Derek Jarman’s Garden

Photo by angusf

Avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman spent the last years of his life, after an HIV diagnosis, tending a bleak, wind-swept patch of land opposite a nuclear power plant on the southern coast of England. With just a few hardy plants and some scavenged pieces of wood he put together a stunning garden. He wrote a book about it called, simply, Derek Jarman’s Garden. You can also view a flikr photo set here.

Photo by angusf

Jarman’s friend Howard Sooley, writing in the Guardian, described the garden and cottage:

Prospect Cottage sits more or less in the middle, parched by baking sun and drying winds in summer, with no shade to be had for miles in any direction. In winter, sea storms rage, while biting Siberian winds push through the shingle and up through the floorboards of the fisherman’s cottages strung out along the road to the lighthouse.

You can’t take life for granted in Dungeness: every bloom that flowers through the shingle is a miracle, a triumph of nature. Derek knew this more than anyone.

Gardens give us food, medicine, solace, and the best of them, like Jarman’s, remind us of the impermanence of our lives and the inevitability of change.

Scott’s Pepsi-G Stove

If you’ve ever backpacked any distance you’ll appreciate the need to reduce weight, taken to its logical extreme by the sort of folks who cut their toothbrushes in half. This ultra-light subculture, to our benefit, seems to be populated by engineering types who like to create useful lists and detailed instructions. And, even if you don’t backpack, these innovative ideas can be used in your emergency preparedness plans.

One of my favorite ultra-light backpacking gadgets is the Pepsi can stove, which has reappeared on the interwebs, after a prolonged absence, here.

To make a Pepsi stove you take the bottom of a 12 oz Pepsi can and the bottom of a Guinness Draught can and, after a series of precise cuts and pin pricks you end up with a nifty cooking stove that uses denatured alcohol or methanol (both easily obtained at any hardware store) as fuel.

Efficiency-wise, if you consider the ratio of weight to heat output, you’re better off with a commercial backpacking stove and fuel canisters. But such stoves are expensive and the fuel canisters are only available at camping and sporting goods stores. The nice thing about the Pepsi can stove is that it’s almost free to make and you can find the fuel at any hardware store. I keep both a Pepsi can stove and a MSR backpacking stove in my backpack. That way I’ve got a backup in case one fails to work.

Mrs. Homegrown here:

I thought I’d toss in a little more detail for those of you unfamiliar with the concept. A Pepsi can stove is tiny and very light weight, good for two things–ultralight backpacking and as a simple cooking device for what some people call a bug out bag–emergency gear that is ready to grab and go.

I’ve taken one with me backpacking, as my only stove. It works fine, but it is limited in its capabilities. It can boil a cup or so of water at a time, enough to make one person a hot drink, or enough water to rehydrate a pouch of something. You certainly can’t make pancakes over one, and if you have a family to serve, you might want to consider carrying more than one of these stoves.

My camping set up included the stove, a sawed off Foster’s can (you know, those extra large beer cans) as a cooking pot, a circle of chicken wire to balance the Foster’s can upon over the stove, and a bit of foil to block wind. It all tucked inside the Foster’s can for transport and weighted hardly anything. Oh, and I kept the fuel in one of those plastic collapsible water bottles.

As Erik says, a lightweight camping stove and proper fuel canister is a much more flexible and powerful option, but little Pepsi can stoves can’t be beat for price or weight.

Here’s our 2006 post on the same subject–along with a nice photo of ours burning.

High Speed Garlic Peeling


How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from SAVEUR.com on Vimeo.

Via BoingBoing.

ETA: We finally tried this, using a sealed Tupperware container instead of the two bowls. It actually works!!! But these are the catches: 1) It doesn’t work as fast on the skinny, inner cloves as it does on the fat ones. You can get those peeled too, but you have to keep shaking. 2) You have to rinse the cloves after shaking because they end up with little bits of skin all over them. Even so, it is still a remarkably easy way to peel a whole head of garlic.

