Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tomorrow - Urban Livestock Workshop at Homegrown Evolution

I meant to post about this sooner but the date snuck up on me.

Sounds really interesting. From their site:
Homegrown Evolution will be hosting an urban livestock workshop at our humble abode in Silver Lake on March 1st from 1-4pm. We'll be talkin' chicken, permaculturist Joan Stevens will be rapping about rabbits and Leonardo Chalupowicz will share his recent experience of becoming a "backwards" beekeeper. We'll discuss how to integrate these animals into your backyard and how they can serve multiple purposes beyond just being pets. Suggested donation: $10 to $20. Space is limited, so please RSVP by sending an email to

Friday, February 27, 2009

Slow Food in Brooklyn

Rick and Michael Mast making chocolate.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

I read Oliver Schwaner-Albright's New York Times article Brooklyn's New Culinary Movement on Tuesday. Since then, I find my mind wandering back to it. I don't need much to make me want to visit New York, but this article makes the desire even more acute. If you haven't already read it, I hope you enjoy the window on urban slow food.

And here's a film short on Cut Brooklyn, Joel Bukiewicz's fine knife company which is also featured in the article. Via Cool Hunting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hayground Organic Gardening Plant Purchase

Jimmy (seated) & Logan (standing) Williams

The charming father and son team Jimmy and Logan Williams of Hayground Organic Gardening sell organic vegetable plants at the Santa Monica Farmers market each Wednesday and Saturday. They also sell Sundays at the Hollywood Farmers Market.

My sons and I picked up some Portuguese kale, tomatoes and other plants to give a jump start to his preschool's vegetable garden. The kids at school are also germinating seeds that will be transplanted.

These plants will be in the ground tomorrow, but right now, they journey from the wagon to the bench and back...over and over again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tyrannasaurus Rex Puppet at Los Angeles County NHM

I have written many times about my affection for the LA County NHM in the past. After seeing Dinosaur Encounters, I'm here to profess my love yet again.

From the NHM website:
To create Dinosaur Encounters, Museum paleontologists collaborated with puppet fabricators and performers to bring the dinosaurs to “life,” while still ensuring authentic detail and movement. These amazingly realistic creatures help us better understand dinosaur behavior, anatomy and survival tactics.
Bring to life indeed. When my sons and I saw the presentation, a fourteen foot T-Rex (seven months old according to the T-Rex wrangler) growled, blinked, played and enthralled the audience--kid, teen and adult alike. I can't recommend Dinosaur Encounters enough.

NHM Member Loan Program: Crow Skeleton
The Modern LA County Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum Members' Loan Service

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bee House Keeping

Russel posted this cool video on the Backwards Beekeepers blog which shows his bees cleaning up after a rainstorm.

Another Lizard Rescue

I rescued this grateful fence post lizard this weekend while working in the garden.

She had found a pretty good spot to catch bugs but would have had a hard time escaping before something bad happened.

Here she's relocated to another good place to hunt for bugs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tour of Califonia Chalk Score

This Saturday the boys and I went to the Tour of California stage 7 start in Santa Clarita. It was really cool to see the same teams that race in the Tour de France up close.

If you haven't heard Lance Armstrong is back racing again. He says it's to promote his Lance Armstrong Foundation. Here he is doing his stage 7 sign-in interview.

Judging from the indulgence with the Live Strong chalk we brought home and the heightened interest on bikes I think the event made an impression.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Window Repair

Our best laid plans for weekend projects are often pushed aside by little things that take precedence. Witness Eric's window repair job above. Our oldest son accidentally broke the lower pane. The crash sounded awful. Fortunately, he only suffered a small cut and is doing well.

As a reminder, Path to Freedom is hosting a film screening of Pollen Nation and potluck tonight (RSVP via the link).

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Mother in Law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), various succulents, California Bush Sunflower (Encelia californica) on the bench far right.

After some much needed rain, the sun was out. I took the opportunity to tend to some plants begging for attention. The Mother in Law's Tongue on the left is over 20 years old. I admire the tenacity of this plant. Originally, it belonged to my sister who gifted it to me after moving out of state many years ago. At times the plant has thrived. Other times, like now, it merely survives.

In honor of it's fortitude, I offer it a new lease on life.

California Bush Sunflower (Encelia californica) volunteers await replanting

I pulled these volunteers from our dry stack walls and planted them in a pot. In the past, I have replanted them directly in the yard. This is the first time I've tried replanting them in a pot. Upon morning inspection, they are halfway slumped over in complaint, but they look like they might come around.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sesame Flax Bars

I love the idea of quick nutrition with good food. Real food. And a food that can hold up for awhile knocking around in my purse while out and about helps. Bananas, for instance, don't pass the purse test.

Enter the power bar. Thanks to our friend Phoenix's vision, we've been making quite a few power bars in our house as of late. I came up with this recipe as a variation on a theme.

