Saturday Linkages: $1 Homes, Compost Heated Showers and Potty Talk

Gary Indiana $1 home program

3573 Lincoln St.in Gary, Indiana. Yours for $1.

Home Sweet Home
Gary Indiana unveils Dollar Home Program: http://bit.ly/19HD517 

Gardening
Pipe planters http://www.recyclart.org/2013/06/pipe-planters/ …

Mariposa Nabi Community Garden features this alter via @GlenDake http://pinterest.com/pin/306667055846811135/ …

DIY
IKEA Hackers: New life for Old Poang! http://www.ikeahackers.net/2013/06

13 Ways To Turn Your Outdated ’90s Tech Into Truly Usable Things http://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/13-ways-to-turn-your-outdated-90s-tech-into-truly-usable-thi …

The Good Life Lab: A modern manual for living off-the-grid: http://boingboing.net/2013/06/04/the-good-life-lab-a-modern-ma.html …

Compost Heated Shower http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2013/06/compost-heated-shower.html#.Uatrpop_kXE.twitter …

More on Compost Heated Showers http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2013/06/more-on-compost-heated-showers.html#.UbAL3izw9q0.twitter …

Car Talk
Millennials not buying cars, Ford panics: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/05/31/ford-keeps-trying-to-get-millennials-to-like-them/#.Ua0wFau-q3s.twitter …

Attacking the Language Bias in Transportation Engineering http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/06/03/attacking-the-language-bias-in-transportation-engineering/#.Ua0vPVM6-Ps.twitter …

Potty Talk
Dollar Shave Club Bets on a Stealth Craze: Wipes for Men http://adage.com/u/HSacEb

Is this the world’s smallest bathroom? http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1252774/worlds-smallest-bathroom-po-tin-estate-residents-think-so …

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

Looking for Chicken Coop Plans

John Zapf chicken run

Our chicken run–designed by John Zapf.

I got a note from Tricia Cornell, who is putting together a chicken coop plan book. There is a real need for this, so if you have a coop, consider sharing your design:

Hi!

I’m a chicken owner in Minneapolis. I was wondering if you could help me spread the word. I’m looking for smart, good-looking chicken coops to feature in an upcoming book.

If you’re proud of your coop, send pictures to [email protected]. Please indicate whether you would be able to provide building plans. (I have a budget to compensate builders for their plans.) I do *not* need plans to go with all the pictures, so send your pics even without them.

Then I’ll be in touch if your coop meets our needs. Please feel free to share this message with any chicken-owners you know.

A little bit about me: I’m a writer and chicken owner living in Minnesota. I’m the author of Eat More Vegetables: A Guide to Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce, The Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook, and the Moon guides to Minnesota and the Twin Cities. This is my first chicken-related book.

Thanks!
Tricia Cornell

Stoicism as a Toolkit for Modern Life

bust of Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca ca. 4 BC – AD 65.

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on positive techniques for keeping our heads screwed on straight in troubled times. Growing food, doing stuff with your hands, drinking homebrew with friends–all these kinds of things help keep us grounded and hopeful. But sometimes you need a little more help. Maybe we’ll call these posts “When chickens aren’t enough.”

Whether the world is ending or not, it’s important to have a tool kit for dealing with stress and anxiety. Stoicism, an ancient form of philosophy which has not been too popular of late, but which did have a profound influence on Western thought, and which is refreshingly practical and straightforward, is an excellent addition to your own personal tool kit. I like it so much, I’m calling for a revival!

You might remember this Stoic flowchart below from an earlier post of ours. It’s an oversimplification, of course, but it gives you the gist:

flowchart

Wish we could credit this properly, but we got it off of Boing Boing.

I was introduced to stoicism by Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swan (nothing to do with the movie!). Taleb says, “My idea of the modern stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.” The stoic learns from mistakes and practices tranquility of mind in the face of chaos.

Stoicism originates with the Greek philosopher Zeno around 308 B.C., but its two most readable proponents are Romans: Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. While most contemporary academic philosophers churn out impenetrable, naval gazing prose, the stoics, in contrast, are eminently approachable. Seneca, in particular, is a great read. His Letters From a Stoic and Moral Essays Volumes I and II, are eloquent and practical guides to how to live a rewarding life. And they are a great comfort in times of distress or uncertainty.

