Saturday Linkages: From Bananas to Laird’s Laws

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Breaking news from Mrs. Homegrown’s alma mater–banana plant busts through glass roof at Smith College conservatory http://www.gazettenet.com/news/9182534-95/banana-plant-busts-through-glass-roof-at-smith-college-conservatory#.UrzZKcw8rbU.twitter …

Goleta considers groovy permaculture ordinance: http://www.independent.com/news/2013/dec/23/goleta-considers-groovy-green-ordinance/ …

Spanish sperm whale death linked to UK supermarket supplier’s plastic http://gu.com/p/3eb3b/tw 

Solicitor George Cooper’s diaries give insight into Victorian life with his watercolour paintings http://bit.ly/yFANsU 

Recreation of ancient beer suggests it was really, really gross http://io9.com/recreation-of-ancient-beer-suggests-it-was-sour-and-ful-572664886 …

Laird’s Laws http://shar.es/OPik9 

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Learn to Build with Adobe

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Kurt Gardella made me an adobe convert and helped us build an oven in our backyard that is responsible for many delicious pizzas. I’ve taken a few classes he’s taught, both in person and online. If you want to learn adobe, Kurt’s your man. Here’s some info on upcoming classes he’s teaching:

Are you looking for college credit for your adobe construction coursework? I am teaching the following spring 2014 semester classes through Santa Fe Community College’s Adobe Construction Department:

Class: ADOB 113 – Passive Solar Adobe Design
Format: 8-Week Online Class
Dates: January 21 to March 15, 2014
Credits: 2
Course #: 31660

Class: ADOB 111 – Adobe Construction Basics
Format: 8-Week Online Class
Dates: March 24 to May 17, 2014
Credits: 3
Course #: 31268

Class: ADOB 112 – Adobe Wall Construction
Format: Web-Blended (4 Weeks Online + 2 Days of Intensive Live Instruction)
Dates: April 19 to May 17, 2014 (class meets on campus Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20, 2014 9am to 5pm)

Location: Trades and Applied Technology 815
Credits: 3
Course #: 31661

For more information on course fees and registration see:

www.sfcc.edu/registration/tuition_and_fees
www.sfcc.edu/registration/first_time_students

Please e-mail me directly at [email protected] if you have any questions or need further information about any of the above classes.

For more info visit: www.kurtgardella.com

Campfire Cooking: Fish in Clay (& Vegetarian Options!)

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The foraging and culinary partnership of Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich continue to make amazing discoveries. I’d describe their work as elemental–start with wild, local ingredients, use direct but often novel techniques to create a cuisine at once sophisticated and neo-primitive. We blogged about their acorn processing workshop back in October. This month we were fortunate to have taken their class on cooking with clay.

Continue reading…

Santa Gets a License

34635r From the library of congress:

Santa Claus receives aeroplane pilot’s license from Assistant Secretary of Commerce. Although there may not be sufficient snow for his reindeer sleigh, Santa Claus will still be able to deliver his load of presents on time this Christmas by using the air route. The old saint called at the Commerce Department in Washington today where he is shown receiving an aeroplane pilot’s license from Assistant Secretary of Commerce. for Aeronautics William P. MacCracken, while Clarence M. Young (right) Director of Aeronautics, Department of Commerce, looks on. Airway maps and the assurance that the lights would be burning on the airways Christmas Eve were also given to Santa.

Did they have more spare time in the 1920s for these high jinks? Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy new year to all of you.

Roots Simple’s Last Minute Gift Guide

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A KCET blogger asked a couple of Master Food Preservers, including myself, what we thought would be good gifts for homesteady types. We all came up with, pretty much, the same items. Here’s the ones I suggested:

Saving the Season by Kevin West. We reviewed this book a few months ago but I’ll say it again: this is my favorite book on food preservation.

417AOIGAt9L Excalibur dehydrator with stainless steel trays. Expensive, but this thing works a lot better than those cheap round dehydrators. Truly the Cadillac of deyhdrators.

il_570xN.503980826_6605 1.5 liter lactofermentation kit. Yes, you can make one yourself, but this is a nice all-glass model. Plus, when you buy this you are supporting Ernest Miller who has given countless volunteer hours to build LA’s Master Food Preserver program.

What did you give to the homesteaders in your life? Or did you forgo gifts altogether?

