Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Enroute to his shack, Eric stumbled upon a fallen Yellow-rumped Warbler. In the space of minutes to travel to the house and back, this tiny carrion lay on the pathway. We examined the warm pliable body, the delicate intestines rudely exposed from a tear above the warbler's left leg.

Most likely a Cooper's Hawk swooped and punched this little bird. Ten minutes after taking these photos, Eric and I returned to an empty slab. Perhaps the hawk returned for her lunch. I will remember next time to look up and examine the trees to document these tiny tragedies.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Material Transformation: Quilts

I have wanted to make a quilt for most of my life. I remember as a young girl starting a quilting square. I had no access to a sewing machine, so the radial star with small blue flowers was completely hand sewn. The square sat. My aspirations grew. Although a quilt can be a simple process, the process intimidated me.

So I read about making a quilt. People who have done it. How to do it. And I studied quilts I saw. I pulled out materials I had on hand & placed them together to see how the patterns and colors would mix. I decided this Christmas, I will make my sons quilts. A simple quilt with large blocks of fabrics I had on hand.

And I thought and thought about it until December 21st hit. I jumped into action. The boys have a small bunk bed, so I sized the quilts to fit the bed without a lot of extra fabric that would hang down the side of a traditional bed. I cut multiple pieces in 15 inch widths. To size to the bed, one row would be nine inches in width. My fast approaching deadline quelled any over-thinking on the piecing (except for the decades of thought that went in to reaching my quilt making action potential). I made a diagram of how it would look and cut the pieces to length. To back the turn-quilts (no binding), I used mattress ticking and some chestnut drapery fabric I picked up at an impromptu yard sale in the Rite Aid parking lot down the street.

Making a quilt is like magic. You piece together fabrics & they magically transform into a blanket. I literally jumped up and down when I saw them together & giggled like a school girl who just had a disappeared coin pulled from her ear by a slight of hand illusionist.

The boys unfurled their quilts in thrilled delight.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Material at Hand

Transformation to follow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Relationships with Trees


And fallen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Gesture

The brown haired checker had already scanned half the contents of my grocery cart, including the champagne meant to be opened six days later, when I noticed my wallet was missing. To say wallet is a bit of a stretch. Coin purse might be more appropriate to describe the cloth stegosaurus-shaped zippered pouch. My real wallet had been stolen last year in sleepy Sierra Madre while I picked up my son from preschool. The blue ice of the shattered passenger window dusted the front seat where my purse rested not ten minutes prior. The stegosaurus pouch functioned as a wallet as I never bothered to acquire another one.

I informed Brian, his name tag read, of the situation. His eyes widened. I'm sure he's heard it all and more. I ran outside, searched my car, came back empty. Scrounging through my bag in hopes to find it hidden in the seams, I came up with a check to pay for my bubbly.

I retraced my steps. Back by the train station, scanning for an unlikely money pouch on the ground. Back in the bakery that sells delicious croissants. No, my dear, no wallet.

Back on the street. My chest starts to tighten, I accept that the zippered pouch containing money, driver's license, bank card and other magnetized plastic cards that grant access to money are gone. I call Eric and allow myself a brief cry. Then almost as quickly as the wave of dread crashed over me, I stood in the shallow calm eddies left in its wake. I thought of the Stoic diagram and realized the situation was beyond my control. I thought about the hands that would pick up the cloth stegosaurus and wished that the person who found it could really use it.

I set back for home to put away groceries and deal with the consequences of losing such a small pouch containing such complicated items. In my mind I run through the procedures: cancel bank & credit cards, set the wheels in motion for obtaining a new driver's license, make dinner.

Empty bellies take priority. As onions sizzle in a large pot, I notice a phone message. I listen, "Julia, my name's D.J. I think I have something you might be missing. You really need to call me back."