Stoicism is often misunderstood as being a cold or glum. This is far from the case. Taleb says,

Recall that epic heroes were judged by their actions, not by the results. No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word…..There is nothing wrong and undignified with emotions—we are cut to have them. What is wrong is not following the heroic or, at least, the dignified path. That is what stoicism truly means. It is the attempt by man to get even with probability…..stoicism has rather little to do with the stiff-upper-lip notion that we believe it means…..The stoic is a person who combines the qualities of wisdom, upright dealing, and courage. The stoic will thus be immune from life’s gyrations as he will be superior to the wounds from some of life’s dirty tricks.

Stoicism is a philosophy not a religion and is, in my opinion, compatible with all faiths (Seneca, in particular, influenced early Christian thought) as well as being suitable for atheists and agnostics. And in some ways stoicism resembles a Western form of Buddhism.

Let’s give the last word on stoicism to Seneca himself. Whether we face a long emergency, sudden collapse or many more years of prosperity, I can think of no better guidance than the wisdom of the stoics. Seneca says,

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

In this age of me-centric Facebook updates, we we have a lot to learn from Seneca’s wisdom.

If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor, if you live according  what others think, you will never be rich.

Suggested Reading
I recommend beginning with Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic-short concise essays that offer a great introduction to stoicism All of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius are available online for free, but I’m partial to the Loeb Classical Library editions. They are beautiful little books which feature the original Latin or Greek on one side and English on the other. I also recommend Seneca’s Moral Essays Volumes I and II.

Philosophy professor William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy is also a nice introduction to the practical application of stoicism to modern life.

Self-Irrigating Gutter Update

strawberry gutter self watering container

We’ll get back to our thoughts on responses to the Three Headed Hydra of Doom tomorrow, but for today we’re going to take a quick break for a practical post: Self-Irrigating Strawberries!

This spring I built a self-irrigating gutter (SIG) using two gutters based on a video by Larry Hall. You can see my original post about this project here. Essentially, it is a gutter filled with potting mix, sitting on top of another gutter filled with water. Every eight inches there is a 3 inch perforated pot filled with potting mix that hangs down into the water filled gutter. For mulch I used re-purposed billboard vinyl scavenged from a dumpster by my neighbor Ray.

The SIG works, but there have been a few problems. My strawberries, I believe, have a fungal disease called red stele (Phytophthora fragariae) which came either from the soil that came with the starts or from the planting mix I used. If I want to grow strawberries again I’m going to have to thoroughly disinfect the gutters.

rain barrel with timer

The SIG is hooked up to a 55 gallon rain barrel. Unfortunately the lower gutter leaked around 50 gallons of stored rainwater down into the garage below (our house is on a hill and the garage is at street level). To prevent this problem in the future I put a manual irrigation timer on the barrel so that if there is a leak, I won’t lose all the water at once.

If I were to do this project again, I’d also use a refinement that Larry Hall just posted in the video above. This improvement on the design replaces the lower gutter with a 4-inch drain pipe. The drain pipe is easier to keep water-tight. And instead of using a gutter filled with soil I might use a series of pots (an idea that’s also in the video)–gutters are too shallow for most plants.

Despite the problems, I would call the project a success. In fact, I may expand my gutter system out onto the rest of the garage roo.

Time for some comments . . .

Photo by

Photo by Andreas Gursky.

We had thought that we’d just have a few posts about the Age of Limits conference and get back to the appropriate technology and home economics posts that are the norm at Root Simple. But, judging from the comments and emails we’ve been getting, it seems we’ve brought up a topic that needs deeper exploration, so we’re going to do a few more posts related to the Triple Headed Hydra of Despair: Climate Change, Economic Collapse and Peak Oil. Don’t worry about us becoming a doomer blog, though. We’re going to focus on positive strategies.

But we want to pause for a moment and listen to you guys. Here’s some of the things we’re curious about, but feel free to sound off about anything else:

We’re sensing anxiety in the air. Are we imagining it? Are you anxious over these things? The people you know? How do you handle that?  If you practice homesteading activities, do you find they help you financially, emotionally or spiritually? Have you changed anything about your lifestyle in response to any of these factors, or do you plan to? Who do you trust to give you straight information on which to make these decisions?