Sesame Flax Bar (in homage to the delicious Bumble Bar)
1 cup flax seed
2 cups sesame seeds
1 cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Soak flax seeds in 1 1/2 cups of water for 4-6 hours. After soaking flax seed, add sesame seeds, raw peanuts, agave nectar, cinnamon and salt. Stir well.
2. Spread out on non stick sheets til about 1/4 inch thick. Place in dehydrator at 135 degrees for 6-8 hours or until dry, flipping the large bar halfway through or when dry to touch.
3. Cut into bars. Store in airtight container.

The pictured batch of bars were made using a GooD4U dehydrator. I'd love to make a solar dehydrator.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Simple, Natural Child Safety Lock

We have had a heck of a time keeping our kids out of the cupboards. We have tried several traditional plastic child safety locks all with completely disappointing results. Some of the locks broke within weeks. In one case our older son proudly showed us how to crack a padlock style lock while the younger son looked on, waited till the lock was returned to the cupboard and immediately cracked the lock himself informed by the recent demo.

For a while we went without but the little one is fast and has an uncanny talent for locating the most dangerous object in any environment within seconds. Out of desperation one day, really just to slow him down in his quest for knowledge of the dangers stored under the sink, I took a piece of eucalyptus branch that was trimmed from our bed top bivouac and made a quick impromptu safety lock.

To do this yourself, take a piece of twine twice as long as what you'll need to reach across the cabinet handles, around the stick and dangle down a bit. Fold the twine in half and tie a knot (or three) at the open end. Put the knots through the loop (folded end) with the stick inside and pull tight. Next make another loop around the stick and pull the knots through again. Now you have a stick with a piece of twine tied to it.

To fasten the lock, slide the stick through the handles of the cupboard. Bring the twine across the handles, under the stick and up behind it. Next bring the twine back across but go behind the piece that stretches across the handles. Now firmly bring the string down and toward the open end of the stick and let go. Voila! Works for us anyway.

This design has proven more effective than any other we have tried yet. The older boy can open it without any trouble and since it doesn't pose a challenge he leaves it alone. The younger boy can't figure it out yet, probably doesn't have the manual dexterity to get the string unwound and has taken up a new tactic of waiting until we open the cupboard to launch a raid - manageable.

We prefer how it looks and it is easier to operate than any other plastic designs we've tried, the cost is practically nothing and it is 100% compostable.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story Bookstore & Gallery

Every Picture Tells a Story in Santa Monica exhibits original art from children's books. The store was originally on Beverly Boulevard near Farmer's Market on Third and Fairfax. I miss the old location with the large exhibit space (and so near a good lunch at Farmer's Market), but if you have a child who loves books (or anyone who enjoys children's books and illustration), Every Picture Tells a Story is worth a visit.

Every Picture Tells a Story is located at 1311-C Montana Ave in Santa Monica.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

The idea was to make cards for our family...or make cool drawings on the table. Either works.

At my oldest son's suggestion, we made marshmallows. The confectioner's path is a sticky one. Check out that mixer. We hope to roast them in our fireplace this evening. The fine notion is also from my son. He's a romantic, that one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spool Dethreading

With the recent much needed rain in Los Angeles, we added more indoor activity: spool dethreading.

This guy took great pleasure exploring the thread as clothing. His intricate web raised concern once his weave encircled his neck. For the record, no children were hurt in the dethreading of these spools.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This loom arrived in the mail, a generous gift from my friend Maryellen. My father and sons got to work putting it together. It's a neat piece of machinery but a bit intimidating. The loom says it makes a 15 inch tapestry. I'm thinking more along the lines of bookmark for a first project. But that might be too ambitious.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Film Screening with the Dervaes Family

This Sunday, Feb 22, the urban homestead pioneering Dervaes family (pictured below enjoying a meal at home) is hosting a potluck and screening of two films in Pasadena, CA. If you live in the L.A. area this would be worth attending.

When we were fighting a cell tower near our house I happened, by chance, to see Mr. Dervaes accept an award from the Pasadena City Council while I was waiting for our issue to come up on the docket. I have wanted to see their place in person ever since but at that time they were taking a hiatus from classes and events. This event isn't hosted at their house but it may be our chance to meet them and see their homestead on film.

Here are the details from their newsletter:

Film, Food & Fellowship
Screening of the insightful documentary
POLLEN NATION (25 min) & local (vegetarian) potluck, garden swap n trade and more!
Sunday, February 22 (5:00 PM)
626 Cypress, Pasadena, CA
$10 (event includes a potluck, bring locally grown foods if possible)

Event Schedule
5:00 pm - Freedom Gardens meetup
5:30 pm - Local Foods/Vegetarian Potluck
8:00 pm - Discussion, pop quiz & prizes

Space is apparently limited so you have to R.S.V.P to get a seat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nursery School Garden

At my son's preschool, I, with a bevy of eager four year olds, began planting a garden patch. We planted beans, kale and sunflowers so far. Highlights include tremendously deep hole digging in search of worms, an investigation of footprints and query as to what animal entered the garden at night and my favorite quote of the day from Emma, "I'm the kind of person who likes worms."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Raised Planter Bed Completed

Yesterday I was able to complete the planter bed that I started last week.

