Monday, November 30, 2009

Lizard Catch and Release

I finally got around to ripping out what remained of the summer garden last night. It was too dark to document that but while I was working the soil I found this small fence post lizard trying to escape the hoe.

She was a real beauty. I wish I could've gotten a better picture of her.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Second Hand Shirt

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hood Fan Exploration

I got up early and made banana pancakes on the griddle Wed. morning. I was kind of caught up in the moment and hardly noticed that the house had pretty much filled with smoke.

We have a hood with a vent fan but the fan stopped working a few years ago. It's one of those projects that I've been meaning to get to but just never found the time until then.

This is actually a shot of it once it was back in but I forgot to get a picture of the fan assembly before it came out. It has this clever bar retainer that swings out of the way for removal - you can see it at the top of the picture holding in the fan shrouds. The assembly just plugs into an outlet that is contained within the vent shaft. Here you can see that when I replaced the assembly, I left it unplugged.

It was kind of fun breaking it down to find out if there was something obvious that I could fix to get it working again. I love the way that almost anything from the post war era or before was built with the idea that it should be repaired rather than replaced. Disassembly was pretty straight forward and kind of fun.

This is as far as I got it. I cleaned it out as well as I could and tried it again but the bushing appears to be shot. It will only run for a short while before the vibration gets so bad that it just stops. I'll try to find a local shop that services electric motors. In the meantime, the assembly is back in the vent shaft but unplugged.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 23, 2009

Handmade Birthday Gift

My oldest son made these dolls for a school friend who celebrated his fifth birthday this weekend. Many hours were spent in contemplation about what the best gift would be. He came up with this idea and took to the task of decorating the dolls with gusto.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Giant Water Bag at Farmlab

At the last Backward Beekeeping meeting, before things got going, Meredith brought us inside to see a giant army surplus water bag used for storing potable water. Farmlab is an incredible place with lots of experimental projects going on at any given time which explore various aspects of localized food production.

The bag was just begging to be walked on and Meredith was so kind to allow us indulge.

These clamps are very cool - you cant really see the scale here but those bolts are almost the size of baseballs.

We'd love to have one of these for Camp Ramshackle; we're still trying to work out our rainwater reservoir. It seems to me that every house in Los Angeles should have one of these.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pasadena Waldorf School's Annual Elves Faire

If you haven't already scheduled the Elves' Faire into your Saturday plans, cancel all appointments or better yet, just arrange to meet at the Pasadena Waldorf School Elves' Faire.

Each year, the Pasadena Waldorf School opens their campus to all for music, crafts and food. Admission is free and the food and crafts are moderately priced. The Elves' Faire is an event we look forward to all year. The school campus is a magical place and made even more so on this delightful day when flags are unfurled, rooms are filled with confections and a tea room opened just for kids.

Saturday, November 21st
209 E. Mariposa Street
Altadena, CA 91001

Highlights from last year:
Elves' Faire Update

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two Wheeled Taxi Drawing

New markers yield a two wheeled taxi. "The two people sit opposite to balance it."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Plein Air Drawing

When Eric and I first moved in, we felled a neglected eucalyptus that was dropping branches and splitting the trunk. The arborist cut the stump into a chair, the perfect respite for late afternoon observations as the colors start to deepen. Throw in some markers, some paper, and you are sitting pretty indeed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Improvements at the Preschool Garden

Over the summer, a great deal of work was done on my son's preschool garden adding new walkways, steps and stone planting areas. They really did a wonderful job.

In the beds right now are nascent beets, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce and sunflowers. More planting is ahead.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Morning Impromtu Art Review

No, that's not a Rorschach test, it's art made by my oldest son. Eric opened the portfolio to store some of the ever growing body of newer paintings and drawings. He wisely flipped through some of the archived work for both boys to see.

I amazed by my son's ability to remember what the paintings were and where he was when he made them. Reviews are time well spent.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Virtue of Simple Toys

My two year old carted out the bag of old school Playskool blocks all by himself. These vintage blocks were a wonderful Christmas gift last year and continue to be a cornerstone of play at Camp Ramshackle. I helped my youngest set out the mat and let him take over.

He pulled me back over to share his proud achievement of the long line of blocks. Mission accomplished!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sage Growth

New growth.

In October, Eric cut back some of our California native Pozo Blue sage in the lower yard. In a mere month, the sage is bursting with new growth.

The cutback sage in October.

The sage in November. Far right is a California bush sunflower (Encelia californica)

With the new growth is a resurgence of the delicious scent that often stops me in my tracks and gives yet another reason to linger in the yard.

Deadheading the Sage
Pozo Blue Sage

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sisyphean Screen Door

If you've followed our blog for a while you already know that we have bad dogs. We love them but they have a compulsion. Here's a post about when Julia fixed our curtains after they burst through the open bedroom window to get at some animal. They often get sprayed by skunks if we let them out at night. But the one thing that really drives me crazy is when they trash the screen door.

