093 Micheal Judd on Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist


Our guest is Michael Judd and our topic is permaculture, edible landscaping, straw bale building, mushrooms and even a permacultural approach to death. From his bio: “Michael Judd is the founder of Ecologia, edible and ecological landscape design and Project Bona Fide, an international non-profit supporting agro-ecological research.” He’s also the author of a new book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist. During the podcast we discuss:

  • What Michael learned from living in Latin America for 20 years
  • His circular straw bale house
  • Handling water through swales on contour
  • Dealing with homeowner’s associations
  • Pawpaws
  • Custard apples
  • InStove rocket stove
  • Cocktails
  • American persimmons
  • Mulberries and grafting mulberries
  • Jujubes
  • Growing mushrooms
  • Source for mushroom spawn: Field and Forest and Fungi Perfecti
  • A permacultural approach to death and home burial

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.


My Favorite Minimal Shoes: Vivo Barefoot


Vivo Barefoot Stealth II Men’s Running Shoe

Yesterday I wrote about the solution to my plantar faciitis problems: going barefoot around the house and, when not at home, wearing minimal shoes. I’d like to focus in this post on the minimal shoes I chose: Vivo Barefoot.

This post might seem like a shoe ad but I want to emphasize that I’m not being paid to say this, nor have I received any free shoes. I’m just a fan of Vivo Barefoot. Unlike those strange Vibram shoes, Vivo shoes look like normal shoes.

As I noted in yesterday’s post I was guided by the advice of physical therapist James Speck. He suggests four considerations when choosing shoes:

  • Flexible Sole
  • Little or No Support
  • Minimal Toe Spring
  • Flat or Low Heel Height

img_7359By flexible sole he means that you can roll the shoe up into a little cigar. Minimal toe spring means that the shoe does not turn up towards the toe (look at your feet–they don’t turn up so why should your shoe?). Arch support weakens your arches. And heels? Why should fashion trump health?

Vivo Barefoot sells running, hiking, casual an even semi-formal shoes. With just one click I can order a new pair of shoes and never have to set foot in a mall ever again.

They also make the only decent looking running shoe I’ve ever found. As I’ve said before, the design of most running shoes look like what would happen if a dog ate and then barfed up a bunch of florescent pool toys. This is not even to touch the issue of the evidence-free cushioning and stability control the big shoe companies think we need.

Please don’t get me going about the running shoe industry and the horrible magazines that support them. I’ve noticed, in the past year, that the powers that be have deemed that the minimal shoe trend is “over” and that we now need “maximal” shoes like this atrocity:


I guarantee that if you run or walk in a maximal shoe like this for any length of time you will end up with knee and foot problems. This is due to the principle of risk compensation. Make a shoe soft and you will land harder with each step. Wear a minimal shoe and you will tread lightly and, with each step, your foot will grow stronger.

On Speck’s suggestion I took a “cold turkey” approach to the barefoot/minimal shoe lifestyle. It felt strange and was painful at first, but gradually the plantar faciitis that I was suffering from has greatly dissipated.

Vivo Barefoot isn’t the only minimal shoe company. Kelly is fond of her Lems.

Do you have a favorite minimal shoe? Leave a comment!




A Cure for Plantar Faciitis?


He’s the world’s crankiest man and one of Twitter’s most entertaining trolls. If he’s right it means most of what we’ve been taught in school is wrong. I’m talking about Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. You can apply his ideas to many areas of human knowledge, everything from the economy to beekeeping. In this post I want to look at how his notion of “antifragility,” systems that benefit from shocks, applies to a little understood malady that effects 2 million people in the U.S. every year: plantar faciitis (I’ll call it PF for the sake of brevity).

PF is an inflammation of the plantar facia, a band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes. It causes a sharp pain that makes walking extremely painful. Risk factors include tightness in the calves, overuse and obesity. I’ve had three cases of it in the past ten years, two brought on by running and one by fencing.

I’d cured my PF last time by going barefoot. That time, it worked quickly. When it didn’t work quickly this time around, I gave up and decided to seek the advice of medical professionals, including a sports medicine specialist. I didn’t trust my own experience. This was a mistake.

The standard medical advice for PF is rest, immobilizing the foot, constant arch support (I was never barefoot unless in the shower or pool), orthotics, needling and cortisone shots. In my my most recent bout with PF, I tried all of these things for a year and a half, following my instructions to the letter, and none of them worked. One of those strategies, immobilization in a boot with crutches made things much worse and, I believe, set my recovery back by months.

If my experience is any indication, I’m going to step out on a limb and suggest that if you have PF you shouldn’t go to a doctor.

I’m not going to let alternative medicine off the hook either. I also made the mistake of seeing a chiropractor. She pulled my hand around, using it as a kind of augur with which to indicate which worthless, expensive supplements (including rancid cod liver oil) I needed to buy. She also waved a kind of pimped-out laser pointer around my heel. That was also pointless. In the end I talked to another chiropractor I trust who is an ultra-marathoner and fellow PF sufferer. She admitted that she can’t fix PF and that’s why she’s a good chiropractor.

The Cure
What seems to be working is giving my feet a heavy dose of antifragility. I’ve stopped babying my feet: no orthotics, no rest, going barefoot as much as possible.

It was painful at first but I took it slow and now I’m walking and doing light running. This is exactly the opposite of what the majority of podiatrists, sports doctors and orthopedists will tell you to do.

What sent me back on the barefoot antifragile path is the webpage of a San Diego based physical therapist named James Speck (thank you Kathy Turk for that link!). Here’s what Speck has to say,

Plantar fasciitis doesn’t develop from overuse or too much stress on plantar fascia. It happens when the wrong kind of stress replaces the good kind of stress that the foot needs to remain healthy. The aim of treatment, therefore, should not be reducing stress on the arch. Instead, treatment should focus on changing the types of stresses being applied and encouraging normal function of the foot.

If Taleb ranted about feet instead of Ben Bernanke, I suspect he’d agree.

A Disclaimer
The usual warning about correlation not implying causation could apply here and certainly applies to many supposed PF cures.

PF tends to resolve on its own eventually and perhaps we can end up thinking that whatever the last crazy thing we did is the cure. But I have a feeling that Speck is right about restrictive footwear being a primary cause of PF. If you’ve got PF check out his background on PF, why common treatments don’t work and how to treat it.

I also want to be clear that this is not an indictment of all of Western and/or alternative medicine. Let’s just say that the virtue of Socratic ignorance is lacking in both sometimes.

Tomorrow I’ll do a post on what shoes I’m wearing (when not barefoot, of course). In the meantime, my feet are now more like the happy foot side of the happy foot/sad foot sign.







Saturday Tweets: Sump Pumps, Uniforms, Toilets and Watering the Fake Grass

Josey Baker whole / wild / wet / slow / bold

The bread nerd club I co-founded, the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, brought Josey Baker down to LA to teach a class. Now you can watch a version that very same class via Youtube for freeeeeee. I’m a huge fan of his method and his book Josey Baker Bread. If you’re interested in making your own bread skip the Netflix tonight and get whole, wild, wet, slow and bold.