Saturday Linkages: Holiday Edition

How Children Demanding Play Streets Changed Amsterdam http://feedly.com/e/ejQo__gG

Overpriced, useless, or just plain bizarre: an anti-garden gift guide http://gardenrant.com/2013/12/overpriced-useless-or-just-plain-bizarre-an-anti-garden-gift-guide.html …

Half Of Supermarket Chicken Harbors Superbugs, Consumer Reports Finds http://huff.to/JKYa1W 

Why LA’s local water strategy is like ‘Superman 3′ http://www.scpr.org/news/2013/12/13/40922/with-water-from-the-delta-uncertain-la-looks-to-ex/ …

Bike helmets and safety: a case study in difficult epidemiology – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2013/12/15/bike-helmets-and-safety-a-cas.html …

Avoid Antibacterial Soaps, Say Consumer Advocates http://on.natgeo.com/18Pptyh 

Arizona Food and Farm Finance Forum 2014 http://garynabhan.com/i/archives/2366 

Practical Permaculture – Planting Under Fruit Trees http://wp.me/p2Lm7J-wK 

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Fruit Tree Maintenance Calendars

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Where we live, it’s the time of year to prune and deal with pest issues on fruit trees. The University of California has a very helpful page of fruit tree maintenance calendars for us backyard orchard enthusiasts.  The calendars cover everything from when to water, fertilize, paint the trunks and many other tasks. You can also find them in one big handy set of charts in UC’s book The Home Orchard.

The permaculturalist in me likes our low-maintenance pomegranate and prickly pear cactus. But I also like my apples, nectaplums and peaches–and those trees need the sorts of interventions described in UC’s calendars. Time to get to work . . .

Reforming City Codes

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On my high horse pointing a finger.

In response to my intemperate use of the word “bureaucrat” in yesterday’s post on the city of Miami Shores’ crackdown on a front yard vegetable garden, a Root Simple reader DRBREW responded:

I hate to do this, but in defense of City bureaucrats (of which, I am one) and code enforcement people (of which I am not)…… Most of those citations are complaint driven, it is the code enforcement person’s job to uphold the City Code (they don’t have to be such a jerk about it though), if they don’t do their job, the person that complained will just go higher in the government structure until they get satisfaction (these people that file complaints are usually victims of someone else that complained and now they want everyone to suffer, it’s a vicious cycle). Most code enforcement people are not actively seeking out violations to write citations on, that’s why she was able to grow her veggies for 17 years without a problem, once the complaint is filed it must be addressed (even as a City bureaucrat, I have been a victim of anonymous complaints on my own property about trees, shrubs, you name it…….). I say this: Change the outdated codes that were enacted as a response to someone’s suburban utopian nightmare of manicured lawns and gumdrop shrubs! This is probably what will come of the Florida case. My City recently tried to legalize backyard chickens, someone started an anti-chicken campaign and the City Council lost it’s nerve and voted the amendment down………….Sometimes you just can’t win……..

DRBREW makes a good point. The City of Los Angeles just started a comprehensive review of the city municipal codes to deal with years of contradictory and outdated rules. It’s a process that will take years. Both Napoleon and the Roman emperor Justinian inherited law books so bloated that they used their dictatorial powers to sweep them away and start fresh. We can’t do that in a democracy.

I owe and apology to the many civil servants who, DRBREW points out, have to enforce contradictory and nonsensical codes. A few years ago I was part of a group that helped change the code in LA that made it illegal to grow and resell fruit, flowers or nuts in a residential zone. It was legal, for some reason, to grow and sell vegetables. City staff were very helpful in changing the code. They knew it didn’t make sense and were just as eager to change it as we were.

As DRBREW points out, these ridiculous laws tend not to be enforced at all until a feud begins between neighbors. To prevent these situation we can all help create more cohesive communities. It can be as simple as throwing a party. Our neighbors used a new social networking website called Nextdoor to organize a neighborhood party. I realized at that party just how important it is to get neighbors to chat over food and beer. If we’re all friends, we’re less likely to start calling city inspectors on each other and more likely to resolve disputes face to face.

Another step would be to create city codes that work as guidelines, something like Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, rather than proscriptions. Take parkway planting regulations, for instance. Put together a group of landscape architects, gardening enthusiasts, native plant experts and come up with a guidebook rather than a list of rules. Ultimately, a human being is going to have to make a judgement call on whether something is a nuisance.

My error with yesterday’s blog post was pointing a finger, rather than seeing our communities as as system. That, and blogging while quaffing a beer–how ironic that “DRBREW” would point out my error.

Front Yard Vegetable Gardeners Fights Back

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Hermine Ricketts, vegetable gardening outlaw. Photo: Greg Allen, NPR.

I’ve got a tip for to city bureaucrats. Bust someone for growing vegetables in their front yard and you’ll be held up for ridicule around the world.

This time it’s the city of Miami Shores’ turn to make fools of themselves for forcing Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll to tear up the front yard vegetable garden they’ve tended for 17 years. NPR has the details here. Listen to that story and you’ll get to hear an especially ridiculous grilling from a code enforcement official.

It’s absurd when city codes single out “vegetables.” Broadleaf plantain is a vegetable and anyone who has a lawn is probably growing it. Many flowers such as calendula are edible. Broccoli is a flower. I could go on.

Let’s just say that we wish Ricketts luck with her lawsuit against Miami Shores.