Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Darkness Settled on Camp Ramshackle

Sorry for the absence. Illness has hit our home...nothing drastic. The flu has been working through our family. And what a resilient illness it is. It feels like our family has been sick for a month, moving from not-feeling-well to confined-to-bedrest kind of illness.

Yesterday, I was in bed for most of the day. Not to jinx us, but I think we're on the road from misery to happiness. Despite being laid low, I got some baking done over the weekend (before being struck down Monday night) and some acorn gathering for my mom who volunteers at the Simi Valley Historical Society & hosts children's Chumash tours. The kids get to grind acorns. The SV Historical Society's acorn supply was decimated by a mold. Fortunately, one of our local parks has a huge harvest of acorns.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Swing Revisited

My youngest son and I returned to the swing with friends. I think my son's face says it all. Thanks for the picture, Steph.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Shantyboat by Harlan Hubbard

I had not heard of Harlan or Anna Hubbard and their journey drifting down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers when our friend David loaned me Shantyboat. He's from Kentucky where the story of Shantyboat is more well known. My attention was hooked after just a few minutes of looking at Harlan Hubbard's hand drawn map at the beginning of the book that details six years aboard their homemade shantyboat.

The Hubbard's built their boat just east of Cincinnati on the Ohio River. Harlan finishes the making the boat in 1944. The river rises floating the shantyboat off the land. They moar their boat there at Brent, Ohio, before casting off down the river two years later, drifting with the current of the river during winter and harboring each spring and summer to grow food, can and restock their provisions for the following winter of drifting.

Their story captivated my imagination and shared the rewards of a simple life unfolding via an extraordinary slow journey of mindfulness. Theirs is a journey of drifting but it is not aimless or lacking intention. And while they are adrift, they nurture a rich social life building community with others who live with and near the river.

I gifted the book to Eric for his birthday and to my father for Christmas. Shantyboat is a wonderful read.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lemon Preserves

After tasting the most delicious lemon preserves made by Homegrown Neighbor and Full Circle Gardening proprietress Lora Hall, I was inspired to make some with the fruit of our prolific lemon tree. Instead of a sweet spread, the lemon preserves were tangy and salty and fantastically delicious over beans and quinoa.

I plucked a hoard of lemons from our tree and followed Hunter Angler Gardener Cook's recipe. The recipe calls for an enormous amount of salt. Frankly, a horrifying amount a salt. Enough salt to make me think that the results will be unpalatable. I've put them aside to cure until early February. I'm looking forward to trying them when they are ready.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leo Carrillo State Beach

I always feel a bit strange writing about good weather in mid-January, especially when a lot of people are suiting up in cold-weather snow gear before they open the door. But it's days like this that I am forgiving of the annoying aspects of living in Los Angeles and feel grateful to be close to the Pacific Ocean at this specific latitudinal juncture.

We took advantage of the beautiful weather to end the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend by heading to Leo Carrillo State Beach just north of Point Dume in Malibu.

In the tide pools, my oldest son spotted a vacated shell of an urchin. Mussels blanketed the rocks like a nubby quilt. Caves were explored (free of pirates, Eric assured our youngest son).

Next time, I'd like to be at the beach all day and night. It is the rare moment in CA when you can roll up to a camp site at a state beach without reservations. These are the benefits of winter.

And a super sunny warm day makes it all that much more sweet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Weekend Beekeeping

After a lengthy absence, we made it to a Backwards Beekeeping meeting. It is frankly thrilling to see the amount of people interested in beekeeping.

Kirk Anderson was there, of course, spreading the gospel of chemical free beekeeping. I have no idea why this guy doesn't have his own television show or at least rule the greater portion of the universe. He is an amazing speaker. So thoughtful and incredibly witty.

Scooters were brought to Farmlab. I remember when this guy could barely see over the handle bars. His older brother chose to recline and read a book; later in the evening, he (the older brother) succumbed to a nasty stomach flu, poor guy.

