2014, a Year in Comments: Plant Thievery, Loquats, Breakfast Cerial and the Apocalypse

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Scene of the crime. Our missing cactus.

One of the reasons I prefer blogging to writing books is feedback in the form of comments. The subject matter we write about attracts thoughtful and compassionate people interested in making the world a better place. And I appreciate discussion and constructive criticism (We’re thankful too, that no trolls live under the Root Simple bridge). As an only child prone to ex cathedra statements, it’s good to have accountability in the form of reader feedback. With this in mind, I thought I’d review the most commented upon posts in 2015.

One curious phenomenon is that the number of comments a particular blog post gets is often inversely proportional to the amount of time it took to write. Kelly and I will sometimes spend hours agonizing over a blog post that gets just a few comments. Other times, a post dashed off in ten minutes will touch off a spirited discussion. This is not to say that a post that gets comments is any better or more popular than one that does not. Some posts, I suppose, are just more worthy of commenting. And we’re aware that many people read and never comment.

Here’s the five most commented upon Root Simple posts of 2015:

1. Plant Thievery. Back in April three barrel cacti disappeared from our front yard. It was a thorny, premeditated crime that prompted many readers to share their loss of plants. Later in the year I heard about two women who stole a lawn in England. And in local plant thievery news, a Los Angeles bakery lost most of its outdoor patio plants and the Episcopal Cathedral had an entire orange tree disappear. I like to think of these crimes from the plant’s perspective. Assuming they survive, the plant probably enjoys being able to travel and spread genetic material. Many plants, after all, evolve ingenious ways of, for instance, getting birds to eat seeds and poop them out over the landscape. Appealing to our lesser instincts could be yet another devious genetic strategy on the part of team plant.

2. Loquat Season is Here. Second to ways to avoid traffic, one of the great questions of life in Los Angeles is what to do with all those damn loquats. As the loquat is not frost tolerant, this is not a question for folks in the antipodal extremes.  And there’s great variation in loquat quality. Some taste, well, almost as good as an apricot (I know this sounds like faint praise). Others are just a thin, watery pulp surrounding huge, inedible seeds. I suspect part of Kelly’s motivation for writing this post was her skepticism of my loquat fruit leather recipe. I considered it the equivalent of discovering the loquat northwest passage. Despite Kelly’s brave stab at understanding the loquat, I don’t think we have a definitive answer on the subject. Perhaps we need to construct a kind of loquat Hadron Collider to solve this problem. Hey, that sounds like our first Kickstarter!

3. A Year After the Age of Limits: 5 Responses to the End Times. While Kelly may not have nailed the lid on the loquat coffin, she did write an eloquent essay on the pitfalls of apocalyptic thinking that was prompted by our attendance to the 2013 Age of Limits Conference. It took us and our friend John, who went with us, an entire year to process this disturbing weekend. Kelly and I recorded a long interview for our podcast with John about his experience that we never used. It’s well past time for me to revisit that recording. Thanks to KMO’s always excellent C-Realm Podcast, I heard that this year’s conference was different, perhaps due to the absence of the near term extinction crowd.

4. The Hugelkultur Question. Popularized by Sepp Holzer and many other permaculturalists, this practice of mounding logs in a hill of organic matter has been making the rounds of the avant-horticulture scene for the past few years. Like many 21st century radical home ec practices, evaluating Hugelkultur takes us to the messy collision point of systems theory and reductionism. This is not to even get into the problem of climate, which I pondered in another much commented upon post, Hugelkultur in Dry Climates. One thing to come out of researching the issue was discovering the Garden Professor’s Facebook page, wherein brainy horticulture types engage in a dialog on newfangled ideas. Use the search function on that page to find the subject you’re interested in. Who would have guessed that Facebook is useful for more than sharing cat photos and speculating about caftans?

5. Non-GMO Versions of Grape Nuts and Cheerios Less Nutritious Than GMO Versions. This may seem to be a post about the GMO debate (I’m not a fan of GMOs in most cases), but it’s really a stealthy realization that my Grape Nuts habit needed to end. Thankfully I discovered the Higgs bosen of breakfast cereals thanks to the KoMo FlicFloc. Which, to cram way too many physics metaphors in one blog post, really is the Hadron Collider of kitchen gadgets.

What controversial and comment worthy subjects would you like us to take up in 2015?

030 Christmas Eve Podcast

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With Kelly off visiting family, I’ve put together a short and simple podcast this week. I read my blog post, Let’s Talk About the Holidays and the reader comments. I conclude with, of course, some Bulgarian Christmas bagpipe music.

