No Soap - Paleo Experiment 1 Month Mark

I wrote this for a contest, yea Mikey's got me thinking about them too!

When I first heard about the Paleolithic trend of quitting soap it sounded a familiar bell in my psyche. I had previously wondered about the necessity of soap. At first I did this quietly and to myself as we often do when questioning the system that dishes out tidy but less than air tight explanations for why we need to buy this or that. I reviewed the images gathered by my mind. They came mostly from film. Hollywood would have us think that in every era and in all incarnations - Neanderthal, wood nymph, fair maiden or aristocrat - we stunk, that is unless we used soap. And modern sellers of stuff will have us believe that soap and products have saved us from a plethora of hideous off-putting funk that made us ripe for disease of a great variety. As I read about the soap free trend making it’s way across privileged landscapes of modern civilization, I thought, “it’s time to get to the bottom of this!” I have not used soap since January 4th.

I told a few friends about the experiment. Almost everyone surprised me with a story about a relative who never used soap, “my Sicilian grandma” or “grandpa from Russia who was known for being extremely tidy” or “great grandma who was allergic to soap and needed Billy Holiday to be played during her bath to clean her soul.” Some stories were rooted in allergies to soap while others reeked of a general mistrust in manmade soap over the bodies intelligence. Some were holdouts during a time in which everyone said, “bring it on” to man’s latest form of industriousness. Curiously, in all cases the family member bathed in a tub and not a shower and they used hot water. Figuring that I’d been gifted with 1st and 2nd hand true accounts, I went about to do the same.

At first a bath seemed pointless. There was not much to do. I waded around and wondered if the activity of being in water was even necessary but continued on. The answer that came after days of ‘washing’ with nothing but water and a washcloth, is simple and true. Bathing is about the power of water. Water, as it turns out, is a near magical thing able to neutralize bacteria and whisk away all sorts of nasties. It’s not just that I found studies to prove this, I could feel it. My skin felt great! It was clean, without any odor and I wore a softness that comes from oils but is not oily. And so with the new free time afforded to me by the absence of applying and rinsing products, I started to bird watch from my outdoor bathtub. I even brought binoculars to the bath.

As the days passed I noticed that my skin was different, not oily, but not dry. I used to ask my Mikey to scratch my back every night before bed, places I could not reach alone. I was so itchy that I felt as though in a panic. This ritual has been made obsolete, much like the soap I once applied generously and with purpose. As time passed my skin continued to shape shift into a softer version of itself, totally unitchy, luxurious and undeniably wonderful. I was sure that I’d begin to stink at some point but day after day I checked and checked and checked. I asked friends repeatedly, “no really, do I smell?”

The best test took place a few days ago. It had been 15 days since I’d last used soap and I went hiking for several hours in a canyon. When I got home I bathed in water (no soap) and then I put on the same hiking clothes I’d worn all day. This is something I’d never normally do but I wanted to test my newfound ability to avoid stinking horribly in spite of the fact that I had not used soap, products or deodorant in over two weeks. The next day I got up and put them on again! At the second day’s end I asked my Mikey to have a whiff. He said, “you smell great,” and I did.

It’s been over twenty days (last soapy bath jan 4) since I began this experiment. I don’t think I will return to soap. Why would I? From this view I genuinely believe that it has been stripping my skin of all its wisdom. My body does know how to stay clean. It just needed a little water and a little motion. I have been thinking a lot about nature and how balanced and complete it is. Why would we be the exception, dependent on a product for health? I have a new appreciation for water. I’m totally dazzled by it. I also have a new respect for my body and all that it knows. I wont soon grab cures made from chemicals I cannot pronounce. Nature did a fine job of making me without need of such things. I also pledge to learn more about simple products I can make from natural materials. I'm working on making my own shampoo.

I don’t know if Hollywood and history book has done an injustice by depicting the people of past as stinkers. They are probably neither smarter nor dumber, stinkier nor more fragrant. There has always been a snake oil salesman and those who want a magic remedy and there’s something kind of balanced about that. If we’re lucky we come around and distinguish truth from BS. When in doubt I will place my bet on what nature provided.

*Image: another one from my sketchbook.

