Saturday Linkages: Finally, A Use for Palm Fronds

palm-mask

Incredibly important information
At last, something to do with them! Halloween mask carved from a palm tree frond. http://boingboing.net/2013/10/10/mask-carved-from-a-palm-tree-f.html …

The Perfect Cat House by Thinking Design http://www.hauspanther.com/2013/10/10/the-perfect-cat-house-by-thinking-design/ …

Keep Your House in Tip-Top Shape: An Incredibly Handy Home Maintenance Checklist http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheArtOfManliness/~3/0JHKdcpz6OQ/story01.htm …

The Labyrinth Project, the beginning http://jeffreygardens.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-labyrinth-project-beginning.html … via

Mud
Musgum earth architecture: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/9207/musgum-earth-architecture.html#.UlQlAB7vJcM.twitter …

Decorated Mud Houses of Tiébélé, Burkina Faso http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/01/decorated-mud-houses-of-tiebele-burkina.html …

Fail!
Cycling So Popular in Georgia That Lawmaker Carl Rogers Wants to Ban It http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/10/07/cycling-so-popular-in-georgia-that-lawmaker-carl-rogers-wants-to-ban-it/ …

Some Online Journals Will Publish Fake Science, For A Fee http://n.pr/18UlKA5

Threat of Death Makes People Go Shopping http://inkfish.fieldofscience.com/2013/09/threat-of-death-makes-people-go-shopping.html?spref=tw …

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Starting a Sourdough Starter Talk at Artisinal LA

Final-ALA-Poster-664x1024

I’ll be doing a short talk at Artisinal LA this Sunday October 13th at 4pm on how to start a sourdough starter. Artisinal LA (yep, the “A” word) is a showcase of local small food vendors. In case you’re not in LA this is what I’ll be demonstrating:

Mark Stambler, who co-founded the LA Bread Bakers with me and Teresa Sitz, will also be doing a talk on baking bread at 4pm on Saturday.

DIY Solar Space Heating

VA1

Photo: Build It Solar.

Mrs. Homegrown, who spent her formative years in the mountains of Colorado, made fun of me this morning as I noted the “cold” temperature . . . 60°F. It was the first ironic “brrrrrr” out of her mouth, letting me know that we’ve transitioned from the hot smoggy season to the the less hot smoggy season here in Los Angeles.

In the northern hemisphere it’s time to consider heating. The always useful Build-It Solar blog has a detailed link to a DIY solar space heating system in Virginia (pdf).

Collector panels mounted on the roof heat a reservoir which is circulated through a floor-based radiant heating system. It even has an Arduino based data acquisition component that tracks performance. There should be a DIY Nobel Prize for this project!

If you live in a place that’s both cold and sunny in the winter, solar heating has a lot of potential. In fact, I’m much more intrigued with solar space and water heating then I am with photo-voltaic panels.

Asking the Right Questions

Golden Tree and The Achievement of the Grail

Sir Galahad Discovering the Grail by Edwin Austin Abbe (1895)

The legend of Percival’s search for the holy grail is an odd one. Spoiler alert! Percival finds the holy grail not through solving a riddle or answering a question. Rather, he asks the right question. In his first trip to the grail castle and the wounded Fisher King who oversees it, Percival doesn’t know what to do or say. It takes him years to find the grail castle again. On his second encounter (depending on the version) he either asks simply, “What ails thee?” or “Whom does the grail serve?” In this way, he finds the grail.

I was thinking about this myth this weekend in Larry Santoyo’s Permaculture Design Course when Larry stressed the importance of asking the right questions. It got me thinking about the kind of questions we need to ask about the many subjects covered on this blog.

Take for instance bees. Mainstream beekeepers ask, “How can I get more honey?” when they should be asking the same question Parsifal asks, “What ails thee?” That is, “What is in the long term interest of the bee’s health?” This is the question Michael Thiele and Kirk Anderson both ask. It’s a wise one to ask, since our health is inextricably entwined with that of the bees.

Or think about aisles of poisons and traps at all those big box stores. What if instead of asking, “How do I kill this pest?”, we asked, “How do I create conditions inhospitable rats/possums/raccoons/coyotes?” Maybe instead of buying poison (or worse, setting snares) we’d, for instance, stop leaving pet food out at night.

What questions do we ask in our neighborhoods? We often, myself included, ask questions such as, “What number do I call to anonymously report my neighbor for having a car up on blocks in the front yard?” A better question might be, “How do we foster the sort of community where neighbors aren’t strangers?” Communities where, if I have a problem with a neighbor I can simply have a civil chat because I know them and we’re friends. A short answer to this question, by the way: throw a party and invite the neighbors.

Like most legends there are many layers to the Percival story. Carl Jung considered it to be central to understanding ‘what ails’ Western civilization. Percival, according to Jung, embodies the reconciliation of the masculine and feminine, the logical and intuitive. But Percival’s quest begins and ends, not through some grand gesture, but through humility, through asking a simple question.