Maplewoodshop: Saving Shop Class

In U.S. schools shop class has been sacrificed to the Moloch of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Ninety percent of shop classes have been eliminated with the exception of a few robotics programs. The result, ironically, is STEM graduates so out of touch with the physical world that they design things impossible to build.

Image: Maplewoodworking

Maplewoodshop seeks to reverse this trend with an innovative woodworking program that trains teachers to integrate hand tool woodworking into their lessons plans. Teachers who graduate from Maplewoodshop’s training get a rolling box containing all the tools they need to teach woodworking classes in any room. Maplewoodshop is a great example of not letting perfection be the enemy of the good: we’re not going to get shop classes back any time soon but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do something.

You can listen to an interview with Mike Schloff, founder of MapleWoodShop here.

The Wild Yard Project

Storyteller and native plant evangelist David Newsom’s Wild Yard Project seeks to transform the lawn wasteland of our built environment. According to the mission statement of the Wild Yard Project,

The World Wildlife Fund recently announced that the natural world is losing 10,000 species a year, due largely to habitat loss. At the same time, we here in the United States have displaced over 40 million acres of native-habitat with costly, lifeless lawns. Astonishingly, lawns are the biggest crop in the US, but we don’t eat them, and much of that acreage goes to waste when it could be inviting back in the tens of thousands of essential and threatened species we have pushed out. The Wild Yards Project combines a powerful team of award winning filmmakers with esteemed botanists, biologists and native plant landscapers to generate media and local projects aimed at inspiring and educating people to transform their lawns back into vibrant native plant and animal habitat. One yard can save a species, but many yards can transform the world.

We’ll have David on the podcast to talk more about this important project soon. In the meantime, take a look at the video, read an essay by Kim Radochia, “A Meadow Grows in West Gloucester” and sign up for the Wild Yards Project newsletter. Then get out there, wherever you are, and plant gardens that support life.

How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love the Vegan Cheese

Photo: Pascal Bauder.

Just the mention of “vegan cheese” is likely to set off a contentions internet thread as long as those on such subjects as presidential politics, beekeeping methods or shellac dilution. And for good reason. The vegan cheese you can buy at the health food store takes the flavor profile of already bland and awful American cheese and makes it far worse. A vegan cheese I bought recently tastes like what I imaging it would be like to eat a slice of partially dried wood glue mixed with sand.

This weekend I had the good fortune of attending a vegan cheese class taught by forager and author Pascal Bauder (a guest on episode 89 of the podcast). His vegan cheese method is nothing short of moon shot vegan culinary genius. I’m not going to give away the secret on this blog–you’re going to have to take his class. One hint: it involves a simple fermentation. I know many of you don’t live here, but Pascal’s classes are worth traveling long distances to attend. He’s got another vegan cheese class coming up on August 25th. See his calendar of events.

Pascal is doing a book on fermentation that will include his vegan cheese recipes. Look for that book next year. In the meantime you can enjoy his two previous books, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir and The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients. On that second book–Pascal brought some of his home concocted beer to the class and it was delicious. His brewing method is simple and easily accomplished without any special brewing equipment other than a gallon jug.

A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance

In the process of installing some new floors and rearranging a few doors and walls we’ve had to completely empty most of the rooms of the house. In the process I’ve come to realize that I like the look of an empty room or, at least, a room with nothing more than a few pieces of furniture. Call me one of those controversial minimalists (with, in my youth, maximalist tendencies).

A few years ago a group of archaeologists and anthropologists at UCLA undertook a meticulous study of the cluttery habits of 32 families in Los Angeles and published a book Life at Home in the Twenty First Century. The book has the distanced vibe of what it would be like if a group of archaeologists from the future excavated a 21st century home and reported the results. Why the photo shrines on the metal food storage units?

The book is worth reading (ironically, I just sold my copy to reduce book clutter). While I no longer own the book I was happy to discover the short, three part video series on the project which I’ve embedded for your weekend enjoyment.

Part II

Part III

What was especially interesting for me about these videos is that they address the complex intersection of clutter and child rearing, something that we don’t have experience with.

A Brief History of Secret Drawers

In 1642 a young couple, Robert and Susannah Jones, bought a large used chest. The couple lived with the chest for 20 years until, one day, they decided to move it. They heard a rattling inside and did some investigating, discovering a secret drawer. Out spilled a olive-wood rosary and huge amount of papers with mysterious writing and symbols. At some point their maid used around half of the papers to bake some pies before the couple decided to put the papers back in the chest. Some years later when the great fire of London broke out Susannah, now a widow, had the sense to take the papers with her. It turned out that those papers were John Dee’s account of his conferences with angels.

Secret compartments like this used to be a common feature of furniture up through the Victorian period. I’m guessing today’s paranoid tech CEOs probably have a few secret compartments in their modernist survival bunkers.

A desk, built for King Frederick William II by the Roentgen brothers takes the secret drawer idea to its zenith. This thing has secret drawers within secret drawers within secret drawers, all propelled by a complex mechanical system:

For a more recent expression of the secret drawer trope see this impressive desk by furniture maker Lonnie Bird:

The problem, both in the past and now, is that a decent burglar probably knows where your “hidden” compartments are located.