Santa Monica Legalizes Beekeeping

Last night the Santa Monica city council voted to amend their municipal code to allow beekeeping on single family properties. Now, legalizing beekeeping is a bit like legalizing sunshine. Bees, after all, do their thing whether or not the government permits it or not. For every beekeeper in an urban area there must be hundreds of feral bee colonies living in walls, roofs and compost bins. Nevertheless, Santa Monica took a big step forward, join...

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Are Raised Beds a Good Idea?

Raised bed fail. Our appalling parkway beds. Extra demerits for having used treated lumber! * Raised beds have some pluses and minuses. Lately I’ve been thinking about their drawbacks. Namely: Cost How fast they dry out in a hot climate. Now I can also think of a few reasons one might want to grow vegetables in a raised bed: You do a soil test (and you should do a soil test, especially if you live in an urban area) and the res...

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99¢ Store Proofing Basket

For years I’ve used a special wooden basket called a banneton to proof my round loaves of bread in. I’m teaching a bread baking class this weekend and needed a bunch of proofing baskets for the class. Bannetons are nice but expensive so I decided to try using a canvas lined proofing basket as a more economical alternative. I got some metal bowls from my local 99¢ store. Wicker baskets or a plastic colander would also have worked,...

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Our New Chickens

When I put out the call to you, our readers, to name the ideal urban chicken I got a call from my friend Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms. He said something like, “Duh, the Barnevelder, of course!” Craig and his partner Gary Jackemuk have an ambitions breeding program to take the Barnevelder from show chicken back to farm chicken. So far the results are impressive. I took this as a message that I should fix my run and get ready fo...

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A Time Out Box for Quail

  In this week’s guest blog post, Nancy Klehm tells us about her unique way of dealing with pesky quail:  It is a beautiful, lush rainy spring in Chicago and all my birds get a large bouquet of fresh weedy greens everyday to supplement their feed: chickweed, dandelion, clover, shephard’s purse, garlic mustard, stinging nettles. Besides chickens, I have been raising quail for the past four years – I have both Coturnix and Bobwhite qua...

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Al Pacino Closed My Bike Lane

It’s the classic urban cycling problem: when faced with the indignities of riding in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, do you make it all one big fun challenge or become what Bikesnob calls “the righteous cyclist?”  Righteous cyclists, according to Bikesnob, are “convinced that the very act of turning the pedals will actually restore acres and acres of rainforest, suck smog from the sky and refreeze the ice caps....

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A Review of Williams-Sonoma’s Agrarian Line

Last week upscale retalier Williams-Sonoma announced an urban homesteady line of goods they call “Agrarian”. A number of Root Simple readers responded to the news after I linked to a Wall Street Journal article about the Agrarian line. One reader likened the “Agrarian” items to Marie Antoinette’s 18th century cosplay mini-farm. Another hoped that mainstream acceptance of things like chicken coops and beehives might...

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Secrets In Your Pantry?

Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms asked me a great question this past weekend, “If people could see your kitchen pantry what would you be most embarrassed about?” The first thing that came to mind is the occasional package of scary, deep fried, orange dusted cornmeal snacks. The truth is that we don’t often have them on hand more than a couple times a year (largely because I would go through them like a crack addict). But we do...

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The Sacred Chickens of Ancient Rome

I stumbled on an odd historical anecdote last week: the use, by the ancient Romans, of sacred chickens as a form of divination. From the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert: Sacred chickens were chickens raised by priests in Roman times, and which were used for making auguries. Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens. The most common method of drawing...

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Five Lessons We Learned About Lead in Soil

As regular followers of this blog may recall, we did some soil tests last year that revealed elevated levels of lead and zinc in our backyard. The cause? Most likely, paint from our 92 year old house and nearly a hundred years of auto exhaust and dust from brake linings. Applying a little alchemy to turn lead to gold, I think the most productive thing I can do is to help get the word out about lead soil and how common this problem is in urban a...

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