Greywater Workshops in Los Angeles

The folks at the Greywater Action Team asked me to spread the word on a few workshops they are doing in the LA area in October:

Going Green with Greywater

When: Friday October 14, 2011 – 9:00am – 12:00pm
Where: LA Eco Village 117 Bimini Pl Los Angeles CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $25-50 limited work trade positions available
Register here
Reusing greywater, water from sinks, showers, and washing machines, is a great way to save water! In this workshop you will learn safe and simple ways to reuse greywater, common types of systems, what products to use, and take a tour of several existing systems. We will also be creating a mock-up of a laundry-to-landscape greywater system with all the parts and tools needed to install it.

Greywater System Maintenance: Advanced Workshop

When: Friday October 14, 2011 – 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Where: LA Eco Village 117 Bimini Pl Los Angeles CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $25-50
Register here
Simple greywater systems require very little maintenance, but a small amount is needed! An hour or two a year can keep greywater systems well functioning and improve their effectiveness.  In the workshop we’ll review best practices for creating long lasting systems. We’ll observe existing greywater systems that are between two and three years old, from washing machine, shower, and kitchen sink. Participants will practice balancing greywater flows, checking mulch basins, and doing any repairs needed on the system.We will also review greywater system design, calculating greywater flows, plant water requirements, and new greywater technologies.This is a hands-on workshop, please wear clothes and shoes for working. Please bring a notebook for taking notes.

Hands-on greywater installation workshop

When: Saturday October 15th, 11am-4pm
Where:Los Angeles (exact location will be emailed after registration is complete)
Cost: Sliding scale $30-$100, limited worktrade positions available
Register here
Learn how to divert greywater from a washing machine to irrigate the landscape with a laundry to landscape greywater system. This type of greywater system is low cost, does not require a permit, and is easy to install in most home applications. This is a hands-on class, participants will be learning about and participating in the construction of a real greywater system. The class will cover: Greywater principles, the best plants to water with greywater, common pitfalls and how to avoid them, and how to install a system that is legal under the new California code.

(for Santa Monica residents only) Design and install your own laundry to landscape greywater system
October 8th and 9th, 8am- 5pm Day 1: Santa Monica library. Day 2: Your house! (You’ll be installing your own system)
Free workshop sponsored by the City of Santa Monica!
Contact [email protected] for questions.
Register here http://www.smgov.net/Departments/OSE/Categories/Water/Greywater.aspx

The low down on pee and poo-a composting toilet workshop.

When:Friday October 14th- 7:00 pm
Where: LA Eco Village 117 Bimini Pl Los Angeles CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $15-$5
Reservations required: [email protected] or 213/738-1254
This workshop will cover: Ecological Sanitation – waterless toilets and urine harvesting – can save water, protect the environment, and create free fertilizer around the world. Learn the “how and why” of composting toilets and urine reuse, see projects from Mexico, China, Sweden, Zimbabwe, and the United States. Learn about options for homescale composting toilets from urban to rural applications, operation and maintenance needs, and common problems and solutions.

Yet More Urban Homesteading Mistakes

My new excuse: I didn’t write it, the kitten did!

Three of my favorite Root Simple compound blunders happened this week.

Yesterday I announced a “Vermincomposting” class. I meant vermicomposting, of course, but I’d point out that it is good to remember that vermin are actually compostable, along with everything biological –including bloggers.

Earlier this week I meant to mention Native Americans  but, due to the lazy application of spell checking software this came out as “Naive Americans”.  Now, as I’m sure most readers of this blog would agree there actually is a class of Naive Americans. Maybe they’ll get around to opening some casinos. Oh, wait, Naive Americans go to casinos, they probably don’t operate them. This mistake reminds me of when the UCLA student newspaper, in a similar spell checking blunder, announced that the orchestra I was in would be playing Beethoven’s “Erotica Symphony”.

Lastly, I stained some cement pavers with iron sulfate and blogged about it. What I forgot to mention is that, the day before, I had accidentally reached for the bag of garden sulfur rather than iron sulfate and carefully brushed all 16 pavers with sulfur. The next day, noticing that nothing had happened, I realized that rather than staining the pavers I had, every so slightly, acidified them.

