Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vinho Espumante: Professional Boxer



with a badass.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scoby Gone Wild

This is what happens when you let a kombucha scoby grow for three months. I am currently reading Paul Stamets' 1995 article "Kombucha The Manchurian Mushroom My Adventures with 'The Blob'" (originally published in Mushroom, The Journal Winter 1994-1995). The article has me questioning my use of kombucha. Still, I have another fresh brew on the shelf (not with these scobys).

Thanks to Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen the Homegrown Evolution duo for the reading recommendation.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saving Pants from the Flood

I picked up a pair of pants from Out of the Closet thrift store last week. For six dollars, they seemed good enough for the sartorial demands of my casual life. However, they were a bit short. Not drastically, but short enough to have a vaguely Pee Wee Hermanesque flood quality to them.

I ripped the hem out. There wasn't enough material to lengthen the pant leg and keep a proper hem.

To address the issue, I used some bias tape I scored at a local yard sale a few years ago. I machine stitched the bias tape on the raw edge, created a half inch hem & hand sewed the hem. The hem looks neat and keeps the length. Now I have a new pair of pants for a fraction of the cost.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Avocado Redux

Back in February of this year we planted a Haas Avocado in this spot and a Stewart at the bottom of the yard. Everything was going pretty well for the tree at the bottom of the of the yard but the one up here was struggling. Then in late September we had the hottest day on record in Los Angeles and neither tree recovered.

Even though the heat is what finally killed the trees I think our poorly draining soil was responsible for their limited success to that point. If they had grown more vigorously prior to the heat wave they may have been big enough to survive. This time I created a truly ramshackle 18 inch retaining wall using a technique that was influenced by gabion walls. It was made using only materials we had on hand in about half a day.

This time we went with a Zutano at the top of the hill and put another Haas at the bottom. I expanded the previous efforts to amend the soil and ensure that the drainage is as good as it can be.

At the top of the hill I built a retaining wall to hold in a much larger quantity of amended soil. I reused some of the T-posts we were no longer using to hold up the concrete reinforcing wire fence that Phoenix replaced with wood a few weeks ago. I doubled up some chicken wire and ran that inside of a scrap piece of galvanized wire fence. The doubled up chicken wire helps hold in some of the smaller rocks that would pass through the thicker wire fence otherwise. Then I filled the space with rocks, broken cement pieces and bricks.

Carting the rocks up that steep hill was a pain in the neck. I'll add another course when I recover. I back filled the wall with home made potting soil made with our compost, perlite, gypsum and some organic fertilizer formulated for avocados. It's almost like a raised bed now and I hope it will drain better this time.

So far the tree looks pretty happy and the wall looks good enough from the distance that most people will see it. I'll add another row of rocks and more soil mixture in a week or so and keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fence Addition

Our friend Phoenix finished the fence on the east side of our property that butts up to the newer developments.

In 2004, fueled by repeated dog breeches and terrorized mail carriers, Eric and I built the fence surrounding the lower east, south & west sides of our property. We left the east side open because it was amusing to us that the big new mansions had a lovely vista into our yard with a decrepit chicken coup christened the "What-Have-You" by the developer. Our yard kind of matches the neighborhood. On the hillside to the south of us, one neighbor has about three abandoned station wagons and two VW bugs on blocks...our neighborhood Concours d'Elegance.

Thanks, Phoenix, for the beautiful fence. I think I see the developer next door crying tears of joy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Craft Fair Debut

My sons' preschool holds two very low key craft fairs each year. Part of the proceeds are donated to the school. There is no booth fee. So it makes it pretty easy to participate. Since my oldest started at the school three years ago, I've contemplated participating with a table of my own.

I finally got it together this year. I made some bamboo utensil holders and two tiffin carriers. Eric gave me a utensil kit three years ago as a present. I use them all the time. I thought I'd share the love and make some for others.

I added a few plants to fill in the table: nasturtium grown from seed harvested from our yard and some succulents also from our yard.

The boys contributed the fishing poles. The idea was conceived by my oldest son. Many were made over the summer and became gifts for friends. When I mentioned the pending craft fair, I asked my oldest if he was interested in making some. My youngest jumped in and harvested the bulk of the branches. We had a great evening putting them together. The boys were thrilled that people bought them.

Ironically, the year I finally get it together to participate, the craft fair was shut down early by the police for lack of proper permits. A real renegade craft fair.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Annals of Home Improvement: Kitchen Reorganization

Eric and I reworked our kitchen space a bit with a few small improvements. Above is the kitchen before shot.

We thoroughly cleaned out the dryer and flipped the door so that it opens to the left. We use our laundry line outside the house, but we still have a dryer in the house. We've had it since we moved in.

Whenever I think about the To Have and Have Not debate surrounding a dryer, I am reminded of Kelly Coyne's funny recap of the ongoing debate in her house. She writes about it in her and Erik Knutzen's wonderful book The Urban Homestead.

We added some simple hooks. I originally suggested we use some of the beautiful hooks Eric made from our olive trees. But he suggested something simpler would be better suited for the space. I agree.

I had picked up an old green metal cabinet a few years ago from a garage sale (the date stamped inside reads July 4, 1910). We had it on the ground in our kitchen to house a few tools frequently used around the house, gardening gloves and a few other items. Eric built a stand with casters for it, which makes cleaning around it much easier. We can just pull it out to sweep and mop.

