It’s safe to comment again

spam

Apologies for the inconvenience we’ve given all of you over the past few days. I know commenting suddenly became a huge pain. The reason was spam.

We were getting a new spam comment on this blog at the rate of one per second.  (I cannot say how much I hate spamming as a business practice, and could indulge in a good long rant on the subject, but will not.) The point is that this influx was sucking up resources and getting us into overage charges territory with our hosting service.

Our intrepid webmaster put out the fire a couple of days back by making it hard to comment We’ve had no spam at all as a result. That is good.  But no one is happy with the draconian commenting protocols. So we’re trying something new.

Now, commenting is back to our usual system, but we’re closing down comments on older posts. We have a library of 2,522 posts on Root Simple as of today–crazy, huh?– and that’s a whole lot of territory for spammers to mine.

This solution not ideal, because we like how conversations continue to develop over the course of years on old posts, but on the other hand, it’s not a terrible solution, either. Our alternative is to swallow higher monthly charges and do a lot of rather expensive fussing around with the site, so we’re going to try this out for now and see how it goes.

Thanks for your patience, and back to our regularly scheduled program…

A happy tangle

finches and sunflowers

One of my favorite sights this summer has been the view out our front window. There, quick winged little goldfinches come and go all day long. The bird feeder they are visiting is festooned all around with little bobbing sunflowers. Sometimes I mistake a finch for a flower, and think a flower has sprung into flight.

The sunflower is an tenacious volunteer. When I noticed it sprouting in the deep shade of our pomegranate tree, I didn’t think it had much hope for survival–and yet I’ve learned to respect the choices of volunteer plants, as Fukuoko-san advised.

Sure enough, the sunflower knew what it was doing. It concentrated all its resources into an epic twelve foot growth spurt, straight up, like a bamboo stalk. Only once it crested the top of the pomegranate and found the sun did it begin to spread its arms, and I swear that when it did, I could hear a sigh of relief.

Now this monster sunflower is sprawling all over the pomegranate, using it and the bird feeder pole for support. There are hundreds of little yellow flowers on it,  from the highest reaches to to the deepest shade on the ground.

The heads are going to seed, and so have become a food source for the birds, who I often see bobbing on them, nibbling as they wait their turn for the feeder. Squirrels nosh on them too. And the bright yellow flowers look great against our ripe, ruby red pomegranates, which, when they split open, are also a food source for the birds.

It’s hard to describe, and pretty much impossible to photograph, this cheery, eye-popping chaos, but we enjoy it, and the cats are entranced.

While I’ve sometimes wondered if it is right to keep a feeder in our yard, I feel good about it as of now, because we are providing other sources of forage as well. We let our plants go to seed. We don’t spray, so there are plenty  of bugs to eat. (Why so many spiders this year???) My thoughts are always turning toward planting strategies which provide year round food sources for our flying friends.

If you do keep a feeder, remember to clean it at least once a month. There are some bad bird diseases going around. Scrub it with soap and water and–according to birdish authorities like the Audubon Society–soak it afterward in a 10% bleach solution. I don’t do bleach, so I spray mine down with rubbing alcohol, which I keep in a spray bottle to sterilize my pruning shears. It’s just handy. If I didn’t have that, I’d use vinegar.

Clean out your birdbaths, too. You don’t have to bleach them, but change the water regularly and don’t let them get all gunky. And if you keep hummingbird feeders, you probably know those need to be cleaned out with hot water every few days, so mold doesn’t form in the sugar.

bird feeder cleaning

Easy Scandinavian-Style Bread

bread loaf

I really like the dense, hearty whole grain loaves which are popular in Germany and Scandinavia and other points north, but which are difficult to find in the U.S.  I’ve come to like these better than the airy kind of bread, as a matter of fact. Fluffy bread doesn’t really seem like real food to me anymore, and white fluffy bread tastes like cotton candy.

Of course, I’m spoiled because Erik is a baker, so he makes me delicious, black hole-dense loaves of sourdough rye. Or at least, he used to. Now he’s on crutches, trying to recover from a bad case of Plantar fasciitis. This means he’s not doing anything in the kitchen anymore, and my bread supply is gone.

Sure, I could wake up his sourdough starter, take on the mantle (or apron?) of Household Baker, and start making these loaves myself, but I’m already taking on extra chores with him off his feet, so I’m not inclined to take up this one as well. Yet we can’t live two months without good bread. What to do?

