Natural Cooling: The Fresh Air Bed

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 8.04.38 AMTechnology, such as air conditioning, has a way of flattening the ups and downs of our life’s experiences. We trade seasonal heat and cold for a bland, indoor sameness. Prior to the late 1950s, when air conditioning appeared in homes and apartments, builders used to have to consider regional differences. After air conditioning you could build any house anywhere. You could replace walls with sheets of glass, overhanging roofs with modernist boxes.

Particularly in hot, humid climates houses often had a screened porch or balcony on which to sleep on a sweltering night. The early 20th century was probably the zenith of the screened sleeping porch.

Taft's sleeping porch. Photo: Library of Congress.

Taft’s sleeping porch. Photo: Library of Congress.

President Taft even installed one on the roof of the White House in 1910.

The early 20th century’s sleeping porch movement also had a bit an anti-modernity vibe. To mitigate the pollution and psychic toll caused by 19th century industrialization, sleeping porch evangelists recommended dozing outside in fresh air. Entrepreneurs marketed a number of solutions, in addition to sleeping porches, such as sheds, tents and the gadget I want to focus on in this post, the convertible indoor/outdoor bed.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 9.37.06 AMThe California Fresh Air Bed Company
A number of patents exist for space-saving built-in beds that can switch between indoors and outdoors (Charles Hailey, “From Sleeping Porch to Sleeping Machine: Inverting Traditions of Fresh Air in North America“). The California Fresh Air Bed Company of San Francisco marketed a bed that converted from an indoor sofa to an outdoor bed. A 1914 ad in the Pacific Medical Journal describes the device:

It is built half inside and half outside, forming a handsome davenport in the room, and an ornamental balcony outside. Can be used as a full size indoor bed or by a very simple operation converted into an outdoor bed. Can be aired all day and yet be concealed.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 9.37.17 AMIt’s a space saving mashup of the fold-up Murphy bed with the screened porch. It also reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s alcove bed and the built-in ironing board in our kitchen. There’s a lot to say in favor of reviving the California Fresh Air Bed Company. I can say from personal experience, living in a house built in 1920, that space is at a premium. And, particularly in the late summer and early fall here in Southern California, it would be nice to be able to get some cool, fresh air at night. The downside would be all the light pollution: the overabundance of street lights, billboards, porch lights etc.

The Baby Cage

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A related and, perhaps, more harebrained outdoor sleeping arrangement was the window cage for your baby.

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An article on Mental Floss goes into greater depth on the brief reign of the baby cage which seems to have been a thing in England. You’d think that baby would get a bit cold and wet in London, but the “experts” thought the fresh air outweighed the cold and falling risk. There’s even a newsreel on the baby cage:

These days child protective services would stop by if you stuck your kid in a cage out the window.

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The idea lives on, but only for cats, in the form of the Cat Solarium and in many homebrew kitty window solutions.

But enough about cats, what we really need is to bring back the California Fresh Air Bed Company’s clever indoor/outdoor bed. As many consider downsizing to smaller houses, space and energy saving furniture such as this make more sense than the oversized sofa sectionals that plague our modern mega-houses.

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Saturday Tweets: Chicken vs. Corgi, Gluten and Supermarket Pasta

3 Mules the Movie

Back in 2012 Kelly and I were running an errand in the neighborhood when we encountered a man with three mules walking down busy Sunset Boulevard. I put up a quick blog post with a few photos. Thanks to Google, for the next two years, my blog post became a place to comment on the whereabouts of the “mule man” whose real name is John Sears.

Through that same blog post we met a very talented local filmmaker named John McDonald who has been working on a documentary about Sears. I had the great privilege of seeing a short work in progress version of the film McDonald would like to complete.

It turns out the story is more complex than I would have imagined from my first encounter with the mule man on Sunset Boulevard. Sears is making a point about public space and our rights to travel and use the commons. It’s a stance that often puts him at odds with law enforcement, local governments and, perhaps, modernity itself.

You can see some excerpts from McDonald’s film on YouTube and make a tax deductible contribution towards completing the project. You can follow Sears via his Facebook page 3 Mules. McDonald’s website is 3mulesmovie.com.

103 Ugly Little Greens with Mia Wasilevich

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Listen to “103 Ugly Little Greens with Mia Wasilevich” on Spreaker.

Our guest this week is chef and forager Mia Wasilevich. Mia is the founder of Transitional Gastronomy and teaches culinary workshops, wild-food identification and food styling. She was a featured consultant on “Master Chef” and “Top Chef.” She is also the author of a brand new book, “Ugly Little Greens: Gourmet Dishes Crafted from Foraged Ingredients.” During the show we discuss:

  • How she got started cooking.
  • Mia’s new book Ugly Little Greens.
  • Eating invasives.
  • Working with mustard.
  • Elderflower ghee.
  • Nettle aid.
  • Mallow.
  • Currants.
  • Working with acorns.
  • Lambsquarters.
  • Meal planning.
  • Fish sauce.
  • James Townsend and Two Fat Ladies.
  • Mia’s website Transitional Gastronomy.
  • Cottonwood Urban Farm.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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Empty Your Attic!

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One of the occupational hazards of how-to book authors and bloggers, such as myself, is a tendency towards ex cathedra statements. But sometimes you’ve just gotta stand out on that balcony and release a bull. I’ve got a short but important one for you today:

Thou shalt not store crap in your attic.

Here’s my reasoning. If you’ve got stuff “out of sight and out of mind,” you don’t need it. Two weeks ago, I pulled everything down from our attic and sent most of it to a thrift store and some to the trash.

If your attic is unfinished, as is ours, it’s also a horrible place to store things, even in a mild climate. Temperatures in our attic can swing from the low 60s to well over 110º F (43º C) in a day. And then there’s the rats. For some reason people associate rats with cities like New York and Chicago. You really should think of our hometown, Los Angeles, as America’s rat capital. There are as many rats here as there are sub-par doughnut shops. All the stuff I pulled out of our attic was covered in a layer of rat droppings and urine. It’s a wonder I didn’t succumb to hantavirus.

I take great, smug comfort in sleeping at night underneath an empty attic. And should the central heat or vents need to be serviced they are now easy to access. My only regret is that I did not take a before picture to better enhance my bragging rights.

A note to the locals: if you need to donate stuff please consider my favorite thrift store, Berda Paradise, which benefits the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic. Berda Paradise is located at 3506 Sunset Blvd.