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!

Root Simple Edible Gardening Classes at the Huntington Ranch

There are still some spots available for our edible gardening class at the Huntington that starts this Saturday. In the course of the three consecutive Saturday sessions, we’ll build a compost pile, dissect soil test reports, make a seed starting mix and discuss incorporating fruit trees and native plants into your edible landscape among many other topics. The class will be held at the Huntington’s spectacular Ranch. Here’s the details:

March 10, 17 & 24 (Saturdays)
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Learn everything you need to know to start your own organic vegetable garden in this hands-on series led by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne of Root Simple. Sessions will take place entirely outdoors on The Huntington’s Ranch site and will cover all the basics of planning, planting, composting, soil science, pest control, and harvesting.
Members: $120. Non Members: $135.
Registration: 626-405-2128

Huntington Ranch Workshop: Foraging and the Living Kitchen

This Saturday March 3 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m, our friend Nancy Klehm will be leading a workshop at the Huntington Ranch entitled Foraging and the Natural Kitchen. So you’ve got two reasons to go–Nancy and the Ranch are truly amazing. Here’s the details:

Living Kitchen is a series of informal foraging and cooking workshops that aims to reorganize our connection to land, ourselves and our communities through the awareness of the spontaneous and cultivated plants around us. Led by Nance Klehm, this workshop will walk participants through the Huntington Ranch and discuss the strategy of food foresting that specifically incorporates or allows for spontaneous vegetation to build soil health, create habitat, and provide food and medicine for humans. During the tour, participants will explore the web of relationships of these plants as well as taste, smell and gather wild plant material to prepare a light foraged meal. This workshop is about direct experience, new tastes, and sharing with others.

Members: $60. Non Members: $70.
Registration: 626-405-2128

Los Angeles Earthen Oven Class – May 25-27, 2012

We’re very pleased to announce that adobe master Kurt Gardella will be leading an earthen oven building class at the Root Simple compound. We’ve both taken classes with Kurt and he’s an amazing instructor. 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.

Foraging Walk in Los Angeles on February 25th

Our friend Nancy is back in town and offering this class. 
Heads up, you Westsidahz! It’s in Culver City.

RSVP required.

Join radical ecologist Nance Klehm for :::
Saturday, Feb 25th 11am-1pm Baldwin Park Scenic Overlook, Culver City
*meet at park entrance, by the sign, Jefferson and Hetzler,
This unique forage will be a two hour informally guided walk through the spontaneous and cultivated vegetation of our urbanscape. Along the walk, we will learn to identify plants and hear their botanical histories, stories of their cultural usages, animal usages, and human usages. Come share in the experiential, medicinal, magical, and uber-local properties of Los Angeles’s native plants. 
$20/person: maximum 25 people/urbanforage so secure your spot now!

Joshua Tree Earthen Finishes Class – March 2nd, 3rd & 4th

Another adobe workshop with Kurt Gardella–this one in Southern California. I’ll be at this one, so hope to see some of you there:

adobeisnotsoftware is pleased to have Kurt Gardella return to California for three days of intensive instruction in interior and exterior earthen finish practices.  Kurt developed much of the online curriculum for Northern New Mexico College’s adobe program, and has great expertise in both adobe construction and earthen plasters and finishes. Attendees will leave the class with knowledge of how to mix and apply earthen and lime plasters, lime washes and casein paints – the class is suitable for both building professionals and do-it-your-selfers.
  • Finish selection for conventional and earthen buildings
  • Soil and Material Selection, Sourcing and Testing
  • Vapor Permeability, Water Resistance and Stabilization
  • Tools and Application Techniques
  • Application around Doors, Windows and Other Openings
  • Pigments, and Finishing
  • Detailing
  • Conventional and Traditional Plaster Reinforcing Techniques
  • Code considerations

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. Due to the course format, enrollment will be limited to 14 individuals. Children under the age of 14 unfortunately cannot be accommodated. 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.

