time!

119:

Tina said…
I like making stock out of veges that are not going to get eaten and then freezing them. I make it concentrated so that the stock doesnt take up much room in freezer.

So Tina and Rachel, congrats! If you’ll both email [email protected] with your shipping addresses, we’ll send you a book. Please write soon, or you’ll have to wait for your books until we get back from our tour.

And for the rest of you, thanks for entering, and don’t worry! We’ll be doing more giveaways in the months to come.

Making It

Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen (Rodale Books, 2011)

ISBN-13: 978-1605294629

Buy it at:  Amazon Abe Books • Barnes & NobelPowell’s

Making It provides you with all of the tools you need to become a producer instead of a consumer and transform your home from the ground up. Projects range from the simple to the ambitious, and include activities done in the home, in the garden and out on the streets. Provides step-by-step instructions for a wide range of projects, from building a 99-cent solar oven to making your own laundry soap to instructions for brewing beer. Making It is the go-to source for post-consumer living activities that are fun, inexpensive and eminently doable.

Our goal in this book was to provide really stripped down, simple projects that use only inexpensive, easy to source materials. We also tried to use the same materials and ingredients over and over again, to save you time, money and storage space. The moral of this book is that it doesn’t take much more than creativity to live well.

This book, written by a husband-and-wife team of die-hard DIYers, will leave you thinking you can take on the world and win.Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

My favorite of all these recent books by far… — Kirkus Reviews

Gathering in Portland: Looking for ideas

Hey all,

We’re visiting in Portland on Tuesday, May 3rd and Wednesday, May 4th as part of our book tour. On the Tuesday we arrive, we’re going to be on KGW’s “Live at 7″ program. We’ll be done by 7:15 and have nothing to do afterward. Would anybody like to meet us downtown?

Our idea is that we could settle ourselves at a pub or cafe, and anybody who feels like it could come and hang out with us. We’ll talk about manure the whole night. It’ll be fun!!!

One thing we really need to make this happen is a suggestion for somewhere to meet–otherwise we’re at the mercy of Yelp. We’ll be at Pioneer Courthouse Square, so somewhere within walking distance (or do-able by public transport) would be preferred. It should be quiet enough that we can hear each other speak, and casual enough that we can take up tables whilst nursing a beer or coffee.

So Portlandites(?) Portlanders(?), tell us what you think. We’ll let you make the call.

Giveaway: What’s your favorite tip?

We want to give away a copy of our new book, Making It. To make this contest interesting for everyone, we’re asking you to give us a homesteading-type tip to enter.

Leave us a comment on almost any subject you’ve had some experience with: gardening, fermenting, brewing, sewing, livestock, foraging, cleaning, cooking, building, general common sense–really, it can be just about anything. And the tip doesn’t have to be big and profound. Something like “X is my favorite variety of winter squash” is just fine.

You can also tell us of a mistake you’ve made, something you’ve learned the hard way–a mistake is just an inverse tip!

This way, the comments on this page will be a fascinating read in and of themselves. Only one person will get a book, but we’ll all get lots of good advice.

-We’ll choose the winner using a random number generator.

-The contest will close this Monday night at 10 PM PST. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday.

-If we announce your name, we’ll ask you to contact us via email to arrange shipping. This way contestants don’t have to put their contact info. in their posts.

So keep an eye out for that post on Tuesday!

ETA on Sunday: We love your tips!!! And we’re amazed at the response, so much so that we’re going to give away two books instead of one. Keep ‘em coming.

Homemade Teeccino


A carob tree heavy with pods

Mrs. Homegrown here:

A while back I kicked coffee, and reduced my caffeine intake down to maybe one cup of green tea a day, and it’s been a really good thing. At that time, Root Simple readers wrote in to suggest all sorts of coffee alternatives for me, and I tried a bunch of them. One of them was Teeccino, with which I quickly developed a love-hate relationship.

Teeccino is a line of coffee substitutes based on carob, chicory, various nuts and flavors. It’s not one of those instant beverages like Pero: you prepare it by brewing it or steeping it in water. I found it at Whole Foods and tried a bag. I liked it, not because it tastes like coffee–it doesn’t–but it behaved in soothing, coffee-like ways. You can put milk in it. It looks like coffee and has a coffee-like body.

It comes in a ton of flavors, like hazelnut and French vanilla, which I avoided because I don’t like dessert  coffees, and besides, those flavors remind me of my days working in unpleasant office jobs, where you live for the bad coffee, just to stay awake, and all they have in the office kitchenette is that godawful Irish Cream or Hazelnut flavored artificial creamer, and you actually kind of get used to the stuff, because you’re so starved for stimulation…

But I digress.

I found I liked the Teeccino flavor called Java. And the Maya French Roast flavor wasn’t bad either. That was the most “coffee-ish” but I liked the smoother Java better.

So what’s not to like? Well, primarily the price. It’s $8.99 for an 11 oz. bag (.81/oz), which is all they carry at my Whole Foods. Online you can get it 1 lb cans, but there’s no price discount–bizarrely, it actually increases a bit. It’s $13.99 per lb (.84/ oz).  That’s more than Starbucks coffee, which averages around $10.99/lb. To Teeccino’s credit, their ingredients are mostly organic, and I know that’s expensive. But still.

Moreover, you go through it fast. It’s a heaping tablespoon full for every serving. I tried to use the grounds twice each time, but still, that little bag emptied right quick like.

