Barefoot Running With Ken Bob Saxton

Kelly discovered a barefoot running website, many years ago. When she showed it to me I thought the idea was crazy. Then I had a series of running related injuries: plantar fasciitis, and arthritis in the knee. In desperation (I’m addicted to running) I gave going barefoot a try. The plantar fasciitis went away. Knee pain was greatly, but not entirely, reduced.

Old habits are hard to give up. When you spend your whole life in shoes it’s difficult to adjust your running form. Thankfully, the proprietor of, Ken Bob Saxton, lives in Southern California and just so happens to give what he calls “play-fun-shops” at least once a month. Ken Bob doesn’t believe in charging people to teach them how to run, so the play-fun-shops are free (and fun).

His message is simple–listen to what the soles of your feet are telling you, relax and keep your knees bent as you run. It’s the knees bent part that was new to me. Ken Bob videotaped me running and then played it back in slow-motion. The video showed me running with straight knees, leading to heel striking. Heel striking leads to injuries.

The video above shows Ken Bob running with his distinctive bent-knee style (the music reflects his sense of humor). I gave the Keb Bob running style a try this Sunday and it was pretty amazing. I had less knee pain and I found myself booking along. It will take me some time to get used to, so I’m going to take it slow for a few weeks.

Bending the knee also, according to Ken Bob, applies to walking. I gave walking with a gently bent knee a try this morning too, and it seemed to help with the knee pain, particularly when going uphill.

I bought a copy of Ken Bob’s book Barefoot Running Step by Step which describes his ideas in detail and has a chapter of drills to get the hang of the method.

Ken Bob travels occasionally and offers funshops elsewhere in the country–watch his calendar to see if he’s coming your way. 

Even if you’re not a runner, the barefoot running debate is a profound one in terms of the way in which technological or economic innovations (the production and marketing of complex running and walking shoes for instance) can have unintended consequences. Two quotes in Ken Bob’s books neatly sum up this debate:

“I do think [barefoot running is] a fad. In fact, I don’t think it exists; no one in my universe in eastern Pennsylvania runs barefoot. In terms of minimalist shoes and Vibrams–yes, possibly a tectonic shift there. But in terms of running without shoes, I don’t see it.” – Amby Burfoot, editor of Runner’s World Magazine.

“If barefoot running is a fad, then it’s a 2 million-year-old fad. From the perspective of evolutionary biology, I can assure you that running in cushioned, high-heeled, motion control shoes is the real fad.” – Daniel Lieberman, Ph.D., Professor of human evolutionary biology, Harvard University.

When It Gets Hot in Chicago: Make Tempeh!

Tempeh image from Wikipedia.

Today, a guest post from Nancy Klehm, writing to us from Chicago, in the midst of an epic drought and heat wave. Here’s Nancy:

A Drought of Inspiration

Until last week, we were at 12% of our normal precipitation for our eight month growing season. This, plus extreme temperatures, made us delirious when some humidity blew south from Canada and was sticky enough to grab ahold of some clouds and build them until they spilled rain. And yet, the GM soy is limp and the GM corn is dwarfed and tasseling weakly. The effects of which will impact all of us who shop and drive cars.

And frankly, we’ve been spoiled by the drought and heat – it’s always sunny and dry (just like L.A. and Phoenix!) no rain to spoil your bike ride, BBQ, or outdoor gardening. And the biggest benefit: No Mosquitos.

Continue reading…

California Homemade Food Act in Trouble

UPDATE:Good news! Governor Brown signed the bill into law yesterday, September 21, 2012.

The California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616 would make it legal to produce non-hazardous foods such as bread and jams in a home kitchen and sell them. The bill is sitting on Governor Brown’s desk awaiting his signature. Unfortunately, the bill is under attack by lobbyists who want to stop entrepreneurial opportunities for small businesses. The League of Cities is itself in league with these anti-small business lobbyists and sent out the following letter:

Continue reading…

See You At the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa

This week I’ll be in Santa Rosa for the National Heirloom Exposition. I went last year and it was pretty amazing. This year looks to be even better. For the low price of $25 you get three whole days of some of the best agriculture and horticultural speakers in the world. Plus great vendors and cooking demos. Where Baker Creek gets the money to put this on is a big mystery to me, but I’m happy to enjoy the benefits.

I’ll be camping and without interweb access, so I’ll report back next week on what I learned. Hope to meet some Root Simple readers at the exhibition!

Saturday Linkages: How to Wrap a Sari, Scotts Behaves Badly and America’s Finest Bathrooms



Tea House in Santa Cruz Built of Recycled Wood 

Bad Behavior

Scotts Miracle-Gro Fined $12.5M For Bird-Killing Pesticides | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innov..  

And this article from MNN explains why Scotts poisoned the seed:

Dear Scotts: Just Try, One Time, Not to be So S***y. | Garden Rant 

Your cellphone is a tracking device that lets you make calls: 

The Unusual

Argentine Man Builds Giant Guitar-shaped Forest to Commemorate his Lost Wife | Inhabitat – Sustain..

America’s best public bathrooms: 

The history and science of meringue, from a new book by Linda K. Jackson and Jennifer Evans Gardner:

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:
 Follow @rootsimple

Comopost, Compost, Compost

As if I didn’t need a reminder of how important compost is to a vegetable garden, note the tomato above. It’s on its way out, but it grew with no supplemental water in hard-packed clay soil contaminated with lead and zinc in a hot side yard. Why did it do well while the rest of my vegetable garden did not do as so good this summer?

