Saturday Linkages: $1 Homes, Compost Heated Showers and Potty Talk

Gary Indiana $1 home program

3573 Lincoln St.in Gary, Indiana. Yours for $1.

Home Sweet Home
Gary Indiana unveils Dollar Home Program: http://bit.ly/19HD517 

Gardening
Pipe planters http://www.recyclart.org/2013/06/pipe-planters/ …

Mariposa Nabi Community Garden features this alter via @GlenDake http://pinterest.com/pin/306667055846811135/ …

DIY
IKEA Hackers: New life for Old Poang! http://www.ikeahackers.net/2013/06

13 Ways To Turn Your Outdated ’90s Tech Into Truly Usable Things http://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/13-ways-to-turn-your-outdated-90s-tech-into-truly-usable-thi …

The Good Life Lab: A modern manual for living off-the-grid: http://boingboing.net/2013/06/04/the-good-life-lab-a-modern-ma.html …

Compost Heated Shower http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2013/06/compost-heated-shower.html#.Uatrpop_kXE.twitter …

More on Compost Heated Showers http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2013/06/more-on-compost-heated-showers.html#.UbAL3izw9q0.twitter …

Car Talk
Millennials not buying cars, Ford panics: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/05/31/ford-keeps-trying-to-get-millennials-to-like-them/#.Ua0wFau-q3s.twitter …

Attacking the Language Bias in Transportation Engineering http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/06/03/attacking-the-language-bias-in-transportation-engineering/#.Ua0vPVM6-Ps.twitter …

Potty Talk
Dollar Shave Club Bets on a Stealth Craze: Wipes for Men http://adage.com/u/HSacEb

Is this the world’s smallest bathroom? http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1252774/worlds-smallest-bathroom-po-tin-estate-residents-think-so …

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

Looking for Chicken Coop Plans

John Zapf chicken run

Our chicken run–designed by John Zapf.

I got a note from Tricia Cornell, who is putting together a chicken coop plan book. There is a real need for this, so if you have a coop, consider sharing your design:

Hi!

I’m a chicken owner in Minneapolis. I was wondering if you could help me spread the word. I’m looking for smart, good-looking chicken coops to feature in an upcoming book.

If you’re proud of your coop, send pictures to [email protected]. Please indicate whether you would be able to provide building plans. (I have a budget to compensate builders for their plans.) I do *not* need plans to go with all the pictures, so send your pics even without them.

Then I’ll be in touch if your coop meets our needs. Please feel free to share this message with any chicken-owners you know.

A little bit about me: I’m a writer and chicken owner living in Minnesota. I’m the author of Eat More Vegetables: A Guide to Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce, The Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook, and the Moon guides to Minnesota and the Twin Cities. This is my first chicken-related book.

Thanks!
Tricia Cornell

Stoicism as a Toolkit for Modern Life

bust of Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca ca. 4 BC – AD 65.

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on positive techniques for keeping our heads screwed on straight in troubled times. Growing food, doing stuff with your hands, drinking homebrew with friends–all these kinds of things help keep us grounded and hopeful. But sometimes you need a little more help. Maybe we’ll call these posts “When chickens aren’t enough.”

Whether the world is ending or not, it’s important to have a tool kit for dealing with stress and anxiety. Stoicism, an ancient form of philosophy which has not been too popular of late, but which did have a profound influence on Western thought, and which is refreshingly practical and straightforward, is an excellent addition to your own personal tool kit. I like it so much, I’m calling for a revival!

You might remember this Stoic flowchart below from an earlier post of ours. It’s an oversimplification, of course, but it gives you the gist:

flowchart

Wish we could credit this properly, but we got it off of Boing Boing.

I was introduced to stoicism by Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swan (nothing to do with the movie!). Taleb says, “My idea of the modern stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.” The stoic learns from mistakes and practices tranquility of mind in the face of chaos.

Stoicism originates with the Greek philosopher Zeno around 308 B.C., but its two most readable proponents are Romans: Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. While most contemporary academic philosophers churn out impenetrable, naval gazing prose, the stoics, in contrast, are eminently approachable. Seneca, in particular, is a great read. His Letters From a Stoic and Moral Essays Volumes I and II, are eloquent and practical guides to how to live a rewarding life. And they are a great comfort in times of distress or uncertainty.

Stoicism is often misunderstood as being a cold or glum. This is far from the case. Taleb says,

Recall that epic heroes were judged by their actions, not by the results. No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word…..There is nothing wrong and undignified with emotions—we are cut to have them. What is wrong is not following the heroic or, at least, the dignified path. That is what stoicism truly means. It is the attempt by man to get even with probability…..stoicism has rather little to do with the stiff-upper-lip notion that we believe it means…..The stoic is a person who combines the qualities of wisdom, upright dealing, and courage. The stoic will thus be immune from life’s gyrations as he will be superior to the wounds from some of life’s dirty tricks.

Stoicism is a philosophy not a religion and is, in my opinion, compatible with all faiths (Seneca, in particular, influenced early Christian thought) as well as being suitable for atheists and agnostics. And in some ways stoicism resembles a Western form of Buddhism.

Let’s give the last word on stoicism to Seneca himself. Whether we face a long emergency, sudden collapse or many more years of prosperity, I can think of no better guidance than the wisdom of the stoics. Seneca says,

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

In this age of me-centric Facebook updates, we we have a lot to learn from Seneca’s wisdom.

If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor, if you live according  what others think, you will never be rich.