My other complaints include their use of “natural coffee flavors” in the blends. I just automatically consider any flavor additive–”natural” or “artificial”– as things to be avoided.

Finally, and I admit this is very idiosyncratic, but I don’t like their marketing. It’s not that’s it’s evil or anything, but their website is all plastered with pictures of wholesome looking pregnant ladies and silver haired mature models downing the Teeccino. It’s aggressively positioned as a women’s health product, and that just sort of bugs me. Hard to say why. I’m not into gendering beverages, and more than that, it’s just very upscale. It smells of that same world that brings us $70 yoga pants.

So I went through a couple of bags and moved on to other beverages.

Then, one day, our neighbor Bill found some carob trees growing nearby. He harvested the pods and then delved into an epic voyage of discovery trying to figure out how to grind and process them. When he was done, he had a pillowcase sized bag of carob powder. He gave us a jar full. I looked at the jar and thought, “Hmmm…Teeccino.”

Wild chicory

Teeccino’s Java flavor ingredients are:  Roasted organic carob, organic barley, chicory, organic chicory, almonds, organic dates, natural coffee flavor, organic figs.

The Maya French Roast is simpler: Roasted organic carob, organic barley, organic chicory, organic ramon nuts, organic coffee flavor. 

The vague dried fruit flavor the figs and dates bring to the Java I can do without. I don’t know that the nuts or the barley add all that much, overall. And the coffee flavoring–enough said. I decided the Teeccino secret was all about the balance between the bitter chicory and the sweet smooth carob.

So I got myself some roast ground chicory at the health food store and brewed a cup using a teaspoon of carob and a teaspoon of chicory.

It was deelish. This is a classic case of Two Great Tastes Taste Great Together. The chicory keeps the carob from being insipid. The carob smooths out all of the chicory’s rough edges, making it mildly sweet. This blend is robust and flavorful, and good for you. The roast chicory (a good coffee sub. all by itself, btw) is particularly beneficial for your digestion. I don’t have any Teeccino to do a side-by-side comparison, but I assume the Teeccino would taste more complex, but who needs complex when you’ve got good?

I’ve been meaning to experiment with the recipe, maybe add some roasted nuts or barley, just to do my due diligence, but I never seem to get around to it. I’m happy with what I have, so I decided to post about it in it’s simple form. I guess that’s what we’re all about here, anyway.

How to brew: At first, I just put a teaspoon of each in a fine mesh tea strainer. Some silt  ended up at the bottom of the cup using this method, but it wasn’t bad. Lately I’ve switched to brewing it in a gold filter and one of those one cup drip things. This makes a sediment free brew. You could also run it through a coffee machine, or use a French press. Basically, just have to steep the grounds in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then are strain them out by hook or crook.

A variation: Sometimes I substitute roasted dried dandelion root for the chicory.  Dandelion is also a coffee substitute, but it’s a stern one, very strong and bitter. Yet it’s quite drinkable when combined with carob. It’s also medicinal–a liver cleanser. For that reason it’s great to drink once in a while to help detox your system, but you shouldn’t use it continuously.

Sourcing: Search for carob at health food stores, spice shops and places that sell vitamin supplements. It’s pretty easy to find and generally cheap. The chicory is more expensive and a little more difficult to find–sometimes it’s at health food stores, and of course, it’s online.

In terms of foraging or growing, chicory is the same plant as Belgian endive (Cichorium intybus). You can grow it, harvest the root, roast and grind it. You may also find it growing wild in your area. See this helpful article on growing chicory and endive. It’s kind of fascinating. (Did you know you make Belgian endive by pulling up and reburying chicory root in it’s second year?) And remember, you could use wild dandelion root instead. I can’t give you any tips on grinding and roasting chicory, but Erik and are thinking about growing some next winter and experimenting. We’ll report back.

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is native to the Mediterranean, and only does well in similar climates, so foraging is out of the question for a lot of you. But it’s planted widely around California and Mexico. The Spanish missionaries brought it here, and then the Seventh Day Adventists planted carob trees all over Pasadena in the last century, so Root Simple’s general area is Carob Central. Angelinos, Pasadinians and Altadenians take note. I’m going to have to ask Bill for a guest post on how he processed the carob pods.

A caveat: This is cheap for me because I’m getting my carob for free. I paid $12.00/lb for organic roasted chicory. That’s pricey, but it’s going to stretch much further than a pound of Teeccino. I’m using a teaspoon of chicory per serving, vs. a heaping tablespoon of Teeccino. The prices of both carob and chicory vary widely. Whether or not this will save you money depends on how you source the materials.

Update Sept 22, 2011:

I’m still enjoying straight chicory or chicory/carob blend for breakfast. I’ve never gone that extra yard of adding nuts or dried fruit or other flavors, but am happy. However, I did want note that when I ran out of foraged carob, I bought roasted carob powder at the health food store. This stuff has a very different flavor profile than my foraged carob. Mostly because the bought stuff is roasted, so it brings in bitter notes of its own. The resulting brew is not as sweet. It’s still okay, but I sort of miss my raw, fresh ground pods.

The store bought stuff is also ground as fine as talc. The foraged stuff was more granular. This means that if I use it with any kind of strainer apparatus, the carob ends up in the bottom of my cup as sludge. The only way to avoid that is to use a coffee filter of some sort–I use a gold filter.