Homemade compost.

I didn’t have enough compost for the rest of the veggie garden so I bought some at a nursery. The homebrew compost obviously had much more life in it. 

And life is the point. Soil is a living thing. Plants, particularly vegetables, need microbial life to thrive.

For more on the importance of microbial life read the USDA’s soil biology primer written by Dr. Elaine Ingham.

Don’t be so quick to clean up

A lot of magic happens in the “dead” parts of a garden. Flowers gone to seed feed birds. Dead stalks support important insect life–from spiders to pollinators. Fallen leaves and sticks give habitat to lizards and toads and mushrooms and myriads of invisible creatures.

Yet dead growth is not attractive to the human eye, and around about this time of year we’re all itching to make a clean sweep of all that brown stuff. I know I am, but this morning I was grateful that I’ve procrastinated thus far, because I saw a flock of tiny little gnat catchers (adorable!) feasting on whatever tiny bugs live on the scraggy stand of fennel standing in our front yard, and a couple of hours later I found a flock of house finches enjoying the withered heads of our long, long dead sunflowers. I almost cut those stalks down yesterday, and am so glad I didn’t.

It’s a balancing act. If your garden is in your front yard you pretty much have to be tidy to appease the neighbors. If you have a small back yard, like we do, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to clear the decks, because everything is right in your face. Blessed are those with big yards, because they might have the option to keep the areas closer to the house tidy while allowing the “back 40″ to go to seed.

I guess all you can do is keep the little creatures in mind and put off the clean up as long as you can. Leave dead leaves and sticks on the ground year round. Designate small corners as wilderness. The more you support all levels of life in your garden, the more your garden will thrive.

Fall 2012 Adobe Classes With Kurt Gardella

I’ve taken three adobe classes with Kurt Gardella–and he built the amazing earth oven in our backyard. Kurt has a couple of classes coming up and I thought I’d help get the word out. He’s a great teacher. From an email he just sent:

Dear adobe friends,


Fall is a great time for natural plastering and interior finishing work. Interior mud plastering and installing an earthen floor finish the normal adobe house construction sequence. The first two classes listed below (choose from both online or live-instruction versions) will take you through this entire process step-by-step.

Fall 2012 Adobe in Action Classes

Class: Interior and Exterior Plastering (8-Week Online Class)
Dates: October 1 to November 25, 2012
Credits: 4
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

Class: Floors for Adobe Structures (8-Week Online Class)
Dates: October 1 to November 25, 2012
Credits: 4
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

For those of you who can be in New Mexico this fall, you might also consider the live-instruction versions of the above classes which will be held at an adobe building site near Abiquiu, New Mexico:

Class: Interior and Exterior Plastering (10-Day Live Class)
Dates: October 15 to October 26, 2012
Credits: 4
Format: Live Instruction near Abiquiu, NM (M – F, 8am to 4pm)
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

Class: Floors for Adobe Structures (8-Day Live Class)
Dates: November 10 to November 17, 2012
Credits: 4
Format: Live Instruction near Abiquiu, NM (Sat to Sat, 8am to 6pm)
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

More info on the classes after the jump . . .

Here is an overview of topics covered in both the online and live-instruction versions of these classes:

  • Interior and Exterior Plastering:
  • historical overview of interior and exterior finishes for adobe structures in New Mexico
  • importance of respiratory and eye safety when preparing and mixing plasters
  • overview of mud plaster characteristics and why earthen plasters make sense
  • summary of tools and materials needed for natural plastering
  • window and door opening reinforcement using reed mat
  • adobe wall preparation for maximum mud plaster adhesion
  • locating and testing soils for mud plasters
  • locating and testing aggregates for mud plasters and lime plasters
  • importance of work site and material organization for plaster work
  • fiber (straw) preparation and chopping techniques
  • sifting, preparing and mixing soil and aggregates for mud plasters
  • wheat paste production for strengthening mud plasters
  • casein production for lime paints
  • natural exterior mud plaster stabilization techniques (lime, cactus juice)
  • hand application techniques of mud plasters (base coats, patching)
  • hawk & trowel application of mud and lime plasters (leveling and finish coats)
  • basic mud plaster ingredients and recipes
  • basic lime plaster ingredients and recipes
  • calculating surface area to be finished and materials needed
  • troubleshooting mud and lime plasters (cracking, adhesion problems, etc.)
  • Floors for Adobe Structures:
  • historical overview of floor types found in New Mexican adobe structures – pros & cons
  • overview of helpful tools and leveling devices for floor installation
  • poured mud, mud brick and rammed earth floors – installation techniques and finishes
  • brick on sand floors – installation techniques and finishes
  • flagstone on sand/flagstone on mud floors – installation techniques and finishes
  • concrete floors – installation techniques and finishes, pros & cons
  • suspended wood floors – installation techniques and finishes, pros & cons
  • radiant heat in floors – advantages and disadvantages
  • importance of mass floors in passive solar design

Registration is open right now and can be completed directly online here:

Please e-mail me directly at [email protected] if you have any questions or need further information about any of the above classes.

Best regards,
Kurt Gardella

A Prickly Pear Cocktail

In yesterday’s blog post I discussed how to juice prickly pear cactus fruit. Now, what to do with that juice. Thanks to Stephen Rudicel for improvising this recipe:

Prickly Pear Fruit Cocktail
1 part tequilla
2 parts prickly pear fruit juice
1/6 part lime juice
1/6 part Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Dash of bitters

Shake with ice and serve.

If you can think of a catchier name for this drink, feel free to comment.