Erik’s 2012 New Year’s Resolutions in Review

Thank you Kurt and Ben and all who helped build our adobe oven.

I never used to make New Year’s resolutions until I decided to flaunt them on our blog last year. And, of course, I made way too many. So how did I do?

Completed:

  • Build adobe oven in the backyard: check! Thanks to Kurt Gardella and Ben Loescher who led a class in our backyard.
  • Plan out garden ahead of time instead of playing catch-up at the last minute: I did indeed plan out the garden but nature had her own plans including a destructive series of skunk attacks. I’ve switched to a hands-off approach to veggie gardening inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka.
  • Start a podcast (decided to make it a video podcast). You can subscribe in the iTunes store here (it’s freeeeee!).
  • Clean up the graphic design on the blog and organize information better: Thank you to our book designer Roman Jaster for doing this for us!
  • Return to the fencing strip (I’ll admit it’s a pretentious activity–sort of the artisinal mayonnaise of sports–but I’m addicted to it.). See the first topic on the incomplete list.

Fencing jacket is still hanging in my office as a reminder to get those knees working again!

Working on, i.e. incomplete:

  • Fix bad knees–retuning to the fencing strip gave me the worst case of runner’s knee I’ve ever had. This is a good thing because it forced me to get into physical therapy and fix the problem.
  • Improve writin’ skills.
  • Celebrate the wonderful awesomeness that is Mrs. Homegrown each and every day.

I’ve got the book but not the license.

Fail:

  • Get HAM technician’s license.
  • Learn Morse code
  • Attend CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes.
  • Organize messy office so it doesn’t look like an episode of Hoarders.
  • Organize supplies in garage into labeled boxes: still messy.
  • Turn the garage into the ultimate man cave.
  • Increase running distance.
  • Organize bug-out box.
  • Backpack more often.
  • Camp on Santa Rosa island again.
  • Return to biodynamic practices in the garden.
  • Learn how to sharpen knives and tools.
  • Create an iPhone or iPad app.
  • Check email only twice a day.
  • Take more time to cook.
  • Keep the kitchen spotless.
  • Ferment vegetables more often.

My New Year’s resolution this year is to have a much shorter New Year’s resolution list. I’ll post that list tomorrow.

So how did your 2012 go? What did you accomplish on your homestead? Please share in the comments . . .

Happy Mayan Apocalypse!

OK, so why are the folks in front having a good time?

If you’re reading this post the Mayan apocalypse did not happen. Either that or I’m blogging via a HAM link from the Root Simple bug out location. So what is the official party line here at Root Simple on the whole 2012 deal?

I’m hoping the uneventful passing of this day will mark a peak in interest in apocalyptic scenarios. While I could opinionate about the Apocalypse meme, as John Michael Greer calls doomsday thinking, I think it would be best just to quote Greer from his book Apocalypse Not:

there’s at least a chance that the upcoming failure of the 2012 prophecy might encourage people to take a hard and skeptical look at the apocalypse meme itself, to recognize that longing for the annihilation of most of humanity has no place in an authentic spirituality, and accept that our happiness as human beings depends on how we choose to live our lives here and now, in this beautiful world on which we each dance for so brief and precious a time.

Garden Amendments as Placebos

I just finished writing an article for Urban Farm Magazine on the subject of aerated compost tea (ACT for short). It proved to be one of the most contentious subjects on which I’ve ever tried to, as Mark Twain liked to say, “corral the truth.”

It got me thinking about other controversial soil additives popular in organic gardening and farming circles right now such as rock dust, mycorrhizae additives, and biochar.

Now I prefer not to touch these topics with a hundred foot pole. But let me go out on a limb with a thoughtstyling outside of the usual debate about the benefits or worthlessness of these soil potions. I’ve started wondering if the strong anecdotal evidence supporting things like ACT, biochar etc., might indicate a kind of ecological placebo effect at work.

Note: I’m not saying that placebos have no value or that, “It’s all in your head.” Quite to the contrary: the placebo effect is powerful and causes real changes in the physical world. Even hardcore skeptics agree with me on this (note also the downside to placebos in that article). As the fifteenth century alchemist Paracelsus said, “You must know that the will is a powerful adjuvant of medicine.”

So could working with these soil additives be a way of focusing human will, of changing human consciousness towards the goal of healing the damage to nature that we’ve caused? And what about biodynamics? I suspect a consciousnesses shift within human hearts and minds is what Rudolf Steiner was really trying to do with his, admittedly bizarre, preparations.

On the opposite, non-interventionist side of the gardening spectrum, I’ve been re-reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s books. Fukuoka advocates a radical, almost (but not entirely) hands-off approach to natural systems. Paradoxically, Fukuoka was striving for the very same shift in consciousnesses, though by entirely different (Eastern) means. As he put it, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

I think we would do well to spend more time investigating the intersection of human consciousness and ecology in the years ahead. Our survival may depend on it.

Now, as Marshall McLuhan was fond of saying, “If you don’t like that idea, I’ve got others.” So let me know what you think in the comments . . .

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?