Fortunately, I’ve found a solution to our bread crisis: a perfectly good yeasted recipe which makes a dense whole grain loaf with minimal effort. No starter. No kneading. No rise time, even. It’s a quick bread, essentially. It takes 5 minutes to mix up, then you plop it into a loaf pan and put it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. That’s it.

It lacks the sour flavor and chewiness you get from developed loaves, true, as well as the health benefits/improved digestibility that comes from the fermentation process. But you know, it’s still very good. And it’s 100% whole grain and packed with healthful seeds. And for a yeasted bread, it keeps well. Our loaves have been lasting at least three days on the counter top, unwrapped.

This isn’t a bread for soaking up sauce, or making fancy sandwiches, because it’s not springy. Instead, it’s a bread for layering with cheese or lox or slices of cucumber and salt. It’s also great toasted. But mostly I’ve just been eating it slathered with that fancy cultured butter that Trader Joe’s has started selling lately.

Now that I’ve got you all excited, I’m not going to write the recipe here, because I’m using it exactly as I found it on The Transplanted Baker. I have nothing to add or change, or any excuse at all to claim it as my own. She calls her version of this recipe (which originated with Nigella Lawson) “Lazy Man’s Bread.” I’ll have to call this blog entry “Lazy Man’s Post.”

See: Lazy Man’s Bread at The Transplanted Baker

New Slow City

NewSlowCity-cvr

This Wednesday’s Root Simple Podcast will feature our interview of author William Powers. We just finished recording his interview a few minutes ago, and it’s a good one.

Some of you may have read Bill’s previous book, Twelve by Twelve, in which he chronicles his time in a small off-grid cabin. In New Slow City, he and his wife move to a micro-apartment in Manhattan, and, by slowing down consciously, finds he can work less and find connection with others and nature–even in the heart of the world’s “fastest” city.  It’s a beautifully written book, and covers more ground than the previous sentence even begins to suggest. Read it.

Bill is in the middle of a book tour right now, so I wanted to put up his schedule so you can catch him if he comes to your town. He’s an engaging speaker, so do get out and see him if you can.

See his events page for details on each event.

  • Wednesday, Sept 30 – SAN FRANCISCO
  • Friday, Oct 2  – CLAREMONT
  • Saturday, Oct 3 – LOS ANGELES
  • Tuesday, Oct 6 – ASHLAND
  • Wednesday, Oct 7 – CHICAGO
  • Thursday, Oct 8 – CHICAGO
  • Sunday, Oct 11  – ALBUQUERQUE
  • Thursday, Oct 15  – SANTA FE
  • Wednesday, Nov 4 – NEW YORK
  • Thursday, Nov 17 – LA PAZ (BOLIVIA)
  • Tuesday, Dec 1 – SANTA CRUZ (BOLIVIA)

Moon Gazing

Japanese landscape with full moon

We’ve been pretty unplugged lately, so we’re not sure how much this is being hyped, but just in case you haven’t heard about it, be sure to go out and view the moon this Sunday night.

Sunday, September 27th, 2015 is a full moon, and the date of this year’s Chinese Moon Festival (also called Mid-Autumn Festival) — which is also celebrated in Vietnam and Japan (and elsewhere in Asia, too) with moon gazing and the eating of special foods, such as round white dumplings in Japan or in China, the famous moon cakes.

As a bonus, this year’s full moon is extra special, being a super moon, and blood moon/partial eclipse. All of this lunar magnificence is enough to even get us Westerners outside and gazing at the moon.

I like the idea of all of us looking up at the sky on Sunday night, connected as a human family, united in pondering the beauty of the universe and the elegant cycles of the natural world.

Maybe this year we can all celebrate a moon festival of our own, even if this isn’t part of our usual cultural tradition. Instead of moon cakes and dumplings, we could make some other kind of celebratory food–I’m thinking about making some little round crepes with red berry sauce to celebrate the blood moon.

Or perhaps our new traditions won’t involve food, but crafts, or songs, or copious toasting–or maybe we can just all stand outside and howl at the moon. It would do us some good, I think.

What is a blood moon anyway, you ask? It’s a moon stained red by the Earth’s shadow.

What’s a super moon? It’s a full moon which is as close to Earth as it can be in its elliptical orbit, making it appear extra large in the sky.

For more authoritative information on this lunar event, and for best viewing times and the like, check out Sky & Telescope. Erik is a big astronomy geek, and he gives Sky & Telescope a double thumbs up.

And as for us, we’ll be out on the porch Sunday night, thinking of all you guys.