Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya”

dudleya brittonii

Image: Annie’s Annuals.

The Annie’s Annuals and Perennials catalog has, as the hip kids say, “dropped.” and I’m wishing we had more space for some of the amazing plants shown on all those glossy pages. One, in particular, caught my eye: Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya.” Just imagine spotting this plant under the light of a full moon.

Annie notes that Dudley brittonii requires excellent drainage, can be grown in pots and is suited to USDA zones 9 to 11. Given our Arrakis like conditions here in California, an excellent bonus is that this plant does well with only monthly water. It also thrives in a pot. Mature, it’s around 18 inches across.

Annie’s does mail order and we’ve had a lot of luck with their plants. I visited the nursery on a blogger junket last year and was very impressed with the variety and quality of the seedlings–no root bound plants!

Now I’ve got to remind myself that a garden needs to be viewed from an overall design perspective, not as collection of pretty plants. Maybe there’s a place for Dudley brittonii  in our garden but it will have to work with what is already there before we, as the hip kids also say, “swoop” one.

Protected Bike Lanes

It’s well past time to begin the conversation in this country about fully protected bike lanes like they have in Europe. Far too many bikes languish in the garage because our cities feel like a game of Frogger.

Right hooks–what happens when a distracted motorist turns right and hits a cyclist going straight–are one of the main objections to protected bike lanes. This proposal from the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition addresses the right hook problem.

This type of infrastructure will make intersections safer for all including motorists.

Beekeeping Class at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano

bees poppy

I’ll be teaching a two hour introduction to natural no-treatment beekeeping at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano this Saturday at 1 pm. To sign up buzz over here. Here’s the class description:

Become a backyard beekeeper and enjoy a healthy garden full of pollinators. Understand beekeeping tools, materials, and techniques to get started.

Beekeeping, or apiculture, is said to have begun with the Egyptians who used logs, boxes, and pottery vessels to make hives. Today, with bees dissapearing at rapid and never before seen rate, the practice of caring for bees is needed now more than ever.

Join us for this workshop on all natural, no treatment beekeeping. Learn the basics of beekeeping including makeup of the hive, equipement, types of hives, where to get bees, and reasons for beekeeping.

Learn how you can support bees in return and join us for this special workshop!

The Ecology Center is located at 32701 Alipaz St in San Juan Capistrano. Phone: (949) 443-4223

Print and Internet Resources for Natural, No-Treatment Beekeeping


Image: Backwards Beekeepers.

Nassim Taleb invented the word “antifragile” to describe systems like beehives that benefit from adversity. Challenge bees with an invasive parasite such as Varoa mites and they’ll eventually figure out a strategy to deal with them. That is, unless we humans decide to prop up weak colonies with misguided interventions. Taleb says,

Crucially, if antifragility is the property of all those natural (and complex) systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them. They will weaken, die, or blow up. We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything . . . by suppressing randomness and volatility. Just as spending a month in bed . . .  leads to muscle atrophy, complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top- down policies and contraptions (dubbed ‘Soviet- Harvard delusions’ in the book) which do precisely this: an insult to the antifragility of systems.

There’s not much information on antifragile beekeeping. To correct that, here’s a buzzing hive of natural no-treatment beekeeping resources for your consideration:

Web Resources


You’ll find a range of ideas in these books and websites particularly when it comes to hive types–everything from Langstroth boxes to top bar hives to hollowed out logs.  What matters more than the type of hive you use is having a long range view and a recognition that too much intervention leads to the sort of antifragility Taleb is concerned about.

Your local club or beekeeping association may or may not be open to natural techniques. It could be difficult, depending on where you live, to find a mentor. That’s why I put this list together.

Let me know if I left out any resources in the comments  . . .

Salt Sugar Fat


There are times I think this blog and the lifestyle it expounds come off as too extreme. But then I read a book like Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and I begin to think it’s not extreme enough.

Salt Sugar Fat is a history of the marketing of junk foods. Moss’ sources are a mix of food scientists and disenchanted former food executives–most of whom, of course, are wealthy men with personal trainers who never eat the unhealthy foods they marketed.

These scientists and executives begin with a tactical advantage: we’re all hard wired to crave salt, sugar and fat. The more the better. Let’s be honest. It takes enormous willpower to resist that bowl of potato chips. I dove into a bowl of chips this weekend and probably consumed a week’s worth of salt and calories in one sitting.

Moss stops short of calling it a conspiracy but, in an interesting chapter, details the takeover of home economics associations by food industry representatives in the latte half of the 20th century. Lessons about cooking from scratch receded and were replaced by how to use cake mixes and shop for appliances.

But the primary focus of the book is how food industry has found ways to amplify our cravings. They’ve carefully calculated “bliss points,” the exact amount of unhealthy ingredients to add to a particular food to make us desire more. Moss quotes Kraft food CEO Geoffrey Bible,

The simple beauty of the Kraft General Food challenge is that everybody eats . . . This is the part of the new job I’m especially enjoying: The potential is at once limitless and incredibly daunting. The fascinating challenge is to discover unmet needs surrounding this behavior that has been with mankind since day one. Thee needs are there, waiting in the detritus of modern life to be excavated and defined as likely today to center around time or convenience as they are around taste, value or nutrition, and as likely to involve the subtleties of how, when why, or where people eat as much as what they eat. So that’s point number one. We don’t create demand. We excavate it. We prospect for it. We dig until we find it.

Bible is just rediscovering what Giodorno Bruno wrote about in his 1591 manual on manipulation, De Vinculis In Genere (On the binding forces in general–combined with his explorations of the art of memory this is what got Bruno in trouble–not his scientific endeavors). Bruno called manipulators like Bible, “soul hunters.”  Their tool is eros in the widest sense of that word: desire. They dig deep into our cravings and exploit them through the imagery of advertising. Combine abundant fossil fuel and government subsidies that make processed foods economical with advertising unhealthy food and you get a public health disaster.

Thankfully this is one of those issues we can all work on. We simply have to start cooking from scratch.