Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trailer Claimed

Inspired by the wonderful adventures of Henry and his dog Laird Angus McAngus, I claim the trailer.

"This is Julia Island for evermore," she declared.

At least until we have a house guest or when needs at Camp Ramshackle shift.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Experimental Planting

During an overcast chilly visit to Encinitas, instead of spending hours on the beach enjoying the beautiful break and clear waters, we stayed on land a took a stroll through the Self-Realization Fellowship meditation garden and looked down upon the renown surf spot known as Swami's. I noticed this beautiful plant and harvested some seeds.

I packaged them in the free literature on site for transport back to L.A.

And planted them. I don't know what the plant is or if the seeds will germinate, but I look forward to exploring this botanical mystery.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mulch Continued

Last Sunday's el Rio Charter School and TreePeople tree maintenance in Highland Park was a success despite the blistering heat. Fourteen trees were mulched, weeded and watered thanks to the help of a dedicated volunteer crew.

This was the first event I helped coordinate with TreePeople, so I was not sure how much food donations, mulch and water for the crew was necessary. In working with the city of L.A. for mulch, I explained the project and location. They showed up with a truck load. I have now learned, ten trees take about a truckbed and a half of mulch.

We gave some of the mulch away at the TreePeople event to neighbors but still had a large amount left. This Sunday, Eric and I spent the majority of the day working down the pile.

Our dog Moxie approves. Camp Ramshackle will still need mulch after this load is done. Next time, I plan to pursue a local tree trimming service as Jeremy and Rachel from Rancho Garbanzo did.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Drying on the Line

I was told that our clothes line was paid a visit by the Laundry Fairy who lives in Eric's '57 Chevy. I'm not sure how far the fairy travels, but if you notice t-shirts tied to pajama bottoms hanging on the line, you'll know what hit you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lizard at Rest

Found dead by my oldest son.

And laid to rest with proper respect.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local Summer Hike

The boys and I headed out with a picnic in hand to adventure in our local Arroyo Seco. Despite the dry southern California summer, the river still holds water. We discovered flame skimmer dragonflies investigate the water in search of lunch if you throw a stone or drop a leaf. My oldest son spotted tadpoles. As he ventured over the rocks, he found hundreds of tiny frogs each delightfully teeny.

I'm amazed how grounding a simple hike can be and how the important things, like sticks and water...

...and mud can enlist the powers of imagination and unleash delight.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Homemade Photo Album

In June, we ventured to Catalina Island to visit Avalon and Two Harbors. Thanks to two boat rides and an ocean kayaking adventure, the boys now have a deep maritime interest and an obsession with boats. They are not alone. Eric's late maternal grandfather and his wife Dorothy were sailors.

Eric shared stories of Grandpa Jack and Grandma Dorothy, how they had two boats and eventually left their Marina del Rey apartment to live full time on the sea. The boys and I wrote a letter to Grandma Dorothy with questions from the boys about her sailing life. She sent back a letter with wonderful photos of her and Grandpa Jack's own adventures to Two Harbors.

Grandpa Jack with his sailboat Belinda to the left.

We have poured over these wonderful photos. To keep boat-obsessed-often-dirty-small fingers off of the faces of the pictures, I made a simple homemade photo album following Susan Kapuscinsky Gaylord's rubber band and stick tutorial on youtube.

I was inspired by my oldest son's preschool projects to use only the materials I had on hand. Now these images like Grandpa Jack sewing signal flags for Blue Bird can be enjoyed but have a little bit more protection from the hands of young future sailors.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sleepy Squirrel

Yesterday morning I was up and back from my shack a few times to get set up for the early part of the day (later it was too hot to stay in there) I noticed this sleepy baby squirrel in the crotch of a tree inches from where I put my hand each time I climb down the ladder. I was about 3 feet from it and it just looked at me as if to say "Are you going to make me get out of bed?"

Here's the scene from a distance with the sleepy squirrel in the tree near the ladder. Your only chance of seeing her is to click the picture.

Here's a close-up from the ground where you can see she's barely able to keep her eyes open. At one inspection from the shack balcony she was so unconcerned she had covered her eyes with her tail. Pretty cute.

I'm glad we built that shack.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mulch Delivery

The mulch came straight from Van Norman dam to Camp Ramshackle for an el Rio Charter School & TreePeople neighborhood tree maintenance event this Sunday. (There's still room to register, if you'd like to help.)

My oldest son got to enjoy the excitement of the dump.

A tale he recounted with great detail to my youngest son. "First, a truck came and backed up into our yard. Then two guys got out, one with whiskers one without. Then the one without whiskers went back into the truck and pulled a lever and the bed tipped. The mulch started to come out in one big brick."

"You would have loved it!" Then the oldest took the youngest by the hand. Together they summited the pile.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Capturing Wax

After the crush and strain process we use to collect honey we are left with some wax as a by product. At first we were using most of the wax to paint new starter strips (the strips of wood at the top of a frame that we let the bees draw their own comb from) Now we are beginning to slowly amass a collection of wax we can use for other purposes like candles, wood polish, lip balms, etc.

Once we've filtered the honey out of the crushed comb we end up with a bag of crumbly wax which is covered in honey. I rinse this off in the faucet with hot water till it's clean as I can get it.

I used to wring it out and squeeze it into a ball at this point to get as much water out as possible but now I've found that a little water in the mix can actually be useful.

Next I dump the wax into our handy little double boiler. This was a gift at a white elephant Christmas exchange that has become our dedicated wax melter. It's just the right size and has a Teflon coating which makes clean up easy.

I have an old clear coffee cup that is also dedicated to the bee's wax collection. A scrap of metal screen serves as the strainer. You wouldn't want to use your kitchen strainer for this because there is residual wax that collects on it which is darn near impossible to completely remove without solvents.

Here's the hot wax poured into the cup, still cooling. that brown stripe at the bottom is water. I have found that a little water serves a useful function in that the heavier particles that make it through the screen sink to this area and don't end up in the wax.

The last step (I didn't get a picture of this one) is, once the wax has cooled to near room temperature, put the cup in the freezer. This is the easiest way to get the wax to release from the cup. The wax contracts and the water expands as it freezes so all you have to do is slip a knife between the edge of the wax, down to the icy sludge at the bottom and it comes right out. You could probably also just set it on the counter till the ice melts but I haven't had the patience for that yet.

Rinse the ice off the bottom with hot water or just leave it in the sink till it goes a way (again patience) and you have a nice clean plug of beeswax.

cross posted at the backward beekeepers blog:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Different Kinds of Honey - One Harvest

This week I harvested another couple of frames of honey. We have seen a tremendous difference in the honey over the course of the year but this time it was really apparent in the two frames I pulled.

You can see the difference in the bucket before the crush and strain.

We decided to do a taste test. The lighter honey on the left almost certainly came from citrus; it had a very light almost lemony sharpness to it. The darker honey on the right was more flavorful and more of a carmel flavor to it.

It would have been great to keep them separate but I had already put them in the bucket and figured it would be cool to find out what the 50/50 blend would taste like. It's kind of like blended Scotch vs. single malt.

I think that over time I might be able to look for signs when one flow is ending and another beginning to keep the honey strains more discrete.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Unexpected Break from Online Life

Taking a break from the computer to be out...

...and about...

...and sometimes happily going nowhere. Inviting you to do the same. To find the adventure that's outside your door...or right behind it.

Be back soon.