A Homemade Mattress?

Edmund_Dulac_-_Princess_and_pea

The Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac

Addendum 8/2/14:  From the comments, a solution!

You can read my meanderings below, and you can go through the many, many comments, where there’s lots of buried gold, but for the time-pressed who are ready and raring to make themselves a mattress, I’d just go to this PDF of a 1965 USAID booklet on how to make a cotton stuffed mattress:

http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNAAW960.pdf  

It’s the most detailed set of instructions I’ve found anywhere. Thanks, Sammi!

This is the story of my life. I read about some old domestic technology or product that makes a lot of sense. Perhaps it is obsolete. Or perhaps it is only done/made in more enlightened countries. Nonetheless, I want it. So I have to make from scratch.

Yesterday we met a great couple, Renae and Dimitri. Renae mentioned she was thinking about making her own mattress. I was intrigued because just that morning I’d woken up with low back pain. Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: the ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb the prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants–or opting for a less toxic but less comfortable futon.

So, when Renae said this, I was fascinated. I’d never considered making my own mattress.

Continue reading…

On Spam and Commenting

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Dear Root Simple Readers,

Our webmaster and designer, Roman is fighting a battle with spam. Thankfully, we have a good spam filter that catches almost all of it, so you don’t have to see the nasty stuff cluttering up the comments. However, the staggering number of incoming spam messages actually slows down the site. To combat this, we’ve been forced to add a CAPTCHA feature to protect the comments.

We know. It sucks. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have to. Let us know if you have any problems with it. This CAPTCHA filter asks you to do a simple math problem when you comment, in order to prove you’re not a spambot pushing prostate formulas or worse. Note that only unregistered commenters will need to use the CAPTCHA feature.

Server Troubles This Week

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Just a note that we’re having unexplained issues with our server this week and are attempting to resolve the problem. Please excuse a larger number of typos as well as difficulty responding to your comments. Everything should be back in order next week. Special thanks to our designer Roman for helping us. And thanks to Kelly for constantly changing the tape drives.

Return of the Egg

Erik found 4 eggs in the hen house today. The ladies are back on the job after their winter break. Thank goodness!

I showed them to Phoebe, who delicately sampled the Eau d’ Hen Butt.

(Phoebe is doing very well, by the way.)

Two of the hens lay with speckled eggs, two lay solid. Their eggs are this unusual, olive drab sort of color, which is difficult to capture with the camera. Our hens are hybrids: a Barnavelder/Americauna cross. We call them WinnetekaVelders. The olive eggs must have something to do with the blending of green egg and brown egg genes.

Happy as I am about the eggs, their re-appearance means our too-short winter is closing fast, and that our fruit trees need to be pruned, asap.

When do hens start laying in your part of the world?

Saturday Linkages: Repair is Beautiful

DIY
Beauty of overwrought repair: http://boingboing.net/2013/01/14/beauty-of-overwrought-repair.html …

Custom Map Murals Make for Excellent Contextual Wall Decor | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/custom-map-murals-make-for-excellent-contextual-wall-decor/ …

Vintage DIY: Wired Staffers’ Favorite Classic Gear Manuals | Wired Design | http://Wired.com  http://www.wired.com/design/2013/01/owners-manuals/ …

Thoughtstylings
The Tribe of Teenager http://thetanglednest.com/2013/01/the-tribe-of-teenager/ …

What your New Year’s Resolutions tell us about the way you think – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2013/01/16/what-your-new-years-resoluti.html …

We’re all gonna die
Cheesecake Factory pasta on list of caloric “food porn” http://reut.rs/Wc85xI 

Get Your S**t Together: improve your life by planning for your death: http://boingboing.net/2013/01/17/get-your-shit-together-improe.html …

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Did Kelly follow her 2012 resolutions?

I cringed when Erik said he’d be reviewing his resolutions today, which meant I’d have to take the walk of shame and review mine. Actually, I couldn’t even remember what I’d said I’d do, but at the same time, I was pretty sure I’d not done any of it. If 2012 had a theme, it would be “wheel-spinning” — or at least that’s how it felt to me.

