Simple Living Archive


Move Over Squirrels, It’s Acorn Harvesting Time

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

One thing you can count on this time of year is an abundance of acorns underfoot. Why should the squirrels have all these nutrient rich nuts to themselves?

Acorns are completely edible, according to fermentation expert Sandor Katz, and they have historically been a critical source of nutrition for many native peoples in North America and elsewhere.  In the following excerpt from his book, The Art of Fermentation, Katz encourages readers to tap into this abundant food resource and start experimenting with acorns.

Sorry squirrels.

*****

Acorns, the nuts of oak trees, are edible and in fact have been a critical source of nutrients for many native peoples in North America and elsewhere. In mainstream culture, however, acorns are largely ignored as a food for human consumption. Meanwhile, ironically, the imminent threat of global food shortages is continually being used to justify deforestation and intensifying biotechnology. I’m not saying anyone should subsist on acorns alone, but let’s tap into the abundant food resources we already have rather than acting based upon the myth of overall scarcity.

Acorn Harvesting Tips

Gather acorns in the fall. Reject any with visible worm holes. Air-dry acorns before storing. It is not a problem if acorns have already begun to sprout. California acorn enthusiast Suellen Ocean writes:

I like to gather sprouted acorns because the sprouting increases the acorn’s nutritional value. It is no longer in a “starch” stage, but has changed to a “sugar” stage. The sprouting also helps split them from the shell. It is beneficial because if it has sprouted, it’s a good acorn, and I haven’t wasted time gathering wormy ones. I’ve found that an acorn with a two-inch-long sprout is fine, as long as the acorn nut meat hasn’t turned green. I break off the sprout and continue.

Shell, Grind, and Soak

It is important to note that the acorns of many oak trees contain high levels of tannins and require leaching prior to consumption. To do this, remove acorns from their shells, grind, and soak in water. You can grind acorns dry using a mortar and pestle or mill, or mix acorns with water and grind in a blender or food processor. Acorns should be finely ground to expose lots of surface area, enabling the tannins to leach out.

Acorns can be leached in a fine mesh bag in a running stream (this is the fastest method), or in a series of soaks that can last for a few days. As acorn meal soaks, the meal will settle at the bottom of the vessel and the water will darken. Gently pour off the dark water at least daily and discard. Water will darken less with each soak, as tannin levels decrease. Keep rinsing with fresh water until it no longer darkens. If you wish to ferment acorn meal, leave it to soak a few more days in just a small amount of water after the tannins have been leached.

Acorns can be used to fortify and flavor many different foods. Once I made acorn gnocchi, which were excellent. Julia F. Parker, of the Miwok/Paiute people in California’s Yosemite Valley, wrote a beautiful book about acorn preparation called It Will Live Forever, in which she describes traditional techniques for making a simple porridge (nuppa) using only leached acorn meal and water, which is delicious! And on a website devoted to the language of another California tribe, the Cahto, I came across reference to “fermented acorn/acorn cheese” (ch’int’aan-noo’ool’). I have not found further information on fermented acorn cheese, nor have I experimented, but I include this tidbit in the hope that other acorn-loving fermenters will experiment in this vein.

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

The 13 Weeds Essential for Human Survival

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Did you know there are 13 plants you can find, whether at home or traveling, that can help you maintain a state of optimal health with minimal cost and effort?

In The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, author Katrina Blair introduces these 13 global “survival plants”—dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter, and knotweed—that both regenerate the earth and support human survival. They grow everywhere where people live, from the hottest deserts to the Arctic Circle, and provide important forage for the bees and other wild pollinators especially today as human development is encroaching on wild habitat. They help regenerate the soil and bring fertility back to land that has been disturbed or overgrazed. The wild weeds are exceptionally nutritious as protein rich food sources.  The weeds typically have more nutrition than anything we can buy from the store. These 13 weeds each have powerful medicinal qualities and through utilizing them on a regular basis not only can they help cure illnesses but also prevent them from occurring.  The weeds often grow in abundance so overharvesting is not a concern.  The weeds are generally free and widely available to most humans living on the planet as an important survival resource.

