Saturday Linkages: Urine Soaked Eggs, Currents, Squirrels and School Gardens

Urine-soaked eggs a spring taste treat in China city:

Amazing wind map.

Equally amazing water current map:

Bald eagle, fox, and cat are porch friends:

HOWTO build a robotic squirrel-squirting water sentry-gun, with python:

Tips on running a school garden:

@bikejuju blog post: Freak Bike Friday: Bed Frame Bike

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

A Food Forest in Los Angeles

The great thing about this blog is that I get to meet people like Ron Finley, profiled in the video above. Ron got busted for this garden (the city of Los Angeles requires all parkway plantings to be mowed to 2 inches). Ron is now leading an effort to get the rules changed. We wish him luck and hope that his garden inspires many others around the world.

A Rocket Stove Made From a Five Gallon Metal Bucket

The principle behind a rocket stove is simple–rather than cooking on an open fire, you burn wood in an insulated chimney. Rocket stoves are highly efficient and easy to make. They run on twigs, so you can avoid cutting down a whole tree just to cook dinner.

We’ve had a rocket stove made out of brick in our backyard for several years. The post we wrote on it in 2007 is–oddly–the most frequently searched post on this site. I figured that since there was so much interest in the topic it would be good to offer one that didn’t require masonry work. Better yet, I figured that it should be portable, so I made it out of a five gallon steel paint bucket. (eta: for your googling pleasure, it seems retailers call these cans “steel pails” rather than buckets). The project took less than an hour to complete and I’m very pleased with the final result. We created a pdf with full instructions that you can download at the Internet Archive. What follows are some photos showing the building process:

Using a piece of 4″ vent pipe and a 90º elbow, I made the chimney. See the pdf for the exact dimensions.

I traced the outline of the vent pipe on to the lid of the bucket and cut this hole out with a jig saw. Tin snips would also have worked.

Using the vent pipe as a guide again, I cut out a 4″ hole near the bottom of the bucket.

I used one part clay (harvested from the yard) to six parts vermiculite as my insulation material. Mixed with water, the clay holds the vermiculite together. I could also have used dry wood ash, but I had the vermiculite and clay on hand so that’s what I went with.

With the vent pipe in place, I packed the insulation into the bucket and let it dry for a few days before putting the lid on.

I found a barbecue grill at Home Depot that rests on the top of the bucket to support a pot.

Next you want to get yourself a tin can, take off both ends and open it up with tin snips. Cut a piece to serve as a shelf in the mouth of the pipe. It should be about 4″ long–so it sits forward in the mouth of the vent. The rear part of the vent, where the fire burns, is open. The twigs rest on top of the shelf, the lower half is for drawing air.

The last step was to add the new Root Simple stencil to the back.

Some fire tips from the little lady, our resident pyro:

A rocket stove isn’t like a campfire–you don’t throw on a big log and kick back. Cooking on it is intense and concentrated, best suited for boiling or frying. The best fuel source is twigs, small ones–I prefer pencil-sized twigs, and I never try to burn anything thicker than a finger.

To start a fire just shove some paper or other tinder under the shelf toward the back of vent. Lay some very thin twigs, pine needles or other combustibles on the shelf. Light the paper and watch it go. Start adding larger twigs to establish the fire. Of course, twigs burn fast and hot, so you have to keep adding more fuel. Also, the twig are burning from the back (the fire is concentrated in the bend) so as the fire consumes the sticks, you just keep shoving the unburned parts to the rear.

There’s a balance between choking the vent with too much wood and having too sparse a fire. After a few minutes of playing with it you’ll get the hang of things. If you’re doing it right, there should be no smoke, or almost none. These things burn clean.

