Saturday Linkages: DIY Coffee Roasting and That Crazy Rhubarb Lady

IKEA hack: DIY coffee roaster.

DIY

IKEA hack FrankenRoaster – DIY Coffee Roaster Drum http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Ikeahacker/~3/Ii6NHUh_5Hg/frankenroaster-coffee-roaster-drum.html …

Made in the Shade: Building a Vertical Garden Under the Canopy of Our Guava Tree http://disq.us/8en1h5

Create Your Own Hipster Logo In 6 Steps http://www.fastcodesign.com/node/1673156 

Back to Basics: Direct Hydropower http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/krisdedecker/lowtechmagazineenglish/~3/3fsfrNm3iis/direct-hydropower.html …

HOWTO: Ultra-cheap Sous-vide – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2013/08/11/howto-ultra-cheap-sous-vide.html …

Nature
Biology, Antifragility, and Nature http://goo.gl/fb/VQHx3Garden Centers Sell Bee-Attractant Plants with Pesticide Residues Toxic to Bees http://www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/?p=11566 …

Want your kids to play outside? Rip out the lawn! by Garden Rant » good read http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/want-your-kids-to-play-outside-rip-out-the-lawn.html?utm_source=feedly …

Design
The Modern Seaweed House by Vandkunsten and Realdania Byg http://www.dezeen.com/2013/07/10/the-modern-seaweed-house-by-vandkunsten-and-realdania/ …

Daily Flash: Jay Nelson/Mollusk Surf Shop http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/lloydkahn/~3/rw0ApY0oJPM/daily-flash-jay-nelsonmollusk-surf-shop_2987.html …

Your Open-Concept Kitchen Will Ruin Your House and Your Life http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/08/against_open_concept_kitchens_don_t_listen_to_hgtv_and_keep_your_walls_and.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=button_chunky …

New Skateboard Can Go Down Stairs http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/lloydkahn/~3/3_e0IccStLo/new-skateboard-can-go-down-stairs.html …

Life in the city
Urban Healers: http://urbanhealers.tumblr.com

Clotheslines vs. HOAs: “Right to Dry” States http://bit.ly/13nMrPL

The Ten Most Ambitious Failed Utopian Mass Transit Systems http://jalopnik.com/the-ten-most-ambitious-failed-utopian-mass-transit-syst-1135019271 …

Making a Case to Phase Out “Beg Buttons” in Santa Monica’s Pedestrian Action Plan http://disq.us/8elfzy

Meet Streetmix, the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street » good read http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/08/12/meet-streetmix-the-website-where-you-can-design-your-own-street/ …

Werner Herzog Made a Documentary About Texting While Driving. And It’s Haunting. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/08/09/werner_herzog_texting_while_driving_documentary_from_one_second_to_the_next.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=button_chunky …

As City Considers Removing Ban on Parkway Vegetable Gardens, Some Communities Continue Planting http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/08/13/as-city-considers-removing-ban-on-parkway-vegetable-gardens-some-communities-continue-planting/ …

The view from above Los Angeles http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-green-homage-to-los-angeles-20130814,0,4040309.story …

This Week in Crazy Rhubarb Lady by Amy Stewart http://gardenrant.com/2013/08/this-week-in-crazy-rhubarb-lady.html?utm_source=feedly …

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

Before and After Permaculture

suzzanebackyard

An aspirational alternative to the future of jetpacks and space colonies I blogged about yesterday, came to me via the folks at Petaluma Urban Homestead. Noting that I said I was going to sit in on Larry Santoyo’s Permaculture Design Course (PDC), Suzanne of Petaluma Urban Homestead sent me before and after photos of her backyard saying, “This is what happened after I took my PDC!”

The Elysium Delusion

Matt Damon in Elysium

If the futurist projections of my childhood had come true, by 2013 we should have all been living in a spinning subdivision in earth orbit by now. But space colonization is a concept that’s always bugged me. It strikes me an irresponsible escape: rather than fix things on earth, let’s all get the hell out–it’s the ultimate form of suburban flight.

NASA's 1970s era version of Elysium

NASA’s 1970s era version of Elysium

The heyday of space colonization futurism was the 1970s. But space station fantasies have reappeared in popular culture recently. At the end of the recently released movie Elysium [spoiler alert] the evil French speaking space colonists (who look like Armani clad Santa Barbarans) have their computer reset by Matt Damon who, with a few keystrokes,  gives the miserable residents of Earth (represented as a third world, distopian Los Angeles!) both universal health care and citizenship.

But, the movie Elysium, while on the surface a struggle between the haves and the have-nots, still takes it as gospel that our salvation comes in the form of an orbiting space colony. The final scene shows the teaming masses of Angelinos saved from above by the miraculous intervention of nurse robots from the space colony Elysium (which, incidentally, looks both like a rotating Mercedes logo, and the cross within a the circle symbol which Carl Jung associated with wholeness).

1970s space farming.

1970s space farming.

