Saturday Linkages: Logs, Invasives and Italian Veggies

Screen shot 2014-01-08 at 2.50.27 PM

Italian veggie tips: Amicidellortodue 

The Trouble with the Word “Invasive” | Garden Rant …

Colon shaped tiny hotel:

OTIS | Tiny House Swoon 

Changing the maple syrup paradigm. Crazy efficient, yet also grim, from the tree’s perspective– and mine. …

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360 from @YaleE360 …

Building With Logs – 1957 USDA Government Pamphlet 

Milky The Marvelous Milking Cow toy (1977) – Boing Boing …

The Sony SRF-39FP: The Audio Player of Choice in Prison …

John Dobson dies at 98; former monk developed easy-to-make telescope,0,6483430.story …

Organic Seed Growers Webinar


I’ve enjoyed all the webinars from the eOrganic folks. While they are oriented towards small farmers, I’ve found them useful for us home gardeners. They are putting on a seed growing webinar at the end of this month. I’m especially looking forward to the pollinator lecture, featuring Eric Mader of The Xerces Society, that takes place on Saturday February 1st. Here’s the 411 on the conference, which is free:

Join eOrganic and the Organic Seed Alliance for selected live webinar broadcasts from the 7th Organic Seed Growers’ Conference at Oregon State University in Corvallis Oregon on January 31st and February 1st, 2014. The online broadcast is free and open to the public, and advance registration is required. It will take place on both days from 12-8 Eastern Time, 11-7 Central, 10-6 Mountain, and 9-5 Pacific Time.

Register for the live broadcast of selected presentations at
Note: You only need to register once, and you may come and go on both days as you wish!

Schedule of Organic Seed Growers’ Conference Webinar Broadcasts

Friday January 31, 2014
9:00-10:30AM:  Why Organic Seed Matters and How to Meet the Demand

Organic seed that meets the diverse agronomic challenges and market needs of organic farmers is fundamental to their success and the food system they supply. The organic community has seen tremendous progress in the expansion of organic seed availability. Still, most organic farmers are planting non-organic seed. This session will focus on improving access to, and the use of, organic seed. Topics will include the importance of organic seed in the context of organic integrity and the principle of continual improvement, the 2013 NOP guidance document on organic seed, and demonstrations of new tools and resources.
Speakers: Theresa Podoll, Prairie Road Organic Seed; Erica Renaud, Vitalis Organic Seeds; Zea Sonnabed, CCOF and National Organic Standards Board; Chet Boruff, Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA)

Friday January 31, 2014
1:00-3:30PM Research Update: Small Grains and Corn

The scientific field of organic plant breeding continues to expand. This session will give an overview of innovative organic research being conducting today in small grains and sweet corn. Hear reports from six researchers and participate in the question and answer.
Speakers: Hannah Walters, Seed Matters Graduate Student, Washington State Unviersity; Brook Brower, Seed Matters Graduate Student, Washington State University; Jonathan Spero, Lupine Knoll Farm; Amadeus Zschunke, Sativa Rheinau; Lisa Kissing Kucek, Cornell University; Adrienne Shelton, Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Friday, January 31, 2014
3:30-5:00PM:  Research Update: Vegetable Crops

There are exciting advances in breeding vegetables for organic production systems. This session will give an overview of innovative organic research being conducting today in vegetable crops. Hear reports from six researchers.
Speakers: Phil Simon, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Laurie McKenzie, Organic Seed Alliance; John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance; Lori Hoagland, Purdue University; Michael Mazourek, Cornell University

Saturday, February 1, 2014
9:00-10:30AM: Unpacking the Cell Fusion Debate

Last year the National Organic Program (NOP) clarified its position on the use of cell fusion in organic seed production, drawing attention to an ongoing debate involving what should and should not be an excluded method in the organic standards. This session will include both technical and philosophical discussion on the current use of cell fusion in organic seed development, the NOP’s current policy, and what different breeding methods mean for the organic movement and biodiversity. Speakers: John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance; Jodi Lew-Smith, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Jim Myers, Oregon State University; Zea Sonnabend, CCOF and National Organic Standards Board

Saturday, February 1, 2014
1:30-3:00PM: Pollinator Conservation Strategies for Organic Seed Producers

