Author: Phil Houtz

Allman Brothers – Deeper Cuts

If your knowledge of the Allman Brothers (like mine) is limited to southern rock toppers like Midnight Rider, Ramblin’ Man or even the straight-up blues of One Way Out then you really haven’t experienced the Allman Brothers. And that’s a little like saying you haven’t experienced the color blue or the fragrance of wisteria on a summer evening or lightning across the desert.

As expressive and transcendent as these hit songs are the band takes things to an entirely different level when they open up and start jamming. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, a song that takes its name from a headstone in a cemetery the band used to visit, lets band members open up their full box of colors. Wikipedia has a stirring review of the Fillmore East live sessions that have been mixed (or unmixed) to create a masterful jazz fusion tour de force that owes more to Miles Davis than to Southern Comfort.

This may be music for sitting and sipping but I’ve added it to my “go for a run” playlist because the Allman Brother’s relentless go-forward rhythms are perfect for the last mile when I’m dogging it.

A Master List of Skills for Modern Homesteaders

Milking a Goat | photo via PioneerSettler

Milking a Goat | photo via PioneerSettler

Do you know how to set up a greenhouse, grow herbs, pluck a chicken, and properly train an animal? PioneerSettler serves of a list of 133 Homesteading Skills for the Modern Day Homesteader along with links to information and resources that will help you master these skills.

Some of these skills are ones that you’d obviously want to try at home, like making candles. Others are maybe not so obvious, like how to build a geodesic dome:

What is a Geodesic Dome?

Geodesic domes are one of the strongest, lightest structures you can build. Due to their unique design, they are wind, hurricane and tornado resistant. Geodesic domes can be used as extra storage, a greenhouse, or as a living space. It takes about 3 hours to put one together and about 15 minutes to take it apart. The parts are readily available at local hardware stores, and it the cost for this 19 ft x 9.5, 278 sq. ft dome is about $300.

These tips are amazing – like the Whole Earth Catalog for a new millennium.

One skill that is inexplicably missing from the list, considering all the advice about backyard poultry, how to dig a grave.


New Category on Wild Rye – Homesteading

Pioneer family - photo public domain

Pioneer family – photo public domain

We’re opening a new category of topics on Wild Rye, loosely grouped under the heading “homesteading.”

This section will include classic homesteading topics like backyard poultry, canning, and doing-it-yourself. But it will include things of interest to the more urbane homesteader such as setting up your wifi for your connected home.

If you have any ideas for things you’d like to see related to setting up and maintaining a homestead on your own suburban frontier, let us know in comments below.

What does “homesteading” mean to you?

5 Worst Places to Hide Money – Starting with a Ball Point Pen

Pen Safe photo courtesy Brennan10

Pen Safe photo courtesy Brennan10

#1. Traveler Tip: Stash Money in An Empty Pen (and Then Hang on to That Pen)

From Instructables (via Lifehacker) comes this handy tip – use an old pen barrel as a makeshift money safe. It’s a clever idea…except that success hinges on a second tip that isn’t included in the Instrucable – how to find a missing pen.

#2. Hide Valuables in the Kids’ Room, Really?

This was once a good strategy – put the jewels in a ratty teddy bear. But these days with tablets and Playstations being in demand, the kids’ room isn’t necessarily the haven from burglars it once was. (Via cammy)

#3. Don’t Keep Valuables Anywhere in the Bedroom

Tape an envelope of cash under the bed? The bed and the sock drawer are the first places a burglar will look. (Via Senior Voice)

#4. Don’t Stash the Cash in the Medicine Cabinet

You might not think a burglar has any interest in you antihistamines or hemorrhoid cream – and you may be right. But a criminal might head straight for your medicine chest looking for opioids and find a cash bonus. (Via

#5. Pretty Much Anywhere a Blog Tells You to Hide Money

While researching this post it seems like many of the “best places to hide money at home” are just as likely to be some of the “worst places to hide money” according another blog. Some things burglars look for – book safes, electrical outlet safes, fake canned goods and cleansers.

If you want to know a safe place to hide your cash, ask a thief. The answer is – leave money out in the open. Kind of like taking a mugger’s wallet with you when you travel, some decoy cash might keep a thief from searching until he finds your secret stash.


Is Apple’s New HQ Really a View of the Future? Or Just a Blast from Our Suburban Past?