This is part of why we are wary of getting chickens. I think we will do it but the coop will have to be built like a little fort. Not just to keep the dogs out but also the coyotes and raccoons.

We woke up to the door like this one morning when a raccoon was probably taunting Moxie from the other side of the glass. But lately it has been the repeated scratching and pawing that has broken the side open again.

Each time I fix it- eventually. I usually try to increase the engineering of it without loosing the character that I love about our old wooden screen door.

Here it is now. Thicker gauge 1/2 inch hardware cloth is on the inside; thinner 1/4 inch on the outside. We'll see how long this fix lasts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

I found this amazing creature outside our kitchen. When threatened, the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle (Phloeodes diabolicum) pulls in it's appendages and sets down like an armored tank.

A much better photo can be found at Stephen Cresswell Photography.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Artichokes - 3rd Time's a Charm?

This is our third attempt to plant artichokes here at Camp Ramshackle. The previous two times we would struggle along only to loose the plant after a few months. This time we got them in the ground earlier and we've gone to greater lengths to make it a success this time.

After going back to the books I learned that artichokes have a tap root that is as tall as the plant - about 4 feet. They also like well drained soil which we have only down about 8 or 10 inches in this part of the yard. To give the plants a better chance this time I got out the post hole digger and dug a 1 foot diameter hole about 2 feet deep for each plant and filled it with our home made potting soil.

Here's a ball of clay from below the top soil. The 2 feet deep holes won't be deep enough for the entire tap root but I think it will give the plants a better chance.

Here's our home made potting soil. It's mostly completed compost with lots of worm castings mixed with some of the wood chips and horse manure we got from our friends a while back. Six holes required a heaping wheelbarrow full.

The next phase is to keep them watered and protected from the dogs for about a month. By that time I hope they will be well enough established to tolerate the occasional missed watering or errant paw.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stocking Stuffer Swap

I am excited to be part of the Stocking Stuffer Swap organized by Leah of Our Yellow House. I made the owl above for it. Our swap is closed, but if you are interested, you might consider organizing one yourself.

The brilliant idea (all credit goes to Leah) is to assemble a group of crafty people. Each person must make something that can fit into a stocking for each family (or each child if the group is small enough). The goods are to be mailed the first week of December. Then each participant receives some handmade goodness to stuff in a stocking.

I love this idea. I'm honored to share some of my projects with others and delighted that I will be able to share other people's handwork with my sons. A big thank you to Leah for organizing this.

When I think of what sentiments and traditions I hope to create with my family around the winter holiday season, this is what I hope for. So much of the December festivities are manufactured and frantic. What I want is time spent fireside with my family snuggling and drinking spiced cider. Instead of frantic consumption, I want moments, handmade mementos, sparkling lights and the luxury of time.

And you, what do you hope for this season?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fairy Duster in Bloom

Julia got this nice shot of one of the fairy duster blooms. The Latin name is Calliandra eriophylla. The description for this plant says it's a low spreading shrub but ours is over 7 feet high and spindly. I don't know if that's because its not in its true native desert habitat (even though it is a California native) or because this is a tall growing cultivar.

Whatever the situation, we love it. It compliments the nearby bottle brush well and blooms at different times of the year.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dog Bed for a Toy

Last night as my oldest son was falling off to sleep, he said he wanted to make a bed for a stuffed dog. The dog was a perk from a summer library reading program two to three years ago. The toy rotates in and out of favor. As of late, Sparky, as my son has named her, is decidedly in favor. I said we might be able to make a dog bed the following day while his younger brother naps.

The stars aligned and my youngest son took a nap as planned. My oldest son started with a blueprint/pattern.

Fabric was chosen.

And a dog bed was sewn. Sparky, my son tells me, is quite pleased. As is he.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rosemary Revisited

Outside my kitchen door lived a rosemary plant that served Camp Ramshackle well for many years. She was watered religiously with the same water that would clean our dinner lettuce. Then summer hit. The lettuce went bitter. And my method of watering ended.

A rosemary plant that gets watered almost every day likes it that way. Sadly, my trusted producer shriveled to a shadow of it's former self.

I planted a new rosemary to take it's place. Shamed by guilt, I did not take a picture of the dessicated carrion in the pot. But I felt I should share it and come clean. So I went down to the pile destined for wood chipping and present it here with great remorse.

I'm sorry rosemary. You were a champ and could have been a contender.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unknown Beetle or Maybe It's Just a Bug

Found cavorting through the pumpkin patch at Underwood Family Farms. Looking a my NWF Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America, it looks most like a Spotted Cucumber Beetle. But I don't know.

I'm going to ask the Bug Guy and hope for an answer.

If the bug remains unidentified, the fascination was enough.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

First Honey Harvest

We finally crushed and strained the honey I pulled from the hives the other week.

Delicious, raw, chemical free honey.

I posted more about the process, and you can learn how to do this yourself on the Backwards Beekeepers Blog.