Saturday Linkages: Sad Cookbooks, Pancakes and Tiny Homes

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The saddest cookbook ever written: http://boingboing.net/2014/01/06/the-saddest-cookbook-ever-writ.html …

Another take on sourdough pancakes http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2009/02/24/sourdough-pancakes/ …

Simply Yoav –His Yurt and Life http://feedly.com/e/X0VjVnaF 

How to pull out a car from a frozen lake… Russian style http://feedly.com/e/fHtOIUrv 

Old World Woodworking Tools http://feedly.com/e/0H12BeW1 

Tiny Apartments in Cities: Trending Concept http://feedly.com/e/EEk6UuSd 

Teacher Builds Tiny House in the Forest http://shar.es/9K57L 

Food Chain Restoration: Reconnecting Pollinators with Their Plants http://feedly.com/e/Q3gdfekh 

Cool hut? http://feedly.com/e/OQ1pOJ6a 

The Electricity-Generating Bicycle Desk That Would Power the World – James Hamblin – The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/the-electricity-generating-bicycle-desk-that-would-power-the-world/282692/ …

Here’s How Ridiculous This Year’s CES Will Look in 2034 http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/heres-how-ridiculous-this-years-ces-will-look-in-2034-1495500665 …

Nasty cake ‘joke’ leaves bad taste – National – NZ Herald News http://nzh.tw/11181508 

Garden Design: Working With Pre-existing Conditions

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Behold my abominable raised bed design that evolved out of a misguided Sketchup session. Yes, that is Princess Leia standing in for Mrs. Homegrown. I guess that makes me Jabba the Hut, which I resemble while blogging on the couch. But I digress. I emailed this rendering to our architect pal John Zapf for review. He responded in two words, “April Fools?”

I didn’t admit that I was kinda serious.

I called Mrs. Homegrown in to look at my rendering and to her credit she didn’t dismiss it immediately (she knows that I’m crazy). But we both realized that my hexagonal raised bed fantasy would be better off never leaving its conceptual stage. Sometimes Sketchup is a handy tool for figuring out what not to do.

The problem with this bed design? It has no relation to what’s around it. It would look as out of place as a UFO on the White House lawn.

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Let’s take a look at one of the plans Zapf doodled out last week. He worked with what’s there already: a square house, square shed and square yard. Wouldn’t it make sense to work with that squareness, to not try and put a round peg in a square hole? What I like about Zapf’s plans is that he extends the lines of the house and shed. Maybe that puts the kibosh on the geodesic Princess Leia Biodome folly, but that’s probably a good thing. Sometimes jarring contrast works, but in the case of our fuddy-duddy old house I think it’s best to go with what’s there already.

Recipe for the World’s Best Whole Wheat Pancake

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The last survivor, captured with a camera phone before being devoured, because we wanted to eat the pancakes more than we wanted to document them.

This morning I cooked up the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. They were 100% whole wheat but they were so light and fluffy they tasted like they were made with white flour. And the way they were made is the beginning of a grain revolution. Here’s the secret:

  1. Use heirloom grains.
  2. Mill your own flour.
  3. Ferment for a long time with a sourdough starter.

The heirloom grain I used is Sonora wheat, probably the oldest wheat in the Americas. It’s a soft, winter wheat traditionally used for tortillas.

Recipe (based on Nancy Silverton’s pancakes)
210 grams starter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

The night before making these pancakes I take a tablespoon of mature starter and add it to 100 grams of freshly milled Sonora wheat flour and 110 grams of water. This mixture will be the 200 grams of starter you’ll use in the recipe.

The next day mix all the ingredients together, fry them up in a pan and get ready to have your pancake paradigm shifted.

New frontiers in baking
Freshly milled heirloom wheat mixed into a very wet dough and fermented for a long period with a sourdough starter is also the way that Dave Miller, a Chico California based baker, makes his bread. He takes 100% whole wheat dough, every bit as wet and gloppy as pancake batter, deftly shapes it into loaves and bakes the best bread on the west coast. The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, a group I co-founded, is hosting a sold out class with Miller later this month and I hope to share on this blog what I learn. There is increasing evidence that this method of baking results in a much healthier product.