Inspired by the meeting, Eric and I came back home and took a look at our hive. This was my maiden voyage. Eric has been the go-to beekeeper at our house while I've been hanging with the kids inside. The kids are finally old enough to be trusted to watch us through the window while we work (although the youngest made a mad naked dash to visit us prior to opening the hive. He returned to his perch by the window, but I think he is a prime candidate for a beekeeper suit.). My suit was an anniversary gift from Eric which is one of the best anniversary gifts ever. My suit came with an Eric drawing about the birds and the bees. I find myself gazing at that card often.

I understand bee fever completely. I'm already an avid proponent of beekeeping, especially Backward Beekeeping. It's about observation and being a true student of the bees.

Under Eric's tutelage (while the boys stayed safely inside the house), we inspected the hive. The bees are drawing comb and producing honey. I did not see the any brood (I only pulled out three frames from the top box). Next time we open the hive, we will do much more. We have some deep frames in the bottom boxes. We plan to take the hive apart & pull out those frames and replace them with the regular sized frames. I'm really looking forward to suiting up and working with the bees.

Kirk, we'll have those deep frames back to you soon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kid Date Hike

My oldest son and I stole away for a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. We found a rope swing and tested it with reckless abandon.

We brought sketchbooks and spent time watching and listening to water. A Rufous hummingbird flew right by us and hovered next to us for a full two minutes.

Shoes were shed. Trees were climbed.

I love solo dates one on one with my kids. We spend so much time together as a family, it really is a treat to have some date time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Olive Clean-up

Another olive season has passed without any curing or pressing of olives at Camp Ramshackle. It's not for lack of desire to use the olives but because of this:

This is the larvae of the Mediterranean Olive fly. The only organic way to fight it is to spray with an organic bug spray called Spinosad and use a specific kind of yeast in traps that will hopefully keep the populations down. We don't want to spray our trees with anything and I just haven't gotten around to ordering the yeast tablets to bait traps with. My plan is to cut the tree's down to a manageable size, then use the bait to catch as many of the flies as possible before the next big fruiting season (they happen every two years) Maybe by then we'll have our act together and can actually make better use of the fruit.

For now though it all just goes to the compost. Six wheel barrows so far this season with probably another six to go. I know, it's a shame but we'll get it figured out sooner or later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Washing Used Toys

We Ramshacklers like to peruse garage sales. This weekend we stopped and picked up a bunch of track pieces at a nearby sale that build on something Santa left us. Buying used stuff saves money, keeps stuff out of the landfill but does nothing for the economic recovery. Oh well - two out of three ain't bad.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Small Repairs Foster Great Satisfaction

The chenille bedspread from my paternal grandmother already showed signs of wear when I inherited it six years ago. Over time, the the thinning threads near the top of the spread finally broke and grew into two small tears.

I have learned from experience that it is best to repair a tear early. Avoiding and/or postponing the repair results in heartache. The tear gets worse, and I reprimand myself for not taking better care of what I have, which unleashes a long trail of self-inquiry that frankly is better spent weeding in the garden or focusing on maintaining/repairing other things.

I made a small patch from some floral flannel to cover the hole on the interior side of the blanket. And sewed larger patches on the exterior of a bright pink with dragonflies.

I found it easier to hand sew the project than try to wrestle the fabric under the arm of my sewing machine. I don't think it would have fit either. And I like the hand stitched look of the patches.

While working on my project, my youngest son was inspired to do some stitching himself. Very exciting for me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Powell's Books in Portland OR

Powells Books in Oregon

Any trip to Portland, OR, should include time spent at Powell's Books. We enjoyed a few hours (that flew by like minutes) browsing the aisles. Powell's supports a nice display for Homegrown Evolution's The Urban Homestead.

