Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 17th, 2013

Short Stories of Lebanese Jews who immigrated…Part 1

Jews who lived in the Beirut block of Wadi Abu Jamil

A book by Nada Abdel Samad (Abridged translation from Arabic into English)

Story of Salim Merzahi and Mary Semmone.

Selim is an Iraqi Jew who fled to Lebanon in the 1950’s during late President Camil Cham3oun. Mary is a Christian who lived in Mazra3a (Beirut) with her brother Isber and mother.

Selim, Isbir and Mary ended up joining the Communist Party and the various syndicates related to their jobs and participated in mass demonstrations.

Selim married Mary in a subdued wedding ceremony as Mary converted to Judaism for the form. They had 4 daughters and a unique boys Marco, the “last of the grape“.

After Israel preemptive war of 1967 against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, The Jewish Agency in Lebanon and Cyprus facilitated the “transfer” of the Jews from Lebanon. The Jews who decided to immigrate to Israel as initial destination were lured by lavished package deals: Free tickets, free hotel stay in Cyprus, an tiny apartment, and promise to locating a job…

The deal was for the new immigrants to remain in Israel for at least 3 years, otherwise, they will have to repay all the initial expenses.

The Lebanese Internal Security knew all the details of the mass transfer and they were ordered to turn a blind eye. Most probably, it is of these Lebanese facilities that Israel viewed Lebanon as a pseudo-State and devastated Lebanon through 5 successive incursions to physically dominate Lebanon.

The new immigrants had to suffer the ignominy of being considered second class citizens for a long time, until the boys serve in the army and the girls marry Ashkenazim Jews.

The Jew from Lebanon knew that they were trading a “happy, comfortable, free, almost tax-free, abundant and inexpensive” life-style to stringent communities in Israel with high cost of living, small apartments, and high taxes to maintain a dominating army.

The Jews from Lebanon were coaxed into believing that they had no choices but to leave, lest they suffer another wave of persecutions, “terrorist activities” against Jewish institutions in Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Syria, and mostly planned and executed by Israel itself in order to force the Jews to immigrate to Israel.

Mary decided to immigrate to Israel in order to secure husbands to her daughters and a future to her son. She didn’t tell her communist members of her departure because by then the Communist Party considered Israel as an occupying force in Palestine.

(Mind you that the Soviet Union of Stalin was the first State to recognize Israel. Stalin was convinced that Israel will be the first communist State in the Middle-East. It turned out that Israel started a capitalist State and remained a liberal capitalist.)

Israel entered Beirut in 1982. Marco paid a visit to his home in Wadi Abu Jamil in a Jeep with two other soldiers and talked to his previous elderly neighbor “Aunt Hanne”.

Mary refrained from any kinds of correspondence with her dear friends in Lebanon, although she could send them letters via Cyprus where the Jewish Agency simply changed mailing envelops.

Flower Pots and Tea Lights used to heat your home?

Wanting to cut costs on the energy bill, especially now that temperatures are dropping for the season?

Economics may be one reason to seek more sustainable energy sources, but this inventive way to heat the house is also purely fascinating.

Amanda Froelich posted in the True Activist this Dec. 13, 2013

How to Easily Heat Your Home Using Flower Pots & Tea Lights

Journalist, YouTuber, and boat owner Dylan Winter created his DIY heater using tea lights and placed inside a bread tin and covered with two ceramic flowerpots.

By: Amanda Froelich,

This creative system uses the scientific principles of convection heat transfer to heat his home for around 8 hours a day.

His YouTube Channel KeepTurningLeft shows how the method works: The tea lights are first put into a bread loaf tin and covered with a small upside-down flower pot.

The hole in the top of the upside-down pot is covered with the metal casing leftover from one of the tea lights. The pot is covered by a second, larger pot and the hole in the bigger flower pot is left uncovered.

This system works because the candles produce gases full of heated particles that are captured and channeled through the pots. As hot gas particles are lighter than the air, they will rise up through the top into the colder area.

The cold air is caused to fall into the warm areas and create a convection current; then heat is transferred from one pot to another, and then out of the hole.

One does not need a huge amount of money to invest in this economical heating method, either. Winter began by buying 100 tea lights from Ikea for less than a dollar, a standard loaf tin, and two different sized flower pots. In the video it is shown four candles are used for the heating system.

Sharing his invention with the world, Dylan explains that the heat from the candles warms the inside of the smaller flower pot, which becomes an ‘inner core’ that gets ‘very hot’. As explained before, a convection of air is then created between the smaller and larger pots and this heated air comes out of the top of the homemade heater.

When asked about his heater, he said: “People have told me that judicious positioning of flowerpots help to make the heating more efficient. I did not believe it but it really does seem to work.

