My Apologies to the Skunk Community

For years I’ve blamed the nightly vegetable carnage that takes place in our raised beds on skunks. The other night, our CritterCam (a Wingscapes BirdCam Pro), revealed the culprit: raccoons. And they work in pairs trios!

No wonder it’s been so difficult to secure the beds! Given the strength and agility of Racoons, I’m surprised that bird netting has worked at all (though, I’ll note, only when that netting is firmly secured with many staples). Perhaps it’s time to consider escalating to metal wire.

The “citizen science” lesson this week: raccoon and skunk diets overlap considerably. Both are highly adaptable urban foragers. In the case of our raised beds, both the skunks and raccoons are digging for figeater beetle larvae (Cotinis mutabilis). These huge larvae must be a delectable treat, the equivalent of a raccoon and skunk sushi party. Maybe I should overcome my squeamishness and join in the nightly feast. A plate of Cotinis mutabilis larvae ceviche could just be the next hip LA food trend . . .

Leave a Question for the Root Simple Podcast!


The Root Simple Podcast is on “Spring Break” while we work on some critical infrastructure around the compound. In other words, I failed to book guests and I’ve got a lot of repairs to do on our old house. We’ll return next week with our regularly scheduled program.

I thought I’d use this break as an excuse to remind you that we’d love to get some listener questions via our Google Voice number: (213) 537-2591. Call us and leave a question, comment or conundrum. We’d love to hear from you.

Make Your Own Irrigation Line Hold Downs That Actually Work

irrigation hold down wire

Hold downs are those little U-shaped pieces of metal you use to keep drip irrigation lines in place.  The trouble is that the big box hardware gods have decided that those hold downs should only measure a measly three inches in length. Which means that they don’t work. Good luck trying to get your 1/2 inch drip line to stay in place with short and thin hold downs. The more light and fluffy your soil, the less likely those short hold downs will do their job. Professional irrigation suppliers (a much better source for drip supplies than big box stores, by the way) carry longer hold downs. But they still aren’t long enough for good, loose soil.


Thankfully, it’s easy to make your own hold downs. First, head over to the chain link fencing department and get yourself a roll of tension wire. It’s a heavy and flexible, galvanized wire that comes in a roll. It’s cheap. Get out your circular saw fitted with a metal blade or your bolt cutters and you’re now equipped to make as many hold downs in whatever custom size you want. I usually make a bunch in varying lengths to accommodate different soil types: everything from our raised beds to the hard packed clay soil we built an adobe oven out of.

Someone should turn this idea into a business. It would be the most boring, but useful, Kickstarter project yet.

Root Simple Busted: Drying Racks, Clothes Lines and Cheese Puffs


For many years I’ve wanted to have one of our writer friends do a John Stossel style exposé on us. We’d have them drop in unexpectedly and witness some of the environmental transgressions that take place at the Root Simple compound such as hidden cheese puff stashes and the weekly, patrician moment when my fencing uniform goes through the, gasp, dryer.

Joanne Poyourow, founder of Environmental Changemakers and a guest on Episode 033 of our podcast, called me out (in a very nice way) on the dryer issue yesterday when I admitted to using it. She noted how much energy dryers use and how she ditched hers many years ago and has never looked back. We have a gas dryer which means that, while we use less energy than an electric dryer, we’re still complicit in the use of fossil fuels. In short, fracking is supporting my attempts to parry, riposte and flèche.

The truth is that we had a clothes line for several years when we first moved into our house. But like many clothes lines, it was low quality and eventually broke. I never replaced it. Joanne mentioned going through several flimsy clothes drying racks before settling on a higher quality drying rack that can be used both outside and inside.

My question of the week for you, our dear readers, is what kind of drying rack do you like best? Do you use a line? Do you prefer one to the other? Do you have a favorite, non-flimsy rack or clothes line?