Time for those much delayed mindfulness exercises.

Upcoming Classes: Edible Gardening and Vermicomposting

A reminder: we have two very talented speakers and educators coming to the Root Simple compound to teach a series of classes. Sign up soon–they are selling out fast.

The first is Darren Butler teaching his Beginning Vegetable Gardening series, starting Oct. 4, and his Intermediate series starting Oct. 18th. The second is Nancy Klehm’s teaching an in-depth Vermicomposting class on October 23rd. 


Details below:

Consulting Arborist and Ecological Landscape Designer Darren Butler will be teaching two classes at the Root Simple compound starting next month. I’m currently taking a class from Darren right now at the Huntington and to say it’s amazing is an understatement. If you’re interested in taking either of these two classes email Darren at [email protected]. Will be great to meet you all! Sign up soon as room is limited.


GROW LA VICTORY GARDENING BEGINNING CLASSES
In partnership with the LA County Master Gardener Program

In Silver Lake: hosted by Root Simple
Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Oct 4, 6, 11, 13, 6:00 to 9:00pm
$85 early registration for payments received by September 23, $95 thereafter
$25 per single class if available
Silver Lake series is filling up quickly 

Recommended for those who have moderate organic gardening skills, are new gardeners, have moved to Southern California after gardening elsewhere, or who haven’t been satisfied with their garden yields.

Expected topics include seed starting, seasonality and what to do when, building raised beds, choosing containers, plant selection, transplanting, soil preparation, irrigation, wise water use, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, composting, harvesting, and seed saving.

INTERMEDIATE ORGANIC GARDENING FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Hosted by Root Simple in Silver Lake
Tuesday and Thursday evenings,Oct 18, 27, Nov 1, 3, 6:00 to 9:00pm
$115 early registration for payments received by October 7, $125 thereafter
$35 per single class if available
Special combined pricing for both courses hosted by Root Simple (if available):
$185 early registration for payments received by September 23, $200 thereafter 

Class topics:
Session 1: Intermediate Vegetable Gardening and Nontoxic Pest Management, including methods to maximize year-round harvest in Southern California
Session 2: Soil Science, Intermediate Composting, and Aerated Compost Tea
Session 3: Drip System Construction and Best Practices
Session 4: Fruit-Tree Care, Planting, and Pruning


Vermicomposting with Nancy Klehm


If you live in or around LA, we encourage you to take this unique class that we’re hosting in the Silver Lake area. While it’s pretty easy to get basic information on starting a worm bin, it’s rare to be able to dig deeper, especially with a teacher as knowledgeable as Nancy Klehm.

GET YOUR LOOP ON!
A workshop on extreme vermicomposting for the city dweller.
October 23, 2011
9am – 1pm
This  class is suitable for both beginning vermicomposters and experienced  ones with interest in integrating their worm bin with their larger  household systems.


As cities struggle with basic recycling programs, and citizens  learn how to grow tomatoes for the first time on their decks in soil  from stripped from farmland and purchased at a store, there are some who  are curious about having a more intimate connection to their waste and  unveiling its worth.

In this workshop we will go “beyond the bin” and build a large,  outdoor vermicomposting system designed to handle both kitchen and yard  waste. The basics of worm farming will be covered, but emphasis will be  placed on integrating the worm bin into the wider ecosystem of yard and  house, such as:

* How to combine vermicomposting and thermacomposting in stepped systems
* How to integrate vermicomposting with a dry toilet or pet waste composting system
* How to best use your castings in the garden
* Tips for the apartment dweller
* What to do with all those extra worms…

And more!

Nancy  Klehm is a long-time urban forager and grower, ecological system  designer, artist and intrepid soil builder. She spent over five years  designing and running a closed-loop vermicomposting project in Chicago  that used 100’s of thousands of worms to digest 10’s of thousands of  pounds of food and paper waste to create healthy soil. She started The  Ground Rules, a community soil building center in North Philadelphia and  developed and ran a two year collective human waste recovery project  Humble Pile Chicago. She is the on-going bio-instigator of soil systems  at C.L.U.I.’s South Base in Wendover, UT.

www.spontaneousvegetation.net
www.socialecologies.net

Iron Sulfate as a Concrete Stain

My concrete Platonic solids stained with iron sulfate.

