Notes on Mark Bittman’s “Behind the Scenes of What We Eat”

Last week Erik and I went to see well-known food writer Mark Bittman speak on food policy. He spoke in a huge room in The California Endowment–and it was a full house. Afterward, Erik and I compared it to being in church. We were surrounded by people of the same faith, being told things we already know, and being reminded to be good. And I don’t mean that in a bad way! It never hurts to meditate on how to be better, to do more. Bittman is an engaging speaker and it was a great evening. I took notes, and will share a little of what I learned.

He spent a good deal of time describing how our national food system and food policy is depressing and screwed up. We all know this, right? Factory farms, fuel waste, massive environmental degradation, obesity crisis, etc. & etc.

(One quick scary fact from the roll of shame: Did you know that 80% of antibiotics used in the US are fed to farm animals? That number has been shooting up fast for the last 20 years. Why are they used on animals? Not so much for illness, but rather to prevent illness in animals living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and to speed growth. They’re prophylactic. Lovely. Antibiotic failure happens to be one of my favorite doomsday scenarios.)

Bittman believes that in 50-100 years we will no longer be shipping food across country or across planet–we’ll be relying on local/regional agriculture systems, based on family farms. Whether this shift is a positive, pleasant transition or made in a state of dreadful calamity, is entirely a matter of how soon we begin working on the shift.

Continue reading…

Chicken Talk at the LA Green Fest Saturday November 17

I’ll be doing a talk about keeping chickens on Saturday, November 17 at 2:00 pm at the Los Angeles Green Festival. Topics will include:

  • How to construct a chicken coop
  • What’s involved in keeping chickens
  • Predator proofing
  • What to feed your chickens
  • Chicks vs. pullets

The Green Festival will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Kentia Hall, 1201 South Figueroa Street.

The convention center is right next to the Metro Blue Line and the Green Fest folks will also be providing a bike valet.

Hope to see you all there!

Root Simple Redesign

We’re getting ready to make some big improvements to our website. Roman Jaster, the designer of our book Making It (seen at the console in the picture above taking some last minute refinements from Mrs. Homegrown), is just about to pull the switch on the new design. We’re switching from Blogger to WordPress. Our new website design will feature:

  • improved search functions
  • an easier to navigate interface
  • improved comment moderation
  • better graphic design 
  • podcasts
  • videos

All of the 1800+ posts and comments from this blog will migrate over to our new host. The web address will remain the same–www.rootsimple.com. Hopefully you won’t notice the switchover, except for the fact that commenting will disappear between the 6th and the 10th. You are welcome to leave comments on the Root Simple Facebook page. During the switchover period we’re going to feature a rerun of our most popular posts.

Joshua Tree Earthen Oven Class

Kurt Gardella, who led an earth oven workshop in our backyard is teaching another class in November. Our oven turned out great and was amazingly inexpensive (just the cost of sand). Kurt is a great teacher and if you’d like to build your own oven while learning the art of adobe, this class is not to be missed. Here’s info on the class:

Joshua Tree Earthen Oven Class
November 2–4, 2012

Earthen ovens are inexpensive to build, fun to use, and provide baking environment impossible to recreate in the kitchen. This Fall, Kurt Gardella returns to California for three days to teach you how to make your own earthen oven. Kurt has built dozens of these ovens in New Mexico, and has great expertise in both adobe construction and earthen plasters and finishes. Attendees will leave the class with the knowledge necessary to built an oven of their own, with materials that you may already have in your yard.

The class is suitable for bakers, building professionals and do-it-your-selfers, and is a great introduction to adobe construction and earthen plasters covered in more depth in adobeisnotsoftware’s other classes.

Topics Include:

  • Local considerations and the siting your earthen oven
  • Soil and material selection, sourcing and testing
  • Foundations and oven base design and materials
  • Sizing
  • Sand Form and Oven Domes
  • Natural oven plasters and finishes
  • Firing and baking in your oven.

Instruction Type:
This is a hands-on class. Attendees will have the opportunity to get dirty and use tools and equipment typical of adobe construction and earthen finishing. Due to the course format, enrollment will be limited to 10 individuals. In the unlikely event of inclement weather, instruction will occur indoors.

Instructors: Kurt Gardella teaches adobe construction at Northern New Mexico College, is Director of Education for Adobe in Action, and is certified as an earth-building specialist by the German Dachverband Lehm.

Ben Loescher is a licensed architect, founder of adobeisnotsoftware and principal of golem|la, an architecture firm specializing in adobe construction.

Kurt Gardella measures the radius of the horno dome.

Location:
The class will be conducted in the area of Joshua Tree. Coffee and nibbles will be provided at the beginning of the day; lunch is included.

For more info on the class and to register go to Adobe is Not Software.

Questions?
Please do not hesitate to contact Ben by email at mud[at]adobeisnotsoftware.org or by phone at (760) 278-1134.

See You At the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa

This week I’ll be in Santa Rosa for the National Heirloom Exposition. I went last year and it was pretty amazing. This year looks to be even better. For the low price of $25 you get three whole days of some of the best agriculture and horticultural speakers in the world. Plus great vendors and cooking demos. Where Baker Creek gets the money to put this on is a big mystery to me, but I’m happy to enjoy the benefits.

I’ll be camping and without interweb access, so I’ll report back next week on what I learned. Hope to meet some Root Simple readers at the exhibition!