With more than 100 unique recipes, Blair teaches us how to prepare these wild plants from root to seed, including information on growing “wild” microgreens, sprouting, fermenting, making wild green powders, and gleaning weeds from local lawns as a principled stance against pesticide use.

Introducing the 13 Weeds

Purslane (Portulaca) seeds are one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. The leaves and stems are juicy, succulent and taste lemony.

Mallow (Malva) has a pleasant mellow flavor and is delicious in salads and juices while gently drawing out congestion from the body.  The whole plant blended and strained also makes a great base for homemade lotions and shampoos.

Plantain (Plantago) is not only a great food, but also acts as the perfect first aid kit in a myriad of ways.  The leaves chewed into a mash draw out snake venom, spider bites, infection, and assist rapid healing of any injury.

Clover (Trifolium) replenishes the soil with nitrogen and re-mineralizes our bodies with a full spectrum rainbow of trace minerals that support the integrity of long-term health.

Curly dock (Rumex) leaves are used for lettuce when young and the seeds ground fine make great flour for adding to breads.  The root works as a fantastic natural antibiotic and immune builder.

Lambsquarter (Chenopodium) has far greater nutritional value than spinach and its seeds turn into the highly nutritious grain, quinoa.

Amaranth (Amaranthus) also known as pigweed is a wild food of choice.  The greens are delicious raw and for making into green chips and the little black seeds and leaves are packed with protein.

Grass (Poaceae) grows everywhere and is a true blessing because all wild grasses are edible. It makes a fantastic survival food because it contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein.  Chew the blades for the juice and spit out the pulp if it is too tough to break down.

Chickweed (Stellaria) is a delicate plant with five white flower petals that uses the support of other plants to grow higher.  It tastes mild, like fresh green springtime.  It can be used in salads, green juices, and salves.  It supports our ability to let go of excess and increases our bodies efficiency.

Thistle (Carduus) greens make a fantastic juice.  Harvest the greens carefully from the back stem or use gloves.  Place them in the blender with plenty of water, an apple, and a lemon.  Blend and strain the pulp out.  Drink this delicious thistle lemonade and experience a good energy that comes from shifting your body towards an alkaline healing state.

Knotweed (Polygonom) grows low to the ground and is often overlooked. It is a wild buckwheat that is highly nutritious and delicious. It is a first succession pioneer species and helps regenerate the soil.

Dandelion (Taraxacum) reminds us how to survive in style.  The whole plant is edible and highly beneficial for good living.  The roots are eaten raw or prepared like a wild potato, the greens are delicious with a slightly bitter flavor, the flowers taste like honey, and the stems make great musical flutes.

Wild mustards (Brasica) are spicy edibles and encourage good circulation in the body.  They each have four flower petals that come in different colors of the rainbow.  The greens make a flavorful addition to dishes and the yellow seeds create great condiments and add local variety to your spice rack.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is about empowering ourselves to maintain a state of optimal health with minimal cost and effort, and offers a tangible way to connect with our sense of place by incorporating wild edible and medicinal plants into our daily practices.

Save 35% off your purchase of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds when you buy it direct from us before October 13.

Farm the Woods: Grow Food and Medicinals in Forests

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

In the eyes of many people, the practices of forestry and farming are mutually exclusive, because in the modern world, agriculture involves open fields, straight rows, and machinery to grow crops, while forests are reserved primarily for timber and firewood harvesting. In fact, history indicates that much of humanity lived and sustained itself from so-called “forest farming,” and only recently has the forest been traded for the field.

In Farming the Woods, authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario, but a complementary one; forest farms can be most productive in places where the plow is not: on steep slopes and in shallow soils. Forest farming is an invaluable practice to integrate into any farm or homestead, especially as the need for unique value-added products and supplemental income becomes increasingly important for farmers.

“That Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel believe people should be empowered in pursuits of integrated, multifunctional forest management is clear. As a result, the book is better positioned to positively impact forest owners, farmers, policy makers, and general readers alike,” writes John Munsell in the book’s foreword.

At your fingertips is a useful and inspirational forest farming guide,” Munsell adds.

