Your Beekeeping Questions Answered

Got a beekeeping conundrum? Wondering about how to get started? Want to keep bees the natural way? There’s an easy answer. Google your question with “Michael Bush.” Michael Bush maintains an encyclopedic website devoted to all-natural treatment-free beekeeping at www.bushfarms.com. And the folks at HoneyLove have shot a series of videos with Bush.

Bush’s advice is well outside mainstream beekeeping. Given the spectacular failures of the big beekeepers in recent years, I think it’s time well past time to look at alternatives.

007 RIP Handsome, 3 Power Tools You Should Own and Hipster Compost

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On the seventh episode of the podcast we open with Kelly’s cure for stepping on glass shards. Then we discuss the passing of our favorite chicken “Handsome.”

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Prompted by a recent comment on the blog we review an old post on three power tools every urban homesteader should own: drill, circular saw and jigsaw.

Lastly, we expand on a recent post about composting brew waste, coffee grounds, juice pulp and coconut husks. In other words, “hipster compost.” During the discussion we answer a reader concern about black solider flies in compost. For more info on soldier flies (they are beneficial in compost but can be a problem in worm bins) see Oregon State’s black soldier fly page. We conclude with another reader concern about contamination in compost and reccomend doing a bioassay test to see if you might have a problem. Washington State has a pdf on how to bioassay your own compost.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Note that it takes a few hours for the new episode to show up in iTunes.

How Can We Fix Our Public Landscaping?

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Yesterday Kelly blogged about the appalling landscaping in front of an Los Angeles Department of Water and Power facility. When Kelly first showed me the photo of that purple gravel and artificial turf I thought it might be some kind of conceptual art project.

Unfortunately, this poor attempt at a drought tolerant landscape is just another example of an attitude of indifference towards public space that’s all too prevalent in Los Angeles and many other cities. Sahra Sulaiman at LA Streetsblog has done a great job covering the many ways this indifference manifests in big piles of trash on LA’s sidewalks and horrible conditions for bus commuters.

This indifference is also apparent in the lackluster landscaping of most of our public spaces. This egregious LADWP “garden” is the last straw for me. It’s time we do something about it.

Two California based organizations come to mind: Daily Acts in Petaluma and the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. Daily Acts has landscaped public spaces such as libraries and schools as well as private homes. These gardens provide an example that others can follow. The Ecology Center has a spectacular garden that shows do simple water harvesting to create a beautiful landscape with drought tolerant plants that attracts beneficial wildlife.

We need similar organizations in Los Angeles. We have an immense pool of talent here that could fix that terrible purple gravel and artificial turf atrocity and go on to do so much more. Who’s in?

And to those of you reading this elsewhere in the word, feel free to leave a comment about how you changed your public space for the better.

Picture Sundays: A Square Toilet

Photo: Bill Wheelock.

Photo: Bill Wheelock.

When I was unable to attend this year’s Dwell Magazine convention I asked my friend and neighbor Bill Wheelock to make sure and get a photo of any square toilets he might see for the Root Simple blog. Thank you Bill!

Don’t worry, I’m not pondering dropping $1,000 on a square toilet. But, thanks to my curiosity about this modernist design phenomenon, square toilets are now haunting me via contextual ads all over the interwebs. Now wherever I wander along the tubes of cyberspace there is the square toilet accompanying me on the journey.

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Saturday Linkages: Independence Day Weekend Edition

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Fireless cooker via Low Tech Magazine.

We insulate our houses, why not our cooking pots? http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2014/07/cooking-pot-insulation-key-to-sustainable-cooking.html …

GIF Gardens: How to (Easily) Animate Your Plant Photos http://disq.us/8j1m1y

Never Buy A Rotten Avocado Again http://www.nwedible.com/2012/05/never-buy-a-rotten-avocado-again.html …

Why Do We Refrigerate Eggs in the United States? http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-nosh/why-do-we-refrigerate-eggs-in-the-united-states.html …

Ash Forests After Emerald Ash Borers Destroy Them http://nyti.ms/1qs4kr1

German police apologize for fining one-armed cyclist for riding his bike with only one arm http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/german-police-apologise-for-fining-onearmed-cyclist-for-riding-his-bike-with-only-one-arm-9578923.html …

Bike commuter super transformer bag: http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/22036 …

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

Grillin’ and Tempin’

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At the risk of concern trolling the Independence Day holiday here in the States, it’s worth repeating why I love tip sensitive digital thermometers (and why I have a reputation as a food safety tyrant at the Root Simple compound). Here’s some advice from the aptly named Barfblog:

Always use a meat thermometer, Powell says. With practice, people can learn to stick them in burgers without slicing the patties in half. “Pick the meat up with tongs and insert the thermometer sideways, or through the top,” Powell suggests. Beef hamburgers should reach 160 degrees to kill germs, says Benjamin Chapman, assistant professor of food safety at North Carolina State University and a food safety specialist at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Temperature matters far more than color when it comes to meat, Chapman says; even thoroughly browned burgers can harbor bugs. “I was not a popular person at a family cookout a few years back when I insisted we ‘temp’ the chicken as we grilled in the rain,” says Donald Schaffner, a professor and extension specialist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “But nobody got sick.”

