Bread Camp at the Greystone Mansion

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Hey bread bakers, I’m part of a two day bread-centric cooking camp being held at the historic (There Will Be Bread!) Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. For more info and to sign up head over to the Institute of Domestic Technology.

March 28 & 29, 2015 10am to 4pm (a 2-day workshop)
Historic Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills
$495 – New smaller class limited to 14 students.

Includes ingredients, supplies, morning beverages and snacks, 2 fully catered lunches and handouts

After the smashing success of our previous two-day bread camp workshops we are offering it again! Announcing the Spring 2015 Bread Camp.

This all-things-bread immersion course will explore wild yeast, fresh grain milling, hearth-baked loaves, whole grain breads, pretzels, parchment crackers, tortilla-making and pizza dough 101. What’s more, many of our recipes will be baked in MOMO a wood-fired mobile bread oven! Don’t worry, home oven baking instructions will be included in your class handouts along with places to source the best flour, grain, equipment and tips.

Highlights include:
Assembling your own take-home wild yeast starter
Grinding fresh flour on the spot from whole grains
Mastering the art of baking by weight with a scale
Enjoying delicious meals the Institute is known for including a make-your-own-pizza bar and a DIY taco stand

Saturday
Bread baking basics: yeast, scales, grams, wheat, storage,
Tartine-style boule
Tortillas
Lunch: Taco Bar
Grain grinding
Wild Yeast Starter
Fermented Rye bread

Sunday
Pizza shaping demo
Shape boule
Shape rye bread
Parchment Crackers with a salt, seed and herb topping bar
Lunch: Make your own pizza
Baking of the Loaves

Instructors Include:
Erik Knutzen: Co-author of The Urban Homestead and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, co-founder of the Los Angeles Bread Bakers collective and a L.A. County Master Food Preserver
Joseph Shuldiner: Institute Director and author: Pure Vegan: 70 Recipes for Beautiful Meals and Clean Living
Carmi Paulson: Carmi trained at Le Cordon Bleu, London where she received a Grand Diplôme in Patisserie and Cuisine. She further developed her skills studying with bakers from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.
Michael O’Malley: Artist and bread baker, Michael’s work centers around ideas regarding social practice, community and sustainable art practice. He is currently growing wheat and taking his mobile wood-fired bread oven MOMO on the road for workshops and performances. He is an Associate Professor of Art at Pomona College, in Claremont, CA. He lives and work in Los Angeles and the Catskills of New York.
Nan Kohler: Owner and Miller at Grist & Toll, the first commercial stone-ground flour mill to open in Southern California in eighty years.

Charles Eisenstein to Speak in Westchester

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Passing along what looks like a really cool event:

Charles Eisenstein — visionary, philosopher, social critic, and author is speaking Holy Nativity Episcopal Church on Saturday, March 21 at 6:00 P.M. Charles is giving a talk based on his latest book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. In it, he sagely describes the emotional, social, civilization-wide “between” that we’re in right now. It’s the space between the old — worn-out, flawed, unfulfilling, and unfulfillable — story of what society and humanity is about and the new story of interconnection.

The talk will be preceded by a vegetarian potluck dinner at 5:00 P.M. in the Community Hall. There are “real/reusable” dishes and utensils as well as cloth napkins. Please help make this a zero-waste event.

In keeping with Charles’s “gift economy” concept, in lieu of an “entrance fee,” we ask that you donate a value equal to what this talk is worth to you. That might be $10 or $20 or $100. All funds will go to support Charles’s ongoing work.

You don’t want to miss this important event.

Holy Nativity is located at:

6700 West 83rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Leisure The Basis of Culture

Brueghel left out the mobile device.

Brueghel left out the mobile device.

Lately, I’ve been pondering that horrible state of mind that happens when I turn on a computer. You all know the story. You check your email. Then Facebook. You respond to an urgent Twitter message. You send an invoice. Then, somehow, an hour later, you’ve fallen down some deep click bait hole, “This Dog Was Rescued from a Sewer Tunnel. Within Hours He Was Transformed.” You’re what our culture describes as “busy” and even “productive.”

