A Year after The Age of Limits: 5 Responses to the End Times

donkey

photo by Sansculotte on de.wikipedia

Ever since Erik and I and our friend John attended the Age of Limits conference a year ago, I’ve been meaning to offer some kind of measured response to the conference.  (The Age of Limits conference is a sort of woodsy fiesta for doomers held annually in Pennsylvania. For more info, follow the link.).  I’ve hesitated to do so, though, for two reasons.

The first reason was that I wasn’t sure if I should engage with the topic. Erik will rant now and then, but overall neither of us likes to preach or “opinionate.” We’d rather just focus on the lifestyle, and let people find their own reasons for reading whatever it is we happen to be blogging about.

The second reason was ambition. In my head, a proper response to such complex topics required long, thoughtful essays with footnotes.  That was a surefire way to keep myself from writing anything at all.

Yet a year out, memories of the Age of Limits conference nag at me. I wish I were an excellent long form journalist so that I could describe the entire event in detail, because it was such a strange trip, full of interesting characters, unforgettable moments, and strong emotions. We met some really good people there.

I can’t describe the event,  not unless you come over to my house and let me ramble on for about two hours, with many asides and breaks for snacks. But I can distill my overall reaction into a handful of concepts which relate more to the overall “doomosphere” than to the conference in particular.

And since this is the Internet, the home of unfounded opinion, I’ve realized I can say whatever I want, with no footnotes. So, if you want to keep reading, I’ve whittled my responses down to five points, but it’s still long.

N.B. This is what I think, not what Erik thinks. He has his own post to write.

Continue reading…

Saturday Linkages: Gourds, Cats and Cider Bread

forum.susana.org-media-kunena-attachments-52-TheMukombe.pdf2_

The Mukombe. Image: Afrigadget.

The Mukombe–a hand washing station made out of a gourd:  http://www.afrigadget.com/2014/04/06/the-mukombe/ …

Farine: Mike Zakowski making cider bread http://www.farine-mc.com/2014/04/mike-zakowski-making-cider-bread-video.html?spref=tw …

6 Methods for Harvesting Rainwater – Homesteading and Livestock – MOTHER EARTH NEWS http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/6-methods-of-harvesting-rainwater-ze0z1404zjhar.aspx …

Are probiotics helping you? | Food Matters, Scientific American Blog Network http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/food-matters/2014/04/29/are-probiotics-helping-you/?WT.mc_id=SA_sharetool_Twitter …

Photos, Videos: Up Close With The Kitties At NYC’s Cat Cafe http://gothamist.com/2014/04/23/nyc_cat_cafe_photos_video.php …

Corro Kitty DIY Feral Cat Shelters – http://go.shr.lc/1knpbqd 

ScienceShot: ‘Chameleon’ Vine Discovered in Chile | Science/AAAS | News http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/04/scienceshot-chameleon-vine-discovered-chile …

A warning about “bee-friendly” plants http://www.honeybeesuite.com/a-warning-about-bee-friendly-plants/ …

L.A.’s First Public Transit Used Actual Horse Power http://southland.gizmodo.com/l-a-s-first-public-transit-used-actual-horse-power-1566350171/+nathanmasters …

Neuroscience of junk-food cravings, researched in a Chili’s dumpster – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2009/04/27/neuroscience-of-junk.html …

What the hell to do with the parkway? http://gardenrant.com/2014/04/hellstrip-gardening-highlights-and-give-away.html …

The Case Against Cars | VICE United States http://www.vice.com/read/cars-should-be-safe-legal-and-rare …

How to scare kids away from riding bicycles: http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2014/04/bsnyc-no-quiz-because-in-my-mind-its.html …

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

Mulch Volcanoes: Another Bad Gardening Idea

Root Simple reader Donna, in response to my post on decomposed granite as mulch, alerted me to a related phenomenon: the infamous mulch volcano. For whatever reason, I don’t see this viral gardening phenomenon much here in Los Angeles but it’s really common elsewhere in the US.

Mulch volcanoes are generally considered to be a bad idea. It’s thought that the lack of air circulation at the base of the tree can lead to disease problems and you don’t want roots to grow up into the mulch so close to the trunk. When applying mulch you should keep it a few inches away from the base of a tree.

herber bayer grass mound

Artist Herbert Bayer’s EarthMound, 1955. Image: GardenHistoryGirl.

How strange gardening practices, such as mulch volcanoes, get started is really interesting to me. Mulch volcanoes remind me of miniature versions of minimalist art earthworks or Native American mounds. Is the mulch volcano a kind of outsider landscape art? Is the mulch volcano a misguided attempt at putting a human imprint on nature, what landscape architects call “clues to care?”

Decomposed Granite as Mulch: A very bad idea

Decomposed Granite

There’s a well defined architectural vocabulary house flippers use in our neighborhood. Flippers buy a crumbling 1920s bungalow, paint the front door orange, add a horizontal fence, redo the interior in a Home Depot meets Dwell Magazine style and then turn around and sell it for a million bucks.

When house flippers tackle a yard they tend towards the “low-maintenance” landscape (in quotes because there’s no such thing as a low-maintenance garden). One of the favorite tools in the flipper landscaping toolbox is decomposed granite (DG) used as a mulch. Put some plastic landscape fabric down (blocks rainwater in our climate, fyi) and top that plastic with DG. They then punch some holes in the DG/plastic and pop in succulents and maybe a rosemary bush or two. By the time the yard becomes a sad, desertified tangle of unhappy succulents and crabgrass, the flippers are long gone.

I’ve got a big issue with DG as mulch. In order for DG to look good, it’s got to be compacted and soil compaction is really bad for plants, including hardy natives and succulents. It stifles the life of the soil, and does not build new soil. And eventually, the plastic will fail, and the weeds will come through (some come through even when the plastic is new), and whoever is left holding the bag a couple of years down the road will be pulling decaying bits of plastic out of their garden for evermore.

What’s a better approach? Wood chips. Pile it on thick. Skip the plastic liner. Eventually your new plantings will cover any bare areas if you space them correctly. It looks good,  and the mulch breaks down and turns into soil. You will still need to weed but that’s called gardening. Save the DG for walkways. Or use mulch on your walkways too. Mulch is free or low cost. Just ask your local arborist to drop off a load.