Now that I’ve read over what I wrote last year, I find I actually did do some of it. Sorta. While I do think posting New Year’s resolutions on a blog just begs future embarrassment, I’ve realized that it is valuable to remember where your head was a year ago, and see if it’s still in the same place.

This will be a long, self-indulgent post, so the TL;DR version is that last year I knew I needed to work on my time management skills, and yet I did not improve in that area. This is the key lesson I’m taking from this exercise. The rest is small stuff, but procrastination has been and remains a big problem. Addressing that will be my challenge for 2o13.

Continue reading…

Is Cycling Too Dangerous?

Photo by Dru Marland.

I’ve been hit by cars twice cycling around Los Angeles. In the first accident a medical delivery driver made a left turn in front of me and I collided with the rear panel of his car. It was his fault but, initially, the driver’s employer tried to come after me for $900 worth of damage. Fortunately, their insurance company took my side in the matter and even replaced my bent fork. In the second accident, a motorist bumped me from the right. I’m not sure what happened, but I think he was merging out of a parking space and didn’t see me. Thankfully, they were minor collisions and I walked away from both without a scratch. But the cycling death of an acquaintance and the serious accidents of several friends has caused me to consider the risks of cycling, particularly in this less than bike friendly city.

An excellent blog post on the Guardian takes up the question of the costs and benefits of cycling. Author Peter Walker does the right thing, in my opinion, by seeking the opinion of public health experts. One, Dr. Harry Rutter, has this to say:

All activities carry a risk. For some reason there seems to be strong focus on the risk of injury associated with cycling. Clearly, when deaths do takes place that’s tragic, and we need to do all we can to avoid them. But I think there is a perception that cycling is much more dangerous than it really is.

This focus on the dangers of cycling is something to do with the visibility of them, and the attention it’s given. What we don’t notice is that if you were to spend an hour a day riding a bike rather than being sedentary and driving a car there’s a cost to that sedentary time. It’s silent, it doesn’t get noticed. What we’re talking about here is shifting the balance from that invisible danger of sitting still towards the positive health benefits of cycling.

Having volunteered on the board the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for a few years, I’m well aware of how hard it is to make our cities more bike and pedestrian friendly. Another expert Walker talks to compared the struggle for safer cycling and walking infrastructure to efforts to curb smoking, noting that the anti-tobacco struggle took 60 years to get going.

The article concludes with a provocative conclusion, “There are two interventions that we know increase walking and cycling: living in the Netherlands and living in Denmark.”

So what do you readers think? Is cycling worth the risk?

Saturday Linkages: Chicken Hot Dogs and Toilet Museums

DIY

Printing press made from IKEA drawers: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/05/printing-press-made-from-ikea.html …

How to Build a Gypsy Caravan from Recycled Materials… http://bit.ly/S8pABN

Gardening

Home Depot’s Leaf Bags and their Eco-Terrible “Tips” | Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2012/12/home-depots-leaf-bags-and-their-eco-terrible-tips.html …

Design

High-Hanging Tea House Offers Suspended Getaway | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/high-hanging-tea-house-offers-suspended-getaway/ …

???

South Korea’s toilet culture museum: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/03/south-koreas-toilet-museum.html …

Chicken hotdogs and garters for boys who want to be manly: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/03/chicken-hotdogs-and-garters-fo.html …

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A Review of Masanobu Fukuoka’s Sowing Seeds in the Desert

First published in Japanese in the mid 1990s, Masanobu Fukuoka’s book Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Resotration, and Ultimate Food Security is now in English in a beautiful translation published by Chelsea Green.

Fukuoka’s writing deals with the tricky practical and spiritual issues involved with our place in nature’s synergistic complexities. To intervene or not to intervene is often the question when it comes to what Fukuoka called his “natural farming” method.

Fukuoka councils a humbleness before nature, a cessation of the materialist drive to understand and control. Fukuoka illustrates this approach in a pen and ink drawing reproduced in the book. Of the drawing he says,

I call it “the cave of the intellect.” It shows two men toiling in a pit or a cave swinging their pickaxes to loosen the hard earth. The picks represent the human intellect. The more these workers swing their tools, the deeper the pit gets and the more difficult it is for them to escape. Outside the cave I draw a person who is relaxing in the sunlight. While still working to provide everyday necessities through natural farming, that person is free from the drudgery of trying to understand nature, and is simply enjoying life.