Yes, a kind woman named D.J. picked up my stegosaurus, found my business card inside and called me. Within the hour, I stood outside her dusty green door. "And here you are, Julia," D.J. said bright brown eyes taking me in, "I thought of you, looking at your picture."

I told her how I thought of the hands picking up my wallet and the blessing I sent to those hands. I didn't expect to get the wallet back. "I knew it was the right thing to do," she said. I reached into my wallet. I had an unusually large amount of money in it (for me) and gave her $80. She said, you don't have to do this. I know, I said, I want to do it. I also asked if maybe we might be able to meet up for a walk around the neighborhood sometime.

Monday, December 19, 2011

While We Were Out

Hello. All is well in Camp Ramshackle. I've been away from this space choosing sleep at the end of long full days instead of posting an update. School is on winter break. Love! We have been enjoying many cozy nights in front of the fire. Lots of firewood since the windstorm.

Holiday card outtakes by Eric.

I found it hard to pick a favorite.

Smiling all the way through in these full days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Blustery Day

Downed Sycamore in Sierra Vista Park, the same tree that hosted the Cooper's Hawk mobbing

Last Wednesday night, the winds stood on end and raced down the canyons, reared up over the flat lands and established their presence with authority. Trees were uprooted, homes were crushed, branches were torn from trees and power lines were downed.

Sierra Vista Park, Sierra Madre

Sierra Madre, corner of Mountain Trail & Sierra Madre Boulevard

We fared very well at Camp Ramshackle. Our olive trees and one Toyon took a beating and lost many large limbs but no trees were completely downed; none hit the house. Everyone is safe.

A limb came uncomfortably close to the boys's bed room. Outside our own bedroom window while transformers exploded with green flashes that light up the dusty sky, Eric and I watched a large branch sail like a witch on a broom towards our window. The branch flew closer and closer, then dropped suddenly as if hit by a cosmic taser inches from the glass.

We are in the process of cleaning up the aftermath, but all-in-all, we did very well in the face of gale winds. I hope you and your families are safe and well too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sewing: Nesting Baskets

I made a few nesting baskets for a school auction donation to hold our contribution of three 8 oz. jars of Ramshackle Solid honey and a beeswax votive candle. Two sets. We don't normally "sell" our honey. The auction for our son's preschool fundraiser seemed like a worthy exception.

The nesting basket pattern is from maya*made. I was inspired, as I often am, by SouleMama.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Search of Snow

Despite the mild weather, we went on a quest for snow in our neighboring Angeles National Forest. We headed up the reopened 2 highway until we were just outside of Waterman. We stopped by the side of the road where the powdery snow dusted the landscape and went for a hike.

He doesn't remember his last trip to the snow. He was a baby, I held in my arms, without speech. He had a lot to say about it this time, including "I just got an idea in my brain! Let's build a snowman."

Angels were made. Hills were slid on bottoms.

I suspect we will be back as the season progresses.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mount Wilson Expedition

Mount Wilson Observatory 100 inch scope

I found myself feeling quite thankful this Thanksgiving. Thankful for our time together as a family. Thankful for friends. Thankful for where we live.

Los Angeles is a complex city that draws many people. The weather is typically mild. Gardening is a year round possibility. The city is close to the ocean, mountains, desert and snow. One might spend the morning in the snow, trek down the mountain and head towards the sea to watch the sun slip behind the Pacific. And, of course, the film/television/entertainment industry and tastemakers that shape and curate media imagery also hold a stake in this town.

Although the latter group might skew the perception of the city, Los Angeles offers much more.

150 foot Solar Scope

The clear skies and exceptional viewing caught the interest of George Ellery Hale, who founded the Mount Wilson Observatory in 1904. Mount Wilson stands 5,710 feet above the Los Angeles Basin in the Angeles National Forest with views to the sea and Channel Islands. For over 40 years, Mount Wilson housed the biggest scopes in the world. The eyes of Albert Einstein, Harlow Shapely and Edwin Hubble peered through the eye piece to discover the earth's location in the Milky Way, other galaxies and more.

