Saturday Linkages: Will Your Next House Be Built With Mushrooms?

Fast Fungi Bricks via Dornob

Gardening
What I am reading from the Los Angeles Public Library: Organic Olives http://catalog.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/DoSearch?databaseID=965&terms=5013187&index=z  

Garden planter turns out to be Roman antique: http://boingboing.net/2012/10/12/garden-planter-turns-out-to-be.html 

DIY
North House Folk School http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2012/10/north-house-folk-school.html#.UHTSPhsTC2o.twitter 

HOWTO make a sandwich caddy out of a milk jug: http://boingboing.net/2012/10/08/howto-make-a-sandwich-caddy-ou.html 

Preparedness
Tegaderm 3M product for applying dressing over bleeding injury: http://boingboing.net/2012/10/11/tegaderm.html 

How to Tell Time Like a Soldier | The Art of Manliness http://artofmanliness.com/2012/10/11/how-to-tell-time-like-a-soldier/  

DesignFast Fungi Bricks: Mushroom Blocks Better than Concrete?! | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/fast-fungi-bricks-mushroom-blocks-better-than-concrete/ 

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Homesteading Disasters: The Skunk Menace

Franky, I think our mistakes are more interesting and educational than the high-horse blog posts we typically churn out. I’m hoping, in fact, to collect our misadventures into a little booklet of homesteading disasters. To that end, I’ll periodically write about the latest problem around the Root Simple Compound starting today with how fun it is to garden with skunks.

Angry red arrows mark skunk dig sites in our new keyhole bed.

I know that I’ve got a skunk problem. Yet each year when I sow lettuce seeds I get lazy about putting up the required bird net barrier over the beds. Or I haphazardly put it up, thinking that the skunks aren’t smart enough to squeeze through any gaps. And each year I wake up the morning after planting to a kind of vegetable garden apocalypse–dozens of V shaped holes, overturned seedlings and scattered seeds. And each year I swear off vegetable gardening entirely.

Actual photo of absent-minded conquistadors.

So what’s the science behind this? Why do skunks dig? Skunks dig for doubloons dropped by absent-minded conquistadors many generations ago here in California. Our gardens in Los Angeles are thick in doubloons. In fact, if it weren’t for my metal detector I’d never be able to pay our inflated mortgage. Remember, our crumbling 92 year old bungalow (located in the “hippest neighborhood in America” according to Forbes Magazine) is worth more than an entire town in Indiana. So these damn skunks are not only ruining my vegetables, but they are taking a big bite out of our house payments. Well, actually, they are digging for grubs in the compost but that’s not as exiting as the buried Spanish treasure theory.

The moral here: you gotta make time to fence off the veggies. For us that means hoops with bird netting carefully stretched out and held down by bricks. There’s no easy way out short of hiring 24 hour guards (off duty conquistadors perhaps?) And let’s not even talk about the deer menace! Deer harassed readers are welcome to share their horror stories in the comments.

More on that kooky new keyhole garden in another post . . . 

Homesteading Disasters: The Skunk Menace

Franky, I think our mistakes are more interesting and educational than the high-horse blog posts we typically churn out. I’m hoping, in fact, to collect our misadventures into a little booklet of homesteading disasters. To that end, I’ll periodically write about the latest problem around the Root Simple Compound starting today with how fun it is to garden with skunks.

Angry red arrows mark skunk dig sites in our new keyhole bed.

I know that I’ve got a skunk problem. Yet each year when I sow lettuce seeds I get lazy about putting up the required bird net barrier over the beds. Or I haphazardly put it up, thinking that the skunks aren’t smart enough to squeeze through any gaps. And each year I wake up the morning after planting to a kind of vegetable garden apocalypse–dozens of V shaped holes, overturned seedlings and scattered seeds. And each year I swear off vegetable gardening entirely.

Actual photo of absent-minded conquistadors.

So what’s the science behind this? Why do skunks dig? Skunks dig for doubloons dropped by absent-minded conquistadors many generations ago here in California. Our gardens in Los Angeles are thick in doubloons. In fact, if it weren’t for my metal detector I’d never be able to pay our inflated mortgage. Remember, our crumbling 92 year old bungalow (located in the “hippest neighborhood in America” according to Forbes Magazine) cost more than an entire town in Kansas. So these damn skunks are not only ruining my vegetables, but they are taking a big bite out of our house payments.*

The moral here: you gotta make time to fence off the veggies. For us that means hoops with bird netting carefully stretched out and held down by bricks. There’s no easy way out short of hiring 24 hour guards (off duty conquistadors perhaps?) And let’s not even talk about the deer menace (which, thankfully, we don’t have)! Deer harassed readers are welcome to share their horror stories in the comments.

More on that kooky new keyhole garden in another post . . .  

*Ed. note:  Skunks are actually digging for insects. The irony is that better soil (moist, rich with life, etc.) invariably attracts skunks. In that way, you may wish to consider skunk attacks a sign of gardening success.