General Motors' PR Vision of the Corporate Park via Collector's Weekly

General Motors’ PR Vision of the Corporate Park via Collector’s Weekly

The idea behind the flying-saucer design of Apple’s new headquarters is to generate plenty of cross-traffic and promote serendipitous encounters. That may be the case, but according to an article by Hunter Oatman-Stanford in Collector’s Weekly the design really isn’t terribly new.

Connecticut General’s new corporate estate included snack bars, ping-pong tables, shuffleboards, bowling alleys, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, a barbershop, beauty parlor, game room, media library, meditation room, and gas station, as well as offsite services like dry-cleaning, shoe repair, flowers, and grocery delivery—more than half a century before Google and Facebook added such benefits.

When tech giants like Apple, Google and IBM locate their headquarters in sprawling suburban business parks they put pressure on workers to commute farther, spend more of their day on-site, and interact with a less diverse group of people than if the companies were based in the city, according to Oatman-Stanford.

Silicon Valley’s tech industry puts enormous strain on the housing markets in the suburbs where the companies are located and inflated the cost of housing in remote communities. Oatman-Stanford hints that there’s an element of classism if not outright racism behind the corporate HQ’s flight from the city.

Contrast today’s corporate park with Samuel Colt’s vision for Coltsville, a central factory connected to a cluster of affordable high quality homes, a family sporting complex, a church, a museum, schools, even a sustainable grove of willow trees to provide renewable resources. It seems like the 19th century city plan is the one that looks futuristic.

[via @PlacesJournal]


Boethius: Getting Your Mind Right

Medieval View of Fortune's Wheel

Medieval View of Fortune’s Wheel

We’ve all been there. We’ve been passed up for a promotion because the nephew of the CEO came on board. Or we came down with the flu the day before we leave on our dream vacation. Something goes wrong in the universe and we are dealt a really bad hand. Life feels like it’s all gone to crap.

Anicius Boethius had one of these days. He was a highly respected Roman patrician and philosopher – considered by some as the last classical Roman. Some of his rivals, however, convinced the king that Boethius was plotting a coup. And also that he practiced astrology.

Sentenced to death, Boethius found himself really hating life. Fortunately (for us) he had enough time on his hands to write a compelling philosophical treatise – The Consolation of Philosophy

In his book Boethius imagines himself visited by a woman who personifies Philosophy. She diagnoses Boethius as suffering from a disordered mind. But there’s hope…she will show him a series of steps he can take to get his mind right.

At the risk of oversimplifying, Philosophy gives Boethius this framework to improve his thinking:

  1. God is good
  2. God’s plan is for man to find happiness
  3. Happiness can’t be found in Fate or Fortune, because these are fickle
  4. Happiness can only be found by pursuing Virtue
  5. Virtue can be discovered even when life really, really sucks
  6. There is no reason, even in the middle of a lousy situation, to think you are separated from God’s goodness and by extension that true happiness eludes you.

Following this logic is equally comforting on a bad day or good. Boethius’ prescription for getting your mind straight has a lot in common with modern psychotherapy. The Consolation of Philosophy enjoyed a lot of popularity during the middle ages but kind of disappeared from shelves in recent times. C. S. Lewis put Boethius at the top of his list of authors who deserve a comeback.

Gear Filter: How to Avoid Going Broke Buying Adventure Gear

Mark Shipman's Garage via

Mark Shipman’s Garage via

Our ancestors went camping with little more than a breechcloth and stick. Nowadays you can’t get out without your Osprey Stratos pack and MSR Hubba Hubba.

There’s no upper limit to how much you can spend on adventure gear. The big question is how much do you really need?

The Last Whole Earth Catalog gives us the answer with a handy little “gear filter.”

As Dan Schiller suggested in Popular Photography, the CATALOG will bankrupt you if you can’t distinguish between what you need and what you wish you needed.

Start extravagant, and you’ll never finish. Get the cheap tool first, see if it feeds your life. If it does, then get a better one. Once you use it all the time, get the best. You can only grow into quality. You can’t buy it.

Most of the stuff in the CATALOG can be borrowed free from a library.

Good advice. Start with a Jansport pack and pair of comfy sneakers and try a six mile hike on for size. If you start doing this every weekend move up from there. And don’t be afraid to beg, borrow or even rent gear for your next adventure.


Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper – Revitalizing Public Areas on a Shoestring Budget


Lunch for 500 neighbors in Akron Ohio via

Lunch for 500 neighbors in Akron Ohio via

It doesn’t take a lot to create a sense of place and purpose. Think about how children will string a clothesline between two chairs, throw a blanket over it and immediately have a magical “tent-fort” that is somehow better and more purposeful than the room it inhabits.

That’s the idea behind “lighter, quicker, cheaper” placemaking. Architecture, redevelopment and urban renewal take a long time. We’re talking centuries…and a LOT of money.

But what if we want a good, vital place to be right now? That’s where LQC comes in. Check out the Pinterest board for lighter, quicker, cheaper spaces worldwide and you see dozens of ways people have been able to reinvent public spaces semi-permanently (is any architecture permanent?) and created vital, active spaces.

Also of interest: Pop-Up City

Order an Ultramodern Home – Starting at $38,000 | Shipping Containers

Honomobo container house via Gizmag

Honomobo container house via Gizmag

Shipping containers have been a promising alternative to prefab architecture at least since Stewart Brand’s Sausalito research library. According to Gizmag there is now a Canadian firm called Honomobo that will drop one of these ready-to-inhabit home spaces on your lot for the price of a basic remodel.

Of course you’ll have to work out the zoning regulations with your local municipality. Other than that Honomobo units can be ordered with everything you need to live, from solar power to hot water and electric heating.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer you can always buy your own shipping container (for $1200 to $5000 and up) and equip it on your own.

Spending Time in Nature Reduces Stress – But How Much?

Matthew Forkin in the Wild courtesy National Geographic

Matthew Forkin in the wild courtesy National Geographic

A growing number of researchers are finding evidence that stress levels drop off and mental function improves when you get out into nature. Florence Williams explores the science behind nature therapy in National Geographic’s “This is Your Brain on Nature.”

The article looks scientific findings behind the three day effect, the theory that three days in nature will recalibrate your brain and improve creative thinking. Shorter jaunts such as a 50 minute walk down to a 15 minute meditation – even virtual nature can have physiological and cognitive benefits according to Williams.

One thing Williams doesn’t delve into is the aspects of nature that can significantly raise your stress levels. As they say, nature always wins. It may be that researchers are finding that nature, when it’s peaceful, gives us peace. But nature when it’s wild – well that’s something else to study.


Trail Notes: Mount Cleff Ridge Wildwood Park

White Tailed Kite Eating a Mouse

White-tailed Kites are fairly common around here. You often see them hunting in freeway medians. They have a characteristic way of hovering in one spot like…well, like a kite. I saw this fellow hovering at the base of the Mount Cleff Ridge in Wildwood Park. Slowly, deliberately the kite dropped ten feet, fifteen, feet, and then to the ground. It was a gentle glide, not the fierce high-speed descent of a Peregrine.

Highlights: The Santa Rosa Trail loop that I took was just shy of five miles. The most notable feature in the park is a craggy ridge of conglomerate mineral deposits. You expect a war party of wild Comanches to leap out at any minute. This should not surprise–Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and The Rifleman were all filmed here. There is an elevation gain of 400 ft, a little bit of a stiff climb at the beginning. The ground is very rocky and uneven, a challenge to mountain bikers and people with weak ankles. Mount Cleff Ridge Conglomerate

One other notable thing about this trail. Once you get on top of the ridge there just isn’t any place to pee. Large two-million dollar homes overlook much of the trail along the back side of the ridge and there just isn’t much tree cover. This something the wild Comanches never had to worry about–or maybe it’s what drove them wild in the first place.

The geology changes slightly on the eastern part of Lower Butte Trail. To me it looks something like the burren region in Ireland. This explains how Wuthering Heights could be filmed at the location as Gunsmoke.

To get there: From the 101 take Lynn Rd north to Avenida de los Arboles, turn left and continue to the end. Click here for a Google Map.

Mount Cleff Ridge Trail

Originally posted March 27, 2007

Teleport – An App That Helps You Find the Best Place to Live

Results from Teleport

Results from Teleport

Answer a couple of questions about the things that are important to you and the free app Teleport will cough out a ranked list of cities that best fit your needs. It doesn’t end there – Teleport gives you a sidebar with adjustable settings so you can fine-tune the selection.

Once you’ve settled on a couple of top picks Teleport gives you a ready-made to-do list for job hunting, packing and anything else you might need in order to make a leap to a new city.

