How to Roast Your Own Coffee in a Stovetop Popcorn Maker

Thanks to the Institute for Domestic Technology, I learned roast my own coffee at home in a Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. It’s a simple, if smokey, process.

You heat up the popper on your stove top over a medium/high heat and dump in 10 ounces of green coffee beans. The beans we used were ordered from Sweet Maria’s who carry a wide selection of high-end beans at inexpensive prices.

The only trick with the Whirley-Pop coffee roasting method is adjusting the stove burner. You’re shooting for “first crack,” the point when the beans pop kind of like popcorn. at around the 6 minute mark. Mine took a little bit longer on the first attempt, but after a few roasting sessions I’m sure I’d get the right burner setting. After first crack the beans quiet down for a few minutes. The next thing you’re listening for is the “second crack.” As soon as those beans start making noise again you dump them on a cookie tray to cool down. That’s really all there is to it. Sweet Maria’s has a pdf sheet with more detailed Whirley-Pop instructions as well as a review of other home roasting methods.

Our instructor at the Institute class, Ian Riley, suggested storing the beans at room temperature in a reusable valve bag (freshly roasted coffee beans out-gas CO2).

Unlike many home “artisinal” food methods (we probably need to retire the “a” word), home coffee roasting saves money and you get a much better product than store bought coffee.

Of course quitting coffee would also save money but you’ll have to ask Mrs. Root Simple about that one–I’m an addict.

If you’re in the LA area, you can take Ian Riley’s home coffee roasting class at the Institute for Domestic Technology. I also teach a no-knead bread class at the institute as part of Foodcrafting 101.

Picture Sundays: A Car Exhaust Powered Pressure Cooker

From the June 1930 issue of Modern Mechanics:

Automatic Food Cooker Runs by Exhaust Heat of Car
Meals can literally be cooked on the run through the use of the automatic cooker shown in the photo above. The cooker is mounted on the rear bumper of the motor tourist’s car and an extension from the exhaust pipe connected up with it, as shown in the insert. The cooker contains a steam pressure kettle which is heated by the hot exhaust gases. An hour’s drive is quite sufficient to thoroughly cook meats and vegetables. Total weight of the unit is so slight that running qualities of the car remain quite unaffected. Motor tours are much more pleasant when one is assured of a well-prepared meal at the end of the trip.

Thanks to the Los Angeles Master Food Preservers for the tip on this oddball bit of history.

Saturday Linkages: Cave Living, Chocolate Sourdough, Persian Marmalade and Much More . . .

@ericmiller built the native pollinator house from Making It and tweeted the result!

Farine: Chocolate and Currant Sourdough recipe http://www.farine-mc.com/2012/04/chocolate-and-currant-sourdough.html?spref=tw

The American who quit money to live in a cave: http://boingboing.net/2012/04/26/the-american-who-quit-money-to.html

A Place for Old Chickens, Outside the Pot http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/26/us/new-homes-beckon-for-city-chickens-in-retirement.html

Persian Marmalade History http://totastings.blogspot.com/2011/02/persian-marmalade-history.html?spref=tw

Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars http://www.foodinjars.com/2012/04/homemade-yogurt-in-mason-jars/

Via @Rational Survivor: Introduction to Permaculture – 40 hours of Free video lectures http://fb.me/JcaxlEd3

Government tries to shut down paleo diet blogger http://hunter-gatherer.com/blog/government-tries-shut-down-paleo-diet-blogger#.T5gjX8RAoBA.twitter

Logical fallacies poster: http://boingboing.net/2012/04/23/logical-fallacies-poster.html

Japanify: How to Make Biwashu (Loquat Liqueur) « Umamimart: http://www.umamimart.com/2009/06/how-to-make-biwashu-loquat-liqueur/#.T5WYeB_lzPU.twitter

These, and more linkages, are from the Root Simple twitter feed.

Of Stickers and Boomers

Wendell Berry, photo by Guy Mendes

A suggestion for your weekend: Make time to settle into your favorite chair with a cup of tea, or a nice glass of wine and listen to “It All Turns on Affection” a lecture by the great Wendell Berry. This is the 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, delivered at the Kennedy Center just this week.

Now, I’ll admit that this lecture is more than an hour long–which is why I suggested the refreshment and a comfortable chair. An hour is a lot to ask of our attention days, especially an hour spent watching an elderly gentleman speak slowly at a podium in front of a truly uninspired backdrop. Where are the kittens and baby sloths? you might ask along the way, if your internet video viewing habits are like mine. Best not to think of it as a video. Think of it as a radio program, settle down to listen and you will be truly and deeply rewarded.