The class will be conducted about 12 miles outside of Joshua Tree National Park in Landers, California, some 40 miles from Palm Springs. Joshua Tree and the surrounding area have a wealth of great hiking, climbing, lodging and food options. Directions to the workshop site will be provided to attendees prior to the class.

The cost for the three day workshop is $190/person. Coffee and nibbles will be provided at the beginning of the day; lunch is included.  Register here!

Please do not hesitate to contact Ben at [email protected] or (760) 278-1134.

Learn to Build With Earth: Adobe in Action Workshops

Adobe master Kurt Gardella has announced a series of both hands-on and online adobe classes for the spring. I had the great privilege of taking a hands-on adobe brick making workshop as well as an online adobe oven building workshop with Kurt last year. We did a blog post about the brick making workshop.

You can see a listing of Kurt’s online classes, which cover everything from foundations to building permits, here. He is also teaching an AIA certificate program that is both live (in New Mexico) or online that you can sign up for here.

I’m also pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting an adobe oven class with Kurt here in Los Angeles in May. Details to follow. 

A Sonora and Kamut Wheat Field in Los Angeles County!

Sonora wheat

The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, of which I’m a co-founder along with Teresa Sitz and Mark Stambler, have teamed with farmer Andrea Crawford, of Kenter Canyon Farms, to plant what I think may be the first wheat field in Los Angeles County in many years.

Wheat used to be widely grown here, especially Sonora wheat, a drought tolerant variety originally bought to the Southwest by the Spanish. Along with Sonora, we planted an ancient wheat variety called Khorasan, better known under the trade name Kamut. An American airman obtained Kamut from a street vendor in Cairo in 1949. Researchers are studying ancient wheats like Kamut to see if people with wheat allergies can tolerate them better. We purchased both varieties (certified organic) from the Sustainable Seed Company.

Discing the field

The field was prepared by discing it with a tractor. We sowed the wheat by hand and then covered it temporarily with shade cloth to keep the birds out until the seeds germinate. The seeds were watered in with an overhead sprinkler, but the plan is to pray for rain. If it turns out to be a dry year, monthly waterings will be necessary.

Mark, Andrea and Nathan sowing.

Andrea plans on sowing in some red poppies to help keep the weeds down. If all goes well, a harvest party (get ready to thresh and winnow!) will take place when the grains mature. Sign up for the LA Bread Bakers Meetup (free to join) to find out when the harvest fest will take place.

The wheat field covered with shade cloth.

Speaking for the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, we’re really excited to be a part of this agricultural experiment. A big thanks goes out to Andrea and her son Nathan who have made this possible. We’ll post some updates on the blog as the field progresses.

Note: A quick clarification because we’ve had some questions. The poppies that Andrea plans to plant are not Somniferum poppies (that’s a different kind of cash crop!). They are red poppies, also called Flanders poppies, Papaver rhoeas.

Gifts for the Holidays Food Crafting Workshop

One way to avoid the consumerism of the holiday season is to make your own gifts. And if you live in our hometown you can learn how to make edible gifts while supporting the recently revived Los Angeles Master Food Preserver program. From their announcement:

Join the Master Food Preservers of Los Angeles County and Homegirl Cafe for a special workshop and fundraiser on Sunday December 4th from 1 to 4 pm.

Master Food Preservers Ernest Miller, Felicia Friesema, Joseph Shuldiner, Amy Goldman, Roshni Divate and Craig Ruggless.

Learn how to make truly unique and special home crafted food gifts for the holiday season! Topic include food ornaments, elegant liqueurs, gourmet mustards, seasonal spiced jams and candied fruits.

Guests will take home samples and recipes, knowledge and a healthy dose of holiday cheer.

Proceeds benefit the Master Food Preserver program, a volunteer community education group of the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The cost is $45 and you can get your reservation here.

The workshop will take place at the Homegirl Cafe which is located at: 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles 90012.