How Much Can You Carry on a Bicycle?

Xtracycle with a load of bamboo.

How I transported the 8-foot poles for our new trellis.

We’re overdue for an update on our car-free Los Angeles lifestyle experiment, but one thing that has made it possible is the cargo bike I’ve had since 2006, the Xtracycle.

Xtracycle pioneered the “longtail” bike, essentially a bike stretched out in order to accommodate large panier bags. My Xtracycle was an add-on to an existing mountain bike. Xtracycle and their competitors now sell complete longtail bikes. Tom Vanderbilt just wrote a good article for the Wall Street Journal, “Cargo Bikes: The New Station Wagon,” looking at a number of different cargo bikes.

Coinciding with the Wall Street Journal article was a cranky editorial in a local rag by “futurist” Syd Mead (designer of Blade Runner and Tron and chief thoughtstylist behind the Playboy Land Yacht). Mead says,

While the bicycle has many virtues, it also prompts people to go overboard. It’s often lauded as the transportation of tomorrow and the savior of cities. It is not. It is called transportation. It is not. That’s because the bicycle is not, strictly defined, a transport device. Ever try to carry a watermelon on a bicycle? (Yes, it can be done, but how much else could you carry?)

watermelon2

How much else can you carry on bike? On a recent trip, in addition to a watermelon, I picked up a gallon jug of vinegar, a 12 pack of toilet paper (no we have not yet switched to a corn cob on a string–I might be the world’s smuggest blogger, but you pick your battles), 12 cans of sparkling water, a jumbo box of kitchen trash bags and a few other items.

Xtracycle fully loaded with groceries.

Here’s another grocery store trip. And the haul being inspected for self righteousness by the cats:

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The Xtracycle easily accommodates four heavy grocery bags. If you bring some bungee cords, you can carry even more (cat litter!). I can load up a full grocery cart and transport home just as many items as we used to in the car.

Longtail bikes handle just like regular bikes. Their long wheel base, in fact, makes them more stable. And I’m always surprised at how easy it is to climb hills even with heavy groceries.

One need not be car-free to enjoy a cargo bike. For many years Kelly and I shared a car. The Xtracycle was a big part of making that car-light arrangement work. When people ask if urban homesteading saves money, the first thing I point to is the cargo bike, not the chicken coop.

The problem? Cargo bikes are not nearly as sexy as the Playboy Land Yacht. That’s a problem I’ll get to in a future post.

How to Deal With Thrips on Stone Fruit

thrip damage on nectarine

Research hint: when you have a pest problem on an edible plant, Google the name of the plant and “UC Davis.” What comes up is UC Davis’ handy Integrated Pest Management info sheets, evidenced based information on all kinds of problems. This is how I figured out that a small insect called the western flower thrip (Frankliniella occidentalis), was noshing on our nectarines.

Thrips damage the fruit when it is small. The scars enlarge as the fruit matures.

How do you manage thrips? UC Davis notes:

Western flower thrips overwinter as adults in weeds, grasses, alfalfa, and other hosts, either in the orchard floor or nearby. In early spring, if overwintering sites are disturbed or dry up, thrips migrate to flowering trees and plants and deposit eggs in the tender portions of the host plant, e.g. shoots, buds, and flower parts.

Thrips are often attracted to weeds blooming on the orchard floor. To prevent driving thrips into the trees, do not disc the cover crop when trees are in bloom. Open, weedy land adjacent to orchards should be disced as early as possible to prevent thrips development and migration of adults into orchards.

It was an exceptionally dry year which may have contributed to our thrip problem.  And perhaps some mulch and weeding around the base of the tree is in order. UC Davis goes on to suggest monitoring methods as well as organic controls if that’s your cup of tea.

The scarred fruit gets rotten on the tree and is unappetizing. We did get some unblemished fruit, but there was enough of a thrip problem to warrant monitoring next year.

Did you have thrip problems this season?

Saturday Linkages: An Egg Shaped Houseboat, Bamboo Joints and the Origins of Umami

exbury-egg-designboom-03

Interior of houseboat designed by PAD studio, SPUD group and artist Stephen Turner.

