A viewing suggestion from the media arm of Root Simple

I really enjoy learning about technologies that are basic enough that I feel like I can understand them–and maybe even replicate them. The technology of Tudor-era in England is by no means primitive, but it also is not as complex and machine-based as the tech which takes off in the 19th century and accelerates so quickly into the present era. I would be hard pressed to explain how anything around me works–from this machine I’m typing on to communicate with the outside world, to the electric light burning beside me.

Bless the BBC for making Tudor Monastery Farm (a title which I believe would not fly on American television). This is a quiet series showing three historians/archeologists at play in the Weald & Downland Open Air History Museum, trying out some of the skills they’d need to be tenant farmers to the local monastery. It has some of the structure of a reality show, but it seems that no one really wants to go that direction much, so with the exception of a bit of camera confession about the urgency of getting the peas planted before Easter, there is none of that annoying reality show faux drama. Instead, it’s just full of juicy nuggets for the appropriate tech geek.

The series is on YouTube. I pray the BBC doesn’t take it down before I get to finish it.

In the first episode alone, they cover goodies like:

  • Coppicing
  • How to make two type of fences: a hazel wattle fence and a dead hedge fence, both of which can be made with a machete and a club
  • Treadwheels: Giant human powered hamster wheels which, along with water wheels, were the engines of their time.
  • How to make rush lights out of sheep fat and rushes.
  • An almost forgotten food plant called Alexanders, which is a Mediterranean plant related to parsley, which I’ve never heard of but now want to plant in my garden.
  • Tips on calligraphy done with quills. Did you know the quill has to be almost horizontal in the hand?
  • And how to make a paintbrush out of a feather and a stick. Marvelously clever, and the secret to the fine lines in illuminated manuscripts.
  • How to make a magnifying glass out for working the detail in said illuminated manuscripts.
  • How a Tudor gentleman literally sewed himself into his clothes each day, & the mysteries and marvels of the codpiece. (I suppose that if I were transported to that era I’d eventually stop staring at the distracting cords dangling from gentlemen’s crotches. You’ll see what I mean.)
  • You get to meet one of the last working teams of oxen in England (sad!), and see what it takes to plow a field.
  • How to build and wattle and daub pig house
  • And finally, very exciting, there’s a cameo by Robin Wood, the last professional wooden dish carver in England. I’ve seen his videos (where he looks much less dorky than he does in Tudor gear) and actually have one of his bowls. He carves beautiful bowls and spoons, his only tools his hatchet, his carving knives, and a foot operated pole lathe. The foot operated lathe was in use for nearly 1000 years, but now is almost extinct. It’s a wonderful piece of technology. Robin makes it look simple, but I’m sure it takes mad skills to use.

And that’s just the first episode. Ale and cheese, blast furnaces and sheep shearing to follow!

One last take away: Because my undergraduate degree is in art history, one thing that really struck me was how much everyone in this show looked like characters out of a Bruegel painting. If you know Pieter Bruegel’s work, you might remember how all his people have this particular stocky, stuffed, oddly jointed, funny-footed sort of look. I thought this was an artistic affectation.  Turns out it’s just the way the clothes fit. Pieter, I did you wrong. You were just painting what you saw.

pieter bruegel's painting, The Peasant Wedding

Legalize Beekeeping in LA!

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Action alert: LA City Council will vote on legalizing bees this Wednesday. I got the following note from Francesca De La Rosa–If you’re in LA please consider writing your councilcritter or attending the council meeting.

As you’ve heard, LA City Council is voting on 3 pending bee measures on Wednesday, February 12th (press conference at 9:15 am). These are the three items that will be voted on:

#1: LEGALIZE URBAN BEEKEEPING IN LOS ANGELES
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=12-0785

#2: SAVING AMERICA’S POLLINATORS ACT
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=13-0002-S134

#3 HUMANE POLICY FOR LIVE BEE REMOVAL
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=13-1660

We hope to see you at City Hall on Feb. 12. But before that, we still need to build support and secure commitments from the Councilmembers. We urge you to reach out to the City Councilmembers by email, asking them to vote yes on all three motions. 