Links:

A reader mentions two blog posts about parenting during the holidays:
When Mommy and Daddy Took the Toys Away
Five Ways Frugal Living Benefits Kids

I mention Shannon Hayes’ post:
Murdering Santa and Other Tips for Enjoying the Holidays

If you want 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. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Let’s Talk About the Holidays

Christmas in Bulgaria by Miroslav Trendafilov.

There’s no doubt that the materialism of the Christmas season in the US presents challenges to folks who are on the radical homemaking path. One action that’s helped around our household was to cut off commercial television, something we did many years ago.

A number of people mentioned that they really enjoyed hearing Shannon Hayes on our podcast talking about how her family celebrates the holidays. She has also written a blog post on the subject, “Murdering Santa and Other Tips for Enjoying the Holidays.” Like Shannon, we also don’t want to come off as a self-righteous Scrooge or further our lifestyle as fodder for future Portlandia scripts. At the same time I’m also haunted by the tension between tradition and its conflict with modern life (note Habermas’ 2010 dialog with Jesuit scholars if you want to fall down a ponderous and inconclusive philosophical rabbit hole).

Then there’s what I call the fake snow on Hollywood Boulevard problem. Living in a Mediterranean climate, as we do, is confusing. The days are short, but the hills are green. The fake snow gets coated in smog. Here’s the problem. The Christmas story is overlaid on Northern European winter traditions, yet the original version takes place in a climate similar to ours in California. The snowman/Jack Frost/North Pole/Santa thing seems forced and artificial here.

This a long winded way of simply asking you, our readers, to talk about how you celebrate this time of year. How you counteract its hijacking by commercial interests? What does Christmas in the southern hemisphere feel like, coming as it does in the middle of summer? What does it feel like to be Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or none of the above and be surrounded by inflatable snowmen?

And can someone please explain the Bulgarian Christmas procession in the AMAZING video above? What’s with the bread? Who is the black hooded figure? I have to interject here that I’d love to permanently retire the “Rock Around the Christmas Tree” genre of music hell. More bagpipes, please.

Seeds the Game

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Nick Heyming, who I met through his work at Growcology, is working on a kind of alternative to games like Farmville. Instead of pointless hours staring at a screen, SEEDS the Game’s goal is to get you out into your garden. It’s a mobile app that will encourage you to, according to the description on their website:

Take photos of your plants at home, filter and share your attention to your real garden.

Find neighbors to trade seeds with and share activities related to gardening and local food systems.

Get climate and map updates for weather patterns relevant to your area and garden needs.

Seed points redeem for real prizes like seeds and coupons for garden equipment.

Grow your own food and learn practices for permaculture and self-sustaining food systems at home!

If you want to support the project they’ve got an Indiegogo campaign.

Saturday Tweets: Holiday Edition

A Last Minute Gift Suggestion . . .

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In a moment both surreal and ego boosting, I opened some junk email to discover that Amazon is suggesting that I buy our own books, The Urban Homestead and Making It, as Christmas gifts. It also recommended Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume’s excellent book Urban Homesteading.

It’s a reminder that this blog is partially supported by your book purchases at both independent booksellers and through the Amazon links on our Publications page.  Many thanks to all of you who have bought our books in the past and continued to support us. We are very lucky to have met so many nice people through our work.

The KoMo FlicFloc

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Kelly hates it when I write a post packed with hyperbole. But I really feel today like I’ve discovered a sort of breakfast unified field theory. And it’s all thanks to an impulse purchase at an awesome new homesteading supply shop in our neighborhood, The King’s Roost. My credit card discharged from my pocket like ectoplasm at a 19th century seance when I spotted the KoMo FlicFloc.

The FlicFloc manually flakes oats, wheat, rye, barley, millet, spelt, rice, sesame, flax seed, poppy and spices. The breakfast possibility it opened to me? Fresh muesli is thy name. Finally a filling and healthy alternative to my Grape Nuts addiction.

The FlicFloc is elegant and simple. There’s not much to say about it. You put grain in the top, turn the handle and deliciousness discharges into a glass, thoughtfully provided. I’ve owned a KoMo grain mill for a year now and it’s been a life changer in the kitchen. I really like having access to freshly milled whole grains when I need them. It eliminates waste as ground grains spoil. And whole grain, including oats, get bitter if they sit around too long.

And cancel the Neflix–here’s KoMo’s Austrian/German design team demonstrating their products. All this video needs is Werner Herzog to narrate the English language version. Note the solar powered manufacturing facility and German breakfast porn. Also note the mouthwatering array of whole grain baked goods.

029 Toasters, a Pledge and a Compostable Christmas

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On the holiday edition of the Root Simple Podcast, Kelly and I discuss non-electric toasters, Kelly takes a pledge and we conclude with a conversation about compostable Christmas decor. During the podcast we mention:

If you want 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. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.