Eric counter sunk the bolts and threaded on the casters to a piece 2x4 then glued them to a cut piece of plywood.

The original cabinet is on the bottom. Eric remembered another cabinet from a work table I picked up at a garage sale over a decade ago and sagely suggested we put it in the kitchen on top of the other cabinet. This very small project has greatly improved how we use the space in our kitchen. Plus, I just love the way it looks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oil Lantern Fix

Step aside slothfulness, there is work to be done. We just returned from a trip to Portland OR. Details to follow. I love trips out of town. A new town offers a new perspective. As much as I love departures, I equally love the return. A few days away always makes me see my home in a new light. Projects seem less like an endless list & more like something that just needs a bit of dedicated attention.

The weekend before Portland, I picked up four oil lanterns at a garage sale for $1.50 to add to our collection if three. We use them for patio lights. All were in need of some TLC. Upon returning home, I took to cleaning, replacing wicks as necessary and refilling them with citronella oil.

Four are now back in action. One, a Paull lantern (from the 1920s, I discovered), is awaiting a new globe. The Czech-made Meva 864 & one Dietz Comet #50 need new burners. From my research, the Dietz #50 may be a lost cause. According to www.oillampman.com (where I bought the new globe for the Paull), Dietz does not make a replacement burner for the #50. I did, however, locate a replacement burner for the Meva 864 from the manufacturer in the Czech Republic. I sent an email of inquiry & hope for the best.

I have not given up on the Dietz. The burner is manufactured without the intention of letting it be opened (unlike the other lamps). But perhaps I might be able to figure something out. Until then, I have four in action with a fifth to join the working lantern posse soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Annals of Home Improvement: Trailer Hook Up

Plumbing is one of those tasks where I depend on professionals. It seems like it would be so easy to hook one pipe up to the next, but it never works that way for me. I was impressed by Jeremy's work at Rancho Garbanzo where he replaced his house's main line to the city sewage. Nevertheless, the pros dug in to attach the trailer to the main sewage line.

Having the right tool for the job...like a jackhammer to remove the pavement...is helpful. Prior to this job, we ran a camera down the sewage line to see where we needed to dig. Some people opt for general ballpark digging. We figured it was worth the cost to know exactly where the connection would be made.

By turning the trailer around, the distance to dig was reduced from about 20 feet to about five feet.

Pedro our plumber made quick work attaching the pipes. (The sinister gouge to the left of the pipe occurred about a year ago after some serious rainfall. The trailer fell from the jacks and landed with a crunch. Fortunately, the trailer was unoccupied and no one was hurt. The gouge was the extent of the damage.)

He exchanged the solid pipe for a flexible hose. Although it may be the soundest structure at Camp Ramshackle, it's a trailer and bound to settle. The flexible pipe allows for a bit of movement.

The dirt was replaced on the driveway. Next, we'll need to repair the asphalt.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Annals of Home Improvement: The Trailer

When the Streamline trailer was hauled to the Ramshackle Compound in 2008, Eric and I discussed the idea of hooking it up to a main sewage pipe to make the bathroom completely functional.

A Main House pending bathroom remodel in our one bathroom home made the trailer sewage hookup a priority. Before we set to cutting the driveway to attach the trailer to the main line, we wanted to change the orientation of the trailer so that the doors opened to the north and faced the house.

Eric and our friend Phoenix pumped up the tires, lowered the trailer and took her out for a short voyage down the street. I had envisioned a mad loop around the neighborhood to turn the trailer around.

Instead, Eric wisely rode down the street, backed it up about 30 feet and drove the beast back in with the hitch facing towards the garage. I don't see how people drive these trailers on vacations. They seem so huge and unwieldy.

And who needs to vacation when you can be right here?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mixer Is Back in the Mix

Slothful confession #1. My Kitchen Aid mixer has been broken for over a year. While using the mill attachment to grind tapioca into flour (not an approved grain in the mill instructions), I stripped the gears. Rebelliously, I willfully ground unapproved grains in the mill. And the mill did well for quite some time. But the round tapioca balls proved too much for the machine. With great sadness, I inadvertently rode the nag until she dropped.

I felt guilty for killing the Kitchen Aid and stymied by the prospect of figuring out what was wrong with it. I called upon professionals, not a psychologist who may have been better equipped to deal with the problem, but a certified Kitchen Aid repair shop only to find the cost of repair would be about the same cost of a new mixer.

So I realized I needed to crack the thing open and figure out what was going on. If I destroyed it while surveying the damage, no harm done. It would cost about the same to buy a new one as to repair it.

But I didn't do that. And the mixer sat on my counter eying me as I hand-mixed cookies, pizza dough and bread for over a year. I'm not proud of it. This is a Slothful Confession, after all.

Enter the Pity of Friends. Our friend Phoenix is in town. Unencumbered by guilt of destruction, he broke open the Kitchen Aid waded through the grease and diagnosed the problem.

Two gears were ordered & replaced. Grease was changed. The mixer rides again. Thanks Phoenix.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Pirate's Life for Me

A map was found with treasure marked with "X".

Together three lads ventured forth in search of booty.

Hearty swords were forged by an able blacksmith known as Dad.

Treasure found. Riches beheld!

Seas sailed in finely crafted vessels.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!