Instructables Bread Contest

Instructables Bread Contest
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

My "locally harvested and milled hearty mesquite bread" is entered in
the instructables bread contest. The voting period has started and I
would appreciate it if our readers could help by voting for my bread.


The Way of the Heart: Life and Legacy Hazrat Inayat Khan

Through the ages philosophers, artists and mystics of magnificent variety have offered ways to revivify the human adventure. In all faiths they mine authenticity and meaning that energizes self expression to contrast the monotony and limitation of man's world. Even when fundamentalism sours the taste for self reflection the mystic can point to the heart of the matter.

A century ago in 1910 a musician and Sufi mystic came from India to the United States to remind a culture sliding into materialism of simple and essential truths. The first documentary accounting the life of Inayat Khan has been made - The Way of the Heart: The Life and Legacy of Hazrat Inayat Khan by Mischa Scorer.

In the film, in near fairy tale fashion we see and hear through preserved early photographs and rare audio recordings, the journey of the stately prince-like young musician as he makes his way to a foreign land, the United States. Through all manner of difficulty he is steadfast in his mission to bring a message of unity that can harmonize the seeming differences that divide humanity. He invites those willing to listen to view all books (torah, koran, bible, tao and the like) as the collective spiritual inheritance of humanity. He also points to nature as the most perfect 'book' as it needs no interpreter and so conveys the real more succinctly.

Meeting character after character the film weaves us through the past 100 years so that we can see the faceted legacy that Inayat Khan left behind. It makes an image of a many limbed tree of Sufi orders and communities that span the world over and bridge ancient world and modern. The film is peppered with personal introductions to an inspired many that collectively keep his message alive today.

A particularly intimate view is offered of Inayat's son, the magnetic Pir Vilayat and his grandson, the current spiritual leader of The Sufi Order International Pir Zia Inayat Khan.

The viewer is also taken into the textured world of the mystic's life in practice. Explained and observed one gets the feeling that there are as many ways to "practice" Sufism as there are people alive on earth. This matches the Sufi cosmology. One in which each seeming separate part of nature is without duplication and so logically all living beings will experience and express truth uniquely and from their own vantage point. Allergic to dogma and with no book of it's own, no temple and no hard rules, the Sufi life might seem untethered. But what the film's close up view reveals is another perspective altogether. Those interviewed report an ecstatic inner life and a practical outer life steeped in the human social strata. A Sufi's learning and growth are tied up in their goal to harmonize with the whole human family.

The film maker speaks to initiates, teachers and those without 'official' affiliation who's hearts bind them invisibly to the master. We meet them, a radiant mix of color, creed, country and sect at Inayat Khan's dargah, the site where his body dwells and he is celebrated with full grander each year in India.

In some ways the film makes simple the role the mystic plays in society. As a friend-like companion the mystic points the way and helps one become a complete human being. Inayat Khan's grand son Pir Zia offers seekers of our day a crystal clear teaching to this effect. He asks students to contemplate the latin root (re ligio) of the word religion which translates to re (again) ligare (connect); as well as the meaning of the Sanskrit word nirvana which by it's root is no difference; when the word plays are intertwined one can reason that the intention of religion was to make tools for reconnecting. Connecting to what? In Sufi fashion the student's own contemplation and tuned heart reveals the answer, "to reconnect to everything."

The film is currently appearing in festivals and is also available for purchase through The Sufi Order's web site.

The Auction

Small town life inevitably includes an auction, probably at a fairground. We had an amazing auctioneer until he passed away last year. This auction's got some grit. You'll find welding gear, trucks, whole wood shops and loads of cowboy this n that. I once saw a room sized loom, unused, go for fifty bucks! Of course you'd best have the entire day free so you can wait for what your looking for to go up.


Jujube Trees

Jujube Trees
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy picked up two more fruit trees this week. It took a good 30 minutes to decide where to place them. One has to stand back and imagine all the many new, small trees grown up and in full effect in order to properly space the new ones.

We choose to use them for west sun blocks for our home and east sun blocks for the fire pit. It will be 5 years before they block anything. If you are not already familiar with the jujube it is well suited for our climate. It loves heat and lousy soil. The fruits are mildly sweet and can be smoked or boiled into molasses. I have seen people eat the fruit straight, but it has always been a bit bland for my pallet.


Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Ran out of real corks this morning while bottling the Shiraz. We had
some crazy looking corks called "zorks" that I bought on-line last
year. We gave those a go and they seemed to work. I don't like that
they are plastic and I can't say that they all got a good airtight
seal. That being said they look super cool and just saved my butt. It
is also neat that you do not need a corkscrew to open the bottle.

Zeitgeist Moving Forward

I am a fan of the first two Zeitgeist movies. Last night we watched the newest of the trio titled Moving Forward. It was long, well paced and gave one plenty to think about.

The first half of the film detailed a revised view of how genes work, triggered by environment (rather than predestined), no longer can we blame our poor behavior on them. This leaves us in a more mature and responsibility laden position, that of shapers of the environment responsible for our creation even if it's sick. What the film demonstrated is the way in which the environment we live in now, the system, triggers genes in the waiting. In particular those related to violent behavior.

The story deepens to reveal that as creators and sustainers of the dominant system that shapes the physical environment - the monetary system - we hold the loaded gun that keeps in motion an abusive society that satisfies the needs of the system (money) rather than the needs of life or the system's inhabitants. In this sad picture empathy is all but dissolved and this is especially important because it is also what is necessary to regain social equanimity. The film points to social equanimity as a key factor in bringing about positive behaviors in society.

The film invites us to consider that we don't need the system for man to be creative. We are creative. I agree. However where he goes with this is where him and I split ways.

In the second part of the film he pitches us a solution. The proposed future makes of man an even greater ego monster that he is today. The vision is one of a technologically driven accounting of every resource on earth led by you know who, man. As though starting out with an empty and new planet humanity would build brand new cities laid out to deliver objects and people via super efficient transport that cautiously uses just what the earth can afford to give up and not a bit more. Food grows in man made towers free of the need for soil in computer controlled moisture climates. In this future man will be free of labor because all labor will be mechanized. The film maker guesses that the 3% of us that are needed to run it all will gladly volunteer. What's really strange is that he calls this a Marxist view.

Here's my beef. Perhaps more than anything else (except for water, food and air) man needs labor. Labor connects man to world and in particular the natural world. The future that the film describes will likely give rise to a great variety of mental illness related to separation from nature, and this is not so different from the life we know now. And it's more than just separation. With man as the world accountant, the tracker and dispenser of all things, he is distanced yet more from the natural world and in such a way that his ego must grow. Line listed on a spread sheet soil will convey little emotion. One must touch and know the soil to really understand it. One must rely on it and care for it if it is to dissolve the final boundary. I would rather see a society that continually reflects upon it's dependency on the earth and expresses this awareness through lifestyle and practice. Leisure is a myth without labor as everything is known according to it's opposite.

With so many imaginings about the future we easily forget that in modernity man lost his common sense. And common sense comes from the commons, of which is the earth. This sense will not return from making ourselves rulers of the earth even if we promise benevolence. To regain it we have to immerse ourselves in it, become part of it, tune ourselves by it and seek equanimity not just between humans but between life of all forms. The very best way to achieve this is labor.

Our physicality, brain and body is able to read, know and intuit so much more than we made evident under this system. Indigenous cultures who gain knowledge from nature and contemplation are not spinning tales, they're giving an account of how they themselves, their senses and psyches have been tuned by living symbiotically in nature. Our dependence on earth is our ego's much needed leash, lifeline and route to further development.

Zeitgeist's proposed future leaves lots of unanswered questions such as who gets the goods, who gets em first, second, third, etc. It's also likely that there are not enough resources remaining to build the whole thing even if we did have an empty planet to start off with. And then the social issues. Who's the laborer, the thinker, and who cleans up the poo? I don't want to replace a failed system with another system. It's time to dump systems and make ready for an organic reorganization that comes from listening instead of imposing. The day will come when we know that we really know. When it does no one would dare say so, a clue that we finally created something of real value, responsibility.

In the end I question why the film maker supposes we ought to work so hard to preserve a way of life that already proved unsustainable as well as unhealthy. Even if we hack out the monetary system and all the nastiness it triggers in our genes and even if we find equitable ways to be together we wont be able bring our toys. And really, why would we want to? They made us miserable. Lets not forget that we lived on earth for about a million years without all of it.