Behold a Once-Lost Plan for a Central Park That Might Have Been http://gizmodo.com/behold-a-once-lost-plan-for-a-central-park-that-might-h-787841443 …

#Williamsburg vacant lot transformed into bike course and urban farm: http://po.st/2c8dOu 

Japanese beetle traps—a reconsideration by James Roush http://gardenrant.com/2013/07/japanese-beetle-traps-a-reconsideration.html?utm_source=feedly …

Lifehacking
Whole Life Integration: Tips To Simplify Nearly Everything In Your Productive Home http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/NorthwestEdibleLife/~3/UC-3zsZ43pg/whole-life-integration-tips-to-simplify-nearly-everything-in-your-productive-home.html …

Two new resources on the web for the DIY solar crowd http://www.builditsolarblog.com/2013/07/two-new-resources-on-web-for-diy-solar.html …

A Long-Term Survival Guide – How to Make Bamboo Joints http://www.scribd.com/doc/24688327/A-Long-Term-Survival-Guide-How-to-Make-Bamboo-Joints …

Funnel Wall Plays Music during Rain http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/lloydkahn/~3/cBklP2QZW7E/funnel-wall-plays-music-during-rain.html …

Just plain amazing
Stunning houseboat–Exbury egg by PAD studio, SPUD group & stephen turner: http://www.designboom.com/architecture/exbury-egg-by-pad-studio-spud-group-stephen-turner/#.UehXNCf_u3g.twitter …

The Pheonix Earthship….. http://frommoontomoon.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-pheonix-earthship.html …

Scale Models of Bicycles http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/krisdedecker/lowtechmagazineenglish/~3/Zre1F8bEuz4/bicycle-scale-models.html …

Food
The Origins of Heritage Foods Revivals 1980-1985 http://garynabhan.com/i/archives/2137 

Fermenting Mentor: Uri Laio of Brassica and Brine http://wp.me/p1xg32-qw 

“Umami” Was Coined by the Inventor of MSG to describe Its Taste http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/umami-was-coined-by-the-inventor-of-msg-to-describe-i-693953580 …

Why lettuce is making us sick: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/why-lettuce-keeps-making-us-sick/ …

Devolution
In Oregon, The GMO Wheat Mystery Deepens http://n.pr/15CRyHO

Study: Wealthier Motorists More Likely to Drive Like Reckless Jerks http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/07/16/study-wealthier-motorists-more-likely-to-drive-like-reckless-jerks/ …

Gardena PD Ticket, Harass United Riders of South Los Angeles for Taking Lane while protesting case of the Hit-and-Run… http://disq.us/8e2ep5

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Getting Hardscaping Right

A water feature at Keeyla Meadows' garden in Berkeley.

A water feature at Keeyla Meadows’ garden in Berkeley.

One of the many lessons I learned on the tour I took of Bay Area gardens as part of the Garden Blogger’s Fling is that you’ve got to get the hardscaping right before even thinking about plants. When I asked garden designer Keeyla Meadows about the large stones in her garden she told me that they were craned in above the house. It was clear that at some point in the evolution of her small backyard garden, she bit the bullet and got bold with the hardscaping.

While there will be no craning at our house, the point is a good one. Get the hardscaping done first, do it right and be bold. Putting plants in first and then building things like decks and seating areas is a recipe for disaster. Any construction project, even carefully done, causes a considerable amount of destruction.

Some other lessons I’ve learned from fifteen years worth of hardscaping mistakes at our house:

  • Design the hardscaping before even thinking about plants.
  • Open the wallet and get quality materials for any hardscaping project. It’s more economical to do it right the first time, rather than re-do badly done projects multiple times.
  • Go where contractors get materials not the big box stores. A recent trip to Home Depot reminded me about how ugly most of their stuff is.
  • Get materials delivered. I once dropped a very heavy load of Trex on a steep hill near our home and watched, in horror, as it slid a hundred feet down the road. Thankfully no one got hurt. But it was not fun to reload the car on a 100° day.
  • Consider long term maintenance. Choose materials that are durable and easy to maintain.
  • Every home needs a “hide the s@#t fence.” There needs to be a place to put potting soils, shovels, compost piles etc.

I’m just about to embark on a couple of building projects–extending the back patio deck, building permanent vegetable beds and the aforementioned hide the s@#t fence.

This time I’m going to get it right!

How have your hardscaping endeavors gone? What have you done right and wrong? Have you found hardscaping solutions that didn’t break the bank?