Changing the World One Party at a Time

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Artist’s depiction of Jennie’s monthly neighborhood party. Extra points for finding our new dog in the painting.

Once a month, our neighbor Jennie Cook (our guest on episode 50 of the Root Simple Podcast) hosts a cocktail party for neighbors. She started the party ball rolling by sticking handwritten invites in mailboxes up the block. Usually, around twenty people show up.

I’ve come to believe that the most revolutionary acts in our lives are those that reduce separation and loneliness. The philosopher Hannah Arendt called totalitarianism, “organized loneliness.”(1) As Arendt implies, this loneliness is by design. Facebook, Google, Nextdoor, Apple et al. make money when we’re sniping at each other on our phones and keyboards, not when we have a cocktail glass in our hands.

This weekend, in South Pasadena, I’m giving a presentation on the subjects we cover in our blog and books. The organizer wants me, in particular, to address the legalities of keeping chickens. But even if chickens are legal where you live, neighbors can start a ruckus in the henhouse about them and about a whole host of other contentious issues such as parking, trees and landscape maintenance. But if we already know each other socially, these sorts of fights are less likely to start.

But I think it would be a mistake to throw neighborhood parities with utilitarian goals. The party is an end in itself. One shouldn’t put a price on fun, joy or a well mixed libation.

I could go on, but I’m going to cut this post short so that I can start the process of getting our house in to shape so we can host a few of these neighborhood parties in the future. And I want to close with a plug for Jennie Cook. She has a cookbook, Who Wants Seconds, full of recipes that will make everyone at your party happy. And if you live in Los Angeles and need a caterer for any event large or small, I can’t say enough good things about Jennie Cook’s Catering.

Now, go forth and throw a party for your neighbors!

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Your Urban Homesteading Vocabulary Word of the Day: Slumgum

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Some beekeeping jobs result in garbage bags full of dark, dirty comb. Such was the case, this past week, when I cleaned out an acquaintance’s hive that had absconded. In the course of processing that comb into wax I came across a word I’d never seen before: “slumgum.” Slumgum is the dark brown sludge made of propolis, larvae parts and dirt that you’re left with once you filter out the wax.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, we can thank my fellow Californians for this nineteenth century neologism. The OED cites the 1890 classic, Gleanings of Bee Culture, as the earliest occurrence of the word “slumgum,”

1890 Gleanings Bee Culture XVIII. 704/2 The cappings are laid on this perforated tin, and, when they melt, the wax and honey run through into the chamber below, leaving what Californians call the ‘slumgum’ on the tin above.

Awesome!

Slumgum tips:

  • Don’t throw out the slumgum. You can bait your empty hives with it. Bees love the smell of slumgum.
  • Don’t leave your slumgum outside like I did. It turns out that urban night critters such as skunks and raccoons also love slumgum. Some mammal dragged mine off and ate it!
  • Side note: check your library’s online digital resources. The Los Angeles Public Library offers the Oxford English Dictionary, and many more online reference resources, for free to anyone with a LA library card.

Stay tuned for a longer post on beeswax processing in the next month.

Saturday Tweets: Eating in Japan, Bears, Bees and Cats

101 Eric Interviews Erik

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Between Kelly’s aortic dissection and my mom’s passing it’s been a difficult few months here at Root Simple. Eric Rochow of Garden Fork noticed that I haven’t put out a podcast episode in a long time and offered to interview me. So, on episode 101, you’ll hear Eric interviewing Erik about Root Simple, our books and my background. Despite the differences in the way we spell our names we have a lot in common! During the podcast we talk about:

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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Cat Scratching Post Update

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One of the more successful feline interventions around the Root Simple compound was my idea of turning a corner of our couch into a cat scratching post. Since cats love scratching furniture, why not make the corners out of sisal rope and solve two problems at once?

As you can see from the before and after shots, the cats love their scratching post. With two cats in residence, I’ve found that I have to renew the sisal every four to six months.

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In my original blog post on how-to make a cat scratcher I suggested using heavy duty staples. I’ve since switched to #17 x 1 inch wire nails which are easier to use and do a better job of securing the sisal. I still recommend using 3/8 inch sisal rope. And I also added a few dabs of hot glue to keep the sisal on the post a little longer.

Yesterday I renewed the sisal on the post and, within minutes, it was already in use:

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In that first post on cat scratchers, I proposed building an “integrated cat scratcher/USB charging station/cat perch using a twisty tree branch.” The cats have voted with their claws and love the scratcher so much that I need to get started on that perch notion and other scratcher projects. The cats need to charge their devices too! The whole interior of the house could just get covered in sisal and USB ports.