Poultry Houses of the Ultra Wealthy: Part 2

Are $100,000 chicken coops a sign of an empire on the verge of a decadent downward spiral? If so it’s time to get that bug-out location ready because Neiman Marcus publicity flacks just announced a $100,000 “Heritage Hen Mini-Farm.” From the description on their website:

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined. Your custom-made multilevel dwelling features a nesting area, a “living room” for nighttime roosting, a broody room, a library filled with chicken and gardening books for visitors of the human kind, and, of course, an elegant chandelier. The environment suits them well as you notice the fresh eggs awaiting morning collection. Nearby, you pick fresh vegetables or herbs from your custom-built raised gardens. You’ve always fancied yourself a farmer—now thanks to Heritage Hen Farm, you’re doing it in the fanciest way possible!

The Neiman Marcus folks apparently didn’t get the memo on what happened to the original owner of Le Petit Trianon. Those angry mobs of real French peasants weren’t all too happy with a royal family of pretend farmers. Will Neiman Marcus offer a diamond encrusted Gucci guillotine when the chicken coop class war breaks out?

And, in my humble opinion, British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey has a better coop.

Thanks to Root Simple reader Birdzilla Studios for the tip! 

Urban Chickens and Lead

From the One More Thing To Worry About department, the New York Times has an article on lead levels in eggs laid by urban chickens “Worries About Lead for New York City’s Garden-Fresh Eggs.” According to the article, the lead levels found in New York City’s home grown eggs ranged from none to over a 100 parts per billion. Since the FDA does not have an acceptable lead level in eggs it’s difficult to interpret the results. And I have to wonder what unknown problems lurk in industrial eggs.

It’s a reminder that those of us who live in older cities and grow food need to confront the lead problem. Personally, I’d also like to see the Real Estate industry come clean on this issue beyond boiler plate disclosures buried in sales documents. But I’m not holding my breath.

Want to Make Bread? Get a Scale

Liquid measuring cup on left, dry on right. Get a scale for baking.

The current issue of Cooks Illustrated Magazine has an interesting test of the accuracy of liquid versus dry measuring cups. When measuring flour, the dry measuring cup was up to 13% off when compared to a scale. The liquid measuring cup was even worse–26% off.  When baking bread, even 13% could be the difference between a decent loaf and a hockey puck.

Surprisingly, measuring water wasn’t much better, even with the liquid cup, which was 10% off. The dry measuring cup was 23% off when measuring water. I’ve always felt a bit silly scaling water, but now I can see its importance.

For bread baking, I’ve been using an electronic scale for many years now and have had reasonably consistent results. Scaling helps me be consistent. Now if only our kitchen didn’t swing between broiling hot and drafty…
 

Picture Sundays: Your Livestock Can Survive Fallout from Nuclear Attack

The US Department of Agriculture published this handy pamplett circa 1962. The USDA’s main recommendation? Get yourself a “two-story, basement-type barn with a hay-filled loft,  to “reduce radiation exposure [to your animals by] as much as 80 percent.”

Thanks to the interwebs you can download your own copy here.

And, something for the kids. There’s a film version–featuring marionettes!

Saturday Linkages: Tiny Houses and Succulent Suprises

Gardening
Sunflower sutra | Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2012/10/sunflower-sutra.html 

Succulent Surprise http://www.dudecraft.com/2012/09/succulent-surprise.html 

DIY
Build-It-Solar Blog: DIY Insulating Window or Door Shutters Using Astrofoil: http://www.builditsolarblog.com/2012/09/diy-insulating-window-or-door-shutters.html?spref=tw 

Bikes
Cargo cyclists replace truck drivers on European city streets: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2012/09/jobs-of-the-future-cargo-cyclist.html 

Tiny Houses
Tiny Dogtrot House http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2012/10/tiny-dogtrot-house.html#.UHA0ZpxF7Vk.twitter  

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Three Mules in Los Angeles

UPDATE 01/21/13: We’ve been informed via the comments that a volunteer has set up a Facebook page for the Mule Man–and with his approval. It’s called 3 Mules. So if you Facebook you can go there for more info., or to post pictures or stories. There’s even video interviews.

Of course, you are very welcome to continue post your sightings or thoughts here, too–especially those of you who don’t do Facebook. We’ve been touched by having some small role to play in passing on his story and giving people a place to gather and share their own stories. The truth is, we really like getting Mule Sightings in our inbox every day! So we’ll keep this open. If you have a picture you want to post here, you can send to our email address and we’ll start collecting them at the bottom of the post.

Last weekend, Kelly and I were treated to one of the most surreal scenes I’ve ever witnessed in Los Angeles: three pack mules being lead down busy Sunset Boulevard. On the side of one of the packs was a hand painted sign reading, “3mules.com“. As is fitting for a man leading three mules across the US, 3mules.com is just one page, managed by someone else. On that page is the following poetic statement:

To answer the most asked questions: Who are we? Where are we from? and Where are we going?  We are mules. We are from the outside. We live outside all day, every day. Where are we going? Nowhere, we’re here- the outside, the web of life- a beautiful  place like no other.We have come to this place-a place of golden sparkling light, a place for anybody and everybody. If your faithful of energy to this place at which time you connect to it and you’ll see the magic and endless possibility of infinity. As you walk in this place with these mules you spread the awareness that this beautiful earth like no other can only be protected by the way we live one day at a time.

Amen to that.