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.

Erik and Kelly to Speak at Stories Cafe This Saturday

Join us this Saturday June 23rd at 7:30 PM at Stories Books and Cafe in our own neighborhood of Echo Park for a lecture and book signing of our first book The Urban Homestead. We’ll share what’s going on around the Root Simple compound along with some tips and tricks. Looking forward to seeing some blog readers! Stories is located at 1716 West Sunset Blvd. in the beating heart of Echo Park, Los Angeles.

Reminder: Earthen Oven Workshop This Friday-Sunday at the Root Simple Compound

There’s still a few spots left for the oven workshop with adobe master Kurt Gardella. Here’s the details and registration information:

Earthen ovens are inexpensive to build, fun to use, and provide baking environment impossible to recreate in the kitchen.  This May, 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.
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.
The class will be conducted in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, and hosted by Root Simple.  Coffee and nibbles will be provided at the beginning of the day; lunch is included.
Click here to register.  Early bird tuition is $190/person for registrations before April 20th, standard price registrations will be $220 after that date.

See You At Maker Faire!

Erik says:

A reminder that I’ll be speaking at the Bay Area Maker Faire tomorrow, Saturday May 19 at 6:30 pm on the Maker Square Stage (located in the Homegrown Village). The talk I’m giving will be about the appropriate tech projects we’ve been up to around the Root Simple compound. Hope to see you there!

For more information about Maker Faire go to

Erik Speaking at Maker Faire

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Bay Area Maker Faire on Saturday May 19 at 6:30 pm on the Maker Square Stage (located in the Homegrown Village). The talk I’m giving will be about the appropriate tech projects we’ve been up to around the Root Simple compound–our new chicken run, greywater, solar cooking and Mediterranean edible gardening. I’d love to hang out, after the talk, with any of you who plan on attending. For more information about Maker Faire go to

Of Makers and Bowyers

Film One: Harry (Archer & Bowyer) from Dylan Ryan Byrne on Vimeo.

I had a great time yesterday as a guest on a panel discussion at the LA Times Book Festival with Mark Frauenfelder and David Rees (thanks to Alisa Walker for being the best moderator ever). We talked about DIY culture and the ethos of being a “maker”. I think it’s safe to say that all of us on that panel have great admiration for talented “makers” like the bowyer in this video. It’s been one of my many goals to step away from this computer for a bit and learn how to make a bow. Or at least to finish the backyard projects that currently block access to our target bale!

Via Exploriment

Sign Up for the Root Simple Meetup

It only took six years, but I finally put together the beginnings of an events page for this website using To see those listings go to the event page or check out sidebar on the right. You can also sign up for the Root Simple Meetup. Right now the Root Simple meetup will list events we’re speaking at, workshops we’re teaching and other goings on we find interesting. Most of the events will take place in the Southern California area.

To those of you outside of SoCal, I can’t say enough good things about the Meetup interface. Unlike Facebook, which seems to exist to get us all to work for free harvesting marketing data, Meetup is about fostering face to face meetings.

Hope to meet many of you in person soon!

Sunset Western Garden Book Winners!

Thank you all for your entries and your great tomato recommendations. I hope those gave some of you some good ideas for your summer garden.

We have five winners of The New Sunset Western Garden Book :

  • Bee Girl from Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Sara O. from Denver, Colorado
  • Tracey from Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Donna M. from Romona, California
  • PeckyCaw from Portland, Oregon

If that’s you, please send your mailing address to us: [email protected].  We’ll forward your address to the publishers of the book, who will send you the book directly.

The winners were chosen at random–we asked a random number generator to choose 5 numbers, and applied those numbers to the comments in the order they were entered.

Also, I neglected to mention in my review of this book that Sunset has a handy online plant finder. Well worth checking out.

Congrats to our winners and we’ll do some more giveaways in the coming year!