wmrubel wmrubel

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William Rubel  I am a writer living in Santa Cruz, California. My books are "The Magic of Fire" and "Bread, a global history."

Mixing clay and ash to form the first two layers of clay on a traditional Samburu house. Near Lengusaka, Kenya. #samburu #traditonalhouse #hailescamp #haile’scamp #lengusaka #wamba #cob

Posing with the women who built the traditional Sam brewhouse my friend Haile commission for me at his camp in Lengusaka, Kenya. #wamba #lengusaka #samburu #traditionalhouse #hailescamp

A monkey on the traditional Samburu house that my friend, Haile Leseeto is having built for me. It will have two rooms, one being the bed, and the other a sitting room. This is being built in Lengusaka, Kenya at my friend Haile’s camp. #samburu #traditionalhouse #samburuculture #hailescamp #lengusaka #wamba In the future, this where I will stay when working on projects in the Samburu Lowlands.

Walking with my daughter and friend Lengiro in Northern Kenya. The mountains are the Matthews Range. The nearest town is Lengusaka. If you want it find this on a map we are about twenty minutes walk from .8818N 37.3192E at an altitude of 9,000 ft., 7300m. We are on our way to spend the night in a manyatta, a grouping of small stick houses that are up against the mountains. The particular settlement of around ten small houses are in size in between Samburu Lowland and Highland construction. More on building houses in posts to come. #Samburu #lengusaka #wamga #mathews range #Hailescamp

Amanita muscaria, the red mushroom with white dots, is “the mushroom” in the the sense that Irene Adler is “the woman” to Sherlock Holmes. A. muscaria is the iconic mushroom. I wrote an article about the history of the edibility determination of A. muscaria in mushroom field guides and in the more general medical literature along with mychologist David Arora in Economic Botany some years ago. The mushroom is an inebriant if consumed raw, dried, or if sauteed, but the psychoative portion compounds are water soluble so a good par boiling renders the mushroom a delicious esculent. Representations of A. muscaria are found in the most unlikiely places. Here, in this photograph I took in Paris a few years ago we see a muscaria themed hookah. Beside being a truly wonderful esculent if thoroughly parboiled it often blooms where Boletus edulus (porcini, cepes) are also growing. When you see a patch of A. muscaria look around for porcini. If you don’ see any, then come back to that same spot after the next rain.

This vine with tuber was used a famine food in the Kenya’s Samburu Lowlands. The root is very similar in taste and texture to jicama. The tubers you see here with my daughter has been uncovered by erosion. What had been grassland is being transformed to desert by the twin pressures of over grazing and climate change. This photograh was takin in June, 2016 in a manyatta about thirty minutes from Wamba in the general direction of Llusen Gap. #samburu #faminefood #jicama #pastoralists #subsaharanerosion #erosion

Mimulus guttatus, growing in the damp rock of a coastal cliff, Wilder Ranch State Park, near Santa Cruz, California. #wildflowers #wilderranch #californiawildflowers

Wilder Ranch State Park is three miles from my house. The park extends from a bluff above the Montery Bay up into the Santa Moutains where it abuts the University of California, Santa Cruz. There is one point on the cliff trail where it is possible to get down to a narrow cove. This week the cliffs that line this clove are verdant with Mimulus guttatus, Yellow Monkey Flower. The rock is oozing water so this mimulus particular thrives in damp locations. #Mimulusguttatus #wilderranch #wildflowers #californiawildflowers

I took this photograph at a San Francisco
Cafe/Bakery over the weekend. I was surprised to see the white versus red wheat dichotomy being called out on the label for artisan flour. The white versus red distinction, which refers to the color of the seed’s bran coat, has been important to millers at least back to Classical Greece and Rome. This can be inferred by texts by Pliny. While historically white wheat was the goto wheat for making the finest grades of white flour, today white wheat is used to make whole wheat produdts look whiter. That said, what interests me most about this label is the hypter detail being offered to customers. What does this mean? Culturally? What is the miller trying to express to the customer and what is the customer looking to find in the label? The white/red dichotomy is so obscure that I’d think it unlikely that even 1 in 100 customers of this cafe have any idea what it means. And yet, the miller clearly feels that adding this level of detail will assist with sales. Why? What are customers looking for? #artisanbread #artisanflour #wheat #whitewheat

The Nowy Świat Cafe, Warsaw, circa 2002. I used to go through Warsaw on my way to Lithuania. This was during the end of the Soviet period and into the first years of Independence. I’d often route the journey by train. Once, I came in from Italy, and other time from Paris. Being a little leisurely about getting to Vilnius. This photograph is taken shortly after the café was radically refurbished, restored, and reopened in the post-Soviet Warsaw. A lovely dream space. #Nowyswiat #warsaw #worldsbestcafes

The Lowland Samburu hut interiors are usually dark. To facilitate taking photographs my daughter has opened up a chink in the sidewall. When first came to Samburu District, now Samburu Country, the Lowland huts were made of sticks and cow dung. As there are now effectively no more cows the walls are now usually made of corrugated iron sheets. The yellow jerrycan is filled with water which the woman will have carried from a well about half a kilometer away, or perhaps a bit more. The two sticks in the fire are being heated to sterilize the mlala — the wooden milking container in her hands. You can see a spare mlala standing up behind the yellow jerrycan. #samburu #fermentation #milk #traditionalfoodways #pastoralism #wamba

This little boy is holding a mlala, or “calabash” as it often called in English. It isn’t a calabash, at all, it is a container carved out of wood, not a gourd. This boy lives in the Samburu Lowlands — in this case in a settlement of five stick huts — you see one in the background — beween Wamba and Llusen Gap. This photograph was taken in 2016. I’ll be returning to this area next month and will give him his photograph. The containe is for holding milk. The animals are milked directly into it and then the milk is left to ferment. The smoke cured fermented milk of the Samburu, and other Northern Kenyan pastoralist tribes are under threat from over grazing and climate change. There are already so few cows that a llama of this size is increasingly lying around unused.

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