And yet this “busyness” is actually a form of inactivity. It’s a way of looking like we’re doing things without actually doing anything. A remarkable book I’m in the middle of, Josef Pieper’s Leisure The Basis of Culture, paradoxically, connects this false busyness with sloth:

At the zenith of the Middle Ages, on the contrary, it was held that sloth and restlessness, ‘leisurelessness’, the incapacity to enjoy leisure, were all closely connected; sloth was held to be the source of restlessness, and the ultimate cause of ‘work for work’s sake’. It may well seem paradoxical to maintain that the restlessness at the bottom of a fanatical and suicidal activity should come from the lack of will to action; a surprising thought.

Bruegel, anticipating our addiction to mobile devices by several centuries, depicts this state of Acedia, or restlessness, in the engraving above.

It should be noted that Pieper calls “leisure” is not the same as “taking a break.” It’s a state of deep contemplation:

Leisure is not the attitude of mind of those who actively intervene, but of those who are open to everything; not of those who grab and grab hold, but of those who leave the reins loose and who are free and easy themselves — almost like a man falling asleep, for one can only fall asleep by ‘letting oneself go.’ Sleeplessness and the incapacity for leisure are really related to one another in a special sense, and a man at leisure is not unlike a man asleep. Heraclitus the Obscure observed of men who were asleep that they too “were busy and active in the happenings of the world.” When we really let our minds rest contemplatively on a rose in bud, on a child at play, on a divine mystery, we are rested and quickened as though by a dreamless sleep. Or as the Book of Job says, “God giveth songs in he night” (Job 35:10). Moreover, it has always been a pious belief that God sends his good gifts and his blessing in sleep. And in the same way his great, imperishable intuitions visit a man in his moments of leisure. It is in these silent and receptive moments that the soul of man is sometimes visited by an awareness of what holds the world together:

vas die Welt
Im innersten zusammenhält

only for a moment perhaps, and the lightning vision of his intuition has to be recaptured and rediscovered in hard work.

Fr. Mark Kowalewski, who tipped me off to Pieper’s book, describes this state of leisure as “profoundly counter-cultural.”

And yet I hear Gmail calling me. Time to update my Facebook profile and get out some tweets.

How do you deal with life’s distractions? How do you carve out some time for true leisure?

Landscaping Lightly 2015 Calendar

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I think we can pretty much close down this blog now that the Council for Watershed Health has summarized all or our creeds in their 2015 downloadable calendar (pdf). The calendar offers “tips and techniques for sustainable landscaping” and sharp graphic design by artist Edward Lum. Each month you get a new exhortation: everything from installing a greywater system, to welcoming pollinators to, gasp, using a broom instead of a leaf blower. The last two pages are a handy list of California-centric resources.

If we all worked to implement the simple steps in this calendar we’d pretty much be living in Eden.

A ceramic oil lamp

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There is not an ember burning on the table top! It just looks that way.

This is to report that I’ve accomplished one of my New Year’s resolutions: I made a ceramic oil lamp.

Regular readers will know that I’m a little obsessed with lamps that burn cooking oil instead of kerosene.

I like them so much, I made a little seashell oil lamp the very first project in our book Making It. As a child of the electric age it continuously amazes me that I can make light so easily with cooking oil. Also, in reproducing these lights, I feel a connection to history. I’ve no doubt that my ancestors gathered around fish oil lamps in the north and olive oil lamps in the south.

To add to their charms, they aren’t based on petroleum–as paraffin tea candles are, for example–and they’re non-toxic. They’re relatively safe, compared to kerosene, in that vegetable oil has such a high flash point. And finally, in their list of virtues, they’re cheap. They can be improvised out things like jar lids and Altoids tins, and I use rancid and otherwise questionable oils to fuel them — oils which I would otherwise throw out.

This ceramic lamp more fancy than the little lamps I’ve made previously. It’s based on the standard-model Mediterranean oil lamp which was ubiquitous throughout the ancient world. Ancient Romans had cheap terra cotta lamps in this shape which were stamped with the names of popular gladiators–the ancient equivalent of a 7-Eleven superhero cup. Nowadays I believe these lamps are standard stock in the Holy Land tourist trade.

At any rate, I’ve always wanted one, so I built one. Next I want to make more of them in more complex forms–designs with two and four flame outlets.

The workings of the lamp are quite simple. Inside is the oil reservoir. There’s a fill hole on the top, which I capped with a little leaf to keep the cats from sampling the oil. The top is convex, the slope leading to the fill hole, so it’s easy to top off without spilling oil. I fished a piece of cotton rag up through the “nose” to serve as a wick. The wick is long enough that it extends into the main body of the lamp. All ancient lamps are low-slung like this. The fuel seems to draw better when the wick is almost horizontal.

