One Great Blooming Buzzing Confusion

Let me just say how much I hate living in a house that’s all torn up and full of boxes and dust. This explains the desperate carpentry marathon taking place at the Root Simple compound. I’ll spare you the dull details other than to say there’s been much replication of 1920s molding details that nobody will ever notice as well as weatherizing and floor installation.

We said goodbye to a battered douglas fir floor:

That got replaced by a new oak floor:

Painting prep revealed a layer of ugly 1920s wallpaper:

And I found a pair of safety glasses lost in the bathroom wall in 2002 (along with a dated Home Depot receipt):

When this is all over Kelly and I might just decide to rent out this old house and move into one of the sheds displayed in the Cypress Park Home Depot parking lot:

We’ll be the first parking lot garden hermits.

Getting Ourselves Back to the Garden

Image: Environmental Changemakers

Our cities and suburbs abound in underused, wasted space. What if we transformed those empty, never used lawns and parking lots into gardens and community spaces? This is exactly what the Environmental Changemakers did in collaboration with Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Westchester, a suburb of Los Angeles near the airport.

This past weekend a 10th anniversary party was held to celebrate the collaboration and recognize the leaders of the two organizations, Joanne Poyourow, founder of Environmental Changemakers (and a guest on episode 33 of the podcast) and The Rev. Peter Rood, Rector of Holy Nativity.

The garden has since metastasized from the side of the church’s building to the front and worked its way into the fringes of the small parking lot. A large adobe oven was added and bread and pizza baking events and classes take place on the second Saturday of the month. Recently, part of the front lawn became a community playground.

Many church grounds sit idle during the week. Not Holy Nativity. As Rev. Rood put it to me once, “This is a community center that just happens to have a church attached to it.” While the word “community” gets overused in this case it manifests as a genuine openness to collaboration. Poyourow, not a member of the church, put many years of work into the garden as well as hosting lectures and events.

We have a lot of underutilized space in our communities. Congratulations to Poyourow and Rood for showing us what Charles Eisenstien speaks of, “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” That possible world is right in front of us, here in the present waiting for us to put down our phones and get to work.

Saturday Tweets: Hogweed, Newcastle Disease, and Crochet Hyperbolics

A Question About Freezing and Canning Home Grown Vegetables

Image: Wikipedia.

For some mysterious reason, we get canning questions on our our seldom used Google voice number (213 537-2591). A good question came in this week. The caller asked, “I’ve got a home garden and produce trickles in. Can I freeze it and then can it later?” I called back and confirmed that the question related to pressure canning vegetables. Not knowing the answer to this question, I wrote an email to chef Ernie Miller, who I had the great privilege of having as an instructor for my Master Food Preserver certification class. Ernie responded,

The answer to the question is, in general, yes. In fact, certain types of produce lend themselves to this sort of preservation. Frozen berries, for example, are fantastic for jam making. If I need to make some peach jam out of season, I head straight to the frozen fruit section of the grocery store.

Your caller was asking about vegetables, of course, and there would be some nuances. First, they will want to be sure to freeze the vegetables properly, such as blanching certain veggies to set color and stop enzymatic reactions. Following the guidelines from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for freezing is a must. Obviously, some vegetables aren’t going to freeze well, such as celery, radishes, potatoes, etc.

No matter how good the freezing process, there are likely to be textural differences in the defrosted products. Most vegetables aren’t going to be as crisp coming out of freezing as they were going in. Those frozen carrots of yours won’t have the same “snap” as fresh carrots. Of course, the canning process is also going to have a tremendous textural effect as well, so the differences might not be noticeable. There are other options as well. For example, if you are canning carrots in water (which requires pressure canning), you could defrost the carrots, but add calcium chloride (pickle crisp) to firm them up a little in the can.

Probably the best thing for frozen vegetables used for canning would be to use them in “cooked” preparations, such as soups. Although celery is a terrible candidate for freezing because it is texturally destroyed, I don’t see why you couldn’t use previously frozen celery in a pressure canned soup. Frozen corn might be better off as a “creamed corn” in a can than just canned whole kernels.

There are a lot of variables, and it might require some experimentation. But again, “cooked” products will probably be the most successful.

I’ll repeat what Ernie says, when you have a food preservation question the best starting point is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. And if I had a large vegetable garden, (my small vegetable garden is a complete failure this summer) I’d invest in a pressure canner and, perhaps, a chest freezer.

For more information on pressure canning have a listen to our interview with Ernie on episode 14 of our podcast. And check out Ernie’s Facebook page Rancho La Merced Provisions to find out about classes he’s teaching.

120 Inhabiting Suburbia with Johnny Sanphillippo

On this episode of the root simple podcast I speak with Johnny Sanphillippo about the opportunities and challenges of inhabiting suburbia. Johnny asks some provocative questions in our discussion and on his blog Granola Shotgun. Can we make old communities better? How do we deal with the housing affordability crisis? What does the future hold for suburbia?

Johnny describes himself as an amateur architecture buff with a passionate interest in where and how we all live and occupy the landscape, from small rural towns to skyscrapers and everything in between. During the podcast we mention:

How do you inhabit suburbia? Join the discussion by leaving a voice mail at (213) 537-2591. We’ll play your comments on the next podcast.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.