Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Brings Pomegranates

Camp Ramshackle anticipates the ripe pomegranate all year. We have one large tree that typically yields a hearty harvest, enough to juice and enjoy until December if not longer, and two small trees. My sons have been eyeing the pomegranates as they grow. My youngest harvested the reddest one he could find on the small tree.

When my oldest returned home from school, his first stop was for his share of the harvested fruit.

We all enjoyed a few bites, but I think we'll let the other fruit ripen just a bit more. The late season pomegranate with it's sweet ruby fruits is a taste sensation decidedly worth the wait.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Task

While Eric was tending to trailer plumbing and having mummified squirrels drop on him, the boys busied themselves with important tasks at hand. Building a trap.

Pounding rocks and making rock dust.

Evolving the trap into a boat where you eat your lunches, sail with a parent and head out there first thing in the overcast morning to get warm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Plumbing: Fixing the Trailer Drain

The drain in our trailer slowed to a stop and was dripping out the bottom after our most recent guests departed (not so recently). It's been on my list for that whole time but hasn't made it to the top until our friend Phoenix called and said he'd be passing through L.A.

Plumbing is not my forte but this project went very well; I was able to fix the problem with a spare part we had on hand and only had to buy a single rubber washer and a drain snake (a missing staple of the tool box which we have needed in the past). In the picture above you can see the removed piece that was leaking. It had been patched with some kind of goo that was no longer holding.

We had a rubber boot like thing that I had bought for another project where professionals were ultimately called in to save the day. You can see it in the top of the picture (taken by our 4 year old son) on the stump where I cut the two pieces of plastic pipe apart with a hacksaw.

I guess the original idea was that the white pipe would fit into the black one and it would just drain down which probably worked fine until the pipe backed up. Then they needed put the goo patch on.

Once the pipes were cut apart I had to knock the remaining end of the black pipe off the white one with a hammer. Then I used a hatchet to scrape te rest of the goo off the pipes so they were smooth.

Here it is reassembled. Once I snaked out the drain a few times it almost worked but then I found that the connection at the bottom of the shower needed to be cleaned and have a new gasket installed.

click to enlarge if you dare!

While I was under the trailer reaching up into the very cramped space trying to wrench the pipes back on wihout cutting my arms on the sheetmetal, I had the exciting experience of this mummified squirel dropping out on me. It was straight out of a horror film. My best guess is that the area under the tub had been left open for long enough for it to make a home in there and then was closed up with the poor critter still inside.

Now it's back to the nightstands.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cooper's Hawk & Crow Fighter Pilots

In the park next to my son's preschool, I noticed a bit of bird excitement in a towering sycamore. A small flock of crows were in a thither. As I walked closer, I saw the source of their consternation: a perched Cooper's Hawk most likely in search of food in the form of crow fledgling. About six crows dive bombed the Cooper's Hawk in a sortie-like attack. The Cooper's Hawk flew like a jet fighter master, drop descending and and making sharp breaks and turns that easily sloughed off the more cumbersome crow.

The power of the crows was in their numbers. Although the Cooper's Hawk easily outflew them, the successive attacks kept the Cooper's Hawk on the run. But the swift hawk would often dodge a darting crow and turn his/her defense into an attack by flying closely on the tail of the crow. The crow would abort the mission and pull away from the Cooper's Hawk. The crows would team up and return to confront the tireless hawk. The avian scene played like a World War II film filled with dramatic Air Force fight scenes.

Breathtaking to the grounded observer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Homemade Nightstands

The nightstands are coming along. The drawers are fitted and working. I just need to add legs, do a little more sanding and finish them. I'm thinking beeswax polish over a dark stain.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One Dollar Wardrobe Enhancement

Introducing the "100% pure silk Tri-Tie made in Japan" scarf. I picked it up at the Sierra Madre Woman's Wistaria Thrift Shop.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making Drawers

I'm trying to finish a year long project of building nightstands. This morning I am getting ready to stain the drawers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stumped Love

School is back in session. The night time cool hits us late in the evening, which is appearing earlier and earlier. Fall is scratching at the door. Although I'm always sad to say good bye to summer, I've always loved fall.

After school, the boys and I set out for an impromptu local hike to balance the changes. We scamper up a canyon near school to catch frogs, traverse a river in flip flops, smell water on rocks, observe and experience.

A portion of the creek is cleared of trees. Nearby, the remnants of long trunks and limbs lay portioned into neat stacks. One stump speaks clearly to us, "I love you". I wonder about the hand that carved it; the person who inspired the carving. The longing looks at each other. The touch of the knife on the tree with the carver's mind wandering to the love interest who inspired the desecration of the bark. A bit of love lingers etched on the tree long after the sharp cut.

I wonder about the circumstances that felled the tree. I think about the person that took the time to cut the inscription so thoughtfully. All these possibilities bundle together, an emotional maelstrom lived in the past, and I feel the sentiment so thoroughly in my own way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Building Steps

Our house is built on a hillside which makes some areas of the yard difficult to traverse. I've wanted to build some kind of steps in one particular area up in back for a long time. The slope has been getting more and more eroded and slippery from the dogs running up and down.

I made the first step by hauling a log up from the lower yard. It had been down there since before we moved in nine years ago. I moved it while clearing weeds and realized that it was now hollow and light enough (80 lbs.?) that I could move it myself by tipping it end over end to get it up the hill.

In the picture above you can see it in place. I was pleased enough that I decided to keep going looking for other logs and pieces of wood that might be used for other steps. You can get a sense of how slippery this particular area was from the area above the log (sorry no before pics - btw the pipe sticking out of the ground was from a long gone wooden terrace wall). The next thing I did was add the cross section of trunk we kept from a removed eucalyptus tree you can see in the first picture.

The top step was made from a wedge of the same tree. It fit perfectly but wouldn't have stayed put without pinning it in. The same was true of the logs I used at the bottom of the short stairway.

To hold those pieces in place I used a two foot long piece of half inch rebar. I have a long drill bit that I bought just for this purpose. The picture above shows the rebar hammered in so that it is just poking out the bottom of the log. It gives you a sense of how much gets hammered in below the surface - about a foot and a half.

Hammering the rebar is a workout. There is quite a bit of friction as it moves through the wood and into the ground. The sledge hammer will begin to mushroom the top of the rebar as it goes in creating kind of a nail-head that grabs and holds the wood in place as it goes in flush.

The dappled light made pictures difficult but this is the best view I could get of the finished steps. The bottom log and the the top wedge-like piece were both pinned with rebar (5 pieces total) but other than that everything was as local as it gets - grown in our own yard.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Celebrating Seven

Seven years ago, this great guy made his introduction to this world on Labor Day. I remember the day so clearly. I never imagined how much my life would change. Not in the way so many people had warned me...often speaking in terms of loss. When this guy entered my life, my life became so much richer.

He has taught me (and continues to teach me) the limitless depths of love with his beauty and grace.

As a new parent, I was also told that the journey of parenting just gets better. I thought it was pretty spectacular from the get-go. I am amazed that it does get even better.

Happy birthday, dear son. Being with you on this journey is one of life's greatest pleasures.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Newest Lizard Catcher Turns Four

The youngest Ramshackler nabs his second lizard in an unassisted catch.

The catch happens at the tail end of his third year. The Lizard Catcher says he hopes to catch a dragon lizard this year.

I remember fondly his first day when this sweet soul entered our family. Although we lacked nothing, he made our family complete. Happy birthday, sweet son.