Read Bungalow Magazine and The Craftsman Online

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I’m spending the long holiday weekend here in the States both working on our house and hoping it won’t burn down during LA’s long illegal fireworks show that began a month ago and reaches its zenith, though not its conclusion, on the 4th. In the evenings I’ve taken to reading bungalow related literature on my iPad and hoping the animals don’t freak out from the explosions.

The interwebs have opened a whole world of old, out of print publications from the pre-Idocracy era. Two bungalow related magazines you can read for free are Gustav Stickley’s highbrow Craftsman and bungalow entrepreneur Jud Yoho’s more humble Bungalow Magazine.

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 10.11.13 AMStickley published The Craftsman between 1901 and 1917. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has all issues online in their Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture. Craftsman articles are eclectic, ranging from art history lessons to progressive era moralizing, to practical furniture construction plans.

Bungalow Magazine was published between the years 1912 and 1918, first in Los Angeles and then in Seattle. The Seattle Public Library has digitized almost the whole run minus a few issues. Bungalow Magazine’s ulterior motive was to sell house plans. Its tone is more pragmatic and less Apollonian than The Craftsman.

What both publications have in common is an expectation that the reader is not just a consumer but potentially someone capable of taking up a chisel or sewing needle and making something. This DIY ethos was, of course, part of the anti-industrial agenda of the Arts and Crafts movement. One can hope that this spirit will catch on again in our disposable age.


Saturday Tweets: Georgia O’Keefe, Rampaging Peacocks and Mango Mania

The Mulch Robs Nitrogen Myth


I was surprised to hear a landscape professional, at a convention I attended last weekend, repeat a common myth about wood mulch, namely that “mulch robs soil of nitrogen.” In the interest of promoting the soil boosting and water saving benefits of mulch we need to send this common misconception into the bad idea chipper/shredder.

It’s true that if you mix a lot of carbon, such as wood chips, into soil the amount of nitrogen available to plants will decrease. This is because soil organisms use nitrogen to process carbon. But this happens only if you incorporate mulch into rather than on top of soil. When you top dress your soil with mulch some nitrogen at the surface will be locked up, but this actually works to your benefit by inhibiting weed seed germination. Far from reducing nitrogen, as mulch decomposes it will actually increase the nitrogen content of your soil. This is one of the many benefits of using wood chips over inorganic mulches such as gravel.

I sometimes get asked what kind of mulch to use in a vegetable garden. I use straw since it’s inexpensive and easy to clean up at the end of the summer growing season. I wouldn’t use wood chips on vegetable or other annuals since they might get churned into the soil even though I don’t ever till or double dig. Wood chips are for perennials.

Now, my Root Simple friends, go forth and tell people that mulch does not rob the soil of nitrogen!

For more information about mulch which includes a discussion of other mulch misconceptions such as allelopathy and termites, see Washington State University Extension’s publication “Using Arborist Wood Chips as Landscape Mulch.”


104 Erin Schanen the Impatient Gardener

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Listen to “104 Erin Schanen the Impatient Gardener” on Spreaker.
On the podcast this week we talk to garden blogger Erin Schanen, the Impatient Gardener. Erin lives in a small cottage in Southeastern Wisconsin. During the show we discuss some of Erin’s recent blog posts and other subjects including:

Websites: The Impatient Gardener, Impatient Gardener on Facebook and Instagram, @impatientgarden on Twitter. Special thanks to Eric of Garden Fork for introducing me to Erin!

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.




Federico Tobon’s Handcrafted Password Generator


Federico Tobon is one of my favorite artist-makers. He was a guest on episode 8 of the Opposable Thumbs podcast, a show which issues a creative challenge for their guests to complete. Federico had to tackle the topic of “crafting security.” His response was to make this beautiful wooden object that, when manipulated, generates strong, multilingual passwords.

Federico’s inspiration was an xlcd comic that has some excellent password security advice:


On the podcast and his blog, Federico describes how he made a clever jig to cut the pieces on a table saw (without loosing any fingers!). He turned an old dysfunctional 3d printer into a laser etching device to engrave the words.

You can see Federico’s art and projects on his website Wolf Cat Workshop.