Of Skunks, Sauerkraut and Stoicism


We were honored when the nice folks behind Stoic Week 2013 asked us to write a blog post. It begins,

Practicality is why stoicism works so well as the philosophical operating system of urban homesteading. While Foucault and Hegel might help me navigate the epistemological frontier, when I’m staring at a carefully tended vegetable bed that just got destroyed by a skunk, you can bet I’ll reach for the Seneca.

Read the rest here.

Erik’s 2014 New Years Resolutions


I’ve got a short and simple list of New Years resolutions this year:

  • Finish hardscaping the backyard and grow more vegetables. Steps have already been taken. Above is architectural genius John Zapf and our cat Trout helping with the plans. And it’s got to look good. Be prepared for some kind of geodesic raised bed folly.
  • Perfect my 100% whole grain sourdough breads using freshly milled flour. Write up some recipes and share my results.
  • Take a trip that involves a class or workshop. I’ve never regretted money spent on education (at least as an adult!).
  • Good health. I’ve figured out a simple if quirky equation. If I can fence I’m healthy. If I can’t I’ve got work to do. This pretentious niche sport just happens to combine flexibility, endurance, strategy and speed. This past year it forced me to confront and deal with knee problems. I plan on attempting a few tournaments in 2014.

What are your New Years Resolutions?

2013 in Review Part II


We got rid of our compact florescents and went back to incandescent bulbs. In most household applications, believe it or not, incandescent bulbs are a better choice. Mrs. Homegrown pondered equine touring by reviewing an obscure book, The Last of the Saddle Tramps. Perhaps she was inspired by our 2012 siting of the 3 mule guy (one of our most Googled posts, by the way).

I consider summer to be our winter in Los Angeles. It’s hot and dry and, other than harvesting tomatoes, summer here is not the best time for gardening. Time to contemplate closed vs. open floor plans and catch a crappy Hollywood movie. “Crappy Hollywood” is a redundancy, of course, as all Hollywood movies are crappy.

Mrs. Homegrown complained about my flour storage mess. I just bought a Komo mill and so this mess should diminish in the next few months. In the further interest of cleanliness, I blogged about the soap nut tree.

We attended Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich’s life changing acorn processing class. Every time I take one of their classes I leave thinking, “that was the best food I’ve ever tasted in my life.” And one sure way to generate controversy is to discuss anything related to bees, especially Africanized bees.

I take a baking class with Craig Ponsford who’s a famous advocate of whole grain baking. Ponsford inspires me to orient all cooking/preserving projects on this blog towards good health. Look for more blog posts on healthy food in 2014. We also participated in Stoic Week 2013. Stoicism is a philosophy that helps us deal with the ups and downs of life. And I got my Ham license–KK6HUF.

I harvest one big-ass squash out of the straw bale garden we planted in the spring. In the ongoing post-modern funhouse of mirrors that is the interwebs, reader Molly informs me that Home Depot put our straw bale garden on their Pinterest page. Maybe I’ll get a free orange bucket, a unhappy flat of petunias or an ugly set of patio furniture as a kickback.

That big-ass squash is a reminder of how fortunate we are–care for nature and she cares for you. Of all the activities of our past year, the ones that stick out for me relate to simple, healthy food and communion with nature. Best wishes for an abundant and healthy 2014 to all of you.

What were the highlights of your 2013?

2013 in Review Part I

before and after: straw bale garden

Straw bale garden: before and after.

One of the side benefits of blogging is having a record of ideas and projects going back for years. I thought I’d spend the next two days looking at what happened, month by month, in 2013.

The main topic was how to deal with patellafemoral syndrome, aka bad knees. In May I did what I should have done 20 years ago: hire a personal trainer to set up a gym program tailored to my needs and weaknesses. After many hours at the YMCA I’ve got PT syndrome under control but I’ve still got a lot of work to do. Thankfully, I’m back to running and fencing.

In February in Los Angeles it should rain. It didn’t. The year was the driest on record: 3.6 inches, making it a desert not the Mediterranean climate it should be. It seems to be a dry winter again this year and I’m worried.

A texting music video producer totaled our car and thus began a six month experiment in living without a car in Los Angeles. That experiment ended in September when we bought a car. Living in LA without a car was easier than I thought it would be thought thanks to the expansion of the rail network. It was a tough decision, but we decided to burn dino juice again.

I began what was to be the most successful experiment of the year, a straw bale garden. It was the perfect solution to our lead soil problem–grow in bales temporarily and generate a lot of compost with which to use in permanent raised beds that I’ll build this winter. I’m still harvesting squash from those bales!

We attend the Age of Limits conference along with our friend John Zapf. Kelly and I blogged about our initial reaction to this doomy event but we never told the whole story–deciding instead to move on and focus on positive action.

Good news and bad news. The amazing folks at Honey Love continued their efforts to legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles. Those efforts are beginning to pay off–the legalization efforts moved forwards this month and I predict we’ll see success in the coming year. In other political news the LA city council caved in to movie industry pressure and made LA the first city to remove green bike lanes. I was at the City Council meeting and got to see film industry and union lobbyists work the room. Those of who came to speak on behalf of the lanes were not allowed to speak. You win some, you lose some.