I had trouble embedding the video, but you can view it on its NEH page. Berry comes on stage at about the 11:00 mark.

Or, if you prefer, you can read it here. I’m reading it now after my listen, and am just beginning to absorb the finer points.

This lecture is a call for us to rediscover our affection for the land. A plea for us to be stickers instead of boomers. That is, people who tend the land and honor its history and its stories instead of boomers who despoil our limited resources and move on, without thought, as if there will always be more to wealth to wring from nature, no matter what we do.

Of course, Berry is an advocate of the small farmer (as we all should be) and his remarks have much to do with farmland, and his family’s history as farmers, but I don’t think us urban and suburbanites should think his plea has nothing to do with us.  I think we can develop strong affection for our little yards. We can nurture the soil and teeming life there, making our commitment to all the plants and creatures in our care. We can also develop strong affection for and commitment to our communities and neighborhoods. If we do not have land of our own, we can care for that which we are temporarily living on, and we can fight for and nurture public land.

Wherever we are, we are on the land. And whoever we are, we are of the land.

A few quotes from the lecture:

–Economy in its original—and, I think, its proper—sense refers to household management. By extension, it refers to the husbanding of all the goods by which we live. An authentic economy, if we had one, would define and make, on the terms of thrift and affection, our connections to nature and to one another.  

–That we live now in an economy that is not sustainable is not the fault only of a few mongers of power and heavy equipment. We all are implicated. We all, in the course of our daily economic life, consent to it, whether or not we approve of it. This is because of the increasing abstraction and unconsciousness of our connection to our economic sources in the land, the land-communities, and the land-use economies. 

–As many hunters, farmers, ecologists, and poets have understood, Nature (and here we capitalize her name) is the impartial mother of all creatures, unpredictable, never entirely revealed, not my mother or your mother, but nonetheless our mother. If we are observant and respectful of her, she gives good instruction. As Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, and others have carefully understood, she can give us the right patterns and standards for agriculture. If we ignore or offend her, she enforces her will with punishment. She is always trying to tell us that we are not so superior or independent or alone or autonomous as we may think.

How to Prevent Bees From Living in Your Walls . . . or Welcome Them In

I love and keep bees. That being said, I’d prefer not to have them living in the walls of the house. Now, a hive can live in a wall for years and cause no harm–forget about the horror stories told by exterminators (they are, after all, selling poison). But if you have to remove bees from a wall it can be an expensive job if done correctly. I’ve removed hives from walls and it’s both hard on the bees and the beekeeper.

Thankfully you can take a few easy steps to prevent a hive from moving into your house. Bees like dark hollow spaces–think of a dead tree or an empty stud wall. Here in LA many old houses, such as ours, have lots of cracks a bee colony would be happy to move into. Note the small hole I found on one of our walls that opens into an empty space between the studs (old LA houses often have no insulation).

So how do you keep bees from moving in? According to backwards beekeeping master Kirk Anderson., all you need to do is fill a wall cavity with a can of spray foam insulation.

Please note: do not do this if there is already a hive in residence! If that is the case, hire a beekeeper to cut or trap them out. Bees are very gentle until you disturb their living quarters. If you’re in Los Angeles you can call the Backwards Beekeper rescue line. If you’re not in Los Angeles, start your own Backwards group!

How to Welcome Bees Into Your Wall
Now, a more permacultural approach would be to design buildings in such a way to welcome bees into a wall.  Here’s an example of a hive box built into a stone wall in India:

Photo from http://ranichari.blogspot.com/

There’s a tradition of keeping hives in wall or niches in Europe and many other parts of the world. No need for spray foam or exterminators–just lots of free honey from your wall.

Bee skep in a wall in Kent, England.

Time to bring back this practice!

Note from Kelly: This might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people pay for bee removal or extermination and then do nothing afterward to correct the conditions that attracted the bees in the first place. Invariably the bees come back, because a house which looked good to one swarm will look just as good to the next swarm that comes along. Better, in fact, because it will smell of bees. Plug those holes and screen off all vents!

Al Pacino Closed My Bike Lane

It’s the classic urban cycling problem: when faced with the indignities of riding in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, do you make it all one big fun challenge or become what Bikesnob calls “the righteous cyclist?”  Righteous cyclists, according to Bikesnob, are “convinced that the very act of turning the pedals will actually restore acres and acres of rainforest, suck smog from the sky and refreeze the ice caps.” In short they are sometimes so obsessed with the issues surrounding cycling that they fail to enjoy actually, well, cycling.

So one rainy day earlier this month, heading down busy Sunset Boulevard, I came upon a film crew blocking the bike lane. This happens fairly often, especially at this section of Sunset. Your choice is to hop on the sidewalk, rarely a good idea in my opinion, or merge into fast moving traffic.