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests invites readers to view agriculture with a remarkably new perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicinal, and other nontimber products. To get a sense of what useful information and resources the book offers, read a sample chapter — Food from the Forest: Fruits, Nuts, and More — below.

It’s common knowledge that many of the daily indulgences we take for granted, such as coffee, chocolate, and a variety of tropical fruits, all originate in forest ecosystems. But few know that such abundance is also available in the cool temperate forests of North America. Farming the Woods covers in detail how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, ramps (wild leeks), maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamentals, and more. Readers are also provided comprehensive information on:

• historical perspectives of forest farming;

• mimicking the forest in a changing climate;

• cultivation of medicinal crops;

• cultivation of food crops;

• creating a forest nursery;

• harvesting and utilizing wood products;

• the role of animals in the forest farm; and,

• how to design and manage your forest farm once it’s established.

In addition, Farming the Woods includes profiles of forest farmers from around the country who are practicing many of the techniques detailed in the book.

“Forest farmers profiled in this book offer a vision for how more people can live—with and in the forest rather than outside it, as a foreigner who only visits from time to time. Human civilization is at a time when the decisions we need to make are unlike those any generation has had to make before,” write Mudge and Gabriel in the introduction. “With increasing inequality, the collapse of ecosystems around the world, and the uncertain effects of climate change, there is not a better time to consider farming the woods.”

Farming the Woods is now on sale for 35% off until September 24.

Farming the Woods – Sample from Chapter 4: Food from the Forest by Chelsea Green Publishing

Back to Basics with Fermentation

Monday, September 15th, 2014

For thousands of years, people have been using fermentation as a nourishing way to eat and preserve a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, grains, beans, meats, and more. Only in the last century has our culture distanced itself from this traditional approach to nutrition and adopted an industrialized food system complete with highly processed and genetically modified foods.

This month, we are celebrating Chelsea Green authors that are committed to bringing the nutrient-dense, traditional foods and preparation methods of our past back into the mainstream.

The fermentation revivalist himself, Sandor Katz, deserves to be recognized as one such revolutionary. Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentationa New York Times Bestseller and the definitive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation.

His books have inspired a new generation of home fermenters—even author Michael Pollan caught the bug. “Sandor Katz writes about the transformative power of fermentation with such infectious enthusiasm that he makes you want to try things just to see what happens,” writes Pollan in his foreword to The Art of Fermentation.

With Katz’s simple, 4-step method to fermenting vegetables, attempting a homemade sauerkraut has never been easier. All it takes is Chop, Salt, Pack, and Wait. Check out the excerpt below for details.

And, here are some other books featured in our series on nourishing foods…
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet by certified holistic health counselor Hilary Boynton and whole-foods advocate Mary G. Brackett – You’ll find additional info on this restorative diet and a sampling of appealing, family-friendly recipes here.

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by chef and food activist Jessica Prentice – With recipes that display the richly satisfying flavors of foods tied to the ancient rhythm of the seasons, this book will resonate with anyone interested in traditional food philosophies like the Paleo diet, the Weston A. Price approach to nutrition, and, of course, fermentation.

Fermented Vegetables: The Basics

(The following excerpt from The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz has been adapted for the web)

The English language does not have its own word for fermented vegetables. It would not be inaccurate to describe fermented vegetables as “pickled,” but pickling covers much ground beyond fermentation.

Pickles are anything preserved by acidity. Most contemporary pickles are not fermented at all; instead they rely upon highly acidic vinegar (a product of fermentation), usually heated in order to sterilize vegetables, preserving them by destroying rather than cultivating microorganisms. “For pickles, fermentation was the primary means of preservation until the 1940s, when direct acidification and pasteurization of cucumber pickles was introduced,” writes Fred Breidt of the USDA.

My vegetable ferments are usually concoctions that do not fit any homogeneous traditional ideal of either German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi. But of course, everything I’ve learned about sauerkraut and kimchi reveal that neither of them constitutes a homogeneous tradition. They are highly varied, from regional specialties to family secrets. Nonetheless, certain techniques underlie both (and many other related) traditions, and my practice is a rather free-form application of these basic techniques rather than an attempt to reproduce any particular notion of authenticity.