Over the weekend, we headed up to Mount Wilson Observatory for the last docent lead tour of the season to literally walk in the footsteps of Albert Einstein and other preeminent astronomers and scientists.

In the 150 foot solar scope, scientists continue to gather information about solar sun spots on antiquated equipment. The scientist hired by the man in the picture above let us into the "Computer Museum" to see the Raytheon computer still in operation.

Although the data is still culled using the Hal-esque computer, the scientists transfer the information to an online database.

Inside the 100 inch scope where Hubble worked.

The 100 inch scope is open to tours but no longer in use. Light pollution from the growing city, and the creation of larger scopes elsewhere, have diminished the relevance of the scope for scientific research. Although the 60 inch scope is open for rental to private groups. We are already discussing the possibilities.

Imagine being able to look through the eye piece that so many great scientists have peered through: a small window to the limitlessness of space, light traveling millions and in some cases billions of years, right to your eyeball.

The sun tracked west. We headed down the mountain while sailing through the galaxy.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Welcome Return

Extremely grateful that the artichoke has come back. Two plants so far.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tiny Deaths

Carrion discovery date & location:
Skunk, 10/25/11, east side of Arroyo Seco creek, south of Colorado Street Bridge.
Rat, 11/11/11, Huntington Gardens, east of Lily Ponds at the base of the fir trees.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sometimes a Small Moment

Today is incredibly overcast with rain in the forecast. Buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Aspirations: a small excursion like the one above...drawing/writing...small projects...warmth by the fire.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Possum Poop vs. Dog

Can there really be a victor? The possum left it's tell-tale legacy in the yard. Trudy ventured out early, rolled in it & slid back into the house. I was in the kitchen, farthest away from the stink. My four year old waltzed through the living room into the kitchen clutching his nose, "What is that terrible smell?'

"What smell?" I asked as I walked into the living room and was hit with a wall of fetid nastiness.

Dog out. Washed. Washed again. Allowed back inside and documented with a photo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Cart Resuscitation

The NPR affiliate station I worked for (prior to my mombatical) was located under a community college library. Each day, I would pass by double swinging doors where library carts would rest before being launched back into service transporting books back to shelves. As I was leaving one day, I found an oak library cart cast aside for the more modern and maneuverable aluminum carts. I asked if I could have the cart. With a yes from a questionable granting authority, I quickly wheeled the cart to my car and threw it inside. What is a public radio geek but a dorkier cousin to the librarian? I was thrilled with my book toting acquisition. The cart, hands down, is one of my favorite pieces of furniture.

But like any librarian, my cart has seen some hard and fast times and weathered some water stains from errant cups left to flounder coasterless on it's delicate wooden surface. My cart sat bedside until Eric's nightstands pushed it back into the living room. I decided to show some love and fix the water stains. I read up on some remedies to use mayonnaise to pull out the water rings. Reason departed and I foolishly tried the remedy. Witness the dark oil stain of my folly in the picture above.

I pulled out a sander and tried to eradicate the oil stain. I found an old can of half full Restor-A-finish that I used on the cart. The cart cleaned up beautifully. Now it holds court next to the dining table. I love it as much as the day we ran away together.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Patching

Turban squash

I packed up the wagon with kids in tow and headed out to Underwood Family Farms for the Fall Festival and to spend the day with grandparents.

Goats were sighted overhead eating from a pepper tree.

The kids enjoyed a John Deer thrasher turned slide.

My oldest and I took to the corn maze. For the first time, we found the haystack pyramid through the maze. In previous years, hunger took over and we would enter from the exit to summit the haystack.

The day was gorgeous. Starlings, cowbirds and yellow-shouldered blackbirds outnumbered the crowd. Some would take flight with at least thirty birds in a group and fly noisily overhead turning in unison in a moment's notice.

I always love taking the meandering tractor trip through the fields.