Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Refillable Pen and Ink

Noodler's Ink & promotional pen

I love a good pen. Long, long ago in a job a million mind-miles away from where I am now, my former boss gifted each of her reports, me being one of them, a nice pen. A Tombo rollerball. Through her gift, I learned I liked nice pens.

I used that pen daily until, like an expensive pair of sunglasses, I lost it...where? I do not know. What I do know is I had become accustomed to writing with a good pen and removed myself from the irritating waste of disposable pens. I realized that one good pen was all I really needed. I replaced the pen with another Tombo rollerball that I used for nine years before losing that one. I hope whoever found it loves it as much as I did.

As I had become particularly attached to that pen, I found it difficult to replace. The style I used was no longer made, and I didn't particularly like the "upgrade" model. My replacement search would be in fits and starts. I didn't buy disposable pens, I merely used the flotsam that floated my way.

fountain pen nib

Until one day, I was incredibly moved by a post on The Tangled Nest to join the fountain pen revolution. With myopic clarity, I sent out on my quest to find a fountain pen. I went to Vroman's fine writing store and made the ill-fated choice to buy a Pilot Knight fountain pen. My hesitation was allayed by the one-year money back guarantee from Pilot pens (don't believe it...but that's another story). I sent my pen back to Pilot when I realized it really wasn't up to snuff and headed back to Vroman's (thinking then that my Pilot pen was guaranteed for a year and I'd be reimbursed for the faulty merchandise...silly me. I just believed what Pilot pens wrote in their paper work that accompanied their product) to find a new pen.

rollerball nib

Am I glad I gave fountain pens a second chance. I ended up buying the Noodler's Ink promotional pen that is included with a bottle of ink after spying a Vroman's clerk writing with one. The pen comes with a fountain pen tip nib (that I prefer) and a roller ball with a hand made ebonite feed. I paid $24 for 4.5 ounces of ink and the pen came with it. Eric liked it so much that I got one for him too.

A great investment. Unlike my former beloved Tombo pen, my Noodler's Ink promotional pen doesn't use ink cartridges. You simply use a dropper to fill the ink. Waste be damned. I'm hoping that I'm going to break my nine year record with this pen. I'm hoping to double it or more.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Making Raisins

We made a bunch of raisins with some of the grapes we got last week. I would guess it's a couple of pounds worth - sweet and delicious. Now we can eat them over the next several weeks. We were just starting to get sick of eating them fresh so our timing worked out pretty well.

We learned something about dehydrating grapes into raisins though - blanch them for a few seconds before putting them in the dehydrator. It makes the dehydration much quicker by causing tiny fissures in the skins.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sidewalk Score

We always keep our eyes peeled on the side of the road around our neighborhood for free stuff people are discarding. When someone has something that they think is worth keeping but that they no longer have a use for they put it out on the curb near but not in the trash.

Such was the case with this small haul of quality items: 3 Ikea boxes, a plate with a stylish map of Manhattan and a cross section slice of a log.

You may be surprised to hear that the log is the best of the score because it perfectly fits beneath the bell-jar I keep my Shiitake log under. The log is not pictured here because it was being soaked in ice water. The extra cool thing about the log slice is that it has a split which I expect will act as a perfect vent to let in air.

Not sure what we'll do with the Manhattan plate but it's in great condition and quirky enough to be at home in our place. I think it's kind of the stray dog principle applied to a plates: the right ones seem to find you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grape Bounty

We were at my mom's place last week to celebrate her birthday when I noticed some beautiful grapes hanging from here trellis. These were the remainders of the harvest that she couldn't reach - the rest had been cleared our recently to prevent a mess. So much fruit goes to waste in peoples backyards just because they can't handle the bounty.

I gladly volunteered to harvest what was left with a ladder. I would estimate the haul at about ten pounds and it was just a fraction of what the vine produced. I don't know which variety these are but they were seedless and delicious.

We washed the grapes well, then gave about half of the haul to some of our nearest neighbors ( 4 houses at a little over a pound each). Kept about 2 pounds for ourselves to eat fresh and made raisins with the rest.