In a nutshell, the steps I typically follow when I ferment vegetables are:

1. Chop or grate vegetables.

2. Lightly salt the chopped veggies (add more as necessary to taste), and pound or squeeze until moist; alternatively, soak the veggies in a brine solution for a few hours.

3. Pack the vegetables into a jar or other vessel, tightly, so that they are forced below the liquid. Add water, if necessary.

4. Wait, taste frequently, and enjoy!

Of course there is more information and nuance, but really, “Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait” is what most of it amounts to.

Photo: Sandor Katz illustration by Michael Tonn
Photo: Shredded vegetables in jar by Devitree

Take it Slow: 15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy? Simple. Learn how to ride a unicycle. Or, if that’s not your speed you could follow a few of author Mark Schimmoeller’s thoughtful, guiding principles.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s lessons are relatable and strike a deeply human chord. Take a read through his book, Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America, and you’ll see what we mean.

His memoir is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness.

Peppered throughout the book are what Schimmoeller considers his “guiding principles”—moments of often humorous, pithy advice on how unicycling is inherently connected with the nature of slowness and the art of getting there, no matter where “there” exists. Fifteen of these principles from Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America are listed below.

In Schimmoeller’s characteristically unassuming way, these best practices appear to be for fellow unicyclists, but truthfully he is reminding us that it isn’t the means of transportation that matters.

These ruminations on the importance of mindfulness end up speaking to each of us, if not as literal unicyclists, then as travelers traversing often rocky terrain without stopping to enjoy the view.

Could you benefit from taking a moment to slow down to a unicyclist’s pace? How many of the following guiding principles can you relate to? Share your favorite on Facebook or Twitter today using #slowspoke.

15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

(adapted from Slowspoke: A Unicyclists Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller)

  1. Relax the emphasis on arrival.
  2. In squandering time you demonstrate its availability.
  3. Unicyclists must become devotees of anticipation.
  4. If you find yourself looking up at the sky instead of at the terrain in front of your wheel, it’s likely you have fallen.
  5. Don’t go on a straight road unless you can curb your desire to get someplace.
  6. Adventure begins only from a feeling of security.
  7. Motion without consideration of beginnings and endings can shelter a unicyclist from time and speed and progress.
  8. The art of unicycling is knowing, in part, when to give in to desire.
  9. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other if a unicyclist takes a break.
  10. The act of falling partway plus corrections equals movement.
  11. The simple act of reducing your velocity…could eliminate a significant number of sharp turns in the world.
  12. It’s conceivable that someone could study wobbliness long enough to discover a corollary of strength.
  13. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, don’t compete with bicyclists.
  14. There are limits, too, to slowness on a unicycle…The pace should inch just ahead of sorrow.
  15. A unicycle is who you are. For whatever reason, you are not any other form of transportation. You are a unicycle. Please love yourself.

Photo: Roger Cornfoot, Wikimedia Commons

New Inspiring Books from our Publishing Partners

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From learning how to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives to building a low-impact roundhouse, we’re bringing a handful of new books to US readers for the first time.

At Chelsea Green Publishing, we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books on sustainable living to a wider readership in the United States. Below is the latest selection of books available from one of our strongest publishing partners, Permanent Publications. They publish books that encourage people to live more healthy and resilient lives, as well as the internationally recognized magazine Permaculture: Practical Solutions for Self-Reliance which is read in 77 countries.

New Books from Permanent Publications:

Sacred Earth Celebrations explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for anyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse is a captivating story of one of the UK’s most unique homes. Now in its third edition, Author Tony Wrench shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this affordable low-impact home. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. Complete with color photographs of life in and around the dwelling, this is both an engaging story and a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living.

The Unselfish Spirit is an essential twenty-first-century guide to unlocking the secrets of how we as a race can collectively grow our consciousness to solve the complex web of challenges that threaten life on Earth. Author Mick Collins draws inspiration from such diverse fields as cosmology, new biology, and quantum physics, along with insights from depth psychology, occupational science, and mysticism. More than just a learned exploration about psycho-spiritual transformation, this book is a pathway to evolving entirely new ways of living creatively and harmoniously as a species.