Bread Ovens of Quebec Free e-book

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North American has two regions famous for oven building: New Mexico and Quebec. The design of the ovens of Quebec have their origin in much older French ovens. The Canadian Museum of History has posted an amazing, out of print book, Lise Boily and Jean-François Blanchette’s 1979 book The Bread Ovens of Quebec, in its entirety online. The book includes the history of the Quebec oven, how to build an oven, bread recipes and even “popular beliefs, spells, incantations, and omens” associated with ovens.

I’m really happy with the adobe oven we have in our backyard–it has produced many a tasty pizza and I look forward to having people over to give me an excuse to fire it up. Ovens, in Quebec households were associated with life itself and I understand why.

If you’re interested in more information on DIY ovens, I’d recommend The Bread Ovens of Quebec along with Kiko Denzer’s Earth Ovens and Alan Scott’s The Bread Builders (brick ovens).

If you’d like to see an oven built in the Quebec style, these folks have posted their experience of building one.

Free Biodynamic Composting Seminar in Los Angeles with Jack McAndrew

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Our friends at the Micheltorena School Garden are hosting a workshop with composting wizard Jack McAndrew. In case you missed Jack’s last workshop back in November, you’ve got another chance. Here’s the 411:

Free Biodynamic Composting Seminar in Los Angeles with Jack McAndrew

Date: Saturday, January 18th, rain or shine

Time: 10am

Duration: 2 to 3 hours but stay as short or as long as you’d like

Where: Micheltorena School Garden, 1511 Micheltorena Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Garden located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena Street.

Transit Stop nearby, Bike Parking in garden or On-Street Parking for cars.

About Jack:

Recognized as one of America’s leading experts on biodynamic organic agriculture, Jack’s biodynamic composts have been the secret behind some of the most beautiful and healthiest gardens in “Hollywood” and on the Westside.

Maria C. Linder, Professor of Biochemistry at CalState Fullerton says, “There are very few people in the country with [Jack’s] experience and expertise… Bio-dynamic composting is more scientifically based than most and is by far the most impressive method I have encountered. Jack has studied the process for many years, and with
the best Masters in the business.”

Biodynamic compost is made with precise specifications and is a fundamental component of the biodynamic method of growing food. It recycles animal manures and organic wastes, stabilizes nitrogen, and builds soil humus to enhance soil health.

“This is recognized as the finest recipe for growing crops in the world,” claims Jack. “You don’t need any other fertilizer or pesticides. This form of agriculture is ahead of its time. It grows the best quality food known today.”

Saturday Linkages: Dig that Passive Solar Birdbath!

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Passive solar birdbath. Image: Builditsolar.com


Passive solar birdbath: http://tinyurl.com/kbalf7x

A Veteran Gets Criminal Treatment and Censored over Chickens http://tinyurl.com/lenrx9m

Termite Ventilation – Natural Airconditioning http://feedly.com/e/2Zrz8bkc 

Rhone Street Gardens: 2013…Looking Back http://www.rhonestreetgardens.com/2013/12/2013looking-back.html

One-minute doc on a man’s love for thrifted sweaters – http://boingboing.net/2013/12/28/one-minute-doc-on-a-mans-lov.html#.UsBLJPwY_RE.twitter …

The Elderly in Modern Society http://feedly.com/e/bHIPi3fk 

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

Of Skunks, Sauerkraut and Stoicism

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We were honored when the nice folks behind Stoic Week 2013 asked us to write a blog post. It begins,

Practicality is why stoicism works so well as the philosophical operating system of urban homesteading. While Foucault and Hegel might help me navigate the epistemological frontier, when I’m staring at a carefully tended vegetable bed that just got destroyed by a skunk, you can bet I’ll reach for the Seneca.

Read the rest here.

Erik’s 2014 New Years Resolutions

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I’ve got a short and simple list of New Years resolutions this year:

  • Finish hardscaping the backyard and grow more vegetables. Steps have already been taken. Above is architectural genius John Zapf and our cat Trout helping with the plans. And it’s got to look good. Be prepared for some kind of geodesic raised bed folly.
  • Perfect my 100% whole grain sourdough breads using freshly milled flour. Write up some recipes and share my results.
  • Take a trip that involves a class or workshop. I’ve never regretted money spent on education (at least as an adult!).
  • Good health. I’ve figured out a simple if quirky equation. If I can fence I’m healthy. If I can’t I’ve got work to do. This pretentious niche sport just happens to combine flexibility, endurance, strategy and speed. This past year it forced me to confront and deal with knee problems. I plan on attempting a few tournaments in 2014.

What are your New Years Resolutions?