The list that Teleport gave me was right on the money for the criteria I selected. But it missed the mark entirely for cities that “feel right” for my soul. Only one city, Boulder Colorado, felt like a place I might want to live (as opposed to visit.)

That said, I think Teleport is worth trying – and worth watching for future development.

Also of interest –

Lifehacker: Top 10 Ways to Find a Best Place to Live

The Art of Manliness: How to Decide Where to Live



Hungry Valley – An OHV Park You Could Get Lost In

Hungry Valley 4x4 Training Course

Hungry Valley is a State Recreational Vehicle Area just off Interstate 5 near Gorman. The park is packed with 130 miles of trails for dirt bikes, ATVs and 4WD vehicles. This might conjure up an image of a nuclear-broiled landscape swarming with jump-suited Suzuki pilots–something like Mad Max meets the Power Rangers. And that wouldn’t be a completely wrong picture. Part of the fun in Hungry Valley is watching dirt bikers domino into each other as they round a hairpin turn at 40 miles per and find themselves facing the business end of a Jeep.

What surprised me on a recent stopover was how much of the park is unspoiled. There were several places where I got out of my Jeep and felt that I was completely by myself. Either I couldn’t hear, or I simply didn’t notice the gnatlike whine of distant two cycle engines. What I heard was the sound of the wind in the black sage.

At one place I left the Jeep behind and scrambled up a ridge where several junipers stood sentinel. I figured I’d take a few minutes to commune with God and see if he might break his long silence.

The hill itself wasn’t anything to write home about. Just a steep sandy rise covered in chaparal and prickely pear. But on the back side of the ridge there was…nothing. And I do mean nothing. I was standing on the rim of a vast red rock canyon. Something I’d expect to see in Utah, Arizona or New Mexico.

I looked to see if there was some way down into the canyon. There was a narrow path crossing a ledge less than a hundred feet below me. As I studied the ledge, a large, healthy mule deer came bounding along the path and darted out of sight behind a rock wall. A second or two later came a very large gray coyote, burning up the trail in pursuit of the deer. I never knew coyotes had such ambition.

While Hungry Valley OHV park isn’t so big – well, it’s 19,000 acres big – but you probably won’t get technically lost in the park. Yet you can get lost in the exploration of it all.

First published December 20, 2006

Hungry Valley

501s: John Wayne, Henry Rollins, Marilyn Monroe and the “Australopithecus of Cool Jeans”

Somewhere around 1972 the Los Angeles Times’ California Magazine ran an article about Levis 501s and the people who wore them – prospectors, cowboys and Bing Crosby who had a tuxedo custom made by Levi Straus so that he could wear jeans at his favorite high-end watering holes.

I was hooked. And even though I thought “shrink to fit” meant that you had to wear your jeans wet until they fit you, I’ve been a Levi’s fan most of my life.

This video simply makes me want to go back for more.


Trail Notes: Quatal Canyon Jeep Trails

Quatal Canyon Road is Smooth and Wide

Entering from Highway 33, just south of Ventucopa, Quatal Canyon Road is the superhighway of Jeep trails. After several hours of bashing my brains out on the moguls in Ballinger Canyon it was actually kind of nice to be on a smooth dirt road for a change. (I really have to install some anti-sway quick disconnects.)

The first five miles or so is private ranch land on both sides of the road. After this the road narrows and becomes rugged washboard. Fortunately Trail 106, Quatal Canyon Corridor, comes along pretty soon and you can drive in the sandy wash, keeping your fillings intact.

Looking toward Cowhead Portrero (?)

This picture is taken along OHV Trail 106 after it leaves the Quatal wash, looking toward Cowhead Portrero. Note the red color of the soil here, washed down from the hills visible in the upper left part of the picture. These mountains are deep, vivid red. At this point the trail starts to gain elevation. Pinyon pine become more common. By the time the trail reconnects with Quatal Canyon Road, you’ve reached a Jeffrey pine habitat.

At the end of Quatal Canyon Road where it connects with Cerro Noroeste Road there is a small camp ground with picnic tables and fire pit. I didn’t notice what restroom facilities were available, if any.

The Pio Bureau photoblog has some nice shots of some labrynthine areas of Quatal Canyon, a great place of canyoneering. Geological surveys of the area have turned up mammalian fossils, making it a likely place for some amateur paleontology.

Originally published April 11, 2007.