See the rest of the article for more summertime food safety fun.

Induced Demand

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Image: Wikipedia.

I was on the phone the other day having a conversation about greywater with a person enrolled in an entrepreneurial program. She asked me an excellent question: did having a greywater system cause me to use more water?

She was alluding to a concept known as induced demand. In other words, when you have more of something you use more. Buy a hybrid car and you end up driving more miles since you don’t pay as much for gas. Build a four lane highway instead of a two lane one and so many more people end up driving that you end up with worse gridlock.

I’d never thought of induced demand when it comes to greywater, but it’s a good point. Did I plant more fruit trees because I had a greywater system? Has this caused more water consumption in our current drought? Honestly, I think the answer is yes.

You could probably find induced demand between the lines of David Homgren’s permaculture principles. But perhaps we should insert a thirteenth principle: acknowledge induced demand and work to prevent it. Simply being aware of the phenomenon is a good first step in avoiding its pitfalls.

My original greywater system consisted of a tank and a hose to drag around to a bunch of trees. I’ve since simplified the system. It’s now just a pipe leading from the laundry machine to one tree that needs just about as much water as we do in laundry each week. My second system is more of a 1:1 match between the waste water and the demands of the landscape.

Have you encountered induced demand on your homesteading path? If so where and how?

006 The Secrets of Kimchi With Hae Jung Cho

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Our guest on the sixth episode of the Root Simple podcast is professional cook and Los Angeles County Master Food Preserver Hae Jung Cho. During the show Hae Jung walks you through the ingredients you’ll need for a basic kimchi as well as how to make it. You’ll find the recipes below.

Hae Jung showing off her special kimchi gloves.

Hae Jung showing off her special kimchi gloves.

Here are the two recipes she walks through on the podcast:

Poggi Kimchi (Whole Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

Diced Radish Kimchi (Kkakdugi)

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During the podcast, Hae Jung mentions a book that contains just about all you’d ever want to know about how to make the many different varieties of kimchi: Good Morning Kimchi

Kimchi Classes
Hae Jung will also be teaching two classes in Los Angeles in August. The first will be on Saturday, August 2, from 10 am to approximately 1 pm. Here’s the info:

Details of Kimchi Class:
The 3-hour class will be a hands-on experience where you will make two kinds of fermented kimchi – napa cabbage (poggi kimchi) and radish (kkakdugi) – and one quick pickle.  We will then share a light meal of rice, kimchi, soup and other side dishes.  You will leave the class with three containers of kimchi and pickles that you have made, printed recipes and the know-how to replicate the kimchi at home.  Class size is limited to eight people. Cost:  $75.

Koreatown Market Tour
In addition, Hae Jung is organizing a guided tour of supermarkets and specialty food shops in Koreatown on the following Saturday, August 9.  This tour is geared toward people who want to shop for and eat Korean food at home, especially helpful for those who want to shop for kimchi ingredients. Cost: $25.

To sign up for the classes email Hae Jung at: [email protected].

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store. Note that it takes a few hours for the new episode to show up in iTunes.

Our Grape Arbor

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Several years ago I demolished a crumbling addition to the house (a room you had to go through the back bedroom to get to) and replaced it with an arbor. Our neighbor generously gave us the columns that used to be on her front porch and I added a plinth to make them taller. In the background are two apple trees that provide some privacy.

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It’s taken a couple of years for the grapes to cover the structure. One reason is that we lost two vines to Pierce’s disease. Now we have two resistant varieties: Vitus Californica “Rogers Red” and Vitis vinifera x V. lambrusca “Pearl River” from LA’s most quirky nursery, Papaya Tree. The Pearl River grapes are tasty and show no signs of Pierce’s.

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The adobe oven was the last addition. Pizza parties are a frequent occurrence underneath the arbor.

Do you have an arbor? What have you planted on it and how do you use the space underneath?

Hipster Compost

An updated, urban version of the soil food web.

An updated, urban version of the soil food web.

In the nearly sixteen years we’ve lived here we’ve seen our local stretch of Sunset Boulevard go from boarded up storefronts and auto body shops to restaurants, bars and cafes. Along with those new businesses and artisinal facial hair, comes a great new set of compost sources.

Some of my enterprising neighbors, one in particular, have been creating what could be called hipster compost or, at least, compost made from hipster sources. Interestingly these materials are often very high in nitrogen:

  • brew waste from a local brewery
  • coffee grounds
  • fruit pulp from a juice bar
  • coconut shells

My handy neighbor Ray has been shredding the coconut shells in his chipper to make a homebrew coir. Ray is also very consistent in picking up materials, something business owners appreciate.

Other than obvious sources such as yard waste and grass clippings, have you found a useful urban compost source? What did I leave out?