I’m not a big fan of concrete in the garden. It raises soil alkalinity (a problem for us, here in the Southwestern US) and it prevents rain from infiltrating into the ground. That being said, concrete is occasionally useful and/or unavoidable.

But I also don’t like the color of bare concrete, nor can I afford the high price of concrete stains. Thankfully there’s a cheap way to stain concrete with iron sulfate, a mineral supplement you can get at nurseries in the Western US (it can be harder to find elsewhere, but Amazon caries it).

Iron Sulfate gives concrete a pleasing, rust colored stain. I recently ended up with a bunch of patio pavers that I stained with iron sulfate in a concrete mixing tray using about a quarter cup per gallon of water. You can also mop it on. Varying the strength of the iron sulfate/water solution you use will increase or decrease the intensity of the stain. Remember that there’s no going back, though. Once stained you can’t get it out.

For more info about iron sulfate as a concrete stain see How I Stained my Concrete Floor.

Scrubbin’ It

Say hello to my new friend the KingSeal Stainless Steel Scrubber, Heavy Duty Commercial Size. If you’re doing the cast iron cookware thing, as we are, you’re going to need a scrubber. And this puppy is the Hummer of scrubbers (apologies for that metaphor) and far sturdier than the usual flimsy supermarket scrubbers. It was gifted to me by Steve Rucidel, who owns a restaurant–so this is an item you’ll have to seek out at your local restaurant supply store.

Sadly, made in China–but what ain’t these days?

Now if only I didn’t have to do the dishes!

Mrs. Homegrown here:  

This is indeed a fine, stout scrubbie, but as at least one commenter says, it may not be the best thing for the cast iron. For indeed, if your cast iron is well seasoned, food should come off a rag, or a couple scrapes with a flat spatula. Unless you’ve really burnt dinner or something.  I’m laughing right now that Erik should put forth opinions on scrubbing cast iron, when in fact he’s very, very good at avoiding cleaning it day to day. He’ll do dishes, but “forget” the pans on the stove. Forget them for, like, what is it now…15 years?  He’s excited by the sturdy, attractive qualities of this object, and the fact his buddy Steve gifted him it–but he asked me to post this clarification re: the cast iron.

Like Root Simple

Despite my mixed feelings about Facebook (we’re doing a lot of work for free for all those marketers, not to mention the creepy privacy issues), I try not to let perfection be the enemy of the good. Facebook can be a useful tool for interacting with folks. And I love hearing from you, our dear readers. So I’ve finally got around to creating a fan page for Root Simple. Please “like” us:

The World’s Most Beautiful Okra

If you live in a warm climate, okra is easy to grow and both beautiful and tasty. I spotted this variety growing at the Huntington Ranch: Burgundy Okra from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.The stems and seed pods are a deep and vibrant burgundy–a very stunning plant for your vegetable garden.

While not as striking, this year I grew Clemson Spineless okra from seeds I saved. And thanks to a tip (can’t remember where I heard this) I’m having an easier time harvesting the pods. One of the problems with a small patch of okra is that, initially, you get a sporadic harvest. And you’ve got to pick the pods before they get too big and tough. So I’ve been picking a few and day and tossing them in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to cook with.

As for cooking okra I leave the pods whole as I ve been told this reduces the sliminess some people find objectionable. And pile on the spices! My favorite recipe is this Iraqi stew called Bamia. Bamia and rice makes for the perfect late summer dinner.

Mrs. Homegrown here:

I just had to second this post–this is an outstanding, gorgeous plant, pretty enough to be purely ornamental. The picture above doesn’t sell it. Let’s just say that the second I saw it in the Huntington Ranch, I said, “We’re planting that next year.”