Build Your Own Furniture

We live in a 4 by 8 world. This is why we can’t get all that excited about things like geodesic domes, straw bale and rammed earth houses. All of these innovative architectural ideas may have great potential, but when it comes time to buy supplies at the lumber yard, the overly creative builder will soon realize the difficulty of utopian designs in a world of 4 by 8 sheets of plywood and drywall. That geodesic shape is hip, but what do you do with the rest of the plywood sheet once you cut it out?

The same limitation applies to making furniture. Thankfully a generation of designers back in the 60s and 70s left a few highly useful and groovy how-to books on making your own suburban-workshop-modernist furniture with a humble 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. The amazing art/architecture collective Simparch tipped us off to the world of plywood modernism how-to books and we at Homegrown Evolution recommend the stunning Sunset Magazine produced Furniture You Can Build, which is sadly way out of print and very expensive on Amazon, but available at the L.A. Public Library. Most of the designs in this book would work well with found materials and scraps. What we appreciate most about this book and others like it, that we will discuss in future posts, is the economical use of common materials.

A good example of this efficiency are these handsome stools — one sheet of plywood will make eight stools. Here are the instructions from the Sunset book:

Simple, versatile, and inexpensive — that’s the quickest way to summarize the virtues of these handy plywood stools, They could hardly be easier to build and are surprisingly inexpensive. Except for the nails and glue, every part of the eight stools shown in the picture at the top left came from one standard 4 by 8-foot panel of 1/2-inch plywood, the same as the panel shown behind them. As the cutting pattern shows, a 2-foot square of plywood yields one stool, and only the shaded areas are wasted.

Each stool is 17 inches square and stands approximately 10 1/2 inches high. If you wish to use a cushion, you can glue and nail a 1/2 by 1-inch hardwood frame around the top’s edges, which will give a 1/2-inch high rim to keep the cushion in place.

To start, draw the cutting pattern carefully on heavy paper and transfer it to each 2-foot plywood square with carbon paper or pin pricks. If making several stools, you can have the lumber yard cut your plywood to uniform 2-foot squares. Cut the legs and top from each square with a saw.

As the underside view shows, each leg abuts on and is nailed to the inner end of the next leg. Assemble with glue and just two 4-penny nails in each leg. Before the glue dries, turn the assembled legs right side up on a smooth surface and attach the top, As you glue and nail on the top (use 6-penny finishing nails), the legs will level themselves evenly. Finish the stools as you prefer: with paint, varnish, or stain wax.

Bitter Greens

Today we continued our winter planting in our illegal parkway garden adding arugula, a green that America has suddenly discovered after last month’s factory farming spinach nightmare. We also added a tough and bitter leaf chicory from our friends at Grow Italian. Hopefully, by succession planting we should have a winter and spring full of green, if somewhat bitter vegetables.

How do we prepare these bitter greens around the compound? Very simply — in a pan with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Sometimes we add some Parmigiano Reggiano. Fresh, strong tasting vegetables don’t need much else.

Getting Out

Walking back from our run this morning, we noticed a black mushroom cloud spreading out above our neighborhood, causing SurviveLA to briefly ponder the possibility that we might have to get the hell out of our beloved hometown. It turned out to be just your average hay truck fire on the 101 freeway, meaning there was no need to saddle up the Xtracycle for a long distance human powered escape.

Thankfully, if we did have to get the hell out we now have a handy guidebook. The fine folks at Process Media, publishers of Preparedness Now have just released a sequel for those who choose to run rather than prepare called Getting Out, Your Guide to Leaving America. We completely understand the sentiment of wanting to get the hell out of this proto-fascist banana republic we live in and we endorse this book for those who don’t want to hunker down and do the homestead thing. SurviveLA even has a former colleague in Chanai India who got out of the US several years ago and now has an interesting job and his own ultra low-cost homestead.

Despite the allure of more exotic places, Survive LA has decided to stay put and it’s time to get to work!

The Boy Scouts Suck


SurviveLA did not get a wink of sleep last night while staying in the Joshua Tree National Park campground due to a bunch of Boy Scout dads who stayed up talking and laughing until 2:30 am in spite of the presence of dozens of other nearby campers. Thanks Boy Scout dads for setting a nice example for your kids, some of whom also stayed up until 2:30 engaged in a loud multi-player game boy tournament while others chased desert mice, and a special thanks to the Scout who accidentally kicked out the supports of our tent at midnight causing it to collapse upon us.

While we applaud the dads for getting the kids out in the wilderness for the weekend, we at SurviveLA just can’t get behind the vile and outdated Boy Scouts, whose ongoing attempts at being more relevant backfire so pitiably and whose founder, Robert Baden-Powell, was an anti-semitic, fascist, pedophile.

If we had kids around the SurviveLA compound, in keeping with our self-sufficiency goals, we’d form our own SuriviveLA Scout troop. Here’s how the SurviveLA Scouts would differ from the Boys Scouts:

1. SurviveLA Scouts are coed. Men and women have gotta learn to work together and you might as well start early. As Barbara Ehrenreich once said, “Men alone in groups are bad company”. It’s also no fair that the girls have got to whore themselves selling cookies.

2. Let’s teach our kids to make the world a better place without the Norman Rockwell fascist veneer.

3. Hipper uniforms. We suggest something like this.

4. An urban cycling merit badge.

5. All activities are outdoors. Lots of nature experiences. No computer merit badges and certainly no copyright merit badges.

6. Lastly, the SurviveLA Scout mission statement, borrowed from Edward Abbey:

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.

Roughin’ It

SurviveLA is off to Joshua Tree this weekend for the graduation ceremonies of the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Travel Course. We took the WTC class earlier this year both for tips on backpacking and for gaining general self-sufficiency. The Sierra Club’s approach to roughing it is to, well, not really rough it but to go down to REI and load up on all the latest stoves, tents and “technical” fabrics. This contrasts starkly with the mountain-man-live-off-the-land approach epitomized by survivalist types like Christopher Nyerges and Eustace Conway.

At SurviveLA we like our comfort and believe that the best way to train for a survival situation is to studiously avoid survival situations by making sure to always have extra food, extra water, extra clothes, a map and a compass. In short, we like the WTC way. And the nice thing about having the backpacking gear around is that should an earthquake or other disaster strike our urban compound we are prepared to camp out in the backyard and, if necessary, head out on the Xtracycle.

The Wilderness Travel Course starts up this January and we highly recommend it. The class includes ten classroom sessions, two day trips, and two overnight trips all for a very reasonable price. The class ends with a challenging weekend of snow camping in the high Sierras. Take this class and your urban homestead will be ready for most contingencies.

And speaking of camping, the velorutionaries at C.I.C.L.E. are hosting a weekend camping trip on November 11-12 that will feature a wild food hike with the aforementioned LA survivalist Christopher Nyerges.