Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Amy Karol of www.angrychicken.typepad.com has a fantastic sense of humor. Here she gives a great sewing tutorial on fold over elastic. Her popsicle-stick-selves who narrate the video are so amusing. I might even give F.O.E. a try...do it for the gipper, I mean the chicken.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
When the conditions are right the inside temperature of the pile is very warm - 100 - 140 degrees or so. It feels about the same as washing your hands with hot water. If the pile starts to smell bad it needs more air. The smell will go a way within about 15 minutes of getting air to any stinky spots.
When adding kitchen scraps I try to add them to a hot area and mix them in a bit. I try to get as much of the new stuff in contact with a warm area as possible. If the new material is scattered too thinly the pile isn't as likely to stay hot. Once it cools off it can be hard to get it going again.
You should not add the following:
- Meat - it attracts rats.
- Cheese - see meat.
- Salty foods - bad for your plants.
- Tomatoes - unless you want volunteer tomato plants everywhere.
- Weeds which have gone to seed. (If you are a composting master and can get the temp way up to 140 degrees or so the heat will kill the seeds but this is not easy )
- I have heard you shouldn't compost wisteria because it is poisonous to the microorganisms and will slow the break down of the material greatly.
- Most any green material, grass, leaves, lettuce trimmings from your salad, carrot tops, etc.
- Trimmings from vegetables.
- Breads and pasta but not if they have a lot of salt. Salt kills plants.
- Spoiled fruit, peels, watermelon rind, etc.
- Egg shells are really good and help balance the ph.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I picked this book up at the library to enjoy with my sons. Granted, much of it slips past my ten month old. My almost-four-year-old and I have been thoroughly enjoying it. Sister Wendy Beckett brings her open eyes to the Duc de Berry's Book of Hours painted by the Limbourg brothers. I am a fan of the art appreciator nun and was saddened when she returned to a life of seclusion. What I love about her style of criticism is that she looks at art...really looks at it. She opens doors by sharing how the power of observation is in all of us.
The Duke and the Peasant: Life in the Middle Ages (Adventures in Art Series)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
A small fig tree keeps us deliciously in fig this time of the year. These were sliced in half and topped with a dollop of lemon and lavender goat cheese from our local farmers market and shared with neighbors.
Each season, we race against the birds to get them first. The birds often win.
Friday, July 25, 2008
While on vacation we stopped at a few of the Anasazi sites in the Four Corners area. At Mesa Verde we visited the cliff dwelling ruins which were built in the 1200's by ancient Puebloans commonly called Anasazi although that name is Navajo and actually means "enemy ancestors".
The Anasazi were some of the original American Homesteaders. Their culture evolved from early hunting and gathering to farming the "three sisters" which consist of corn, beans and squash in a symbiotic planting arrangement whereby beans grew up the cornstalks and fixed nitrogen to the soil which the corn required while the squash provided shade the soil which helped retain moisture for all three. This practice is currently part of the permaculture repertoire of gardening techniques.
In order to farm the Anasazi needed to stay near the crops so they built adobe homes which were sometimes large elaborate compounds of 50 or more rooms. During the last 100 years or so before leaving Mesa Verde, they built in highly defensible positions under the overhangs of cliffs.
Spruce Tree House is one of the 3 largest cliff houses but there are dozens scattered about Mesa Verde. The photos hardly do it justice.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Camp Ramshackle is enjoying the fine company of our friend and fine cook Phoenix. We have been experimenting with gluten free cooking in our house. Thanks to Phoenix's amazing culinary acumen, gluten free life is very delicious indeed. He whipped up this fantastic bread in no time at all: recipe here. Last night, he made the most delicious meal with a spicy jicima and apple salad and a spicy vegetable main dish that included figs. So delicious.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Mr. Monkeysuit has done it again. These sweeties were made for her son. See the complete set. Interested in making your own? Mr. Monkeysuit buys hers from www.goldencockerel.com. And although they are not nesting dolls, Casey's Wood Products in Maine makes affordable people wood turnings. I've been meaning to give it a try myself. I have fantasies about making some wooden toy dolls for my kids.
Thanks to a very generous gift from grandparents, our family enjoys a Huntington Gardens and Library membership. My sons and I enjoyed the day playing in the children's garden and exploring a seed exhibit.
Nothing like water to amaze and delight. If you and your family can't make it to Huntington Gardens, never underestimate the power of a water hose on very low (honor the drought) to unleash the imagination and creativity of the younger set. And don't be shy, let yourself enjoy it too.
