030 Christmas Eve Podcast


With Kelly off visiting family, I’ve put together a short and simple podcast this week. I read my blog post, Let’s Talk About the Holidays and the reader comments. I conclude with, of course, some Bulgarian Christmas bagpipe music.


A reader mentions two blog posts about parenting during the holidays:
When Mommy and Daddy Took the Toys Away
Five Ways Frugal Living Benefits Kids

I mention Shannon Hayes’ post:
Murdering Santa and Other Tips for Enjoying the Holidays

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Let’s Talk About the Holidays

Christmas in Bulgaria by Miroslav Trendafilov.

There’s no doubt that the materialism of the Christmas season in the US presents challenges to folks who are on the radical homemaking path. One action that’s helped around our household was to cut off commercial television, something we did many years ago.

A number of people mentioned that they really enjoyed hearing Shannon Hayes on our podcast talking about how her family celebrates the holidays. She has also written a blog post on the subject, “Murdering Santa and Other Tips for Enjoying the Holidays.” Like Shannon, we also don’t want to come off as a self-righteous Scrooge or further our lifestyle as fodder for future Portlandia scripts. At the same time I’m also haunted by the tension between tradition and its conflict with modern life (note Habermas’ 2010 dialog with Jesuit scholars if you want to fall down a ponderous and inconclusive philosophical rabbit hole).

Then there’s what I call the fake snow on Hollywood Boulevard problem. Living in a Mediterranean climate, as we do, is confusing. The days are short, but the hills are green. The fake snow gets coated in smog. Here’s the problem. The Christmas story is overlaid on Northern European winter traditions, yet the original version takes place in a climate similar to ours in California. The snowman/Jack Frost/North Pole/Santa thing seems forced and artificial here.

This a long winded way of simply asking you, our readers, to talk about how you celebrate this time of year. How you counteract its hijacking by commercial interests? What does Christmas in the southern hemisphere feel like, coming as it does in the middle of summer? What does it feel like to be Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or none of the above and be surrounded by inflatable snowmen?

And can someone please explain the Bulgarian Christmas procession in the AMAZING video above? What’s with the bread? Who is the black hooded figure? I have to interject here that I’d love to permanently retire the “Rock Around the Christmas Tree” genre of music hell. More bagpipes, please.

Seeds the Game


Nick Heyming, who I met through his work at Growcology, is working on a kind of alternative to games like Farmville. Instead of pointless hours staring at a screen, SEEDS the Game’s goal is to get you out into your garden. It’s a mobile app that will encourage you to, according to the description on their website:

Take photos of your plants at home, filter and share your attention to your real garden.

Find neighbors to trade seeds with and share activities related to gardening and local food systems.

Get climate and map updates for weather patterns relevant to your area and garden needs.

Seed points redeem for real prizes like seeds and coupons for garden equipment.

Grow your own food and learn practices for permaculture and self-sustaining food systems at home!

If you want to support the project they’ve got an Indiegogo campaign.

Saturday Tweets: Holiday Edition

A Last Minute Gift Suggestion . . .

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 9.00.49 AM

In a moment both surreal and ego boosting, I opened some junk email to discover that Amazon is suggesting that I buy our own books, The Urban Homestead and Making It, as Christmas gifts. It also recommended Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume’s excellent book Urban Homesteading.

It’s a reminder that this blog is partially supported by your book purchases at both independent booksellers and through the Amazon links on our Publications page.  Many thanks to all of you who have bought our books in the past and continued to support us. We are very lucky to have met so many nice people through our work.

The KoMo FlicFloc

Kelly hates it when I write a post packed with hyperbole. But I really feel today like I’ve discovered a sort of breakfast unified field theory. And it’s all thanks to an impulse purchase at an awesome new homesteading supply shop in our neighborhood, The King’s Roost. My credit card discharged from my pocket like ectoplasm at a 19th century seance when I spotted the KoMo FlicFloc.

The FlicFloc manually flakes oats, wheat, rye, barley, millet, spelt, rice, sesame, flax seed, poppy and spices. The breakfast possibility it opened to me? Fresh muesli is thy name. Finally a filling and healthy alternative to my Grape Nuts addiction.

The FlicFloc is elegant and simple. There’s not much to say about it. You put grain in the top, turn the handle and deliciousness discharges into a glass, thoughtfully provided. I’ve owned a KoMo grain mill for a year now and it’s been a life changer in the kitchen. I really like having access to freshly milled whole grains when I need them. It eliminates waste as ground grains spoil. And whole grain, including oats, get bitter if they sit around too long.

And cancel the Neflix–here’s KoMo’s Austrian/German design team demonstrating their products. All this video needs is Werner Herzog to narrate the English language version. Note the solar powered manufacturing facility and German breakfast porn. Also note the mouthwatering array of whole grain baked goods.

029 Toasters, a Pledge and a Compostable Christmas


On the holiday edition of the Root Simple Podcast, Kelly and I discuss non-electric toasters, Kelly takes a pledge and we conclude with a conversation about compostable Christmas decor. During the podcast we mention:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Who Killed the Non-Electric Toaster?

pyramid non-electric toaster
I don’t regret my unsuccessful attempt this Sunday to fix our broken toaster. It made me remember designer Thomas Thwaites’ attempt to build a toaster from scratch and how well that project showed the complex, interconnecting supply chain involved in manufacturing even the simplest electronic device.

The failure of our toaster was caused by a break in the heating wire. Following these instructions, I attempted to mend the break, but it was in an awkward location and, like most objects these days, the toaster was not built to be fixed.

Disassembling the toaster laid bare the flaws in the design of all toasters. The heating wire (called nichrome wire–short for nickel-chromium) is fragile and extremely vulnerable to an errant bread crust.

I vowed to find an alternative and remembered seeing non-electric toasters that people used to use back in the 1920s when our house was built. These types of toasters have not died out entirely. Most non-electric toaster designs look like the one above. Some Googling  also led us to an innovative looking non-electric toaster called the DeltaToast.

Counter-intuitively, all of these simple stove top toasters coast about twice as much as electric toaster, at least in the US. This leads me to my question for you, our dear readers. Have you used a non-electric toaster? How do they compare to electric toasters?

Note from Kelly:

I noticed that the stove-top or pyramid toaster seems to live on in Australia and New Zealand, judging by the number of businesses I found selling them there. The toasters were also much more reasonably priced than they are here– but shipping to the US was crazy expensive, scudding that possibility entirely. So I’m particularly interested in responses from readers in these countries. Who is buying and using them?

Also, there are many antique stove-top toasters available on Etsy for about ten to twelve bucks, but they’re all rusty and worse for wear.