065 The Martian

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On the podcast this week Kelly and I discuss the horticulture and philosophy of the Ridley Scott/Matt Damon film The Martian, which is based on the novel by Andy Weir. It’s apparent that the character played by Matt Damon has read both John Jeavon’s How to Grow More Vegetables and Joe Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook. We have many questions about the film: Can you really grow potatoes on mars? Do you need to compost human waste before applying it to crops? Is NASA headquarters actually full of tasteful, mid-century modern furniture? We also discuss some deeper philosophical issues raised by the film. We reference Adam Bartos’ book of photographs, Kosmos: A Portrait of the Russian Space Age and Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris, which you can view in its entirety for free (part 1 and part 2). Here’s the highway scene from Solaris that I mention. If you saw The Martian let us know what you thought of it!

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

062 Plantar fasciitis, Vegetable Gardening Disasters and Rain

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On the podcast this week Kelly and I discuss my plantar fasciitis situation, our vegetable gardening disasters and what happens when it rains in Southern California.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

061 National Heirloom Expo Report

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This week we go to the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in Northern California to the National Heirloom Exposition. The three day Expo is run by the folks behind Baker Creek Seeds and features speakers, a huge hall of heirloom fruits and vegetables, vendors, livestock, a biodynamic pavilion and live music. I’ve attended each year for five years in a row. This year I took my portable recording equipment and on this episode of the podcast you’ll hear interviews with root vegetable expert Grant Brians, Sir Cobalot, Sustainable Santa (yes you heard that right) and we’ll conclude with a discussion about the California Grange. During the show we mention:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Our Disastrous Summer Garden

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I’m struggling this morning for metaphors to describe our summer vegetable and fruit garden: Napoleon at Waterloo, the Hindenburg disaster, being locked in a cell with a recording of “Achy Breaky Heart” in a continuous loop. In short, growing edibles this year was an unmitigated disaster. Here’s a few of the things that happened:

  • We planted a bed of basil seeds and got lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) instead. Yes, I know lambsquarters are edible, but I was looking forward to the basil.
  • Our Swiss Chard, usually a good performer, was stunted and anemic. It seemed incapable of growing past 8 inches.
  • Our tomatoes grew well, produced a fair amount of fruit and then abruptly dried up and croaked.
  • We planted zucchini too late and it got a bad case of powdery mildew.
  • The raccoons figured out how to bust through the bird netting that was supposed to keep them out of the vegetable beds. They completely obliterated two out of four vegetable beds.
  • With the exception of our pomegranate tree, every last peach, apple, persimmon and most of our figs were harvested by squirrels and raccoons.
  • The Nectaplum, Santa Rosa plum and nectarine trees did not produce a single fruit due, I think, to a lack of chill hours caused by climate change.
  • Drought, of course, made everything worse. We had to water our already alkaline soil with alkaline water. Only the native plants and what we call the Biblical plants seem happy (e.g. the fig and the pomegranate).
  • The drought and an extreme heat wave pushed everything in the garden to the edge–and a few over the edge: in the last month we abruptly lost some garden stalwarts, including a rosemary bush and a culinary sage.

Despite all these disasters, I came back from the Heirloom Expo with some ideas:

  • Spend a little less time on Facebook and a little more time in the garden.
  • Come up with better raccoon fortifications.
  • Take out stone fruit that isn’t performing (Kelly has wanted to do this for a long time but I’ve dragged my heels).
  • Take better notes.
  • Improve soil and restart a composting project.
  • Come up with small metal cages to enclose fruit (I have a notion that involves 3D printing–more on this later).

How did your garden do this summer?

Heirloom Expo in Photos

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I highly recommend making the trip next year to Santa Rosa to see the National Heirloom Exposition put on by the folks at Baker Creek Seeds.  The centerpiece of the expo is the massive display of hundreds of different varieties of squash, melons, tomatoes and other edibles. It’s inspiring and frustrating all at once since, unless you have your own garden, you’ll never see such diversity at the supermarket. I came back with the will to improve our dismal vegetable gardening efforts and with a bunch of interviews you’ll hear on our podcast this week. For those of you who didn’t make it this year, here’s some of what you missed:

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