Paradoxically his natural farming method involves, on the one hand, letting vegetables reseed on their own and revert to their wild ancestry, while on the other avoiding the neglect that led to the loss of hundreds of trees at his parent’s farm when he first took it over. And in the second half of the book he suggests a radical interventionist approach to what he calls “deserts” (by which he means areas ruined by human activity). Here he chronicles his trips to wastelands in India and the Central Valley of California. Fukuoka suggests carpet bombing these areas with seed pellets (a how-to for making seed pellets is included in an appendix). And the content of those seed balls? Whatever will re-vegetate the landscape most effectively regardless of whether those plants are native or not in order to achieve what Fukuoka calls a “second Genesis.” As he puts it,

I would mix the seeds of all plants–forest trees, fruit trees, perennials, vegetables, grasses and legumes–as well as ferns, osses, and lichens, and sow them all at once across the desert.

Nativists will cringe at this suggestion but to me it makes a lot of sense. Fukuoka says that these desertified areas lack the seeds needed to recover on their own.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert is a book steeped in a passionate Buddhism. The real desert is in the human heart. It’s our hearts that Fukuoka is trying to heal and by so doing, bring about that second Genesis.

When people try to grow crops using human knowledge, they will never be anything more than farmers. If they can look at things with an empty mind as a child does, then, through the crops and their own labor, they will be able to gaze into the entire universe.

Those unfamiliar with Fukuoka’s philosophy should start by reading The One Straw Revolution. And if you want to get the nitty-gritty how-to on how to apply his natural farming methods you’ll want to pick up a copy of  The Natural Way of Farming. Sowing Seeds in the Desert serves as a deeply moving coda to his life’s work. And it got me to start sowing the seeds in my own front yard desert. Thanks to a winter rain, a mixture of clover and greens is now sprouting beneath the fig tree that graces our front yard.

Thanks to the wonders of Youtube, you can watch an hour long documentary about Fukuoka here.

Why You Should Avoid Staking Trees

The correct way to stake a tree. Image from the Vacaville Tree Foundation

To answer the question of why tree staking should be avoided, one can turn to the latest Extension Service advice or to the nearly 2000 year old words of Seneca:

No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley. It is, therefore, to the advantage even if good men, to the end that they may be unafraid, to live constantly amidst alarms and to bear with patience the happenings which are ills to him only who ill supports them.

Moving from practical philosophical advice to practical horticultural advice, let’s say you have a tree from the nursery that is too weak to stand on it’s own. Or you need to stake a tree planted in a public place to keep people from pulling on it. What do you do? Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist at Washington State University has some advice:

•    If trees must be staked, place stakes as low as possible but no higher than 2/3 the height of the tree.
•    Materials used to tie the tree to the stake should be flexible and allow for movement all the way down to the ground so that trunk taper develops correctly.
•    Remove all staking material after roots have established. This can be as early as a few months, but should be no longer than one growing season

Now, back to the philosophical: Seneca’s tree analogy is a good example of a system that benefits from chaos and shock. This idea is the subject of Nassim Taleb’s new book on what he calls “anti-fragility“.

By contrast, natural or organic systems are antifragile: They need some dose of disorder in order to develop. Deprive your bones of stress and they become brittle. This denial of the antifragility of living or complex systems is the costliest mistake that we have made in modern times. Stifling natural fluctuations masks real problems, causing the explosions to be both delayed and more intense when they do take place. As with the flammable material accumulating on the forest floor in the absence of forest fires, problems hide in the absence of stressors, and the resulting cumulative harm can take on tragic proportions.

For more advice on tree staking see:

North Carolina State University’s Staking Recent Transplants

University of Minnesota’s guide to Staking and Guying Trees

Linda Chalker-Scott’s pdf on The Myth of Staking

Update: Please note an exception to these tree staking rules regarding certain kinds of dwarf fruit trees. See the comments for the details. Thanks C.