In order to keep the gophers out, I tacked hardware cloth (really it's a coarse wire mesh) to the tops of the lowest boards with a staple gun.

I notched the corners of the hardware cloth to go around the posts and trimmed the excess but I made sure to staple the tabs to the post so that a gopher wouldn't be able to push through. I may have gone a little overboard with the number of staples but gophers are determined animals and I figured that adding a few extra staples now beats trying make repairs or beef up the defenses once the bed was complete.

I attached the boards with deck screws this time. I alternated the overlap with each new row of boards to create a more attractive corner.

The bed doesn't match the previous bed but that's ok with us. It is about the same size and pretty close to in line with the first bed. The corners aren't perfect but that just adds character in my opinion. Overall I am happy with the way it came out and the construction technique was much easier than with the previous bed. Now I can't wait to fill it with dirt and compost and get some seeds planted.

More Planter Bed Related Posts

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Apricot Flower Buds

Our Apricot tree is flowering early this year. Maybe this will catch the squirrels off guard and we'll get an actual apricot or two.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Permaculture Video from 1989

I stumbled upon this great video on Ramshackle reader jengod's blog a couple of days ago. It features the father of the permaculture movement Bill Mollison discussing how he came up with the system and the basic concepts involved. It is definitely dated (I love the computer design dramatizations) and the permaculture rap is funny/embarasing but once you start I bet you'll have a hard time not watching the whole thing. Lot's of good information and food for thought.

It's a little long for todays short format appetite so here are some highlights incase you have a particular interest:

9:20 Origin of the term permaculture
10:10 Balcony scale permaculture
28:50 Chickens (including an awesome chicken animation @ 29:35)
33:40 Bees
37:18 Permaculture rap (if you like this check out the big bang animation at

Via Jengod blog

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Raised Planter Bed Started

This weekend I started another planter bed. I wasn't too far off my optimistic estimate of "a week or two" 3 weeks ago. And this time, as we had hoped, we were able to use salvaged wood. (the wood was previously used for a temporary wall in our friend David's gallery - By the way, David Patton Los Angeles is hosting an artist talk tonight with artist Aaron Brewer which looks really interesting)

I started by creating a level spot in line with the first bed where the new bed would be located.

After cutting the lumber to the same size (7'5" was the size that led to the least waste - most boards only needed to be trimmed an inch or two) I attached the lengthwise bottom boards to the posts, then propped each up and then attached with a temporarily attached piece of scrap 2x4 then attached the widthwise lowest boards.

Once I had the 4 posts connected, I tipped the whole thing up on its side while I dug the holes for the posts. For me this is faster and easier than measuring and squaring etc. I set the frame back down into the holes, see how it fits, tip it back up and repeat until it sits the way I want it.

Before filling in the holes I temporarily tacked two of the boards I'll use later on the sides to the tops of the posts lengthwise. This is just to give the structure some rigidity while I fill the holes, staple on the hardware cloth and attach the sides.

The sun went down and it was time to stop but the bed frame was level and the bottom was filled with dirt. When I get back to work on it I'll level out the dirt so that it is even and at a level just below the 2x4's that frame the bottom of the bed. Then I'll staple or nail on the hardware cloth that will keep the gophers out and add the rest of the sides.

More on this project to come. I am excited about the forecast for rain in L.A. this weekend but I half hope it lets up long enough for me to finish this project.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Backwards Beekeepers Meeting this Sunday

This Sunday, Feb. 8. the Backwards Beekeepers will meet at members Amy and Russel's house (that's a picture of their bees). We will learn to make starter strips which help bees draw their comb onto the frames. We don't buy starter comb because it's the wrong size and is contaminated with chemicals. You can read all about that on

If you'd like to join in the fun, just click here to join the Backwards Beekeepers. Then RSVP in the messages section to get directions etc.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

California Bush Sunflower (Encelia californica)

Our first bush sunflower blossom opened this weekend. This is an extremely easy plant to grow in California. Almost too easy as you can see from the volunteers in the dry stacked rock wall. By the time this flower fades in a week or two 25 -30 more will have taken it's place. This usually continues till early summer.

Its nice too see it but honestly it seems too early. We are keeping our fingers crossed for more rain and some more cool weather.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Alligator Lizard - Caught/Rescued

This Lizard was rescued from our dogs.

Looking at it's tail it may have had a previous encounter.