Saturday Tweets: Knights on Roosters, Edible Spoons and Raccoon Attacks

Sprouted Rye Class This Saturday!

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I’m teaching a rye bread class this Saturday May 14th at 10:45 AM at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Westchester. I’m going to walk you through how to start a rye sourdough starter, how to sprout grain and how to work with 100% rye doughs. There are still a few seats available so sign up soon. As a bonus, there will be a pizza lunch and community bread bake using the community oven built by Environmental Changemakers. To sign up for the class head over to the Los Angeles Bread Bakers Meetup Group.

Harry Partch: Woodworker and Composer

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Back in the 1990s, in a cramped out of the way basement deep in the bowels of San Diego State University, I got to hear a pure, mathematically perfect musical interval for the first time. The sound came from a pump organ, modified by musical heretic Harry Partch. The organ was under the care of Danlee Mitchell, who kept Partch’s idiosyncratic legacy alive after Partch died in 1974. Once you hear just intonation you can’t un-hear the compromise that is modern “equal” tempered tuning (for an in depth explanation of the difference between just and equal temperament, this documentary explains it all). Let’s just say that hearing that “perfect” perfect fifth, was one of those moments that caused me to question everything I thought I knew about music.

But Partch pushed beyond just tuning. Why do we have only 12 notes in a scale? Why not 43? Here’s Partch explaining and demonstrating his 43 tone scale:

Since you can’t go down to your local music shop and buy 43 tone musical instruments, Partch had to get crafty. He described himself as “a philosophic music-man seduced into carpentry.” And, over the years, he built many beautiful musical instruments:

The Quadrangularis Reversum.

The Quadrangularis Reversum.

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Gourd Tree and Gongs

Partch was a master of up-cycling, making use of military and industrial surplus. Below, his “cloud chamber bowls” made from the tops and bottoms of 12-gallon Pyrex carboys found in a UC Berkeley radiation lab.

Cloud chamber bowls.

Cloud chamber bowls.

Here’s Partch talking about the cloud chamber bowls and playing them:

You can see all of Partch’s instruments here.

Partch’s music can be jarring at first. Then it grows on you. I think my favorite Partch composition is Daphne of the Dunes. It sounds like an artifact of an ancient culture that never (but should have) existed:

Partch pushed the cultural envelope so far that he’s often labeled (I think, disrespectfully) as an “outsider”. We should instead see him, both as carpenter and composer, as a visionary.

So to the person who suggested we do a music post, this one’s for you!

Erik Talks Straw Bales on C-Realm Radio

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KMO with his new straw bale garden.

Instead of producing our own podcast this week, I had the honor of being on C-Realm Radio in Vermont, hosted by my favorite podcaster (and, as of last month, radio host) KMO. The topic is straw bale gardening. KMO talks first to straw bale garden expert Joel Karsten. Then I chime in enthusiastically on the topic. I’m followed by gardener and artist Lauren Blair. We’re all sort of an opening act for an entertaining 1990s era recording of Terrance McKenna thoughtstyling about “linguistic objects”.

One interesting point that Karsten raises is the issue of persistent herbicides in straw bales. He says its not a problem to worry about. I suggest doing an bioassay to rule out the possibility so, in a way, we contradict each other. Karsten may be right, but I need to do some more research on the subject. If any of you know if persistent herbicides, such as Clopyralid, Aminopyralid, Aminocyclopyrachlor and Picloram, are still an issue for gardeners, please let me know in the comments.

Root Simple Reader Survey Results

Many thanks to all of you who took the time to fill out the survey. I had to close it when we reached the maximum number of responses (100) without having to pay for a Survey Monkey subscription. And apologies for not checking to see if the survey worked on a smart phone (it didn’t). That was one of the important lessons: always optimize for phones. Hopefully this website works on your phone. If it doesn’t please let us know.

Now for the results of the survey:

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We’ve set a goal to put out three to six blog posts a week plus a podcast. I have a hard time knowing if we’re putting out too much or too little. There’s a paradoxical problem with a DIY blog. If we’re gardening or in the garage making something we’re not writing and vice versa. It’s been difficult to find the right balance. Looks like you’re all good with where we are.

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When we first began this blog ten years ago the standard advice was along the lines of, “people are distracted so make your posts short.” Lately, the common wisdom is that blog posts should be long and footnoted. We decided to split the difference, though we’ve kept posts on the short side. It looks like you agree (though the unscientific part of this poll is that the folks who want them shorter or longer may not read this blog anymore). I am going to try the occasional longer post. And sorry about the typo on the question–I need an editor!

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We began the podcast knowing that many of you would not listen to it. I’m fine with this. There are several blogs that I love and read that have podcasts that I never listen to. That said, many more people listen to our podcast than show up for book tour appearances. We’ve been averaging around 1,200 downloads per week, though it’s hard to tell how many people listen all the way through.

But the real reason we do the podcast is that it’s a way to have a conversation with and listen to other people in the movement. Writing can get lonely and solipsistic. It’s easy to lose perspective. The conversations we have on the podcast change the written content on the blog in a positive way. Unfortunately, the podcast takes a lot of time. We have to book guests, conduct the interview and spend, on average, four to five hours editing. It looks like we could step back to one podcast every other week instead of every week. That will give us more time for the blog.

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It would be a lot easier for the Root Simple PR department if we just stuck to one topic like, say, chicken health or DIY lotion making. That’s what bloggers are “supposed” to do. But this blog began as a way to celebrate those of us who are “Jack (or Jill) of all trades and master of none.” It looks like you agree. But we do need to do more gardening posts and spend more time building things.

In the “other” category many of you left very kind comments as well as great suggestions (I’ve never once blogged about DIY music in spite of the fact that I have a degree in music).

Again, thank you for your help and support over the past ten years. The eclectic topics we cover attract really nice people who want to make the world a better place. We are fortunate to have you as readers and listeners.