I love this bench and sculpture in the children's garden. I always hope the ravens get the apple.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I have always admired the ladybug Wheely Bug by Prince Lionheart, but my kids never showed much interest in it...until now. At a friend's house, my oldest son will ferret out the ladybug wherever it may be and play with it until it's time to leave. My generous friend has loaned the fine bug to Camp Ramshackle until her son is a wee bit older. Last night, my son slept with his arm around it in his bed.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ouch. Well, maybe skip the last part. I hope he's feeling better. The man made a great swing. Dangerous at times but a fine swing indeed.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
While I was taking pictures the yellow jackets began to home in.
Nature at work - It's good to be home.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
We are often guided by the "less is more" principle here at Camp Ramshackle. In regards to composting this has definitely been our approach. Right now we do our composting sans bin. This method works well if you have enough space and material. You need a pile about three feet high and wide, and you need space to turn it, or mix it up.
We have a large unruly yard, much of which remains untamed. Pruning, weeding and general clean up generates lots of brown and green matter for composting. Our kitchen scraps are at most a quarter of the material we need to dispose of each month. The Western Garden Book, among other sources, recommends you start with about twice as much brown material as green material.
We use a chipper to chip up pruned branches and leaves which we also use for mulch. Chipping pruned green branches and leaves is a great compost starter. We mix in some of the dry leaves that constantly cover the ground around our oak trees and any kitchen scraps we have available. I like to imagine our compost pile as a slow motion fire. The larger the "logs" the longer and slower they will "burn" the smaller, the hotter and faster. Fast and hot is what we are after with our composting (and so many other things).
Here is how we do it.
- Gather enough compostable material to make a 3 foot high pile. One third green material including plant trimmings, fruits, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, cow or horse dung, rabbit or bird poop, to two thirds brown material, which includes dry leaves, sticks, chipped up wood, sawdust, hay, etc.
- Mix it all together in a big pile and sprinkle it with water. You want it moist but not soaking wet. Try to make the bacteria happy but don't drown it. Adding a handful of finished compost to the mix will speed it up. You can also add some rotting leaves pulled from a forgotten corner of your garden if you are just starting out. I also like to cover the outside of the pile with brown material, as a mulch layer to hold in the moisture.
- Each week, mix the pile to get air to the center and the outer layer mixed into the middle. Add more green and brown material if you have it, sprinkle with water to keep it moist. If you live where it rains you won't need to sprinkle it much.
This isn't the only way to do it. You don't need work this hard to compost. Make a big pile of organic material, turn it every once in a while to keep it from getting moldy or going anaerobic (when there is a lack of oxygen it still makes fine compost but it gets outhouse stinky) and eventually everything will break down.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
About a year ago, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about pavlova desserts. I had never tasted one, much less made one. The idea of a light meringue with a fruit topping intrigued me. Sometimes a great dessert notion needs time to come to fruition.
Here she is. Her rather earthy exterior hides her divine taste. Surprisingly simple. Bake the pavlova shell, let cool. Then top with fruit. I used a fantastically tasty balsamic rhubarb compote with fresh strawberries.
4 egg whites room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups of superfine sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350°F. Draw 4-5 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Beat egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on mixer (if you do it by hand, holy-moly, please share your story in comments) until peaks form, about 3 minutes.
With mixer on medium speed, whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then turn machine back to high to fully incorporate.
Add the cornstarch and whisk to blend, then add vinegar, when incorporated, whisk in vanilla.
Pile meringue onto parchment paper, using spatula to spread the meringue around the circle and piling the sides slightly higher than the middle. Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300°F.
Bake the meringue for 1 1/2 hours, then turn the oven off and prop open the door. Let the meringue cool down completely. It can be stored uncovered for several hours.
Balsamic Rhubarb Compote
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
2 fresh rhubarb stalks, leaves discarded, ends trimmed, and stalks cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Mix together in saucepan. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Makes about 2 cups.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Julia noticed this spider on our dish rack and immediately went to the insect field guide when she noticed that it had a faint hourglass under it's abdomen.
She identified it as a brown widow almost immediately but it didn't seem quite right. The abdomen wasn't as large as the image of the female spider in the book and it had large round bulbous appendages near it's head. A little further investigation on wikipedia and then to this picture confirmed that what we had was in fact a small brown widow.
The males have very small fangs and are therefore much less dangerous than the females because they can't deliver as much venom but there are conflicting reports that the brown widow venom is either twice as strong or not as strong as the black widow. We decided to "get rid" of this chap rather than employ the usual Ramshackle catch and release program.