RIP Toby Hemenway

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Update: I’m very sorry to say that I just heard that Toby Hemenway has passed. He had a talent for explaining permaculture with clarity and elegance. His book Gaia’s Garden adapted Bill Mollison’s concepts for those of us with small spaces to tend. In his last book he merged permaculture with the City Repair movement and looked at ways we can improve our communities. We desperately need voices like Hemenway’s in this moment of crisis. He will be missed. 

Someone I greatly admire, Toby Hemenway needs our help. Hemenway is a permaculturalist and a gifted author of books such as Gaia’s Garden and The Permaculture City. In 2015 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has signed up for home hospice care. He and his wife need support to pay for living expenses and caregiving. Please consider clicking on this link and donating: https://www.youcaring.com/tobyhemenway-718641. The campaign goal has already been met, but home health care is very expensive and I’m sure that more money would help greatly.

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Jas. Townsend’s 18th Century Cooking

The recovery journey for open heart surgery involves three things: pain killers, a recliner and a flat screen television. Thanks to our new TV’s ability to access the internet, we’ve fallen into a deep and unlikely YouTube hole: Jas. Townsend and Son’s 18th century cooking videos.

Jas. Townsend and Son is the most unlikely business I can imagine. They manufacture and sell 18th century clothing, cookware, camp equipment and housewares though a brick and mortar shop in Pierceton, Indiana. Founder James John Townsend is one of the most prolific and accomplished YouTubers I’ve encountered. His cooking videos feature professional lighting and sound (rare in the YouTube universe) and look like something PBS would (should?) make. And Townsend has produced over 500 videos giving Kelly and I a chance to spend many evenings catching up on the finer points of pemmican, hardtack and pickled smelt.

Neither of us are historical reenactors, though Kelly sometimes accuses me of trying to relive the 1990s. But you need not be into historical reenactment to appreciate Townsend’s well researched videos. You can tell he’s having a good time making them too.

Kelly wanted me to highlight the portable soup video I embedded above. And note that it’s just one of four videos on portable soup! There’s also a fascinating series on 18th century breads.  If Townsend’s video output isn’t enough for you he’s got a website containing the recipes and videos called Savoring the Past. Does Townsend sleep? I’m glad he doesn’t because we’ve both been enjoying his creative output.

And, lastly, a note on Kelly. She thanks you all for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers. Getting over a surgery like this is no picnic. It’s more akin to eating hardtack and suet by the side of a meager fire (thank you Townsend and Son for the metaphor). It will be awhile before Kelly can blog again but she wants me to tell you how much she appreciates your support.

Saturday Tweets: Mid-Century Cookies, Harbor Freight Chainsaws and Epistemology!

Tody: An App that Helps You Clean

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This will be another post for fellow members of the untidy tribe. Members of the tidy tribe will find it as unnecessary as those warning stickers on buckets and ladders. But we’ll let the tidy tribesters go on with their advanced cleaning tasks: Polishing brass? Dust bunny witch hunts? Chastising the untidy?

Back to us untidy folks. Let’s say you’ve taken the sage advice to clear the decks, as I discussed in my last blog post. You now have a clean slate, a vast playa on which to party with your broom and mop. But, as will come as no surprise to tidy tribe members, we untidy folks need a push. That’s where a simple little iPhone app called Tody comes in.

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Tody gives you a room by room schedule for tasks such as cleaning the bathroom sink, dusting the living room and wiping down electronics. You can create your own custom tasks. For instance, I made a reminders to change the cat’s water and sweep the front porch.

Setup is simple and the app suggests common sense cleaning intervals (which you can also customize to your own taste). The app generates a daily to-do list and has a kind of red, yellow and green color warning system. The interface is clean and simple, like a well tended house. Other apps that I tried had too many reminders, cluttered interfaces, distracting ads and annoying notifications. We untidy tribe members are easily distracted from our cleaning tasks and don’t need an app that offers temptations to sit on the couch and slack off.

Tody is well worth $3.99. An extra $2.99 a year gets you a family sharing plan that will let you chastise your spouse/kids/housemates via their phones.

Tidy tribesters who have read this far are, no doubt, wondering why it is that we untidy folks need an app and can’t simply look around the house and see those magazine piles or dirty toilet seat. Just remember that we untidy folks lack the visual acuity to see messes, kind of like how dogs can’t see things that aren’t moving. We need all the help we can get.

Tody is only for the iPhone. If you’re an Android user, feel free to suggest cleaning apps you’ve tried in the comments.

The Secret of Tidiness Revealed

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I have a theory that the world can be divided into three types of people: tidy people, untidy people and hoarders. I’ll leave hoarders out of this discussion since that’s a confounding problem requiring years of psychological counseling. That leaves us with two remaining tribes: the tidy and untidy. Both view each other with great suspicion and confusion.

To the untidy person, the secrets of keeping a neat house seem as exotic a skill as singing popular hits in Esperanto. To the tidy person, untidy people possess a dim level consciousness, perhaps on the level of a mollusk–able to sense that something is wrong but lacking the limbs or neural networking necessary to pick up those piles of mail or dispose of that tangle of obsolete computer cables.

But I think I’ve discovered the secret to tidiness thanks to the loose lips of a member of the tidy tribe (thank you Caroline!). Tidy tribe members will laugh at the obviousness of this, but here it goes. The secret is a daily, perhaps twice daily, ruthless sweep of floors, counters, tables and desks. No random objects shall be allowed to be where they don’t belong.

Tidy tribesters are like ruthless cops, taking the nightstick to messes, slapping handcuffs on piles of old magazines, locking up things where they belong. No Miranda rights. Stuff’s just gotta be put away. The result? Clear surfaces and floors makes for easier cleaning. That’s it.

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We’ve seen and tried a lot of housekeeping schedules and schemes. In my humble opinion they are too complicated, hard to stick to and, in the end, doomed to failure. Clearing the deck, on the other hand, is both savage and simple.

Marie Kondo, the reining prophetess of getting rid of stuff, would likely argue that de-cluttering is a necessary first step towards tidiness since it’s hard to clear the deck if there’s no place to stuff the stuff. But some future, hypothetical de-cluttering exercise might also be used as an excuse for inaction by the generally idle members of the untidy tribe. The chicken and egg timing debate between clearing the deck and de-cluttering may be the only real nuance in my tidiness theory. I’ll concede that some measure of sending stuff to the thrift store first may be necessary for the more wayward members of the untidy tribe.

What do you think? Tidy tribesters–are you laughing? Untidy tribesters–are you weeping/making excuses/confused/skeptical? And I haven’t even touched on the issue of a tidy person living with an untidy mate!