Behind the Scenes at Root Simple is a World of Big Pumpkins, Pomegranate Catapults and Man Crates

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In case you were wondering what the Root Simple offices look like, I included the image above. On the left is our blogging control panel. In the center you can see Kelly and I overseeing our team of Thoughtstyling™ testers. To the right is our garden.

Our main task each day is monitoring the incoming stream of press releases and spam comments. In the interest of giving you a behind the scenes glimpse into the thrilling life of a blogger, I thought I’d reproduce some of the better press releases verbatim, just like real journalists do.

HALF MOON BAY’S WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF MONSTER GOURDS COMING UP OCTOBER 13
$30,000 MEGA-PRIZE OFFERED FOR NEW WORLD RECORD PUMPKIN

HALF MOON BAY, CALIFORNIA (October 1, 2014) –– Will this be the year the world pumpkin heavyweight record is squashed in Half Moon Bay, California? The intrigue is building as Superstar Gourd Growing Greats and their astonishing, mind-boggling, Volkswagen-sized orange orbs gather on the morning of Monday, October 13 for the 41st Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off –– in the World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay, California –– the kick-off to Half Moon Bay’s world-famous Art & Pumpkin Festival which takes place October 18-19. . . . Using forklifts and harnesses, the monster gourds will be carefully placed on a 5-ton capacity digital scale under the watchful eye of officials from the San Mateo County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office of Weights, Sealers, and Measures.

If only we were closer and could hang out in the green room with those Office of Weights, Sealers, and Measures officials. And does “intrigue” imply that these same officials can be persuaded with a cash donation? Can monster pumpkin enthusiasts have people killed?

Madera hosts 4th annual Madera Pomegranate Festival

Madera, CA. – In Madera, the Heart of Pomegranate Country, preparations are well underway for the fourth annual Madera Pomegranate Festival, which takes place Saturday, November 1, 2014, at Madera Municipal Airport. The event is organized by the Madera Tourism Alliance, a committee of the Madera Chamber of Commerce.

“On behalf of the Madera Chamber, I would like to invite everyone to come out and join us for this fun-filled event,” Eugene Bell, Chairman of the Board of Directors, stated. “The Tourism Alliance Committee and Chamber staff are working hard to bring another great event to our community this year.”

A favorite part of the lineup according to event producers is the Pomegranate Grenade Launch. Dreamed up by the committee and brothers Brian and Nick Davis of Twin Pomegranates Winery, the Pomegranate Grenade Launch is a massive slingshot that launches pomegranates at a target some distance away.

Organizers say Madera Municipal Airport provides ample space for vendors and displays. That, along with ample parking for attendees, make the airport an ideal location for this annual event. “The available space and the City’s help in making the event happen really creates the perfect environment for the Pomegranate Festival,” Debi Bray, president and CEO of the Madera Chamber of Commerce says.

Returning to this year’s lineup is a display for various aircraft as well as skydivers from Madera Parachute Center.

New to this year’s festival will be a children’s stage featuring local dance, karate and other talents from our young Maderans, a Jelly Belly attraction with samples and games and a Fossil Dig hosted by the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.  Other attractions include a presentation from the Fresno Chaffee Zoomobile, art classes from the Madera County Arts Council, kids’ games from the Madera Parks Department, numerous cooking demos from local chefs, live music by the Marie Wilson Band, plus everything pomegranate.

“We’ll have vendors selling the fruit itself, plus pomegranate trees, pomegranate-scented candles, jellies and anything else you could think of involving pomegranate, and probably some things you didn’t know could incorporate the fruit,” Bray mentions.

Will they aim the pomegranate trébuchet at the skydivers?  Or does the Geneva Convention prohibit that?

Hello Kelly and Erik!

My name is Alexandra, and I’m the community manager for Man Crates. We’re a new company that ships awesome gifts for men in custom wooden crates that he has to open with a crowbar! At Man Crates, it is our mission to end the difficulties that have long been associated with buying gifts for men. I’m emailing you because I think you would be a perfect fit for our “ManCave Makeover” campaign.

The man cave… a ritualistic spot where men retreat to in order to watch football with friends, spill beer, shout at the TV, and tell the same 8 stories over and over again. Man caves come in all sorts of interesting shapes and spaces, be it in a basement, a garage or the classic shed. However, as original as these spaces are, when it comes to decor they tend to all look the same. A cheap neon beer sign (or beer mirror), a dart board and of course a mini fridge. I don’t like to use the word dull but I suppose they are called caves for a reason!

We are looking for bloggers like yourself to help us end these man cave decorating woes by creating a post highlighting some items you would gift to a guy who is looking to decorate his new man cave. Replace that bar cart with a fancy new whiskey set, change the neon sign to hanging lamp, and for goodness sakes buy a new arm chair!