This session will support organic seed producers with the latest science-based information on maximizing crop yields through the conservation of native pollinators, while at the same time helping them to reduce the risk of outcrossing with non-organic crop varieties. Specific topics include the ecology of specialty seed crop pollinating insects, foraging behaviors and flight range of key native bee groups (and the impact of those foraging ranges on crop isolation), bee-friendly farming practices, development of pollinator habitat on working farms, accessing USDA technical and financial resources for pollinator conservation, and more. Speakers: Eric Mader, The Xerces Society

Saturday, February 1, 2014
3:30-5:00PM: Managing Seed-Borne Diseases in Seed Production

Production of high-quality, pathogen-free seed is particularly important in organic seed crops given the very limited chemical options available for certified organic production, and the risk of producing and distributing contaminated seed lots. Learn about managing diseases in seed production with various research examples from the vegetable seed crop pathology program at Washington State University, and hot water treatment for seed-borne diseases. Speakers: Lindsey du Toit, Washington State University – Mount Vernon Research & Extension Center; Jody Lew-Smith, High Mowing Organic Seeds

The Energy Environment Simulator

Energy-Environement Simulator Tenntronics

Photo: Niklas Vollmer.

Sometime in the mid-nineties I was thrift shopping in San Diego with my friend Niklas Vollmer. I can still remember the moment we stumbled on the Energy-Environment Simulator. We couldn’t stop laughing and we realized that we had to buy it. How often do you run into an Energy-Environment Simulator in working condition? It’s been the centerpiece of Nik’s living room ever since, even making a cross country move.

The device demonstrates energy inputs and demands. Depending on how you turn the knobs, you can either engineer a future of never-ending power or, on the other extreme, your own personal zombie apocalypse. One of the energy sources is labeled “new technology.” This could either be solar or that UFO doughnut from the Thrive movie.

The only info we have on it is that it was manufactured by Tenntronics, a defunct company that was in business from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. It came with a handsome storage cabinet that also serves as a pedestal.

Energy-Environment Simulator Tenntronics

Photo: Niklas Vollmer

I’m guessing that the Energy-Environment Simulator is a relic of the 1970s oil crisis and I respect its creator’s attempt to demonstrate the interlocking feedback loops of systems theory in the pre-personal computer era.

Since we all didn’t learn the lesson back in the 1970s, perhaps it’s time to take the Energy-Environment Simulator on the road. Coachella and Burning Man here we come.

If you have any info on this thing or remember seeing one in action, please leave a comment.

Update: Reader Maribeth found the patent for the Energy-Environment Simulator, dated October 8, 1974. From the patent description:

Each participant makes policy decisions to adjust energy demands and energy source allocations and observes, in compressed time, the consequences of their decisions. The time element is adjustable by means of a variable system clock, typically one simulated century passes each minute. The natural energy reserves are simulated in an analog computer circuit and the rate of depletion may be regulated according to well-established data as to quantities and the foretasted rate of depletion. . . . The participants operate the simulator as a game where the objective is to see how long one can keep the society powered adequately without excessively polluting the environment and without exhausting all of the energy reserves.

Here’s the kicker:

The present invention was made during the course of, or under, a contract with the United States Energy Commission.

I have a feeling the game is rigged–I bet you have to crank that nuclear knob in order to keep the lights on.

Dave Miller on Baking with 100% Whole Wheat


My bread baking obsession has fallen into roughly three periods or phases. First came the Nancy Silverton years, when I went through her complex and not always successful recipes. Then came a period when I was too busy to bake much, so I turned to no-knead bread, dominated by Chad Robertson’s first cookbook. Results were better but I was still making white bread.

My new bread baking adventure began this weekend when I took a workshop taught by Chico, California baker Dave Miller. His breads are almost all 100% whole wheat. He mills his own flour from carefully sourced heritage grains. Using a levain (a starter), he creates loaves that foreground the flavor of the grain. In short, he shows that bread can have as much flavor diversity as wine.

Miller is a true master craftsman. He’s also a superb teacher: humble, patient and generous. He’s also convinced me to completely change the way I bake bread. Over the next few months I’m going to adapt his techniques to my home kitchen and I hope to share what I discover. In the meantime, here’s what I learned:

Continue reading…