Monday, February 28, 2011

Seed Starts

I planted chamomile, arugula, sorrel, cucumbers and sunflowers for transplanting this weekend. The chamomile, arugula and one sunflower have already sprouted.

I also started some succulent cuttings after planting some in my youngest son's preschool garden.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Outdoor Tub Set Up

Galvanized tin tubs are in wide use at Camp Ramshackle. The kids bathe in them. Mulch is moved with them. Trees tended. Seas sailed. They hold icy beverages when the kids and mulch are fished out. Eric and I had many late night ruminations about getting a tub in our size and even went as far as acquiring a decomposing redwood tub via freecycle when I succumbed to the great redwood tub delusion.

This Christmas, Eric presented me with an oblong stock tank and outdoor propane shower. After finishing tent repair in our weekend of tending to lingering projects, we worked on the outdoor tub. A permanent location has not been determined. Instead the tub launches it's tour of Camp Ramshackle debuting outside the kitchen just above the patio area.

This could be the permanent location or perhaps one of many. It can go pretty much anywhere, but it needs to be near enough a water source. I moved some pavers that came with the house and serve a path that is no longer used and played with repurposing them as a tub floor.

This was a great day for outdoor bathing at Camp Ramshackle. Even in this elementary set up, the adult sized galvanized tub delivers. Kid tested. Parent approved. A running joke with Eric and I after a long day, is "I'm just going to sit in the hot tub." Now, we actually can.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tent Repair

The roof on our outdoor room/wall tent developed a small tear. The neglected small tear evolved into a large tear. This weekend, Eric and I made a point to focus on some lingering projects and tending to the tent was high on the list.

In between Saturday's rain showers, we covered the hole with a tarp and sewed it in place. The heavily sun exposed canvas was quite brittle, but the stitches held.

I recommend a canvas sun shade/rain fly to prolong the life of the tent. Our tent still has a summer a head of it, but it has weathered quite a bit since pitching it four years ago.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Found Bushtit Nest

The boys and I ventured to Garfield Park in South Pasadena. The conventional playground equipment wasn't as compelling at "The Jungle", an older stone amphitheater a few steps north of the playground. We made our way to "The Jungle" where rains had made a wonderful lake around a picnic table. My oldest made a bridge with found pieces of palm tree fronds from land to table. A group of kids joined in the play and the bridge was widened.

While the kids were playing, I found this bushtit nest on the ground. The intricate beauty of this carefully woven nest takes my breath away. What an exquisite home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Free "Urban Homestead"

Ok, I really want to take the high road here - but it is so hard with such an easy target. The fact is that the Dervae's whom we have admired and posted about in the past have registered the term Urban Homestead. The self sufficient, green, gardening, urban homesteading community and blogosphere is wielding pitchforks over it - as it should be.

Mr. Arellano posts a large picture of Ramshackle friends Kelly and Erik's book at the top of the page - likely two of the people most affected by this development since their book's title is of course: The Urban Homestead.

Here's a quote from the article to give you an idea of the scope of the Dervaes' efforts:

Harriet Ells, producer for KCRW-FM 89.9's Good Food With Evan Kleiman (for which I contribute) just tweeted that the Dervaeses sent them a cease-and-desist letter because they used the term in a blog post. The irony of this, of course, is that Kleiman joined the family for a meal last summer as part of an episode for Private Chefs of Beverly Hills. They also sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Santa Monica Public Library because the library hosted a free event on urban homesteading. What douches!

If you feel moved to action you can join the Facebook group Take Back Urban Home-steading(s)

One part of me wants to rail against the Dervaes' for being so... and I think I am being extremely generous here: clueless. But another part of me just feels kind of sorry for them. They obviously were not expecting this reaction. I guess you have to wonder: what were they expecting to happen?

Rain Like Diamonds

A bit of Southern California rain
expected to last
all week.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ladybug Assault

The aphid invasion was met with a water spray blitzkrieg followed by a swift ladybug assault, Phase I and Phase II.

Phase I used multiple landings on each artichoke plant with negligible impact. Although I hope aphid morale was hit hard, damage to enemy camp was minimal.