Normally, I take the stoic approach and treat a situation like this as a challenge, an opportunity to practice living in a real life version of Frogger, somewhat like Laird Hamilton might treat a particularly gnarly big wave. But on this dark and rainy morning, I thought I owed it to any cyclist pedaling behind me to try to do something about the situation. So, acting the role of the righteous cyclist, I rode up to the security guard and asked if the film permit specified a bike lane closure. He said he’d get the production manager for me.

The production manager introduced himself and I said hello. I again asked if the film permit allowed for the closure of the bike lane. He said no, that it allowed for the closure of the “curb lane” and that it was not his fault that the curb lane was too narrow to fit his trucks. He said that originally the trucks were supposed to be parked elsewhere but that the “talent didn’t want to cross the street.”* The “talent,” I later found out, was Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. He also said that film companies only need a permit to close the “special green bike lanes downtown” (not true).

I decided to keep my cool. What I really wanted to say at this point was something along the lines of “you Hollywood folks haven’t made a decent movie in around 30 years.” And, “I want to put Lars Von Trier in charge and force you all to go Dogma 95–then I’d have my friken’ bike lane back, not to mention decent movies.”

But I kept my cool. I thanked him for his precious Hollywood time and rode off, promising to take it up with the entity that issues the permits, Film LA.

First though, I called my friend Colin Bogart at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. He called the police who looked up the permit and found out that, indeed, this film company did not have a permit to block the bike lane.

Now, on my last trip to Portland during our book tour I snapped a picture of what happens in that city when a truck blocks the bike lane. Portlandians put up some cones to route cyclists around work vehicles:

Now here’s how we do it in Los Angeles. LAPD heads down to the location and finds out that they don’t have a permit to block the lane. Then, I’m guessing, Al Pacino comes out to sign some autographs and we get a “compromise”:

The bike lane was still closed, cyclists still had to merge into fast moving traffic, but we got a bunch of “bike lane closed” signs. Problem solved! Note the production manager on the right, none to happy to see me again. I resisted the urge to ask him if he thought he was John-Luc Fricken’ Godard.

So the Sunset Boulevard bike lane remained closed for three days all for yet another crappy Hollywood action movie. I may make my boycott permanent.

Should anyone in a position of power being reading this post, this closure was against the state’s traffic rules, “Section 6D.101(CA) Bicycle Considerations . . . E. Bicyclists shall not be led into direct conflicts with mainline traffic, work site vehicles, or equipment moving through or around the [work] zone.” 

——–

* Note from the Mrs.: Perhaps Messrs Pacino and Walken didn’t want to cross the street because they’ve heard that we had two tragic pedestrian fatalities in the immediate neighborhood last month. Both of those persons were simply attempting to cross the street. They died because our city streets could be mistaken for freeways.

Of Makers and Bowyers


Film One: Harry (Archer & Bowyer) from Dylan Ryan Byrne on Vimeo.

I had a great time yesterday as a guest on a panel discussion at the LA Times Book Festival with Mark Frauenfelder and David Rees (thanks to Alisa Walker for being the best moderator ever). We talked about DIY culture and the ethos of being a “maker”. I think it’s safe to say that all of us on that panel have great admiration for talented “makers” like the bowyer in this video. It’s been one of my many goals to step away from this computer for a bit and learn how to make a bow. Or at least to finish the backyard projects that currently block access to our target bale!

Via Exploriment

Saturday Linkages: Mules, Turfgrass, Foraging and the End of Backyard Citrus

Emily Ho, a fellow Master Food Preserver trainee, foraged a Silver Lake salad. (Photo by Emily Ho)

A Silver Lake Salad http://sustainablefoodworks.com/2012/04/09/a-silver-lake-salad/ via @misschiffonade 

Mule-based bookmobiles for remote Venezuelan communities: http://boingboing.net/2012/04/20/mule-based-bookmobiles-for-rem.html 

Dismiss Cyclists At Your Own Peril: The Jackson Huang Lesson – Eagle Rock, CA Patch http://eaglerock.patch.com/articles/dismiss-cyclists-at-your-own-peril-the-jackson-huang-lesson 

Boulder-Like Home Office is a Working Retreat in the Garden | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/boulder-like-home-office-is-a-working-retreat-in-the-garden/ via @dornobdesign 

Turfgrass Infomercial at the National Arboretum? http://bit.ly/J1w3UN 

But the free citrus is half the point of living here!: Disease threatens backyard citrus in CA : http://nyti.ms/IJSLjd

These, and more linkages, are from the Root Simple twitter feed.