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, let me know and I can send over more details.

Just in time, I completed my own ManCave Makeover:

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I can hardly wait to crowbar open that crate and launch a few pomegranate grenades.

Mown and Blown: The Problem With Leaf Blowers

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I had just spent an hour sweeping our front porch, staircase and the sidewalk in front of our house. While I was sweeping I looked up to see the thick film of dirt covering the front of the house that I had spent months painting on scaffolding. Then I looked down the block and noticed a member of Los Angeles’ legion of mow and blow crews kicking up a huge cloud of dust. In an angry moment I later regretted, I glared at him and pointed at my broom. He smiled in return.

Why are leaf blowers bad? The reasons are almost too numerous to mention. Journalist Emily Green points out that during a drought,

It’s more important than ever to stop this practice and that leaves be left piled near trees, grass left where it falls after mowing and that leaf blowers not leave the truck. Any foliage that spills into streets should be raked. Leaf blowers in drought send dry earth airborne to lethal effects for asthma sufferers, particularly children and infants.

Tk by Tk Datetk.

Power Tools by Rubén Ortiz-Torres, 1999.

Los Angeles banned gas powered leaf blowers in 1998. The ban has never been enforced. Artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres captured, perfectly, the racial and class tension surrounding the ban in a series of customized power tools, including the tricked out leaf blower above. It’s hard to address the problems with leaf blowers without also getting into the thorny politics surrounding race, class and immigration.

Leaf blowers exist in a symbiotic relationship with “low maintenance” landscapes which consist of a lawn and brutally pruned hedges.  These water hungry landscapes provide neither food, beauty or habitat. (They are also not enjoyed by people: half of the suburban participants in a UCLA study of home life in SoCal never went into their backyard.  Another 25 percent went outside for a few minutes a week.) Yet this style of landscape is our dominant style of landscape because the homeowner doesn’t need to think about it, and the maintenance crews can move through the space with their machinery quickly. Volume allows these business to charge little for their services, which makes their services affordable to most homeowners, which encourages homeowners to keep their landscapes in a form easily serviced. In other words, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. And it’s a cycle we can’t afford anymore, for so many reasons. And for me, our reliance on leaf blowers is emblematic of all these problems.

I struggle with how to tackle the leaf blower problem. In a perfect world, the mow and blow crews would get horticultural education that they could then use to charge a living wage to maintain ecologically beneficial landscapes. Homeowners who couldn’t afford gardening services would discover the joy of gardening.

I’ve also thought of getting our neighbors together to discuss the issue and come up with alternatives, but I’m not sure this would work. So I’m going to toss the issue out to you, our dear readers.

Do you have a leaf blower problem where you live? Is this just an LA problem, or is it a national or international problem?

Has your city attempted a ban? If so, is the ban enforced?

Has your city provided education for gardeners?

Have you ever had a conversation with your neighbors about leaf blowers?

What are ways you’ve thought of dealing with the leaf blowers?

What solutions do you think could shift the mow and blow paradigm?

Picture Sundays: The Unintentionally Groovy Cover of the High Desert Corridor Envionmental Impact Report

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Damien Newton of Streetsblog Los Angeles has caused the cover of an obscure bureaucratic document to go viral in our local cycling community. And with good reason. Some genius at Caltrans designed a cover by tossing clip art and 80s graphics into a Vitamix. Speculation is that the designer might be named Brad (note Brad the turtle chasing a chipmunk in the upper right corner).

Every time I look at it I see something new: psychedelic condors riding bicycles, butterflies transformed by contact with solar panels and what might be a portal to another dimension just to the right of the project i.d. number.

Saturday Linkages: Big Chickens, Drought and More

Why You Should Grow Pomegranates if You Can

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If I could only have one tree I think it might be a pomegranate. Why?

  • Pomegranate trees have beautiful, bright red flowers in the spring and handsome yellow leaves in the fall.
  • They grow fast.
  • They have few pests.
  • They are drought tolerant.
  • They produce delicious fruit.
  • Require low chill hours.
  • They live long–200 years or more.

The big downside for, probably, most of the readers of this blog is that pomegranates are frost sensitive. And the fruit will split if it rains in the fall. But if you live in a warm, dry climate you need to get one!

The variety we have is Wonderful, not all that exciting as this is the variety at the supermarket. If I had to plant one again I’d probably choose a more exotic pomegranate. That said, Wonderful is still wonderful–big, juicy and delicious.

The time to order your bare root fruit trees is now! Our favorite source, Bay Laurel has a nice selection of pomegranates. Just order now for winter delivery, as they sell out. Pomegranates can also be propagated easily from cuttings and, along with figs and olives, are just about the only fruit trees that aren’t grafted.

Do you have a pomegranate tree? What variety do you have?