Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Chicken of the Woods Matures

The Chicken of the Woods mushroom I spied last week at the base of my neighbor's eucalyptus now looks more like the typical Laetiporus sulphureus with the shelf like spores.

I think the fungus was newly formed when I saw it last week. The heads looked more like cauliflower then. See last week's photo.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

GEK-ing Out On Gasification

Julia mentioned her obsession in her recent post about cargo bikes now it's my turn.

Our good friend Phoenix, who is staying with us now, sent me a link a while ago about a gasification stove which is similar to the rocket stoves but burns at near 100% efficiency due to it's ability to burn nearly all of the gases contained in the fuel rather than let them escape through the chimney. Phoenix's primary interest was in the byproduct called biochar which is apparently useful amendment for poor soil transforming it into tera preta.

Phoenix sent me the video below which I'd see before, maybe you have too. It's a "trash" powered Honda Accord. It runs on gas created through gasification and was built by the folks at All Power Labs.

This, and more discussion with Phoenix pointed me to the Gasification Experimentation Kit (GEK) website (It looks like they were at a Maker Fair too.)

From their website:
The GEK is a small scale DIY energy appliance that enables individuals to run typical internal combustion engines on "trash" in a GHG negative manner, through the gasification of waste biomass, and sequestering the byproducts as biochar.
Here are some of the folks from the GEK team showing how one of their power pallets works.

The power pallet is just the GEK system assembled and delivered on a pallet with a four cylinder electric generator attached.

Everything that GEK is doing is open source - from the designs to the software for their gasifier control unit. You can buy complete systems or build your own. If you go the DIY route the cool thing is that you can start with nothing but the cad drawings for creating the pieces then locally source materials and have them cut or you can buy the pre-cut metal components from the GEK folks as flat sheet-metal that you then weld up into tanks, etc. or you can buy welded components and simply bolt them together. I think it's fantastic that they support different price point/capability levels.

Julia and I are eyeing our property thinking about appropriate applications for this technology. They are numerous. More to come.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Mushrooms at Camp Ramshackle

Eric took out the last of the tomato plants out of one of our raised beds. While turning the soil, he discovered some mushroom pods and pulled them out for observation.

He recognized them, remembering a previous visitor, the common stinkhorn. These did not reach the stink of our first encounter with phallus impudicu.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Current Obsession: Cargo Bikes

I've been on the search for a way to get more strenuous exercise into my routine. The challenge is finding time away from my family to spend an hour or more working out. Then I started thinking about what can I do with my family. Swmming...out. Running...not unless I get a jogging stroller. I'm not much of a runner & pushing the weight of two kids would make me even less of a runner. there's an idea. I was inspired by Sweet-Juniper's Popscycle. I could ride a bike with the kids.

I toyed with the notion of a kid seat in the front and a trail-a-bike in the back. The weight limit for kids in front is typically 35 pounds, which my youngest is already brushing up against. So I started looking at bakfiets. I took a test drive of the Nihola and Gazelle Cabby pictured above kindly snapped by Joseph the proprietor of the local Flying Pigeon. I am completely in love with the cargo bike and the Yepp kid bike seat. However, the cargo bikes are expensive ($2500-3400). I have not stopped dreaming just yet and plan to go back and test ride the Christiania box bikes when they arrive at the Flying Pigeon.

In anticipation in biking with kids, I rode the 6.3 rolling hill ride to my oldest son's school and back. I'm hoping that I might be able to work something out. Perhaps it will be biking with one kid at a time until I weld together a homemade box bike or sidecar or the bakfiet companies recognize what a wonderful marketing opportunity they would have by using Ramshackle Solid as the equivalent of a cellophaned bus.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weaponry for an Elf

We have a special friend who lives in Bailey Canyon in Sierra Madre. His name is Stiple. He is an elf who rides a raft that he made of found sticks bound together with a tough stalk of grass. He likes to journey down creeks swollen by rains, which have been plenty lately.

My youngest, still obsessed with all things pirate, decided Stiple could use a cutlass, some swords, a bottle and a cup and saucer. Sculpey was pulled out and these fine pieces were made and fired in the oven.

On a recent hike, my sons and I built a home for Stiple equipped with sticks in the fireplace to warm him after his river run.

This morning, I awoke to see my oldest son and Eric have added to Stiple's Sculpey collection with a torch, a spoon, knife, sack of wheat and a "torch sword that you can use to burn your enemy's cake".

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Boys 15 Minutes Via Machine Project

I noticed the boys got some recognition via the Machine Project website. I took this picture one of the days we spent frolicking on the Sea Nymph installation. Friday, October 22nd marks the last day of this great exhibit. Time to visit the Sea Nymph before she succumbs to the sea.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicken of the Woods Spied Next Door

While returning home from school, I noticed a giant bright orange mushroom/fungus cluster on the trunk of a eucalyptus in my neighbor's parkway. Although I'm no mycologist, my online research leads me to believe it is a Laetiporus sulphureus or Chicken of the Woods.

Chicken of the Woods are edible, although I read warnings about Laetiporus sulphureus causing stomach upsets when harvested from the base of eucalyptus trees. I think it merits more research. I'm thinking about acquiring David Arora's All That the Rain Promises and More field guide to Western mushrooms, especially after spying the cover of the book. Who doesn't want to party with David Arora?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Importance of Halloween

In a day and age where people seem to spend more time indoors, I find myself loving Halloween even more than I already do. Granted, I have a fondness for the holiday. I am reminded of spending time with my father and siblings crafting homemade costumes...a t.v., a carrot, the Headless Horseman to name a few. To this day, I still love the ritual of picking out a pumpkin, designing a face and carving it while pumpkin seeds roast in the oven and hot cider steeps on the stove.