The lamp is smaller than you might think from the picture–it fits in the palm of my hand. Due to its size, and the fact that the walls are thick because I’m still pretty clumsy at the clay work, the reservoir only holds about 2 tablespoons of oil. Nonetheless, that much oil gives a strong bright flame for 4 1/2 hours.

My Favorite Podcasts

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There’s a lot of repetitive manual labor to do around our household this year. Kelly and I are in the midst of re-doing our garden and fixing up a few rooms of our old house. While I could execute my duties in a contemplative and mindful silence, the fact is that I’m not that type of person. I’m also not the audio book type, so when I’m working I like to listen to podcasts. Here’s a selection of what I subscribe to:

C-Realm Podcast
This is the first podcast I ever subscribed to and it’s my favorite. It’s hard to pin down exactly what this show is about other than that the “C” stands for “consciousness,” but in no way would I call it “new age.” The topics vary widely, everything from resource depletion to singularitarians to heady economic theory. The talented, thoughtful and compassionate host goes by the pseudonym, “KMO” and it’s been interesting over the years to hear his ideas change. Lately, KMO has come out of a doomer phase and has shifted his focus to a new set of guests who are articulating the problems and possibilities or our time. KMO also has a paid subscription podcast called the C-Realm Vault, which I also enjoy.

Futility Closet
A romp through historical curiosities. Recent episodes have covered the 1925 serum run to Nome, a 19th century attempt to balloon over the North Pole and Victorian children’s author Favell Lee Mortimer’s offensive travel book.

In Our Time
Host Melvyn Bragg corrals a posse of academics to discuss topics in history, religion and philosophy. When guests drop big words like “hermeneutics” and “teleology,” Bragg always brings them down to earth and makes them explain things in plain English. This show has filled in many gaps in my education and functions as a reminder that not all of the media in this world is fixated on Kim Kardashian’s derriere.

On Being
Like Bragg, On Being host Krista Tippett has an almost supernatural ability to tackle difficult subjects, in this case religion and spirituality. I’m especially fond of a recent episode, a rare interview with poet Mary Oliver.

Radiolab
A highly produced NPR show. Readers of this blog will especially enjoy the episode, “How do you put a price tag on nature?

Reply All and Start Up
Two podcasts from a new podcasting network founded by This American Life producer Alex Blumburg. Reply All tell stories about the people behind the internet and Start Up is a recursive look at founding a podcasting network.

99% Invisible
An short and to the point show on design and architecture.

Grow Edible
Homesteading advice from Seattle blogger Erica Straus.

Do you have a favorite podcast? Leave a comment!

Saturday Tweets: Gluten, Complete Streets and Badass Free Libraries

How to Subscribe to a Podcast

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First, I want to thank all of you who have subscribed, listened to and given us feedback on our podcast. I think there are many more of you who might like our podcast but are flustered by the user-unfriendly technology of podcasting.

You can, of course, just use the player that we embed in our podcast blog posts. But then you can’t do your dishes or listen to us natter on during your commute to work. If you’ve got a mobile device you can subscribe and have the podcast automatically downloaded via:

When I’ve got some menial chores I make sure to load up my cast-off iPhone with my favorite podcasts. I’ll share some the podcasts I listen to in a future blog post.

039 Climate Change and Be-cycling With Peter Kalmus

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Our guest this week is Peter Kalmus who is, among many things, a physicist, a climate scientist, a gardener, a beekeeper, a cyclist and the father of two boys. In our conversation he discusses his “Be-Cycling” response to climate change. Through a series of lifestyle changes he has reduced his personal CO2 emissions from 20 tonnes a year–which is about the US national average–to two tonnes. And he says he’s had a great time doing it. During the podcast he also touches on:

  • His transition from astrophysics to climate science and why he made the switch.
  • The carbon footprint of climate science.
  • Not giving climate skeptics any more airtime.
  • The disconnect between evidence and action.
  • Meditation.
  • Techo-fixes vs. “pulling back.”
  • Figuring out your carbon footprint.
  • Avoiding flying.
  • The carbon footprint of food.
  • Becoming a vegetarian.
  • Dumpster diving.
  • Growing food.
  • RIPE Altadena.

You can find out more about Peter through his be-cycling website. You can also download an excerpt of his book-in-progress (pdf) and see slides from one of his talks (pdf).

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. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.