Saturday, October 31, 2009

Haunted House

Welcome to my five year old son's haunted house.

Where there are ghosts saying, "Ooooooooo".

Boarded up windows and bats.

Goblins outside.

And a vampire. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Curbside Salvage Score

I found a few items on the street in my neighborhood. I often hem & haw about bringing a new item into our house. Despite my inner dialogue, the green table made it into my car. I figured if it didn't work out for our house, it certainly could be re-curbsided for the next lucky scavenger. I cleaned it up today and tightened loose screws. It may make it into the kitchen or remain an outdoor table.

I picked up these pots and saucers at the same place. I've been thinking about doing some small succulent plantings like the ones pictured below. These pots were perfect. Also on my shopping list were more light bulbs. Found curbside! What a score. I felt like it was the power of positive thinking in action.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Beer

This time it's the Evil Monk recipe from the Culver City Home Brewing Supply Co.

Here's the spent grain. This time it's going into the compost but I'd like to make bread with it or something else. It smells too good to throw away.

By the way when I posted about the last batch of beer (my first) I called it Ramshackle IPA but actually it was the Inglewood IPA recipe from Culver City Home Brewing. It has become ever more delicious and I just have to give credit where it's due.

If you like good beer like I do you should try your hand at a home brew. It's a lot easier than I thought it would be. It's probably about break even in terms of cost but the quality of beer I got from my first attempt was very good in spite of my inexperience and an imperfect process.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honey Harvest

This weekend I took 2 frames of honey from the bees. It had been a long time since I checked them last and I thought they probably needed more room. They have been very active and I figured that if I was right, I could give them a little more room by taking a couple of frames of honey off of their hands and use the wax collected to paint the starter strips for a new hive box. The picture above was taken once I was done and back in the house. The back-lit honey looks pretty amazing.

Firing up the smoker, getting ready.

This picture gives you an idea of the activity before smoking them. I count more than 15 bees in the (picture) frame.

The first look inside - lots of propolis.

It is definitely time for a new box. The hive is jam-packed with honey. I took 2 frames out and replaced them with new starter strips with one full frame in between. The new frames didn't have wax on them but I'll see if the bees start to draw comb on them when I add the next box.

Kirk recommends putting your smoker in a big metal can to extinguish the flames from lack of oxygen but since I still don't have one I usually use a sprig of nearby jade plant stuck in the end.

The bee brush could only do so much to remove the bees when I was in close proximity to the hive so once I got most of them off I had to move a couple dozen feet away and brush the remaining few off. The bristles got wet with honey because the bees had drawn some comb between frames which I cut when I pulled them out exposing honey and dripping a little back into the hive.

Here is the same bit from the sun side. You can see the capped honey - Yum. We'll crush and strain this in the next few days.

If you are interested in Beekeeping check out the Backwards Beekeepers Blog.

Our Backward Beekeeping comrade Cory just harvested 2 frames of honey too. He and his family video taped the event. Check it out - very sweet!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tiffin Lunch Bag

Each year, my son's preschool holds an auction to raise funds for the school. In the past, I made tipis: first and second. This year, I made this tiffin lunch bag and put it together with a stainless steel tiffin and canteen.

The tiffin is a metal lunch box widely used in India.

I made a pattern thanks to the techniques I learned at Machine Project's Sewing 102 class.

Pleased with the result of my auction donation, I made two more for the boys. They are quite enamoured by the tiffin and sweetly appreciative of their new bags.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Angry Dog Drawing

Check out the growl on that dog and the cloud hovering darkly above it. I wouldn't dare pet it. The angry dog drawing is courtesy of my oldest son.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Planting Succulents

Our neighbor has a beautiful succulent garden. I came home one day to find a gifted bag of clippings by my mailbox. My youngest unloaded the bag and made the wreath. He calls it his "house".

Together we put a few plants in pots. Long ago, I replanted this area, but the previous plants didn't thrive. Judging by my neighbor's garden, these plants should prove more resilient.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Knock-Down Frame Assembly

Now that the hive box is done it's time to start on the frames.

For each frame there are 4 pieces: top, bottom, and two identical sides. Start with one side and the top. Apply glue to the surfaces that will touch.

Now just hammer in the nail. Go slow and make sure it's straight and try to make direct hits with the hammer so that the nail doesn't bend. I sometimes use the hive box to support the opposite end or sometimes I put the other side on with the glue just to support the top while I tack in the nail.

Next glue it up (if you haven't yet) and nail the other side. It should look like this.