Halloween is the holiday that gets people outside from a trip to a pumpkin patch whether it be an urban lot strung with lights or Lombardi Ranch in Santa Clarita to the anticipated evening when kids venture out in the darkness bedecked in costumes to knock on neighbor's doors in search of candy.

I love how Halloween is linked to a harvest, a time to celebrate the changing seasons.

Over the weekend, we took in two pumpkin patches with grandparents, Lombardi Ranch and Underwood Family Farms. My oldest son sleepily asked after a very full day where we closed out Underwood Farms, "Mom, can we carve our pumpkins soon?" Definitely, I'm ready for some roasted pumpkin seeds.

A Few Shirts Stitched

In between trips to the pumpkin patch, baking cookies and planting the preschool garden this weekend, I was able to catch a few minutes behind the sewing machine. I made the shirts above for a little someone who is about to introduce himself any day now.

And I made this shirt for my littlest guy inspired by one made for his older brother. I think I'm going to add a brown smaller circle in the middle of the target when I can get him out of it. My son is quite excited about his latest wardrobe addition.

Friday, October 15, 2010

LACMA Art of Looking

Over the summer, the boys and I stumbled upon a lecture at LACMA on Paul Cadmus's Coney Island painting. We sat down in small foldable aluminum stools and listened to perhaps twenty minutes of lecture before my youngest needed to move. My oldest stayed on and finished the lecture.

When I saw that LACMA's Mary Lenihan was going to give an Art of Looking discussion on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, I thought the kids, especially my oldest, might enjoy it. In the Resnick Pavilion, we first viewed some works by Henri Lehman as an example of the establishment art to get a sense of what was popular when the Impressionists were the avant-garde.

In the Ahmanson building, Lenihan directed us to some paintings by Claude Monet, including In the Woods at Giverny & Nymphea. I love the talks at LACMA. The art educators really encourage the art of looking and present the works so that you as the viewer use your own eyes to see the painting and witness the perspective of the artist. Mary Lenihan provides the history that puts the painting in context. The Art of Looking discussions happen every second Thursday of the month.

My kids lasted a good half hour before the large elevator and Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog beckoned them.

Although they both sat and listened for the discussion, I think they had the most fun in the Boone Children's Gallery for Korean brush painting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NWF Federation Be Out There Campaign

Ever since signing up for the Great American Backyard Campout, I've been on the National Wildlife Federation's mailing list. The Be Out There Campaign is a push to let kids have time outdoors. Move beyond getting out there to stay out there.

I was inspired by item #4 in the brief article 6 Ways to Make Nature Second Nature: Impromptu Picnic. I gathered up the boys and headed to a nearby park for a dinner picnic. Nothing fancy. Nor anything too ambitious like a hike in the Arroyo Seco. Just a quick trip to the local park with dinner in hand.

We are all so glad we did. The boys ran like crazy, played on the conventional playground equipment. Found time to draw.

Then ventured beyond and found "The Jungle" and made slides where none existed.

As luck would have it, the Bubble Man, a fixture at a local farmers market, showed up.

As the sky began to darken, I packed up my happy filthy kids, headed home for bath, dessert and a welcomed pillow. I highly recommend impromptu picnics.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Small Projects with the Sewing Machine

I grabbed about an hour out of my day to sit behind my sewing machine and tend to some mending. I fixed some of those nagging little things like a separating elastic waistband. I followed the advice I gleaned from an Angry Chicken tutorial on fold over elastic. Although my project used conventional elastic, the advice worked great.

Then I turned to another outgrown shirt. Typically, outgrown items are passed down, but I had an idea that this shirt could be salvaged to stay in the wardrobe of my oldest son.

I cut the patchwork out of the existing shirt (I'll use the scraps for other projects) leaving about an inch of material around it.

I sewed it on a larger shirt.

Now the shirt is back in the ring for another round. My son and I joked that we can keep this shirt in his wardrobe until he's a grown man.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Important Work at Hand

:detailing cars:

:anchoring boats:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Camera in the Hands of a Three Year Old

Our camera is available for our children to use. Of course, the camera must be treated with respect and the user must wear the strap around his neck. A decent camera in the hands of young children yields some beautiful photos like one my oldest son took from the top of our property. In between the task of helping make bread, my three year old snapped this series.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Artichokes Keep Coming

Camp Ramshackle tallies three artichokes returning from dormancy.

They emerge so small. Each time I find one, I let out a yell to notify everyone, so thrilled to see the delicate green leaves peeking out of the brown mulch.

The first plant to return is growing well so far.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Googly Eye Festival

The boys and I attended the first ever Fall Googly Eye Festival conceived and organized by wonderful friends, a mother-daughter team, we met at my sons' preschool.

The idea: get a group of kids together after school in a local canyon for a hike, outdoor time, frolic and a nature inspired craft. Then end the early evening with a camp inspired canyon dinner.

The googly eyes were the inspiration of the daughter and a huge hit. I love the idea of easy kid & parent get-togethers and highly recommend adopting it. What a great way to spend the day after school. And the simple early dinner in the canyon is just brilliant.

I took my tired boys home after epic fun. At home we capped off the canyon dinner with a light snack of sliced apples, cheeses and crackers, then crashed into bed.

Such a delightful day with great people. We look forward to the next rendez vous.