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Gray Miscellany

Root Simple has a large, virtual dust bin full of news and notions not quite worthy of a full blog post. I thought I’d sweep a few of them into a brief missive.

Grey vs. Gray
In the great greywater vs. graywater debate I neglected to note a somewhat irrelevant factoid: Sherwin-Williams sells a paint color named after the actor/monologist Spalding Gray. When will Werner Herzog get a paint color?

OED Access
I couldn’t find my library’s online Oxford English Dictionary access. Then I did some digging and discovered it. For those of you in Los Angeles you can access the OED with your library card number here.

While you’re on the LA Library’s website, take a look at their scanned collection of vintage menus, including the Brown Derby and Cocoanut Grove.

America’s Hippest Neighborhood
The part of Los Angeles we live in or on the border of (the border region is disputed) is Silver Lake. Silver Lake is two words my brothers and sisters. If I downed a matcha latte for every time I’ve seen “Silverlake” I’d be a wealthy, if green tinted man. FYI, Silver Lake is named after Herman Silver, a water commissioner and city councilman from the early 1900s.  Perhaps we should rename our lake and community after Spalding Gray. Welcome to Gray Lake! But then, I suppose, we’d have the grey vs. gray problem.

While we’re on the topic of local news, the band Yacht, in their latest video, has included the beloved “happy foot/sad foot” characters from the rotating podiatrist’s sign that defines and delineates us from greater Silver Lake.

Have a great weekend and please enjoy this chicken playing Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro“:

This is why we have the internets.

Fifty Shades of Gray Water

I have a lazy request. Can someone with Oxford English Dictionary access please look up “greywater” a.k.a. “gray water” and/or “grey water?” I have nostalgia, for both the sake of creativity and personal sloppiness, for the pre-19th century era of DIY spelling, grammar and free flowing neologisms. Unfortunately we live in a more homogeneous and standardized world and I wince every time I have to write about the subject of reusing waste water for lack of clarity on how to spell greywater, gray water, grey water and/or graywater. I’d also like to see what the OED says about the first uses of the word.

Merriam Webster suggests “gray water” not “grey water” or “greywater.” Wikipedia goes with “greywater” as well as listing off all the variations. Wikipedia also suggests a word so unappealing that it’s almost appealing, “sullage.” Sullage, according to Merriam Webster, is “probably from Anglo-French *sollage, *suillage, from suiller, soiller to soil.” While I like the link with soil, “sullage” appears to be used interchangeably with “sewage.”

There is, of course the confusing problem of “gray” vs. “grey” with “gray” being more common in American English. “Greywater” is used by two out of the three American experts: Brad Lancaster and Greywater Action (the artists formerly known as the Guerrilla Graywater Girls). Art Ludwig rolls with “grey water.”

As for our competition to swap out the unappetizing “greywater” for a sexier new word, Root Simple reader Johnny (who has a terrific blog you should read called Granola Shotgun) suggests “H2Over” or “Rewater.” I’m going to go with “Rewater.” At least it would eliminate the grey vs. gray and one word vs. two word problem. Plus it dispenses with the puritanical association of gr***water with waste water.

Let us hope that “rewater” catches on and that the new Fifty Shades Freed movie (which goes with “grey” due to the British origin of this great work of literature) has a three way valve scene.

Water your Trees with Greywater

Ludwig’s Laundry to Landscape plans.

Root Simple reader MJ pointed out that I neglected to mention greywater as a way to deal with our drought challenged trees here in California. So, on this greywater Monday, I thought I’d round up some previous posts and links on the subject.

Laundry to Landscape
International greywater guru Art Ludwig has a set of free plans on his website Oasis Designs for a laundry to landscape system. I’ve built this system at our house and at a neighbors’ and can attest to its ease of construction and functionality. Make sure you read through Ludwig’s directions in their entirety or else you’ll blow out your machine’s water pump. And note that some California cities such as Pasadena have classes and rebates for greyater parts.

The Confusing World of Detergents
The combination of a dry climate and alkaline soils means that we have to be very careful about the sorts of detergents we use with greywater. Regular soaps and detergents will raise the pH of your soil. Your trees will look great for a few years and then suddenly die. Unfortunately, finding a soil-friendly detergent or soap is more complex than it should be. You can’t trust manufacturer’s claims of greywater compatibility. Here’s what Kelly concluded in a 2015 post:

As of today, we are still only able back three products without reservation for use in greywater:

• Oasis Liquid Laundry Detergent
• Bio-Pac Laundry Detergent
• soap nuts

ETA 8/14: Also, it looks like Fit Organic Laundry Detergent is safe as well. Thanks, Judy!

Sorry folks, I know that’s not a lot in terms of choice.

The following eco-friendly detergents are often listed as greywater compatible, but we have reservations about them. We recommend you research these products more on your own, and consider your own greywater system as well as the specific plants and soil you are irrigating before deciding whether these should be used or not.

Ecos: Contains sodium coco sulfate

Vaska: Has a D+ rating on the Environmental Working Group’s product safety database.

Lifetree: Has a pH level of 7

Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap: Fine for greywater use in general, but it simply is not a laundry detergent–it’s castile soap. You can wash your clothes with it, but the results won’t be spectacular.

The bottom line is that we only trust the detergents and soaps that Ludwig himself designed: Oasis Biocompatible Laundry Detergent and Dishwash soap.

Here are Brad Landcaster’s thoughts on soaps and detergents. Let me also note the utility of Landcaster’s books and website when it comes to all things water conservation related, especially how to grade and configure tree plantings to optimize rainwater irrigation.

One last and rarely mentioned issue, is if “greywater” should be one word or two or, in the neologistic spirit of “apisoir,” perhaps we need to invent a sexier word for reusing our water. Greenwater? Freewater? Leave a comment!

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