Please send out a simple email to each of the Councilmembers with the following:

Greetings Councilmember __________,

My name is ____________, and I urge you to support Council Files 12-0785 (Legalize Urban Beekeeping in Los Angeles), 13-0002-S134 (Saving America’s Pollinators Act), and 13-1660 (Humane Policy for Live Bee Removal).

Bees are essential to urban food production, providing local environmental and economic benefits through pollination and honey production. Over the past several years, honeybee colonies throughout the United States have experienced high rates of loss and many are in danger of collapse. Los Angeles, with its diverse pollen sources, is an urban oasis for bees, which are also threatened by heavy pesticide application in rural areas. Legalizing beekeeping in our neighborhoods gives our communities a resource to humanely and non-lethally care for healthy bee colonies.

Emails and phone numbers:

Councilmember Gil Cedillo (CD-1): councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (CD-2): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield (CD-3): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Tom LaBonge (CD-4): councilmember.Labonge@lacity.org

Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5): [email protected]

Councilmember Nury Martinez (CD-6): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Felipe Fuentes (CD-7): councilmember.fuentes@lacity.org

Councilmember Bernard Parks (CD-8): councilmember.parks@lacity.org

Councilmember Curren Price (CD-9): councilmember.price@lacity.org

Council President Herb Wesson (CD-10): councilmember.wesson@lacity.org

Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD-11): councilmember.bonin@lacity.org

Councilmember Mitchel Englander (CD-12): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (CD-13): councilmember.[email protected]

Councilmember Jose Huizar (CD-14): councilmember.huizar@lacity.org

Councilmember Joe Buscaino (CD-15): councildistrict15@lacity.org

Feel free to use your personal email address if you cannot send one from your work address.

Free Laundry to Landscape Plans

LaundryToLandscapeDiagram

Judging from our blog comments, the drought here on the west coast has people thinking about greywater. We’ve blogged about it many times before, but it’s worth repeating. Greywater expert Art Ludwig has excellent free plans on his website for putting together a laundry to landscape greywater system. I put this same system in at my neighbor Lora’s house a few years ago and just finished replacing our older greywater system with the one on Ludwig’s website.  It’s easy to install, inexpensive and legal to do without a permit in California.

Greywater Design and Installation Workshop

almaden reservoir car

Learn how to install the popular “laundry to landscape” (L2L) greywater system in this design workshop presented by Laura Allen of Greywater Action and Leigh Jerrard of Greywater Corps.

Laundry to landscape greywater systems are simple, affordable, and easy to maintain. With your own L2L system you can irrigate your landscape each time you do laundry, saving you water, time, and resources. Experienced instructors will lead you step-by-step through the design process, tailoring a system to fit your home. This system is legal to install without a permit, just follow 12 basic guidelines you’ll learn about in class.

Learn

  • How to design a system for your home and landscape
  • How to build a system- you’ll create a “mock-up” of a real system with real greywater parts
  • What parts you’ll need for your home
  • How much greywater you produce and how many plants you can water
  • What soaps and detergents are “greywater friendly”

Tour

  • Real L2L greywater system
  • Gravity “branched drain” greywater system from sinks

Date: February 22, 2014 – 10:00am to 12:30pm
Location: Los Angeles EcoVillage 117 Bimini Place LA, CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $15 to $40, limited work trade positions available

Register HERE

Bring: Photographs of your laundry room and landscape. Site plan of your yard.
For more information on an L2L system refer to the SF Graywater Guide for Outdoor Irrigation, downloadable HERE

Please join our mailing list to be notified of upcoming workshops.
A long-submerged abandoned car is exposed at the bottom of the now-dry Almaden Reservoir
(January 16, 2014. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle)