Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Wonderful World of Ed Emberley

Yesterday, the boys and I stocked up on some art supplies. I've brought home Ed Emberley books from the library in the past, but I was the one who enjoyed them the most. The concept of building a drawing by adding simple shapes failed to capture my oldest son's interest at the time.

Undeterred, I put Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book in our shopping cart yesterday. It's a book that merits space on every bookshelf. This morning, my oldest started flipping through the book. "Mom, I want to make a train." Following the book's example, he made a train, put it on a track and added "crazy smoke" and a car to hold the toys.

My youngest enjoyed creating with the Do A Dot art pens. I resisted these pens for a long time. After a fun afternoon of crafts with RamblingLA using these to help decorate a beautiful butterfly, I saw the light.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rainwater Harvesting Now Legal in Colorado

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times

Rain harvesters are no longer outlaws in Colorado. Two new laws reverse a century's old complex policy on rainwater rights. Read more about it in The New York Times.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Our Great American Campout

A small campfire was made. Small yet big enough to roast mini-marshmallows. The youngest fell asleep before getting in the tent last night. He awoke this morning delighted to find himself surrounded by canvas. If the weather remains mild, I suspect we will continue with more tent nights. I'd love to move my bedroom out there and make the tent the summer home I've always dreamed of.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Great American Backyard Campout

Saturday, June 27th is the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Backyard Campout. I think I'll need to get some marshmallows (I'm still recuperating from making them in February) and mosey to the tent tomorrow night.

Learn more at www.nwf.org, including suggestions for recipes and campfire songs. Camp Ramshackle is registered. Join us!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chase's Recycled Lumber Bicycle Hutch

Ramshackle Solid reader Chase shared his fantastic recycled lumber bicycle hutch after seeing Eric's Shack Shelves. Our saw blades are spinning with inspiration.

Eric has gone bike sexy upgrading the old bike with something a bit easier to ride to work. His new ride merits a prominent parking spot.

We look forward to building storage inspired by Chase's work that can house the kid's rides as well.

Thanks, Chase!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hole in the Wall Fixed

This weekend Julia and the kids went to Florida to visit Maryellen, Mark, Nate and Zeke. While they were gone I took the opportunity to prep and paint the living room. One major obstacle to painting the living room was fixing the hole in the wall. We had beautified it with a drawing but we really needed to do more.

Most of our house is made with a technique that hasn't been used around L.A. for over 100 years even though the house is on the books as having been built in 1920. The technique which we've heard described as "farmhouse construction" is essentially old west style building. The wall is made of 1"x12" boards. That's it. No studs, no plaster, the boards hold up the roof. If you pound a nail into the wall it will poke out the other side.

The house was remodeled in the 50's and a wall furnace was installed. We got rid of it when we moved in since it didn't work and was full of asbestos insulation. We covered the hole temporarily (4 years?) with a piece of plywood. Here the plywood is gone and so is the former wall covering around it.

Here it is with the plywood and cover removed. Yes, that's outside and yes, our wall is only that thick.

I screwed a piece of 1" birch plywood to the back of the hole.

Then I traced the contour of the hole onto it.

Next I used a hand held jig saw to cut the shape.

I fit the shape into the hole which took 2 tries. This picture was taken after I put two screws through it to attach it to the moulding inside.

Here's the new piece of moulding which is also birch plywood. I screwed the moulding to the wall and to the disc.

Here it is with primer on the top, paint on the bottom and patch. It needs one more application of the plaster patch Then we'll paint the area beneath and either paint or possibly put up wall paper on the top area.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Preschool Garden Mini-Farmer's Market

The week before school ended, my youngest son and I harvested and cleaned some lettuce from the garden. We set up a table in front of the preschool and sold bags of pre-washed freshly picked salad greens.

This little guy is a great gardener. So patient. Each Thursday during the school year, he spent quite a bit of time in the garden as I weeded and pruned. In between chasing after lizards, he'd climb up into a planter bed and do his own bit of gardening, pulling at young plants, especially the strawberries. He has quite a bit of experience with strawberries.

The greens were delicious. A handful of garden devotees, myself included, will continue to work in the preschool garden this summer. Really, who wants to miss the tomato harvest?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Leave No Child Without Bandanna Pants

I have said it before, but it merits repetition. Bandanna pants may be the ultimate play pant. After finishing the Machine Project: Sewing 102 class, I've been keeping in the habit of sewing Saturdays.

These pants are off to two kids who will hopefully show them the meaning of a fun summer.

Birthday Bandanna Pants
Bandanna Pants

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shack Shelves Built with Local Lumber

I added these shelves to the shack last weekend. I just needed something built quick to get some of the junk off the floor and onto storage but it turned into an experiment with some of the branches trimmed from the olive trees which were destined for the fireplace.

I ran them through the table saw to split them in two. Then I used the chop saw to cut the 45 degree angles. If I do this again I'll build a jig to make the cutting easier and truer. That said, they aren't perfect but they are made from a solid, sustainable material and hold up the shelf just fine. I think I'll make a few more hooks to match.

Previous Posts:
Ramshackle Shackitecture
New Desk for the Shack

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green Dumpster Diving

The boys and I were out walking the neighborhood. We picked up some broccoli from Figueroa Produce and turned ourselves homeward. It was trash day. Green, blue and black bins shared the sidewalk with us. As I passed one full green bin, a bright red bug caught my eye. My oldest son and I recognized the bug as ladybug larva. Our identification skills were honed in March when we raised and watched some ladybugs grow.

Excited about our discovery, I noticed the entire green bin was crawling with ladybug larvae. We harvested seven and brought them back to Camp Ramshackle. My oldest son bore the task of keeping the lively critters on the stroller tray with gentle pokes and sweet words of direction.

As we worked our way home, we periodically took roll on the bug count. "Only three left, Mom," by the time we pulled up to the Ramshackle gate. But I spotted one on my son's back and another on his knee. Five larvae were transported to barrel of carrots in dire need of some aphid eating ladybugs.

We returned to the stroller, happy to find a rouge to add to the posse.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hive Maintenance

I finally did some overdue hive maintenance. I moved a full frame from the second box up to the top one. The bees had started to draw some comb up there but it wasn't hanging off the top bars, it was kind of lumped on the bottom of a couple of frames. I am sorry that I don't have pictures of the open hive but we have only one working camera at the moment and Julia had it with her.

It took me a while to get this done because I needed to make a shelf to hold the top box while I moved the frames around. As you can probably tell it's made from scrap wood we had lying around. I had the goal of putting in 3 bolts on each side which was a good decision because I broke the drill bit in one of the holes on one side and left it empty. On the other side I missed the stud with one of the bolts. Two out of three is a raging success here at Camp Ramshackle so I didn't sweat it and got on with moving the frames.

When I set the box up on the shelf some honey comb that the bees had drawn on the bottom of the frames was crushed and leaked a little honey out. It was kind of exciting and concerning at the same time. Good because we got a little taste of honey. Bad because I was concerned that it might attract ants.

When I took a quick look the next morning I was surprised to find that not only were there no ants on the shelf, there was no trace of honey. None. I couldn't have cleaned it better with a rag.

There were ants however. They had come for the carcasses of bees which were crushed when I put the box back on top. I now know that I should have scraped these off when I finished but the bees were pretty tired of me by the time I was done and I just got out of there.

I'm going to run up there tomorrow and check again. I hope the dead bees and ants are gone. If not I'll dump some cinnamon on the ground and get some diatomaceous earth on the way home to bolster the defense.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Figs Appear

We have a tiny old fig tree that just keeps on going year after year. It produces a small basket of fruit each season - maybe 3 lbs. or so. The birds get about another pound or so if we don't pick the ripe fruit before they notice it. I am getting excited about the prospects of fig enhanced salads in about another month.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mud Factory

Preschool is officially over. Now on to more pressing matters...the creation and maintenance of a mud factory. The dirt was added cup by cup, transported from the "dirt spot" about 25 feet away. The factory is a big producer. The current most favorite product is mud ice cream.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Good Transparency on the Pacific Gyre

If you haven't heard already, there is a gigantic accumulation of plastic floating in the middle of the pacific ocean. Good magazine created an info-graphic that explains it's contents. It is a beautiful representation of a repulsive ecological disaster.

There are many reasons to avoid plastic as much as possible but this is at the top of my list.

Link to Good's "Through the Gyre"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Visited the Eco-Home

Back in April our friends at Homegrown Evolution posted a suggestion to visit the Eco-Home in Los Feliz. We took their advice this past weekend and had a great time.

Julia Russell the founder of the Eco-Home Network guided us through the tour of her home (with help from Judy Rachel) which is outfitted with solar power, solar water heating, a gray water system, organic garden in back and many energy saving upgrades.

Julia has been car free for 20 years.

This is the solar clothes dryer.

The garden is beautiful.

Julia shows off a handful of completed compost.

We joined the network at the end of the tour and look forward to attending meetings so we can see what some of the other folks have done with their homes and get advice about the projects we plan to undertake.

If you are interested in taking the tour here's the schedule.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ramshackle Seed Bank

This is the official Ramshackle Seed Bank (it could use some glue). It's mostly filled with half full packets from previous years, some gifts and some recent buys that still haven't made it into the ground yet.

One difference this year is that we've been saving more of our seeds and have just started to plant some of them. I'd love it if we could get to the point where we were refilling most of these packets each year.

Here are some Blue Lake bush beans about to be sown. This year I've gotten it straight that these are in fact bush beans and won't be waiting for them to climb any poles. These were delicious. I hope they sprout.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pomegranates Are Coming In

In Southern California, the pomegranate is hard to beat. Ours gets almost no supplemental water and still produces plenty of fruit. We don't weigh the haul but a guess would be somewhere around 25 or 30 lbs. Last year was a little light because I pruned it back pretty hard to get some of the unruly growth under control. This year forward I think we'll reap the benefits of that pruning.

We are losing some of the pollinated flowers though. I'm not sure if it's been the wind, not enough water or birds and squirrels knocking them off. The picture above shows a blossom caught in the St. Catherine's Lace (it's a buckwheat - Erigonum giganteum) as it begins to bloom.

Here's what the St. Catherine's Lace looks like in full bloom.

Monday, June 8, 2009

DWP Lawn Removal Incentive Program

Our friends at Green Frieda recently posted about the new Los Angeles Department of Water and Power program which pays an incentive to rip out your lawn and plant drought tolerant plants. We heard the same report on the radio but hadn't tracked it down yet - thanks EAPPster!

From the DWP site:
One square foot of traditional lawn needs approximately 50 inches of water per year. In comparison, most drought tolerant plants need approximately 15 inches of water or less per square foot per year. In an average year, Los Angeles receives about 15 inches of rain per year.

The average drought tolerant native at the Theodore Payne Society will run about 10 bucks and fill about 9 square feet. So essentially this means that if you are willing to do the work, the DWP will pick up the tab for the plants.

Read more about it on Green Frieda.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Accidental Baking Day

That mountain of egg shells is what inspired the accidental baking day. Somehow in my early morning stupor, I ended up bobbling two dozen eggs. The one in my right hand survived in tact. The rest were salvaged from various degrees of cracked. The slightly damaged were retrieved for scrambled eggs.

Some eggs went to cupcakes. Great gluten-free recipe from GlutenFreeGirl.com.

A quiche for dinner was made early with fresh basil from the garden. The most damaged eggs went to the dogs who happily enlisted themselves for floor clean up.