Flip it over and glue the bottom bar and the bottom of the side bars.

Press it in place...

..and nail it in.

Voila! One down, nine to go.

The next step is to put in your starter strips so the bees have something to attach the comb to. Kirk explains how to do that in the first episode of Backwards Beekeepers TV: How to make starter strips. If you are wondering why we don't use foundation read Russell's post about it.

Oh yeah, things don't always go perfectly. Sometimes the nails bend or pop out the side a strange angles. When this happens (and it will) don't stress out, just try to pry it back up straight and hammer it in a gain, or pull it completely and use a new nail.

This only works about 30% of the time though so when it goes badly a second time, cut your losses.

When that happens hammer it flat, hope that some of it grabbed on the other side and/or that the glue will do it's job and move on to the next nail.

Happy Beekeeping!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Assembling a Knock-Down Medium Hive Box

Yesterday I put together a medium hive box with help from the boys. Some people have asked how to do this so I thought I'd document the assembly here. This is just the box. I'll post again to show how the frames go together.

Start out by applying glue to the "fingers" on the boards that will fit together. The glue goes down in the "U" shape but not on the top of the pegs - those don't get glue.

Then just fit one side together and tap it into place lightly with a hammer. Then glue and do the same with the other side. It should look like the picture below.

You can hit it a few more times for good measure if you really want to. Now you are ready for some nails.

Start the nails by putting one in the middle "finger" on each side of the piece facing up.

Then flip it on it's side and put one in the bottom of the side piece. After that flip it back on the other side and put one in the bottom there.

Now you are ready to glue and tap in the fourth board. Do the same thing with the nails: One in the middle on each side and then flip it on each side to put in the two nails at the bottom of those.

Now it's glued up and nailed together. It should be sturdy enough for you to handle without worrying that it'll fall apart and it's time to drive the rest of the nails in.

I numbered the nails here to show how I do this part - kind of like tightening lug nuts when putting a wheel back on a car, I try to nail them in alternating order. After the last "2" is in I put the 3s and 5s on that side then rotate it and put in the 4s and 6s on that side, turn again, 3s and 5s, etc.

The last thing to do is to nail in the strip that the frames will sit on. I guess this is a separate strip so that you can replace it when it wears out after years of removing and replacing the frames. I can't actually imagine this happening with my hives so I glued mine in. I may be screwing the next generation of beekeepers to use my boxes provided I did everything else right.

One thing I recommend is that you go kind of slow, making sure your nails are headed in the right direction. If you go too fast your nails will either bend or angle out of the wood which although not disastrous can be annoying.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Brew - Ramshackle IPA

Well, it's finally, officially here: the first Ramshackle Home Brew. This weekend marked three weeks (the recommended time you're supposed to wait) since I bottled the beer with our friend Andrew. I've been drinking it for a week and it's been good though I have noticed a slight change for the better over the course of the additional week.

Jeremy from Rancho Garvanza was asking for tasting notes in the comments on that post so here it goes with a caveat: Since Julia's gone gluten free she doesn't drink anything but sorghum beer. We haven't had any other beer drinkers over to taste it with me either so it may just be the blind pride of creation but I think it's good - something like a Lagunitas IPA maybe? Not as hoppy as Stone IPA but still a nice hops finish.

It's just slightly sweeter than I would normally like which may be a result of some of the hops boiling over the edge of the pot when I added them. I want to get another batch going as soon as I can but it looks like it will be at least next weekend before that happens. I think I'll either try another IPA or a Lager (actually probably both) since those are the beers I drink most often but I'd love to try get a Porter something like my favorite Black Butte brewing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chives & Morning Beauty

These chives and a few late carrots represent the last of my son's preschool summer garden. Yesterday was spent double digging the beds as they are prepared for the next planting.

Early this morning, the entire family stepped outside to admire the Library Tower peeking above a low fog. I felt like I was in San Francisco gazing up at the Sutro Towers. Rarely where we live in LA do we get to see our downtown skyline like that. While we were out observing, we heard a sound. From the skyline flew a giant inverse V of Canadian geese honking loudly. The gaggle flew towards us, then flew south cresting over a low mountain.

No pictures were taken. We simply enjoyed the moment.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bee Hive Ruins

While on a short business trip night before last I found a busted up beehive on my walk from the office back to the hotel. You can see a snail munching away on some remains of honey or brood in the picture above. I thought snails were vegetarians but maybe not.

I posted more pictures at the backwards beekeepers blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Assemblage Artist

Judging by the look on his face, the execution of his projects deliver on his vision.