Suggested Reading
I recommend beginning with Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic-short concise essays that offer a great introduction to stoicism All of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius are available online for free, but I’m partial to the Loeb Classical Library editions. They are beautiful little books which feature the original Latin or Greek on one side and English on the other. I also recommend Seneca’s Moral Essays Volumes I and II.

Philosophy professor William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy is also a nice introduction to the practical application of stoicism to modern life.

Self-Irrigating Gutter Update

strawberry gutter self watering container

We’ll get back to our thoughts on responses to the Three Headed Hydra of Doom tomorrow, but for today we’re going to take a quick break for a practical post: Self-Irrigating Strawberries!

This spring I built a self-irrigating gutter (SIG) using two gutters based on a video by Larry Hall. You can see my original post about this project here. Essentially, it is a gutter filled with potting mix, sitting on top of another gutter filled with water. Every eight inches there is a 3 inch perforated pot filled with potting mix that hangs down into the water filled gutter. For mulch I used re-purposed billboard vinyl scavenged from a dumpster by my neighbor Ray.

The SIG works, but there have been a few problems. My strawberries, I believe, have a fungal disease called red stele (Phytophthora fragariae) which came either from the soil that came with the starts or from the planting mix I used. If I want to grow strawberries again I’m going to have to thoroughly disinfect the gutters.

rain barrel with timer

The SIG is hooked up to a 55 gallon rain barrel. Unfortunately the lower gutter leaked around 50 gallons of stored rainwater down into the garage below (our house is on a hill and the garage is at street level). To prevent this problem in the future I put a manual irrigation timer on the barrel so that if there is a leak, I won’t lose all the water at once.

If I were to do this project again, I’d also use a refinement that Larry Hall just posted in the video above. This improvement on the design replaces the lower gutter with a 4-inch drain pipe. The drain pipe is easier to keep water-tight. And instead of using a gutter filled with soil I might use a series of pots (an idea that’s also in the video)–gutters are too shallow for most plants.

Despite the problems, I would call the project a success. In fact, I may expand my gutter system out onto the rest of the garage roo.

We heal together

bees on a poppy

The bees in our back yard, glorying in poppy pollen

Thank you everyone who shared their feelings and ideas with us all yesterday. Thank you, too, to those of you who read and considered those words. Thank you to those of you who are silent, but with us.

I should be clear before I go on that this is a Kelly post. Erik is out tonight. I don’t know if he’ll disagree with anything I’m going to say–but we don’t agree on everything. His thoughts will come later.

There is a French term, egregore, which is used to describe the spirit of a meeting, that unique energy that arises when a group of people come together to eat, work, or talk. It is almost a thing in itself, if you see what I mean. It rises out of certain combinations of people coming together for a specific purpose. Surely you’ve felt it, at that amazing dinner party you still think about, or perhaps you’ve experienced it in some sort of club, or with a group of friends. Root Simple has always had an egregore, one which I’d describe as practical and light-hearted. These recent posts mark a turning point, the rising of a new egregore for this blog. One which has a deeper emotional resonance than the one before.

Get your hands of the unsubscribe button. This is not to say that we’re going to turn into a gloom and doom blog. I promise we’ll never be that. But it seems to me that we can’t just “return to our regular programming” at this point.

I know I can’t. There’s more to say, though I don’t quite know how to say it yet. I suspect it will come out in the weeks and months to come, mixed in with our more usual practical DIY postings, garden rants and pictures of cats.

Right now I can say was enormously touched by the things you all shared. I did not answer the comments individually. I didn’t want to turn the conversation in any particular direction–I wanted to leave the comment board as a blank slate. But as I read, I was saying, “Yes, yes” — yes to all of you, actually. Because my thoughts encompass all the thoughts I read, even if some thoughts contradicted each another. I’m full of contradictions. We all are.

My heart is tender today. My eyes welled with tears as I read some of the comments aloud to Erik. I’ve been reading far too much climate science since returning from the conference. This has had the effect of making me both angry and sad and very grateful for what we have now. The world is infinitely precious to me, all of the wonders and creatures in it, the hummingbirds in the sage, the chickens in their coop, you all and your families, scattered all around the world, reaching out to contact us here.

We’ve not spoken much of matters of the spirit on this blog. This is largely because we know our readers come from all sorts of backgrounds and belief systems and we didn’t want to alienate anyone. We’ve always believed what’s important is the work — not the whys behind the work. It all leads to the same good end, after all.

But at this point I’m seeing our various crises–this three headed hydra of doom, this ménage à trois of misery–as a spiritual crisis more than anything else–a crisis rooted in our culture’s deep alienation from nature. We are taught to see nature as something “out there”.  Perhaps as a collection of useful natural resources. Or something pretty to visit before we return to our toilets and hot showers. We see nature as something to manage or control. Even as an enemy. We’ve become schizophrenic. We are nature. Nature is us. Seems to me that keeping this thought close and forward in our consciousness is fundamental to both understanding and healing.

I’m going to share with you something which may make our more materialist readers uncomfortable, and I’m sorry if that is so, but I think it is important enough to share in a public forum.

In the wake of our lead crisis–when Erik and I had discovered that the soil in our yard was toxic–I was meditating in the back yard. I was imagining I had roots, and those roots were stretching out and touching other roots in the soil. And I was sending thoughts of love to the garden, because I’d been recoiling from its toxicity, and I realized I could not be in that sort of relationship with my own land. As I sat there with my mind clear and love in my heart, words appeared in my head. I’d swear they weren’t mine, but it doesn’t really matter if they were mine or not. The message is the same:

We heal together.