Powells Books in Oregon

I'm looking forward to the release of Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen's new book this year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ramshackle Runs Amok in Portland, OR: Part III

There is much to love about Portland. Fine food is always at the top of my list. We ate at Dove Vivi, a cornmeal crust cousin to the delicious Zelo pizza in Arcadia. The owners of Dove Vivi worked at Zelo before moving to Portland. Zelo's Mike Freeman helped them set up Dove Vivi. Yummy fare with homemade pickled vegetables as well as the signature delectable cornmeal crust pizza.

Dove Vivi is adjacent to a laundromat and has overcome the architecture of the mini strip mall where it resides by removing the acoustic ceiling tiles. The interior is simple and pleasant.

Food carts are all the rage in Portland. We did not eat at the Kabob Hut, but I fell in love with the hand painted sign and red plastic tire cover.

My youngest worked on sculptures in a public square.

We all took part in some steam window drawings.

My oldest caught the sun with his "suncatcher" (which I imagine right now in Portland is in great demand). We were graced with sun every day (rain too, but that is to be expected). We spent a great deal of time at Powell's Books, a short walk away from the Ace Hotel. I understand the allure of Portland. It's a beautiful place with water all around. The public transportation system is so easy and goes everywhere. The food is fantastic. And the people are interesting. Did I mention the food is top notch? Alluring, indeed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ramshackle Runs Amok in Portland, OR: Part II

In addition to visiting the Spruce Goose just outside of Portland, Eric and I were interested in checking out the Ace Hotel. The Ace Hotel has four hotels with interiors designed by up and coming designers using affordable materials. We decided a trip up north could get us out of L.A. for a bit, unite us with the H-4 Hercules a.k.a. Spruce Goose and allow us a glimpse of the Ace Hotel in Portland.

The public lobby spaces were great places to hang out and people watch. Adjoining the lobby on the west: Stumptown Coffee; on the east, fine eats: Clyde Common.

Downstairs a genuine film-photo booth processed photos in under four minutes. In our room, we enjoyed a turntable with a private dance geek out to Herbie Hancock's Rockit (to my knowledge, the children's first listen. It was memorable. The video, however, will remain private for the kids to share at their discretion.)

The stairwell.

Sleeping kids under a diagram of a flip turn.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ramshackle Runs Amok in Portland, OR: Part I

In the midst of a bit of online/blog house-keeping, I mentioned I would write about our trip to OR. To start the new year off right and be true to my word, I share the story here. (If I mentioned writing or sharing some other story/tidbit that I have not addressed and you really want to know/hear, please either leave a message in the comments or send an email or messenger pigeon to my attention. Otherwise, all unfulfilled promises will lay dormant until beckoned.)

In early November, the Ramshackle crew took to the skies and landed in Portland, Oregon for a few days. What pulled us to Portland? Good food? The enticement of a bike-centric city? Friends and family? Powell's Books? All those things were alluring, but the big draw for us rested in a hanger just under 40 miles south west of Portland. The Spruce Goose.

After our summer trips to Catalina Island (Two Harbors & Avalon), Eric and I pulled the kids down Windsor Way in Long Beach next to the permanently docked Queen Mary ocean liner (turned hotel) to get a glimpse of the Spruce Goose. While walking to the hanger known as the Dome where I visited Howard Hughes' gigantic aquatic plane in my youth, I was struck by the amount of people wearing big floppy hats, pulling enormous suitcases on wheels. I thought, "We are weird people who go to see the Spruce Goose." As we approached the hanger, the people got stranger and stranger. I looked up and saw a giant sign welcoming us to the Carnival Cruise Line portal. Much to my oldest son's disappointment, the Spruce Goose was no longer housed there (and hadn't been since 1992 when the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum was awarded the custody of the Spruce Goose by the Walt Disney Co. that purchased the plane from Jack Wrather who bought the plane after Hughes death in 1976).

We found out that the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum outside of Portland, OR, was now home of the Spruce Goose. We came home from our ill-fated expedition and began planning our trip to visit the Spruce Goose.

The not-so-new home to the SG, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum did not disappoint. We were able to walk all around and under the Spruce Goose and enter inside. We even were able to touch a bit of moon rock.