Kelly and Erik From Root Simple: Bees, Bread, And Radical Home Economics

A guest post from Tom:

In a perfect storm of mismatched calendars, Lyanda was doing a reading in Portland this week while Kelly and Erik of the blog Root Simple (formerly Homegrown Evolution) were in the Seattle area, doing events in support of their great new book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. Then they literally passed each other on their respective trains as Lyanda came home and Kelly and Erik headed south to Portland.

Erik and Kelly check out our garden.

But while Kelly and Erik were in town, Claire and I were lucky enough to have them as house guests, and we had an opportunity to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Bakery Nouveau and talk about their new book, their blog, and our mutual affection for chickens, gardens, crusty breads, and bikes.

Their new book Making It refines the tinkering, post-consumer, urban homesteading experiments from their blog, laying out projects in clear, practical step-by step instructions intended as an introduction to “the old home arts.”  The chapters move step-wise, from “Day to Day” projects like homemade tooth powder and herbal infusions, to “Week to Week” projects involving cooking, washing, and mending, and on to projects relevant to a monthly, seasonal, or annual time frame. Like making sauerkraut, or soap. Saving seeds. Brewing beer. (Slaughtering chickens! Gasp!) And finally, their special new passion, beekeeping.

Some of the Root Simple bees.

Erik showed up in a sweatshirt from his beekeeping club, Backwards Beekeepers, and we talked for a while about the quirky characters in the beekeeping scene, and the idea that it may in fact be the practices of modern beekeepers that are at least partly responsible for the epidemic of colony collapse disorder.  The book opens with the story of them getting their bees (which you can also see in this video), and closes with a 25-page section introducing beekeeping. “Backwards beekeepers,” it says, “manage bees as little as possible,” and Kelly and Erik have become advocates for this approach, and active members in the 600-strong LA-area club. They raise feral bees, don’t spray them with chemicals, allow them to build their own combs, and simply “let bees be bees,” an approach which is radically different from the heavily managed, chemically-dependent, honey-production-focused beekeeping that they say is the norm.

I wish I’d had time to dig deeper into the bees with them, but Amtrak awaited–it was time to buzz down to the train station and send them off to Portland, so that pleasure will have to wait till next time.

Meanwhile, I’m poking through Making It, trying to figure out which of their many great projects will be the first I try  – we’re overdue for a proper compost bin (page 230), and their section on soaps (148-162) has projects that range from super-easy to fairly complicated, but all look tempting. And I love the idea of homemade peppermints! (Page 134)

Follow Erik and Kelly’s blog Root Simple, and pick up your own copy of the book at your local bookseller or on Amazon.



  1. The Velvet Bulldog

    Read about this and immediately ordered two copies of the book–one for me and one for my home-makin’, permaculturin’ friends. Thanks for sharing!

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