You get a nice flow around the [pots] and it warms the room up. You’d be amazed.”

Dylan even uses the flowerpot method on his boats to conduct heat.

Truly inspiring for those seeking to simplify, be more frugal with their dollar, and leave less waste, perhaps this system will warm many families this year as winter makes itself more present.

Read more

Day Out | The Mushroom Tunnel

Nicola Published this September 9, 2009

As Geoff Manaugh has already mentioned on BLDGBLOG, we spent our last full day in Australia touring the Li-Sun Exotic Mushroom Farm with its founder and owner, Dr. Noel Arrold.

Three weeks earlier at a Sydney farmers’ market, we were buying handfuls of his delicious Shimeji and Chestnut mushrooms to make a risotto, when the vendor told us that they had been grown in a disused railway tunnel in Mittagong.

Mushroom tunnel next to rail tunnel

The mushroom tunnel, on the left, was originally built in 1886 to house a single-track railway line.

By 1919, it had to be replaced with the still-functioning double-track tunnel to its right, built to cope with the rise in traffic on the route following the founding of Canberra, Australia’s purpose-built capital city.

The tunnel is still state property: the mushroom farm exists on a five-year lease.

The idea of re-purposing abandoned civic infrastructure as a site for myco-agriculture was intriguing, to say the least, so we were thrilled when Dr. Arrold kindly agreed to take the time to give us a tour (Li-Sun is not usually open to the public).

Dr. Arrold has been growing mushrooms in the Mittagong tunnel for more than twenty years, starting with ordinary soil-based white button mushrooms and Cremini, before switching to focus on higher maintenance (and more profitable) exotics such as Shimeji, Wood-ear, Shiitake, and Oyster mushrooms.

20 Dr. Arrold with a bag of spawn

Dr. Arrold with a bag of mushroom spawn.

He keeps his mushroom cultures in test-tubes filled with boiled potato and agar, and initially incubates the spawn on rye or wheat grains in clear plastic bags sealed with sponge anti-mould filters (shown above), before transferring it to jars, black bin bags, or plastic-wrapped logs.

99 Shimeji mushroom bags

70 Pink oyster mushrooms growing in bags

Shimeji (above) and pink oyster (below) mushrooms cropping on racks inside the tunnel. Dr. Arrold came up with the simple but clever idea of growing mushrooms in black bin bags with holes cut in them.

Previously, mushrooms were typically grown inside clear plastic bags. The equal exposure to light meant that the mushrooms fruited all over, which made it harder to harvest without missing some.

A microbiologist by training, Dr. Arrold originally imported his exotic mushroom cultures into Australia from their traditional homes in China, Japan, and Korea. Like a latter-day Tradescant, he regularly travels abroad to keep up with mushroom growing techniques, share his own innovations (such as the black plastic grow-bags shown above), and collect new strains.

He showed us a recent acquisition, which he hunted down after coming across it in his dinner in a café in Fuzhou, and which he is currently trialling as a potential candidate for cultivation in the tunnel.

Even though all his mushroom strains were originally imported from overseas (disappointingly, given its ecological uniqueness, Australia has no exciting mushroom types of its own), Dr. Arrold has refined each variety over generations to suit the conditions in this particular tunnel.

Since there is currently only one other disused railway tunnel used for mushroom growing in the whole of Australia, his mushrooms have evolved to fit an extremely specialised environmental niche: they are species designed for architecture.

89 Mushroom logs in tunnel

Shiitake logs on racks (Taiwanese style) and mounted on the wall (Chinese style) in the tunnel.

92 Wood ear mushrooms

Wood-ear mushrooms grow through a diagonal slash in plastic bags filled with chopped wheat straw.

The tunnel for which these mushrooms have been so carefully developed is 650 metres long and about 30 metres deep.

Buried under solid rock and deprived of the New South Wales sunshine, the temperature holds at a steady 15º Celsius. The fluorescent lights flick on at 5:30 a.m. every day, switching off again exactly 12 hours later. The humidity level fluctuates seasonally, and would reach an unacceptable aridity in the winter if Dr. Arrold didn’t wet the floors and run a fogger during the coldest months.

In all other respects, the tunnel is an unnaturally accurate concrete and brick approximation of the prevailing conditions in the mushroom-friendly deep valleys and foggy forests of Fujian province. This inadvertent industrial replicant ecosystem made me think of Swiss architecture firm Fabric‘s 2008 proposal for a “Tower of Atmospheric Relations” (pdf).

Tower of Atmosphere Relations

Renderings of Fabric’s “Tower of Atmospheric Relations,” showing the stacked volumes of air and the resulting climate simulations.

