Bonfire of the Billys

Root Simple’s proposal for a Ikea Billy Stonehenge

We spent this weekend ridding our house of the last vestiges of Ikea, a set of Billy bookshelves in Kelly’s she-shed. As I dragged them to the street I remembered what author and woodworker Christopher Schwartz’s said in The Anarchist’s Design Book that, “it annoys me when I see an IKEA Billy bookshelf in a woodworker’s house.”

Schwartz goes on to explain why,

Yes, you get about 15 linear feet of shelving, plus a carcase that is ridiculously unstable. Only two shelves are fixed. So unless you secure the Billy to the wall (or other Billys), it will rack in short order . . . I say this with experience. When my wife and I bought our first house, we actually drove to Virginia to visit the nearest IKEA and bought two Billy bookcases. I put them together and immediately felt wronged. After a few months I let them do what they do best: fall apart. Then I started building shelves for our home.

I came to the same conclusion he reaches in the intro to his book that, in order to have decent furniture that doesn’t cost an obscene amount of money you have to learn to make it yourself.

Schwartz runs a small publishing company, Lost Art Press, that produces books as beautiful as they are useful. He has pioneered a elegant and non-fussy style, based on the furniture of working people, that is accessible to beginning woodworkers without looking like a clunky junior high woodshop project. He says,

Beautiful, durable and useful furniture is within the grasp of anyone willing to pick up a few tools and learn to use them. It does not require expensive materials or a lifetime of training – just an everyday normal dose of guts.

Millions of people before you – and just like you – built all the furniture in their homes. They might not have left pattern books behind, but they left clues sprinkled through paintings, sketches and the furniture record.

I put our Billys on NextDoor, Freecycle and Craigslist and someone, with less worries of shelf racking, grabbed them. Now when they fall over it won’t be my problem.

Saturday Linkages: It’s Caturday

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Attention US Army: Young Moki would make a fine tank operator. but it won’t be a volunteer gig.

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A kayak made from branches and tarp

FRED episode 2 – a vision of heaven

Unmasking the secret landlords buying up America

Bedouin Lifestyle – Documentary in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Unflipping the Gentrifence

There should be a word for when you’re doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing but you keep going anyways. How about we call that feeling “contemperroneous?” I was all up in the contemperroneous when, back in 2015, I put up a horizontal fence of the sort that’s popular in our overpriced LA neighborhood. Fences of this sort are known as “flipper” fences or gentrifences (as in gentrification). In the midst of building my own gentrifence I knew it was wrong even if it correctly signaled that we live in a pricey 100 year old shack. Kelly even wrote about it in a blog post entitled “Our Hypocricy revealed.”

Here’s a shot of me putting up that abomination:

Those shoes and the smug grin are equally horrid.

This December I finally got around to sending the gentrifence to the Gulag. While I was at it I rebuilt the entrance arbor at the bottom of our stairs. I cribbed both designs, with a few modifications, from the Southern Pine Association’s 1926 sales brochure “Beautifying the home grounds.” This pamphlet is part of the Internet Archive’s Building Technology Heritage Library, an essential resource for anyone interested in historical preservation.

I recycled all of the old gentrifence, but had to buy some more lumber to complete the project. To make the oddly shaped pickets, I used a combo of table saw cuts along with a jig for my jigsaw. Making jigs increases speed and safety.

I’m not entirely happy with the metal handrail but, since I had it already, I didn’t want to let it go to waste. It’s functional and I don’t have to paint it. I got a contemperroneous vibe while reattaching it but you if you don’t make any mistakes you ain’t human.

Boozing Bees

I had the privilege of attending Honey Love’s natural beekeeping conference this weekend and I hope to share some insights from the talks and conversations I had with other beekeepers, but I’m pressed for time this morning so let me just drop one tidbit that comes via Michael Bush. Bush mentioned that Cornell digitized the American Bee Journal from the years 1861 through 1900 as well as a lot of other old publications. Here’s an amusing an excerpt from advice column in the May 1900 issue of American Bee Journal:

Mr. Dadant:–Did you ever here of any one feeding whiskey to bees in honey, and is it true that it renders them bolder and causes them to try to rob other hives? About a week ago, a man who has three colonies of bees, told me that some strange bees were completely robbing one of his colonies. Today very probably the same bees were robbing one of mine, and I only have three. I stopt up the entrances, and that helped some, for my bees are quite strong.

I was told that when bees were fed whiskey in honey it makes them bold to rob other people’s bee. What is your opinion? ILLINOIS.

In the first place, one thing which we must establish before all others, is that the bees do not discriminate between the colonies which belong to their owner and other people’s bees. It looks as if it might be superfluous to mention this, but I have often heard the remark that Mr. So-and-So’s bees were robbing Mr. Somebody’s hives, just as if a man could “set” his bees onto another man’s apiary as bad boys “set” one dog onto another, or as some of our so-called civilized Christians organize a prize-fight. . .

I have never heard of strong drink being used in feeding bees, except in one instance. I remember reading in L’Apiculteur years ago, of an old time beekeeper having fed his bees with bread dipt in honey which had been mixt with a proportion of wine, to cure them of diarrhea early in the spring . . .

The beekeeper whose colonies are robbed by other bees, whiskey or no whiskey, can lay the blame on himself, and himself alone. A colony of bees in healthy condition and properly managed should fear nothing from robber bees, except by some accident beyond the control of the apiarist, such as the breaking down of combs by heat, or the upturning of the hive by wind or mischievous animals or human beings.

In this same issue, there’s an article about an attempt to reconcile the need to spray fruit trees with pesticide and the impact of those chemicals on bees. Another talk at the conference by Dr. May Berenbaum of Cornell, that I was only able to hear part of, looked at the history of the use of pesticides. Honeybees are a complex organism and their interaction with pesticides can often work in counter-intuitive ways, as Berenbaum showed in a study that proved that even fungicides, thought to be safe, can impact bee colonies. In over a hundred years of tinkering with chemicals and bees we’re still making stupid mistakes. In addition to that whiskey there’s a lot of other things we shouldn’t be dosing bees with.

Natural Beekeeping Conference this Saturday and Sunday


This weekend, January 18th and 19th I’ll be a part of Honey Love’s Natural Beekeeping Conference at USC. In honor of the memory of Susan Rudnicki, I’m going to discuss bee removal scams, corruption in bee academia and pesticide astroturfing campaigns among other incendiary topics that Susan tirelessly pursued for the sake of the bees she loved so much. I’m humbled to be a part of a roster that includes all of the knowledgeable voices in the natural beekeeping world:

• Michael Bush • Les Crowder • Dr. May Berenbaum • Sam Comfort • Michael Thiele • Laura Bee Ferguson • Rob Keller • Sarah Red-Laird •  Solomon Parker • Jacqueline Freeman • Noah Wilson Rich • Matt Reed • Amanda Shaw • Paul Cronshaw  • Ariella Daly • Anna Marie Despiris • Fonta Molyneaux • Erik Knutzen • Max Wong • Rob and Chelsea McFarland

If you’re interested in bees this conference is not to be missed. For more information head over to Honey Love.