7 Ways to Think Differently explores ways to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives, helping us to make incremental, achievable changes. As well as addressing our internal landscapes, author Looby Macnamara explains how individuals and communities can work together to achieve positive change. This book is for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. It offers potent medicine for a world full of challenges. (this book is available September 24, 2014)

One Man, One Wheel, and the Open Road

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness. Award-winning author Janisse Ray (The Seed Underground) identifies with this pace.

“Schimmoeller’s narrative—of his slow and deliberate journey across the country, of his homesteading off-the-grid life in rural Kentucky, and of his battle to save old-growth forests from the developer’s ax—demonstrates that one’s worth is not defined by how much can be accomplished in five minutes, days, or even years, but by what is done with that time,” writes Ray in her foreword to Slowspoke.

She goes on to impress how important a book like this is for our throw-away society. “I really love Slowspoke. It has made me happier than any book in a long time, because it’s the kind of thinking that humankind needs right now, in that it asks that we claim what we value—what we believe in, what we call precious—and divine how to preserve it.” Read Ray’s full foreword, along with all of chapter 2, in the excerpt below.

Author Bill McKibben echoes Ray’s sentiment, “This is just the kind of epic we need right now—humble, sweet, and very deep indeed. As good a travel story—within and without—as you’ll read anytime soon!”

Schimmoeller’s writing style engages you right from the beginning. You feel an intimate connection with him as he guides you seemlessly through his past, present, and even subconscious recollections. “There are books like this that are so nice that, like Holden Caufield, you want to call up the author and tell him (or her) what a great job he (or she) has done,” writes a reviewer from RALPH Mag (The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities).

“This is not only the tale of a man on a unicycle, one who has turned his back on freeways and power plants and supermarkets and television. More, it’s a man who has honed a fine edge to what he has learned: what works, what doesn’t work, what you need, what you don’t need in life; details that end up making Slowspoke a classic.”

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

These are all logical questions you might find yourself contemplating when settling in to read Slowspoke. However, as Schimmoeller introduces you to his slow pace and draws you in to his simple world, answers are revealed.

“My parents gave me a unicycle for an Easter present when I was twelve,” Schimmoeller writes. “About the time my classmates began focusing on four wheels, I became obsessed with one. Unicyclists, it occurred to me, experience arrival less often than others. They must become devotees of anticipation. Rushing, I learned under the tutelage of my unicycle—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall. Instead, after school and on the weekends, my task was to dwell in inefficiency, to wrinkle speed, to arrive somewhere only after much ambling about.”

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described it as a, “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere memoir.”

Anyone who has gone back to the land or wondered if they could, who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love, who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss, will find a voice in Slowspoke.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is on sale for 35% off until August 7th.

Slowspoke: Foreword and Ch 2

Build a Wood-Fired Oven in Your Backyard

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Ever dreamed of building a wood-fired oven and baking crispy pizzas, flatbreads, pastries, or even braising meats in your own backyard? Dream no longer, as you’re sure to find inspiration in Richard Miscovich’s book, From the Wood-Fired Oven: New and Traditional Techniques for Cooking and Baking with Fire.

Miscovich, a bread expert and instructor, offers a wide range of useful recipes for home and artisan bakers as well as oven designs, live-fire roasting techniques, and methods that maximize the oven’s complete heat cycle, from the initial firing to its final cooling. In the excerpt below you’ll find a few general masonry design recommendations to get you thinking about how to turn your dream wood-fired oven into a reality.

For an in-depth bread baking tutorial from Miscovich, check out his online class, Handmade Sourdough: From Starter to Baked Loaf, at Craftsy.com.

General Masonry Oven Design Tips by Chelsea Green Publishing

Living the Simple Life: William Coperthwaite

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Late last year architect, maker, visionary, homesteader, and Chelsea Green author William Coperthwaite died in a car accident just miles from his Machiasport home in Maine.

The entire Chelsea Green family was saddened by his death, and perhaps none moreso than Peter Forbes who had been inspired by Coperthwaite’s work and contributed the foreword and photographs to Coperthwaite’s award-winning book A Handmade Life.