We are considering planting our own vine once we figure out which varietal these are but we will definitely be checking in with my mom on the grapes from her vine a little earlier next year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Lizard Rescue

Our youngest boy's first lizard rescue. Our place is crawling with baby lizards right now - buckets and the like are major hazards. This one was rescued from our outdoor bath tub.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Alaskan Driftwood Scavenging

Within minutes of our arrival to Pennock Island across the Narrows of Ketchikan, my eight year old nephew eagerly set out with as many compatriots as he could corral together on an expedition to scavenge driftwood for a bonfire. He is captain of his own scavenged ship, The Log.

As I understand it, The Log was obtained through salvage rights after it was found floating past my nephew's house partially submerged in water. He cajoled my brother (his dad) into helping him retrieve the boat. My brother worried it was another project that would add time to the ever growing list of projects. However, The Log is sturdy. Pulled from the water, she was righted & in action ever since. The seaworthy vessel brings freedom of discovery to an eight year old captain and his crew. The Log just may be my nephew's greatest childhood acquisition.

The Log helps make bonfires like this possible. All the wood used was harvested using The Log, gathered by an eight year old, six year old, five year old & three year old. No adult collected wood.

In between roasting hot dogs, seaweed and marshmallows, we walked down to the shoreline to observe this fine purple starfish.

Driftwood fires are smokey. The AK Posey's have adopted tools, namely goggles, for dealing with the smoke.

Thank you to Clark, Katy, our beautiful nieces and nephew for the spectacular time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Humpback Whales from our Alaska Trip

We saw this whale bubble feeding while on our way to the Alaska Posey's favorite beach. Although I wasn't able to catch it with it's mouth out of the water this is still a pretty cool view of it diving after the fact. I have had a great month for viewing sea mammals up close.

Julia here to add a bit to Eric's post. A day or so later, my sister-in-law, her friend Becca, Becca's lovely mother Nancy, my kids, Becca's kids, a nephew and I followed a humpback down the Narrows between Ketchikan and Pennock Island. We were treated to a beautiful sunset and some spectacular whale watching with a vantage point so close, we could see into the whale's mouth as it burst through the surface, mouth wide open to swallow the rewards of bubble feeding.

the circle of bubbles forms

the humpback emerges mouth wide open

the whale's mouth snaps shut & retreats into the water

another dive & the bubble feeding starts again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crawlspace Door Fix

One of the crawlspace doors always had a flimsy wire tie to keep it shut. Finally the nail that the wire was tied to came out and we needed to create a more permanent closure.

We used one of our favorite techniques: a primitive latch made from a small piece of Toyon. In this case it required two.

The Toyon is very hard wood, beautiful and very durable but it could never be commercially harvested. We get just enough around our place from pruning to do small projects like this one with. No trip to the store, natural, effective, made in America (except for the screws probably) and done. Next project!

related links:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Handmade Silk Thread

Here's a pic of the silk thread I made from our own home raised silk worms. I boiled two cocoons for about 5 min. after the moths emerged and stretched out the silk so that it looked like what is showing in my hand. As I metered out the fluff I twisted it and wrapped it onto the half of a cork. I wanted to try to add another cocoon to see if I could make the thread continuous. It worked pretty well. I ended up with two yards of thread and it took about 2 hours to do.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Raising silkworms is a tradition at our son's preschool. There are several mulberry trees there so it makes keeping them really easy.

For us it was a little more difficult because we don't have a nearby mulberry tree that we know of so we had to keep a sharp eye out for them when we needed to harvest leaves in order to keep our caterpillars happy and healthy.

Once they started to spin their cocoons I started to think about harvesting the silk.
Eventually all of our caterpillars turned into moths and we were left with empty cocoons. Like chickens - the moths have lost the ability to fly so you can keep them in a box like we did quite easily. The traditional way to harvest the silk is to boil the cocoons pupae and all before the moths emerge leaving only enough to lay eggs for the next cycle.

The moths are really cute once the emerge from the cocoons. The don't have mouths and only live for about two weeks with nothing to do but procreate. We have far more eggs than we need for next year so we might choose to boil some pupae before they hatch. Some people even eat them but I'd have to be pretty hungry for that to happen. We let all of ours come out before I decided to try to make some thread from the cocoons. Even though I have no experience and did no research, it worked pretty well. I'll write about that in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fresh Alaskan Halibut

So much I meant to share sooner, but I was sucked into the moment and the documentarian in me said f*&% it and simply enjoyed the moment. We were in Alaska with family watching humpback whales bubble feed, and spent time with family watching the tide change.

Dramatic. Mundane. Lovely. Perfect.