Coincidentally, physicist Stephen Hawking, descended from his own Euro-Elysium recently to speak to a group of nurses and doctors here in Los Angeles. In his speech, according to Associated Press, he argued for getting off earth, “The 71-year-old Hawking said he did not think humans would survive another 1,000 years “without escaping beyond our fragile planet.” The same article noted his previous advice to “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”

A scene from Elysium

A scene from Elysium

These fantasies permeate our culture. Take also the new reality show offering participants a one way trip to Mars, as well as the ongoing efforts of Richard Branson to hurtle rich people into low earth orbit.

In answer to Hawking, Hollywood’s imaginings, Richard Branson and those unfortunate Mars reality show participants, I say we haven’t been spending enough time looking down at our feet. The fact is that earth is a paradise, space is a vacuum and Mars is a hell.

We have to work with what we have. In my cranky opinion, the future is in down-to-earth appropriate technology, not space stations.We need to plant gardens here on earth not in the vacuum of space. I’ll note that the farms in these space colonies look an awful lot like the dystopian factory farms we have down on earth.

And we should recognize the space station fantasy for what it is: a materialistic version of a heavenly afterlife, with scientists such as Hawking acting as the priests of what John Michael Greer calls the “religion of progress,” the unspoken faith that our salvation lies in an ever greater progression of shiny technological objects.

I get that we need myths. Jung recognized rockets and UFOs as sort of a machine age manifestation of archetypes of heaven and transcendence. But it’s well past time to switch out our outdated, mechanistic symbols. Perhaps we can look to the fevered imaginings of permaculture for a healthier alternative to space station futurism. Or maybe we just need to get our hands dirty, planting gardens, building swales, working to improve what we have–in other words, look at our feet not the stars and work towards a hands-on integration of the physical and the transcendent.

Horticultists

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 8.08.58 PM

Michael Tortorello has written another great article for the New York Times, “Marriage is Yard Work.” The article details the San Diego garden of Ryan Benoit and his wife Chantal Aida Gordon. The two have created a DIY oasis worthy of dwell magazine. What’s noteworthy about this couple’s garden is that neither of them are professionals, the hardscaping is done largely with salvaged materials and it’s all portable since they are renters not homeowners.

Benoit and Gordon also have a blog I’m looking forward to following at thehorticult.com.

Cat Litter Compost, Installment #3

troutsitting

No, our cats aren’t privileged or anything.

A gentle reader reminds us that it’s been too long since we updated you all on the cat litter compost.

For background, see Installment One and Installment Two

Long story short, cat litter composting can work (under the care of an experienced composter, mind), especially in conjunction with a worm bin–but I’ve found a method I like better.

On the composting experiment:

In our last episode of Cat Box Madness, I discovered my kitty litter wasn’t breaking down very quickly, so I added nitrogen to the mix. That seemed to work well. All except the first 7 inches or so is really nicely broken down all the way through. I still wouldn’t put it as it is anywhere near food crops, even though it is two years old, just to be safe.

To make it extra safe — and useful — I’ve been letting the worms have at it. I’m using it as part of the mix that forms the worm bedding, so cat poo will become worm poo and the garden will be delighted.

That’s how I plan to dispose of all of it, bit by bit. If I didn’t have the worm bin, I’d call it done and spread it under fruit trees or ornamental plantings.

Lessons Learned:

1) Make sure your pile is accessible and easy to turn. Due to lack of yard space, I put my litter in a 50 gallon drum in a narrow, hard-to-access–and hot!–side yard. This meant I never wanted to tend it, and when I forced myself out there, I was pretty unhappy. There wasn’t even enough room to wield a shovel comfortably.

2) A big pile is a good pile. While I made this work in a 50 gallon drum, the best compost comes from a bin which is about 1 cubic meter/yard in size. Smaller bins just don’t heat up sufficiently, and are invariably pokey and hard to work with. If you want to do this, do it big.

3) Careful with the litter you choose. Not many litters make the grade. You can’t use clay litter, or any litter made with deodorants or coloring or “magic crystals” or tiny unicorns. It must be made of 100% plant based material. I approve of both World’s Best and S’wheat Scoop. Pine pellet litter, like Feline Pine, is much less expensive than the clumping brands, and suitably plant based, but under ordinary circumstances, since its not scoopable, you have to dump the whole tray rather often, which leads to a fast build up of material. If you have room for it, this might be okay.  (I’ll have more to say about pine litter further down, though.)

4) You have to add extra nitrogen to your pile to make it work. Even though it’s plenty stinky, the nitrogen present in cat waste can’t balance the heavy carbon loads of the litter by itself.

(Note: You should be an experienced composter before you try composting cat litter, as I’ve warned before, and so you will of course know what I mean by all this talk of carbon and nitrogen–but for those of you who are incorrigible, or simply curious, nitrogen sources you might add to your pile include urine, natural seed meal fertilizers, dried alfalfa, fresh grass clippings and other plant material, fresh chicken, horse, or cow manure, and vegetable trimmings.)

Other than those caveats, cat litter composting works pretty much like regular composting. Keep the pile moist. Keep an eye on it, fix it as necessary. Let it sit for two years at least before you spread it. And then spread it around non-edible plants, or under fruit trees. The fruit trees won’t uptake anything nasty.

It’s totally do-able and I’d do it again. But I’d rather do it again in a larger yard, where I could have a big, accessible compost bin. So now I’m doing something new.

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