The conundrum of our time is the size of our species newly expanded due to petroleum (and the monetary system). And now we're so big that we can't just hop over to another way of being even if we knew how to. The desire to "hop" is a remnant of the psychosis of modern man. Change wont be in a swoop. More likely it'll move in stages like nature does. Through responding to the world around us we might remember that we are the world around us. For many this shift in perception is coming now. And having come this far we have something new in hand, the knowledge of our mistakes. Our future will be peppered with tragedy and also with achievement and celebration. Never has there been another way, we know light from having dark, leisure from labor, achievement from struggle.

The arc of time will shrink us back to a sustainable size or delete us entirely, but life will continue to live. It's the only thing that's ever been constant since the first day on earth. Live lives. Only in the belief of ourselves as masters of the world are we called to answer the question of "how will the future look?" A better role for us is that of listener, we can tune to it and cultivate harmony. We really do need to see our interdependence and act as though it is the only tap root to survival (because it is) and then let nature take it's course while contributing as part of nature by making as much beauty from within it as we possibly can, together.

But lets not skip one of the films best features, it reminds. . . those who've risen to the top and who receive all the reward in this system are those who have had the nastiest of genes triggered by the environment (an environment we created). They're our responsibility and more so it's our responsibility to reorient life so as to stop triggering those genes into action. The traits rewarded in our system are greed and ruthlessness. It creates gambler, addict, sociopath, murderer, and brute and then put them in positions of power. Those tuned to this pitch must be disconnected from power and there is no better way to do that than to abolish the monetary system completely. Let the playing field be leveled.

Those at the bottom tier under this system, the one's who've been punished for having empathy (and who are often those who continued to live with the earth - by necessity) can help the new poor (the old rich) to regain a sense of what it is to be a complete human. What the film leaves a mystery is the answer to the question, "can a person who activated their violent genes rejoin society, can they recover?" I know that the answer is "yes", and the proving of this is precisely what will make the future look different than the past.

* Photo: A still frame from the movie that happens to contain one of Mikey's old bosses from wall street. Go figure. What a funny world it can be.


Holy Scrap Silkscreens 4 You

I know what your thinking, "what took them so long to offer us a t-shirt!?" You know. . . busy busy busy! In Holy Scrap style these first gen prints are straight from the Truth or Consequences' thrift. We carefully selected items nearly new and in great shape or new. They're twice washed, silk screened with relevant designs, heat set, washed again and then made available to you. Of course there's only one of each so if you like one, grab it and we'll remove it from the list. If you wanna, gotta have a size or image not offered here, just write us and tell us what you want and if we do this again we'll try to create what your looking for.
* Note: the drop down menu will reflect what's left, not necessarily what's pictured here.

Colors Sizes Styles

Instructable : Video : Hearty Mesquite Bread

Hearty Mesquite Bread
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Just posted up another instructable and video this morning for the hearty mesquite bread we have been enjoying all winter.

Hearty Mesquite Bread


Press : Hack A Day : Fridge Fermenter

Press : Hack A Day : Fridge Fermenter
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Thanks to Caleb over at Hack A Day for posting my recent instructable on converting dead wine fridges to fermentation chambers. I've already used the fermentation chamber for multiple breads and last night it held 110F making us one gallon of greek yogurt.



A Better Cream Cheese

A Better Cream Cheese
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Every other week I turn our fresh from the cow local milk into cream cheese and yogurt. Usually my cream cheese tastes fine, but occasionally the texture is off, soft compared to store bought. This morning I made a small change and got the desired texture. The trick was to dry the cream cheese longer. I gave it from 10pm to 10am to dry out in it's cheese cloth wrapping and then refrigerated.

Medicine Making & Calculating The Cost of One's Time

Making medicine is one of the many activities that demonstrates how the DIY life leads one towards freedom from the need to earn large amounts of income. Today I made tincture and sleeping pills. The tincture included lobelia and kava kava. The sleep aid is made of veg cap's filled with valerian and kava kava powders.

I used to buy a 30 pill jar of sleep aid for $14.00. Instead I now buy bulk herbs and make my own jar of 100 pills which takes me under an hour. You could say that my new price for the item is about $1 a bottle or you could say that I pay myself $13 an hour for the time I spent doing it myself. Now usually I also grow the plant and that makes the math all the better, my per hour wage (so to speak) goes up exponentially.

If you consider DIY repairs to my VW Beetle, like the recent window regular which costs $400.00 at the shop vs an at home repair of $40.00 for the part plus 3 hours, you can see how one's wage, or cost per hour increases. For that Beetle repair I "paid myself" about $85.00 an hour.

We like to use the language of "I earned $100.00 an hour today," when we talk about it. And we like to track the math because it tracks the economy of each task and makes decisions about what to do next easier to make.


Sweden's Nice Potty

(Reposted from Blog Green as a Thistle

It's not every day that potty art makes its way to the public space. A blogger writer located in Toronto caught this sign while visiting Sweden. A swing of them bum orients one towards one of two drains (liquid/solid). Looks like it might take some practice.

This is likely one of those little charms afforded to those countries not strapped by war, robbed by band of elite thieves, and broke from having given away all their industry. And we think health care would be luxurious!

T Shirt Week Holy Scrap, NM & NYU, NY

(repost from Huffington Post)

It seems it's not just me and Mikey thinking about t-shirts this week. A clever student duo at NYU just announced a pollution detecting shirt. A pink heart silk screened on the left breast begins to show blue lines when excessive carbon monoxide is in the air.

For those of you who expressed an interest in their own Holy Scrap t, hang on they're almost dry.


Make a Fermentation Chamber from a Broken Wine Fridge

Make a Fermentation Chamber from a Broken Wine Fridge
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have been using the old chest cooler + light bulb for months to make our bread rise, our kimchi sour and our tempeh mycelium. Now we have a graduated to a more stylish fermentation chamber based on a junky wine fridge made by Haier. I ripped out the dead electronics and peltier unit and dropped in my own 75W light bulb + temp controller. Check out my instructable on the conversion.

We Are Silk Screening

We Are Silk Screening #2
We Are Silk Screening #3
We Are Silk Screening
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar


"Who Wants a Holy Scrap T-Shirt?"

Once again this process required lots of tweaks. Lessons of today's silk screening process: darken all print outs with good marker; dry emulsion forever (like 45 minutes), peel plastic sheet off emulsion (not in the directions!), burn image for 15 minutes.

Final Touches to a Quick Kitchen Remod With Flashing

The other day's remodel using flashing as a kind of fake stainless steel wall paper was not complete. I'd left the window unframed and raw. I decided to use wood to soften the aluminum and to add dynamic to the nearby rusty metal plate that I used around the outlet. In truth I used it because I miscut the flashing and it was going to show so I ran outside and found some rusty metal to cover it over with. I like it and the new wood trim around the window brings it all together.

Geeks Who Like Domes

A web friend of Mikey's named Dave came through excited to be towing a rig loaded up with a huge pump and two dome inflatables. He will be spraying them with a mix of papercrete, cement and styrofoam for a rather high R value. Like Mikey, he likes domes. He picked this rig up in Las Vegas and was heading back to Tx with it. I liked Dave's rig, he towed the load with an air force transport vehicle kinda like an ambulance in size and shape. A nice diesel with low milage.


And Then There Were Two

It goes along with good sound reasoning that if one can produce a nice fire ball with one accumulator than one can produce an even better fire ball with two. Today's addition to the fire doorbell is a second accumulator. Note the Chucky Cheese shirt, appropriate fire art attire.


55 Miles to the Box, Monticello Box

You may recall our earlier attempt to get to Monticello Box. Our grease car "Chance" crapped out just a mile before reaching it. Today we went back and were rewarded abundantly.


Flashing: Quick ReFinishing Material for Kitchen

As you may recall part of Holy Scrap is a 40 year old mobile home that we remodeled into a home. We resurfaced much of it: floors (bamboo), sheetrock, trim, but not all of it. In particular we left out the back wall in the kitchen. It's been driving me nuts since it's old, decrepit and yucky, the last thing one wants in the room where food is prepared.