Friends have set up a remembrance page honoring Coperthwaite’s life and inspiring work, which includes this moving passage from Forbes after he and his wife Helen Whybrow returned from burying Coperthwaite.

“My wife, Helen, and I got back from Dickinson’s Reach late last night after a very powerful and important three days. On Saturday, a group of us dug a six-foot-deep grave at the spot where Bill wanted to be buried. Another group made his casket and yet another group planned how to get his body from the mortuary back to his home. Bill wanted his body left however he died, untouched by doctors or undertakers. On Saturday morning, which was cold and stormy, six of us paddled out in two of Bill’s canoes across Little Kennebec Bay to Duck Cove where we were met by a hearse. We took his body out of the black plastic bag, wrapped him in his favorite blanket, and placed him gently into his pine box. We lashed the canoes together with four posts and tied the casket to the posts creating a catamaran to bring him home. The return was calm except for when we made the turn into his bay when a great wind picked up and blew us all the way into Mill Pond. We were met there by about 30 others who carried Bill in silence up from the beach past each one of his yurts. We paused at the most recent one as this was the place where Bill expected to die. We then brought him to his grave site, had an hour of reminiscences, and then buried him. And now we’re home trying to figure out what life means.”

Coperthwaite

Coperthwaite “embodied a philosophy that he called ‘democratic living’ which was about enabling every human being to have agency and control over their lives in order to create together a better community,” noted Forbes after Coperthwaite’s death. “The central question of Mr. Coperthwaite’s life and experiment has been ‘How can I live according to what I believe?’”

Over the years, thousands of people made the 1.5 mile walk to see his homestead, to be inspired and to learn from his approach to simple living by working alongside him [See the project below, "How to Make Your Own Democratic Chair"]. Intentionally avoiding electricity from the grid, plumbing and motors, he showed that it was possible to live a simple life that is good for themselves and the planet.

Born in Aroostook County Maine, Coperthwaite received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College and after graduation he turned down another scholarship to Annapolis Naval Academy to claim conscientious objector status in the Korean War. Bill did alternative service with the American Friend Service Committee where he connected with the teachings of American pacifism. Bill would become close friends with Richard Gregg, a central figure in that movement. Though they had 50 years difference in age, Coperthwaite and Gregg found a strong bond and Gregg introduced Coperthwaite to the work of Mahatma Gandhi and to Helen and Scott Nearing, legendary social radicals who had pioneered their own experiment in self-reliant living in Vermont and later in Maine. The influence of pacifism, nonviolence and simple living would lead Coperthwaite far out in to the world to learn from other ways of living, particularly handcraft traditions.

As Forbes noted, “Bill will be remembered by his friends for his commitment to his principles, his deep love of life and people, and his great intellect, humility and humor. Our nation has lost one of the links in the chain of great people working quietly with all their unique powers to foster a better world.”

Peace.


 

Project: Make Your Own Democratic Chair

The following project is from A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity by Wm. S. Coperthwaite.

Is there such a thing as democratic furniture? If so, what would a democratic chair look like?

Most of the fine chairs we see today, if handmade, take nearly as much skill as boat building and, if made with power tools, require much investment in equipment and acquiring the skills needed. I would like to see what those who are reading this might come up with for ideas for a handmade chair that is light, comfortable, strong, beautiful, simple to make from easily found materials. (All we seek is perfection.)

Utopian? Or impossible, to create an egalitarian chair? Not at all. As a society we have simply not yet focused on this problem. When we do, there will be some elegant chairs as a result (or boats . . . or houses . . . or wheelbarrows . . . (not necessarily in combination—although, come to think of it, there have been some very comfortable wheelbarrows, some very fine houseboats, and several wheelbarrow boats. . . .)

My suggestion for the most democratic chair follows. This is not provided to represent an ideal but in hopes of stimulating even better designs from you, the readers.

To Make the Democratic Chair:

    1. Saw and whittle out the four pieces shown in diagram, using white pine 7/8-inch thick.


(Click for larger version.)

  1. Bevel the front edges of the two base pieces to meet at the angle shown, then nail together.
  2. Fit seat in place, and screw to the base with four screws.
  3. Place the back piece in the notches in the base, and screw to the base and the seat.


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