Monday, March 31, 2008

Retrieving the honeycomb

As soon as the ladder was set our eldest son (three and a half) was up the tree reaching for the honeycomb. We had decided to postpone taking it down until after we got back from the Wisteria Festival in Sierra Madre on Sunday. At some point during the festival he had said "Dad, I wanna go home and take down the honeycomb." When he gets an idea, he becomes extremely focused.

Once retrieved, we saw that it contained no honey and probably never had. We think the honey colored sections were actually eggs but aren't sure. The ants had already been there for some time making it difficult to identify exactly what we were looking at.

The idea of melting it down also gave way to curio value of the object. It is really remarkable to handle. It is extremely light and delicate. A stick is encased, running diagonally through it and it has a really beautiful translucent quality when held to the light. So much for cakes and candles.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Swarm

Last week we had a swarm of bees appear in our cherry tree. They stayed for several days, which was very exciting since we thought this might kick-start our impending adventure in apiculture.

On easter sunday when we went to show the swarm to our guests we were disappointed to find that they had just finished packing and for the most part had moved on, leaving behind the beginnings of a hive. Tomorrow I hope to take it down for a detailed examination, rendering whatever wax and (fingers crossed) honey I can into candles and cakes.

Sprouting Acorn

We have two California Coastal Live Oaks in our yard. This year they produced a bumper crop of acorns - enough to make several breakfasts of acorn pancakes. I knew that there would have to be many sprouts if we got enough rain but I was really astounded by the number. They have sprouted like weeds. A. This one isn't even covered by mulch and it has sprouted and shot out a tap root. It is really cool how the meat of the nut is actually photosynthesizing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Farmhouse construction

OK, after bidding on nine other houses (over bidding on most), you may be wondering how we were able to close on this one, an extraordinary property (1/2 acre, former olive orchard with a view of downtown) for asking price. The answer is simple: "farmhouse construction."

This picture, taken when we removed the defunct wall furnace, illustrates the form quite nicely; its a board and baton style with no framing. The walls are 1x12 boards which hold up the roof. The nice thing about it is that you never have to worry about finding a stud when hanging a picture; the problem is that your nail might poke through to the outside if it is over an inch long.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Where to start?

You have to start somewhere, so the beginning is as good a place as any.

Sometime about May, 2002 my wife Julia and I, for the 10th time, placed a bid on a house we hoped to buy. This was the last chance, the wedding was approaching and we had decided that we could no longer handle the stress of signing an over-asking-price offer on the trunk of our realtor's car moments after having walked through a house for the first time.

This time was different. We were on a routine MLS drive-by when we called our realtor from the chain link fence in front of lucky number 10 without having been inside. "We want to make an offer on a house." The offer was exactly the asking price this time. There were no competing bids where previously there had been up to 20 or more and there was a certain sense of resolve: either we would get the house or we wouldn't. The one thing that was certain was that we would no longer be in the market for a house.

To try to make the start of a long story short, we got the house - 1000 square feet of ramshackle loveliness set on 23,000 square feet of a former olive orchard, moderately sloped and slightly terraced with a view to the six or so mile distant downtown Los Angeles skyline.

We have been slowly working to transform the property and our lifestyle into something that makes sense for us. We hope to document that transformation and it's lessons through this blog. We hope to connect with others who share some of our interests (urban homesteading, organic gardening, native plants) and values (DIY, creativity, simplicity) exchange ideas, and, if all goes well, find a sense of community.