Today I surveyed the shed for scrap and found a couple of rolls of flashing (thin aluminum sheets). I resurfaced the whole back wall in it. They're held to the wall with self tapping screws and the original aluminum molding from 1967. One day jobs are fun and offer instant gratification. It came out pretty good, reminds me of a diner.

Flaming Doorbell - First Test Shots

Flaming Doorbell - First Test Shots
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Looks like we are getting pretty decent fireballs with a single
accumulator tank. Next up I will add a second accumulator in parallel
and see what kind of height and noise we can produce.

Flaming Doorbell - First Test Shots #2
Flaming Doorbell - First Test Shots #3

What The Science Says, Soap Free Living

(reposted from Boingboing.net)
Thanks BoingBoing for the scientific report on the necessity (or lack of) of soap. It seems water alone has the properties needed to keep away most harmful bacteria.

Bernalillo's History: The 2.5 ft Adobe Wall

I was visiting a friend's home for the first time. She's in the upper part of the state in Bernalillo, a small town about the size of T or C with a lot of history. Her home, unlike the fake adobe's that litter Albuquerque, had walls 2.5 feet thick. Adobe's were usually built one room at a time and so they have a maze like quality and the inner walls are as thick as the outer, even if unnecessary.

Scared of Our Own Shadow: Let the World Begin (Again)

Every day I wake to read a mish-mosh of reports on the environment and the many creative ways that culture is changing to meet the needs of man in a world of diminishing resources. I am sick of our efforts to prop the man man world up by creating new crap: LED lights, wind turbines, a better clothing tag.

Why are we so afraid to live in the world we inherited? What's so frightening about a world without man's stuff? The natural world has been humanity's only task ever.  We just had to live, nothing more. Play would have been perfectly ok too.  The rest is mental gymnastics and masturbation. Can't we apply the same "I can," spirit that ignites our desire to invent to learning how to live without our unnecessary crap? Invention will never die.

I can find 100 new articles a day reporting on innovations in home building: container homes, apartment buildings with tiny apartments and low utility needs and the like. To build any of these things is to presume that no human after is will have a better idea than us. In other words, what we build lasts too long. Why not build for our time only and let the next generation build for theirs? Let them experience the spirit of discovery and invention too. I would love to see us make buildings that are designed to be re-digested by the earth in the span of one human lifetime.

And what's wrong with a world that's illuminated for the duration of time that the sun is out? Perhaps we're afraid to remember our affinity for the stars? Perhaps contemplation seems frightening after so many years of fast edited movies. If 2012 produces real change it'll be because humanity is so utterly sick with what it's created that we will imbibe the meme with our need for change and cause that change by it. Our current condition, that of the sinking ship would reverse quicker than you could say "capitalism sucks" and return to a world of abundance if we just gave up the belief that we own it or control it. It's about time we stop assuming that the world without man's crap will be a lesser world. It's the only world. This world we glom on top of it is a weak mimic, an illusion, our weakest self. I think I just discovered the meaning of "scared of your own shadow."

The Strange Personality of Consumerism

People often suggest that much of the circumstances of our lives are chosen by us before entering the world. I'm not saying that I agree but sometimes I do see way big events have shaped who I am. This often comes with a hefty does of appreciation for what once felt thorny and hard to bear.

This weekend I visited my mom. We have 40 year age gap, typical of adopted kids like me who were born in the 1960s. It's always been weird, her raised by second generation immigrants who lived in the depression and me born into American consumerism, computers and mass media. Without question my parents set me up to notice my "life's purpose" which I've long believed to one of understanding and offering solutions to materialism. My parents generation ushered it in and they are also victims of it. I have always marveled at my mom's behavior around objects. Her actions have a way of revealing her view of reality. Let me explain. . .

During my recent visit I observed her walking from the kitchen to the living room where she went about pulling back the plastic leaves of a fake potted plant and tucked behind it a large plastic wine opener. I asked her what she was doing and she informed me she had no room for the object in the kitchen. The gesture had hints of two extremes: days gone by when folks buried glass jars of cash in the yard during the depression, and also the modern era conundrum in which our well stocked drawers and cabinets are so utterly full that things get hidden in the oddest of places.