Talking About the Weather

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We have an informal rule around the Root Simple offices: never talk about the weather. Why? Most of our readers are not local and the weather here in Los Angeles is boring and predictable. Usually it’s sunny and mild.

Severe drought makes our weather newsworthy. California grows a lot of food. In an essay about talking about the weather, Samuel Johnson reminds us that “it is the present state of the skies and of the earth, on which plenty and famine are suspended, on which millions depend for the necessaries of life.”

Due to the increasing weirdness of our weather I nervously check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecasts with greater frequency than I used to. You would think that those NOAA forecasts would be devoid of humor. You would be wrong. As befits anyone who has to wrestle with a complex system, NOAA’s writings have a personal voice, especially when you click on the “Forecast Discussion” link to read a kind of raw discussion between NOAA scientists. Here’s a recent all-caps missive from a NOAA forecast discussion:

WOULD LOVE TO REPORT THAT THE LONG RANGE MDLS HAVE COME INTO GOOD AGREEMENT AND THAT THERE IS SOME SORT OF CONFIDENCE IN THE LONG TERM FORECAST. THAT…HOWEVER…IS NOT THE CASE. EC TOOK A TURN FOR THE WEIRD AND DELAYS THE STORM TO TUESDAY. GFS SEEMS A LITTLE SLOWER TOO. SO RIGHT NOW FEEL PRETTY CONFIDENT THAT RAIN CHANCES WILL BE LIMITS TO THE CENTRAL COAST ON SUNDAY. RAIN MIGHT DEVELOP MONDAY OR IT MIGHT HOLD OFF UNTIL TUESDAY OR IF THE NEW EC IS CORRECT TUESDAY NIGHT. REALLY GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE LIKE RAY GUY AND PUNT THIS FCST INTO TOMORROW AND HOPE FOR SOME KIND OF AGREEMENT. FOR NOW JUST CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY THAT MONDAY AND/OR TUESDAY WILL BE WET. BOTH EC AND GFS CONTINUE TO ADVERTISE A 6 HOUR PERIOD OF DECENT RAIN JUST NO IDEA WHEN.

Not sure what “MAKE LIKE RAY GUY” means. Maybe it’s a typo? “Rain Guy” maybe? And I haven’t figured out the acronyms yet, but I love that the “EC TOOK A TURN FOR THE WEIRD.”

Dr. Johnson’s essay ends with a plea to take a stoic approach to unpredictable forces like the weather, “Every man, however he may distrust himself in the extremes of good or evil, might at least struggle against the tyranny of the climate, and refuse to enslave his virtue or his reasons to the most variable of all variations, the change of the weather.” Given that the weather here over the past few years has been oppressively hot, it may be time to start sewing up that caftan.

In the interest of breaking the Root Simple taboo about weather talk, where are you and what’s the weather like?

Saturday Tweets: Mini Gabions and Citrus Liqueurs

Compostable Holiday Decor

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Yesterday evening I was out in the back yard trimming our perennials (yep, it’s very California to be working in the yard the day before Thanksgiving) and afterward I twisted together a wreath out of what I’d cut: mostly lavender, with some strawberry tree branches, white sage and toyon berries. All I did was attach the green bits with wire to a thin branch I’d bent in a circle.

The wreath was spectacular last night. This morning it is a bit wilted, as the picture shows, but still nice. Properly, if a wreath is to last, it should be made of dried stuff and/or evergreen boughs. We’ll see what this one does over the next couple of days. I’m not bothered if it doesn’t work, as it only took about a half hour to make, and I made it more for the pleasure of the making than anything else.

It is worth remembering that you can throw together a wreath or swag or centerpiece out of whatever fresh plant matter you can find, and it will look fresh for the rest of the day. It’s really nice to have fresh, fragrant greenery on the walls and tables for parties. Here’s a thoughtstyling for you: maybe holiday decor should be as compost-able as the food, so we don’t end up burdened with boxes full of low-grade novelty holiday items which have no future outside a thrift store–kid art and family treasures excepted, of course!

026 Riding a Bike in Los Angeles with Colin Bogart

Colin Bogart of the LACBC. Image: Tropico Station.

Colin Bogart of the LACBC. Image: Tropico Station.


In episode 26 Kelly and I interview Colin Bogart, Programs Director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, about how to ride a bike in the city, commuting by bike and the politics of making our communities more bike friendly.  Colin shares his experience of growing up in the suburbs and how he got back into riding a bike. During the discussion (fueled by a bottle of wine, I’ll note) we discuss:

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.

The Biochar Solution

Image: Wikimedia.

Image: Wikimedia.

I have a built in, knee-jerk skepticism when it comes to the “notions and potions” school of gardening–the idea that some special substance will magically transform dead soil into a lush garden. That was my first reaction to biochar.

But it turns out that there’s something to biochar. This informative research summary from the University of Washington, Biochar: A Home Gardener’s Primer, changed my mind. According to U of W, biochar can:

  • Improve soil texture
  • Upcycle waste materials
  • Increase microbial life
  • Bind heavy metals (this is a big selling point for me with our lead and zinc contaminated soil)

U of W suggests purchasing biochar rather than trying to make it yourself. According to the authors its not easy to achieve proper pyrolysis at home. And they caution that biochar can cause problems for acid loving plants and worms.

I’m interviewing a biochar expert for our podcast today. Look for that episode in two weeks.

Have you used biochar? What do you think of the purchased versus home brew options?

Garden Magician Jeffrey Bale

Jeffrey Bale Garden lr

Image: Jeffrey Bale.

Do yourself a favor today. Fall into mosaic and garden designer Jeffrey Bale’s blog and spend a few hours in awe of his work. He has a new post up showing a garden he built from scratch in Portland and a drought tolerant garden in Los Angeles. I’m especially fond of the fountain in the Portland garden.

Bale’s works is informed by his world travels. He creates spaces that invite contemplation and mystery. Join with me in imagining a world in which creative people like Bale could be cut loose to transform both our private and public spaces . . .

Saturday Tweets: Bikes, Sacred Lands and Watering Paradise