Let us know if you like the pdf and if you would like to see more similar instruction sheets (maybe in an ebook format) of these types of projects. There’s also a good book on using rocket stoves as heaters:  Rocket Mass Heaters: Superefficient Woodstoves YOU Can Build by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca on Living Within Limits

Writing in the 1st century AD, Seneca makes a good case for common sense limits:

Is it not living unnaturally to hanker after roses during the winter, and to force lilies in midwinter by taking the requisite steps to change their environment and keeping up the temperature with hot water heating? Is it not living unnaturally to plant orchards on top of towers, or to have a forest of trees waving in the wind on the roofs and ridges of one’s mansions, their roots springing at a height which it could have been presumptuous for their crests to reach?

-Letter CXXII from Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

Apparently the Romans had a thing for ridiculous, energy intensive vertical gardening schemes. Perhaps it’s what happens as empires trend towards the decadent and live beyond their means. It’s hard not to see modern parallels. Witness what happened when an upscale hair salon planted a vertical garden on a south facing wall in Los Angeles.

I’ve come to much the same conclusions about the garden surrounding our own household. Growing blueberries in Southern California? I’ve done it, but who wants the extra effort to secure acidic soil and tend a potted plant? Maybe it’s better to grow pomegranates here instead. They thrive in terrible soil with not much water.

I could thoughtstyle on about this but, as usual, Archdruid John Michael Greer beat me to it with a thought provoking interview on the C-Realm podcast about the creativity of living within limits. Have a listen and, on a similar theme, check out my new, most favorite, blog, Low-Tech Magazine.


Saturday Linkages: Orange Peel Lamps, Axe Porn and Craft Rooms

From Portugal Smallholding a orange peel lamp.

Lamp made from an orange:

A clever planter made from an Asphalt Handbook:

Hand-made Axe porn:

Our friends at the Tangled Nest create an inspiring, low-budget craft room

And, yes, a toilet brush chandelier:

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

Sign Up for the Root Simple Meetup

It only took six years, but I finally put together the beginnings of an events page for this website using To see those listings go to the event page or check out sidebar on the right. You can also sign up for the Root Simple Meetup. Right now the Root Simple meetup will list events we’re speaking at, workshops we’re teaching and other goings on we find interesting. Most of the events will take place in the Southern California area.

To those of you outside of SoCal, I can’t say enough good things about the Meetup interface. Unlike Facebook, which seems to exist to get us all to work for free harvesting marketing data, Meetup is about fostering face to face meetings.

Hope to meet many of you in person soon!

Home Food Preservation Resources

I’m honored to have been included in this year’s class of the Los Angeles Master Food Preservers, a program offered by our local extension service to train volunteers to teach food preservation in under-served communities. I thought I would share the textbook resources from the class as they are an excellent set of reference books for your homesteading library. And many are available for free online. Like all information from the extension service system, they are research based.

First off is So Easy to Preserve a large collection of recipes, everything from canning to dehydrating, all carefully tested and in line with current U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety recommendations. The book is put out by the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension.

We also will be using the Complete Guide to Home Canning, put out by the USDA and available for free online. Lastly, there’s the classic Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, a reliable introduction to the subject.

In addition to covering food safety issues, I like these carefully researched food preservation guides for their reliability. If I’m going to commit the time to doing a food preservation project I like a reasonable chance of success. While we learn from our mistakes, I’d prefer to have a few more jellies and a few less accidental “syrups”.

You can connect with the Los Angeles Master Food Preservers on Facebook and via their blog.

The Most Beautiful Shed in the World

Located in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, this writer’s shed designed by Erin Moore has some mighty fine details. According to a blog post on Float Architectural Research and Design,

The writing studio is designed to reveal the ecological complexity of the site to visitors and in this way it is successful: Small tunnels under the studio bring rare reptiles and amphibians into view through the floor-level window. The water collection basin that doubles as the front step draws in birds and deer. At midday, the silhouettes of these animals project from the water onto the interior ceiling. Windows on the west and north sides frame different bird habitats—the tops of fence row trees and the patch of sky at a hilltop updraft. The roof diaphragm amplifies rain sounds and the collection basin is a measure of past rainfall.

I’ve got shed envy.

Via Lloyd’s blog.