Phase II rolled out two nights later and focused on one location...the artichoke masthead with the greatest aphid occupation. I gracelessly dumped the entire container of ladybug troops late night on one plant in hopes of retiring early, but the lack of over planning worked. The next morning the artichoke was blanketed with ladybirds sucking down aphids. What an awesome site...Aphid Guernica.

But the troops proved unreliable and fled later in the day. Despite their capriciousness, I may launch another late night lady bug drop to follow up to Phase I and II.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gorgeous and Dangerous

I found this black widow behind our love seat in the living room early morning. I had cleaned around the area the afternoon previous to the discovery.

In the few hours between cleaning and discovery, this dangerous beauty had spun a sticky thick strong web covering half the back of the couch and the wall behind it. The spider was nestled under the lip of the window...beautiful but unsuited to live inside our house. I felt a deep respect for her as Eric and I removed her from our home.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Benefits of Boredom

In our over scheduled busy lives, boredom is a necessity. In boredom games with measuring tapes and small cars are created...

...and ingenious search and rescues are devised. Wishing you all a weekend with a bit of boredom thrown in.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Siding with the Seeds

Each year, I'll throw out a handful of California poppy seeds. Some years my sowing, the rains and sun align and the beautiful bright orange Eschscholzia californica blossoms open up stunning in their luminous beauty.

The last few years, I've sown late and haven't had much luck. Despite my failed attempts, I keep at it each year. Much to my surprise, I came home one day to take notice that quite a few seeds have grown into plants.

While I was weeding around the area to make room for the new poppy growth, I noticed some of our dudleya has taken root in the rock crevices just like they grow in the wild. I remember one morning as we were heading out of the house while closing the gate, Eric quickly snapped off some dried dudleya blossoms and shook the seeds over the area. He tossed a few small pups too.

I am intrigued by California's native dudleyas in the wild. They show up in surprising places. Unlike the imported succulents, they grow much more slowly. The parent pictured above started as a one gallon transplant planted four years ago.

In my mind, I see the bright orange California poppy blossoms brightening up the entry to our home in spring. I look forward to seeing the orange play with the browns, dusty greens and colors of the river rock. Buoyed the growth, I plan on sowing different seeds today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shiitake Log

I got this fantastic log for my birthday. It's sugar gum (at least I'm pretty sure that's what they said it was in the paper that came with it). Normally shiitake grow on oak but it's illegal to ship oak limbs into California for fear of importing some pestilence that we don't currently suffer.

To get it to bloom you shock the log by submersing it in ice cold water over night which makes the fungus think spring has sprung once it is removed and warms back up. Sometimes with a new log it takes two shocks before it's ready to bloom. Mine did. And the first bloom is often small which you can see, mine was.

Now that the mushrooms have been harvested (they were delicious by the way) the log needs to be kept moist while it rests in darkness for about a month. When I shock it again it should produce a more bountiful crop.

They look a little like pancakes and in some of the pictures they look like a shelf fungus because the cap is so big and they pushed up against the vertical bark of the log. Next time I might try to tip the log a bit so that the caps might clear the log and fully form. I can't wait.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Aphids Abound

Our star crossed artichokes are growing. The aphids have taken note & set up residence under the leaves of one plant in particular. Our soil is thick with ants. When we first moved into our house, ants launched a monumental assault on the house. Outside, if you'd stick a shovel into the ground, the soil was boiling with ants. We heavily mulched the soils around the house for years, which seemed to dissipate the ant population. But it's still an issue as you can see by the thick covering of underside of the leaves on the artichoke plant pictured above.

I picked up some lady bugs to introduce in the garden tonight. I've tried using lady bugs in the past without much success. The ladybirds seemed overwhelmed in the past & frankly not very interested in eating. Perhaps they were on a diet.

I'm hoping these fine red shelled friends are voraciously hungry and will enjoy the feast.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The darkness that settled on Camp Ramshackle has lingered despite my flippant remark that I felt we were recuperating or, if you believe in a jinx, because of my flippant remark. It feels like the red demon above took up residence in my throat & pulled my voice down to the lower regions of Hades. I've gone four days without being able to speak. I take it as a forceful reminder to listen more and speak less.

I keep hoping that tomorrow my voice will be back. Perhaps my voice has been on a Dantean journey and is ready to scurry past Cerberus. Maybe it will be back tomor... oh, I'm not even going to write it.