Saturday Linkages: Bow Drills and Cramped Apartments

Bow Drill

Bow drill from Low Tech Magazine

The End of Molasses Malarkey:

Making Wooden Spoons …

Low-Tech Wonders
Hand powered drilling tools and machines: …

Endless Rope Drives: …

Cramped Apartments in Hong Kong Shot From Directly Above …

Saint-Exupéry Quote Poster …

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A Homemade Mattress?


The Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac

 Addendum 3/23/14:

Check out Making Cotton Mattresses at Home, from the University of Florida’s library collection. Similar to the USAID booklet below, but better quality images, and a description of stitching a rolled edge. Thanks, Amy!

Addendum 8/2/14:  From the comments, a solution!

You can read my meanderings below, and you can go through the many, many comments, where there’s lots of buried gold, but for the time-pressed who are ready and raring to make themselves a mattress, I’d just go to this PDF of a 1965 USAID booklet on how to make a cotton stuffed mattress:  

It’s the most detailed set of instructions I’ve found anywhere. Thanks, Sammi!


This is the story of my life. I read about some old domestic technology or product that makes a lot of sense. Perhaps it is obsolete. Or perhaps it is only done/made in more enlightened countries. Nonetheless, I want it. So I have to make from scratch.

Yesterday we met a great couple, Renae and Dimitri. Renae mentioned she was thinking about making her own mattress. I was intrigued because just that morning I’d woken up with low back pain. Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: the ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb the prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants–or opting for a less toxic but less comfortable futon.

So, when Renae said this, I was fascinated. I’d never considered making my own mattress.

Continue reading…

Someone Please Buy Me a KoMo Grain Mill

KoMo Medium Mill

KoMo Medium Mill

So out of the hundreds of vendors I visited at the Natural Foods Expo I’m literally down to only one that I found interesting: KoMo grain mills. Being an avid fan of baking German style breads such as Volkornbrot, I almost fainted with excitement when I stepped up to the booth of Pleasant Hill Grain, who imports KoMo mills to the US.

KoMo’s products are designed by a German/Austrian team, Peter Koidl and Wolfgang Mock. Unlike cheaper grain mills that have metal grinders, Komo mills use a corundum/ceramic stones. This kind of material generates less heat and higher quality flour. KoMo makes quite a few models in varying capacities. Some are motorized and some are manual. They also make an interchangeable milling insert if you need to keep glutenous and non-glutenous products separate.

The salesperson showed me how easy it is to disassemble the mill for cleaning.  The two models I was considering were the KoMo Magic and the KoMo Medium Grain Mill. I got so excited that I had to use supernatural powers of resistance to keep the credit card from flying out of my wallet on the spot.

Komo's "FlicFloc Manual Flaker."

Komo’s “FlicFloc Manual Flaker.”

In addition to grain mills they also make a manual flaker, the “FlicFloc” with a striking, triangular design. For now, I’ll stick with my crapular $30 surplus store flaker. They also make a number of kitchen granaries that had me reaching for the credit card.

The only downside I can see to KoMo products is price. But these mills seem so well designed that I’m fairly certain they will long outlive cheaper mills. If you have one please leave a comment.

Thankfully there’s an entire youtube channel devoted to spinning KoMo grain mill porn. I’m cancelling my Netflix! And, sorry, but I have to note how much these mills look like a herma (NSFW!)

Is Bob’s Red Mill’s Farro Actually Spelt?

Bob's Red Mill's "Farro"

Spelt or farro?

Bob’s Red Mill has introduced a new product they are marketing as “farro,” identified on their website as Triticum spelta or . . . spelt. What’s going on here?

Three grains, emmer (Triticum dicoccum), spelt (Triticum spelta) and einkorn (riticum monococcum) are, according to Wikipedia, “sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro medio, farro grande, and farro piccolo, respectively.” To add to the confusion spelt and einkorn, are also known as faricella, or “little farro” in Italian.

Confused? According to a 1997 article in the New York Times, “Farro, Italy’s Rustic Staple: The Little Grain That Could,” “true” farro is emmer (Triticum dicoccum) and considered superior to spelt.

The distinction between farro (Triticum dicoccum) and spelt (Triticum spelta) is important. Triticum dicoccum, has different genetics than Triticum spelta. Specifically Triticum dicoccum has four chromosomes, Triticum spelta has six. There are unproven theories that more chromosomes may equal more allergenic compounds. This is why there’s an interest in primitive wheats like Triticum dicoccum and einkorn (which has only two chromosomes). There are also important culinary distinctions between true farro and spelt. They taste and are prepared differently.

I’m not saying that spelt is bad. And Bob’s Red Mill is not making any health claims for their “farro.” None of these grains are gluten free. I’ve written Bob’s Red Mill for clarification about their “farro” and will include their response when I get one.

To learn more about why genetic distinctions between wheat varieties is important, watch this Extension Service webinar, “The “Ancient” Grains Einkorn, Emmer, and Spelt: What We Know and What We Need to Find Out.”

Update 3/9/2014: I spoke to a sales representative from Bob’s Red Mill who told me that their farro is spelt that has been scarified. Sorry Bob, but farro is not spelt.

On the Difficulty of Finding Pastured Animal Products

chickens on pasture

Chickens on pasture. Image by MentalMasala.

I was hoping to bring some good news this morning, specifically about a non-profit animal welfare rating service that I found out about at the National Products Expo. There were two animal welfare rating organizations at the Expo, one I decided not to write about because I considered their standards too loose–specifically they do not mandate pasture. The other requires pasture and I was looking forward to recommending them.

This morning, however, I decided to look at some of the farms they have certified and was surprised to come across one that I’ve actually visited. By no stretch of the imagination does the farm in question give their livestock the access to pasture that I was under the impression the rating organization required. Now I’m fully aware that my own backyard chickens would not meet these standards–my yard is simply not big enough and my hens are in a coop/run arrangement all day. But I was hoping for a higher standard from this non-profit rating organization–specifically eggs and meat from a farm that looks like the one in the picture above.

I’m hugely disappointed. And I wish I could be more specific but I don’t want to end up in a lawsuit. Let’s just say that at this point I’m not aware of any animal welfare rating service that I consider adequate. Let’s not even talk about the joke that is the USDA.

I do think there is a entrepreneurial opportunity here for someone to start a reliable third party rating organization. How about we use some 21st century technology?  Just think about how cool it would be to make use of webcams so you could trace and see the farm your food came from.