Forager and Humanurist Nancy Klehm in Los Angeles

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Nancy Klehm is coming to Los Angeles for two exciting events–one on foraging and the other on humanure:

Edible Urbanforage Walk Saturday February 16 4 to 6 pm.

February, is the ideal time to forage Los Angeles!

Nance Klehm will be leading this urbanforage. On this walk, we will learn to identify edible and medicinal plants, hear their botanical histories and stories of their use and share tastes of what we find.

The urbanforage will start with an herbal beverage and end with a simple herbal food shared over discussion of the experiences and questions generated by the walk.

Bring a notebook and a pen for sketching or note taking and a bag and a knife for collecting.

All ages welcome!
Adults 18+ years $20/person
Children 6-17 years $10/person
Children 5 years and under *free*

Reserve your space for this event by sending your PayPal payment to: [email protected]
There are no refunds. Registration closes February 15.

Mon. Feb 18 – Safe & Sound Human Manure Class

Can we use human waste in our gardens? Is it safe? Come to this incredible workshop by Nancy Klehm, a human manure expert, where we will explore these questions and more.  Learn about compost toilet design, and Nancy’s amazing previous work.

Nance Klehm is a steward of the earth. She is an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant, and permacultural grower, as well as an in demand consultant, speaker, and teacher. She is respected internationally for her work on land politics and growing for fertility.

Nancy has been featured in Time Magazine, the Utne Reader, the Chicago Tribune, Reuters news service, on the MSN Money website, and many other publications and media outlets. She has been interviewed extensively about her work including spots by American Public Media’s Weekend America program, KRCL in Salt Lake City, BBC Radio Canada, Chicago Public Radio, and KBOO in Portland, Oregon.


Monday, February 18
7 to 9pm

Seventh-Day Adventist Church
1280 East Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104

Registration (click here to register)
Pre-register by 2/10: $15
Pre-register by 2/17: $20
At the Door: $25

Hosting Organizations
RIPE Altadena
Institute of Urban Ecology
More about Nance Klehm:

Erik on HuffPost Live Tonight

Just a quick note that I’ll be on HuffPost Live tonight at 6:30 PST to discuss, “Backyard Chicken Coops, greenhouses, beehives and compost bins show that back-to-the-land activities and sustainable living are back. Say Hello to Victory Gardens 2.0!”

You can watch here. Guests include:

  • Barbara Finnin Executive Director of City Slicker Farms
  • Erik Knutzen Author of “The Urban Homestead” and Founder of Root Simple
  • Rob Ludlow Owner of

The show will be archived and I’ll post a link when it appears on the HuffPost website.

Feral House and Process Media Winter Soltice Party

Feral House and Process media, the publishers of our first book The Urban Homestead, will be holding their annual solstice party on Saturday December 8th from 7 to 10 pm at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, located within the Wacko gift store. Judging from the flyer, naked Shriners will frolic in the Griffith Park Fountain later on in the evening. Whatever happens, it’s a fun event not to be missed. Kelly and I will be there to hang out, chat and show off our emergency composting toilet. Perhaps we’ll get around to decorating it with blinking Christmas lights. Kill two birds with one stone and shop the Wacko aisles for Christmas gifts your young Goth and aging and ironic Gen X relatives! Then talk composting with us.

La Luz de Jesus/Wacko is located at:

4633 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027

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– 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.

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.

Please do not hesitate to contact Ben by email at mud[at] 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!

Fall 2012 Adobe Classes With Kurt Gardella

I’ve taken three adobe classes with Kurt Gardella–and he built the amazing earth oven in our backyard. Kurt has a couple of classes coming up and I thought I’d help get the word out. He’s a great teacher. From an email he just sent:

Dear adobe friends,


Fall is a great time for natural plastering and interior finishing work. Interior mud plastering and installing an earthen floor finish the normal adobe house construction sequence. The first two classes listed below (choose from both online or live-instruction versions) will take you through this entire process step-by-step.

Fall 2012 Adobe in Action Classes

Class: Interior and Exterior Plastering (8-Week Online Class)
Dates: October 1 to November 25, 2012
Credits: 4
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

Class: Floors for Adobe Structures (8-Week Online Class)
Dates: October 1 to November 25, 2012
Credits: 4
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

For those of you who can be in New Mexico this fall, you might also consider the live-instruction versions of the above classes which will be held at an adobe building site near Abiquiu, New Mexico:

Class: Interior and Exterior Plastering (10-Day Live Class)
Dates: October 15 to October 26, 2012
Credits: 4
Format: Live Instruction near Abiquiu, NM (M – F, 8am to 4pm)
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

Class: Floors for Adobe Structures (8-Day Live Class)
Dates: November 10 to November 17, 2012
Credits: 4
Format: Live Instruction near Abiquiu, NM (Sat to Sat, 8am to 6pm)
Instructor: Kurt Gardella
Fee: $500

More info on the classes after the jump . . .

Here is an overview of topics covered in both the online and live-instruction versions of these classes:

  • Interior and Exterior Plastering:
  • historical overview of interior and exterior finishes for adobe structures in New Mexico
  • importance of respiratory and eye safety when preparing and mixing plasters
  • overview of mud plaster characteristics and why earthen plasters make sense
  • summary of tools and materials needed for natural plastering
  • window and door opening reinforcement using reed mat
  • adobe wall preparation for maximum mud plaster adhesion
  • locating and testing soils for mud plasters
  • locating and testing aggregates for mud plasters and lime plasters
  • importance of work site and material organization for plaster work
  • fiber (straw) preparation and chopping techniques
  • sifting, preparing and mixing soil and aggregates for mud plasters
  • wheat paste production for strengthening mud plasters
  • casein production for lime paints
  • natural exterior mud plaster stabilization techniques (lime, cactus juice)
  • hand application techniques of mud plasters (base coats, patching)
  • hawk & trowel application of mud and lime plasters (leveling and finish coats)
  • basic mud plaster ingredients and recipes
  • basic lime plaster ingredients and recipes
  • calculating surface area to be finished and materials needed
  • troubleshooting mud and lime plasters (cracking, adhesion problems, etc.)
  • Floors for Adobe Structures:
  • historical overview of floor types found in New Mexican adobe structures – pros & cons
  • overview of helpful tools and leveling devices for floor installation
  • poured mud, mud brick and rammed earth floors – installation techniques and finishes
  • brick on sand floors – installation techniques and finishes
  • flagstone on sand/flagstone on mud floors – installation techniques and finishes
  • concrete floors – installation techniques and finishes, pros & cons
  • suspended wood floors – installation techniques and finishes, pros & cons
  • radiant heat in floors – advantages and disadvantages
  • importance of mass floors in passive solar design

Registration is open right now and can be completed directly online here:

Please e-mail me directly at [email protected] if you have any questions or need further information about any of the above classes.

Best regards,
Kurt Gardella

Sandor Katz to Speak in Los Angeles

“Fermentation fetishist” Sandor Katz will be leading a hands on workshop here in Los Angeles on Wednesday September 19, from 7-10pm at:

Community Hall of Holy Nativity Church
6700 West 83rd, Westchester/LA 90045
$25 prepaid, $30 at the door – supports the ongoing work of the Environmental Change-Makers

Autographed copies of The Art of Fermentation available for $25

Space is limited — Reserve your spot now!  Your check holds your place.