Fabric’s ingenious project is designed to generate a varying set of artificial climates (such as the muggy heat of the Indian monsoon, or the crisp air of a New England autumn day) entirely through the movements of the air that is trapped inside the tower’s architecture (i.e. by means of convection, condensation, thermal inertia, and so on).

If you could perhaps combine this kind of atmosphere-modifying architecture with today’s omnipresent vertical farm proposals, northern city dwellers could simultaneously avoid food miles and continue to enjoy bananas.

47 Taking plastic wrap off the shitake logs

Li-Sun employees unwrapping mushroom logs before putting them on racks in the tunnel. The logs are made by mixing steamed bran or wheat, sawdust from thirty-year-old eucalyptus, and lime in a concrete mixer, packing it into plastic cylinders, and inoculating them with spawn.

88 Shitake mushroom logs on racks

Fruiting Shiitake logs on racks in the tunnel. Once their mushrooms are harvested, the logs make great firewood.

79 Log soaking tank

The Shiitake log shock tank – Dr. Arrold explained that the logs crop after one week in the tunnel, and then sit dormant for three weeks, until they are “woken up” with a quick soak in a tub of water, after which they are productive for three or four more weeks. “Shiitake,” said Dr. Arrold, in a resigned tone, “are the most trouble, and the biggest market.”

Outside of the tunnel, Dr. Arrold also grows Enoki, King Brown, and Chestnut mushrooms. These varieties prefer different temperatures (6º, 17º, and 18º Celsius respectively), so they are housed in climate-controlled Portakabins.

28 Mushrooms growing in jars

The paper cone around the top of the enoki jar helps the mushrooms grow tall and thin.

27 Chestnut mushrooms growing in jars

Chestnut mushrooms grow in jars for seven weeks: four to fruit, and three more to sprout to harvest size above the jar’s rim.

17 Racks of mushrooms in jars

Thousands of mushroom jars are stacked from floor to ceiling. Dr. Arrold starting growing these mushroom varieties in jars two years ago, and hasn’t had a holiday since.

36 Mushroom jars in autoclave

Empty mushroom jars are sterilised in the autoclave between crops, so that disease doesn’t build up.

37 Mushroom jar filling machine

The clean jars are filled with sterilised substrate using a Japanese-designed machine, before being inoculated with spawn.

The fact that the King Brown and Chestnut mushrooms only thrive at a higher temperature than the railway tunnel provides makes their cultivation much more expensive. Their ecosystem has to be replicated mechanically, rather than occurring spontaneously within disused infrastructure.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether there might be another tunnel, cave, or even abandoned bunker in New South Wales that currently maintains a steady 17º Celsius and is just waiting to be colonised by King Brown mushrooms growing, like ghostly thumbs, out of thousands of glass jars.

Tube Map Temperatures small

Temperature map of the London Underground system (via the BBC, where a larger version is also available), compiled by Transport for London’s “Cool the Tube” team.

In the UK, for instance, Transport for London has kindly provided this fascinating map of summertime temperatures on various tube lines. Most are far too hot for mushroom growing (not to mention commuter comfort). Nonetheless, perhaps the estimated £1.56 billion cost of installing air-conditioning on the surface lines could be partially recouped by putting some of the system’s many abandoned service tunnels and shafts to use cultivating exotic fungi. These mushroom farms would be buried deep under the surface of the city, colonizing abandoned infrastructural hollows and attracting foodies and tourists alike.

Bakerloo Oyster Mushrooms

A very amateur bit of Photoshop work: Li-Sun Mushrooms as packaged for Australian supermarket chain Woolworths, re-imagined as Bakerloo Line Oyster Mushrooms.

Service shafts along the hot Central line might be perfect for growing Chestnut Mushrooms, while the marginally cooler Bakerloo line has several abandoned tunnels that could replicate the subtropical forest habitat of the Oyster Mushroom. And – unlike Dr. Arrold’s Li-Sun mushrooms, which make no mention of their railway tunnel origins on the packaging – I would hope that Transport for London would cater to the locavore trend by labeling its varietals by their line of origin.

22 Mushrooms growing on a log

86 Shitake logs in tunnel

Shiitake logs on racks in the Mittagong mushroom tunnel.

Speculation aside, our visit to the Mittagong Mushroom Tunnel was fascinating, and Dr. Arrold’s patience in answering our endless questions was much appreciated. If you’re in Australia, it’s well worth seeking out Li-Sun mushrooms: you can find them at several Sydney markets, as well as branches of Woolworths.

[NOTE: This post was simultaneously published at Edible Geography’s sister-site BLDGBLOG.]

This entry was posted in Day Out, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed




December 2013

Blog Stats

  • 1,518,725 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 764 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: