Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hoop and Pole

On May 4th, 2013, my youngest son's preschool will hold Carnival, a big spring fundraiser for his school at Sierra Vista Park in Sierra Madre, a classic spring celebration with popcorn, games, petting zoo and pony rides. Carnival also houses a booth of handmade items. Each family attending the preschool is required to donate an item each year.

This year, I was inspired by my mother and the simple "hoop and pole". My mom volunteers at the Simi Valley Historical Society. Together with her friend and fellow docent Rosey, my mom gives presentations about the Chumash tribes that used to live in Simi Valley. The hoop and pole was a classic toy given to Chumash boys to help develop hand-eye coordination for hunting. These hoop and poles are for boys, girls and adults. Hunting entirely optional. A simple fun game that seems to occupy many around this house for long stretches of time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hand Stacked Yard Rubble into Reading Bench

I wanted to plant some Barbecue rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Barbecue') in the yard. The bush typically grows 4-6 feet with hearty branches that can be used for barbecue skewers. I imagined it would go in the front planter beds to double as delicious and ornamental. I realized it would be quite sweet next to the steps Eric made years ago when our older son was just a toddler, who witnessed the entire project from the dirt narrating with hand gestures, "Scoop it up. Dump it." 

A gap between the stairs and wall needed to be retained to make a proper planter bed area. So I followed Eric's lead and built a dry stack wall/reading bench to close the gap. I used yard detritus of broken concrete and brick and carefully selected pieces for balance. 

I back filled the area and used dirt and sand on hand to help secure the rocks. All for the love of rosemary. Fingers crossed now I remember to water and that it stays protected from the fleet footed dog.

After finishing this project, I went to the canyon with kids and parents for a day out. Two young men were camping next to where we set up our day camp. One of the guys filled the canyon with these amazing rock sculptures delicately balanced throughout the canyon.

I had such respect for his work.

Some reminding me of a more rugged Brancusi sculpture.

I returned to the canyon a week later with a better camera in hopes of getting clearer pictures with better light. Each sculpture was gone, returned to the rock pile below. But for a moment, the rocks were rearranged, reaching up and upright.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring Changes

Spring is humming in Southern California. The blue ceanothus blossoms are thick with bees in search of pollen. After the loss of our bees and the subsequent swarm at a friend's house, shaken into a box and relocated here, we are back to two hives thanks to an additional swarm that simply moved into a prepped hive Eric had readied and placed empty on our property. Although I've heard bees do this and even heard fellow Backwards Beekeepers give sworn testament that it has happened to them, I had my doubts we'd have the luck for it to happen to us. But there they were. In the hive. Busy. Buzzing. Doing the work that bees do. It was like finding a wrapped present left on your doorstep containing exactly what you hoped for in your most delicious daydreams.

With spring comes extreme hair. After over a year of repeated requests by the boys for mohawks, Eric pulled out the clippers and granted their wish.

And my youngest son sports some facial least for a brief time. A distinguished gentleman to be sure.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yellow-rumped Warbler at Rest

A Yellow-rumped Warbler carrion at my youngest son's preschool. The beauty of something so delicate and your hands. An exquisite experience. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tomato Starts in My Kitchen

I have aspirations to grow great tomatoes, thick heirloom slicers and rich San Marzanos for canning. To date, my greatest success has been the small cherry tomatoes, sadly, not a favorite of my home-sharing posse. Thanks to a gift subscription to Mother Earth News from my mother-in-law, I read a great article in the January 2013 issue, "Best Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors" and put the tips to the test. The result is a lovely crop of tomato starts: San Marzanos; the heirlooms: Persimmon, deep orange and reportedly sweet; Black Krim, a "black" tomato from the Russian Black Sea area; & Costoluto, a traditional red slicer from Italy. I will transplant these into larger containers, let them recuperate, then harden them off before planting them outside.

Glancing at my notebook, I found this passage written on 1.19.13, when I first planted the seeds, a collection from Renee's Seeds called Heirloom Summer Feast:
I love the description Heirloom Summer Feast. I imagine a deliciously hot summer, the heat breaking in the early evening, perhaps salty skin recently returned home from the beach. Smiles. Lethargic limbs happily made tired from an ocean swim. A pitcher of lemonade, ice clanking on the sides, fresh mint swirling. A plate of tomatoes, the orange persimmons, the beefy red of the Costoluto and the dark purple of the Black Krim, sliced evenly on a plate, a drizzle of olive oil, crunchy salt flakes and a bit of pepper.
Please grow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tree House Humble Beginnings

Eric took boys, wood, screws and nails and constructed this tree platform in our pepper tree. The boys have a special password, whoever gets there first is the keeper of the gate.

A simple place. Simply wonderful.

Other updates. Lots of gardening. This is an active time for the Southern Californian gardener. I sowed some Eschscholzia californica aka California poppy anticipating tomorrow's rain. And finally got a succulent garden planted. To date, I've gardened most of my succulents in pots. I look forward to watching the growth. In the tree house. In the ground.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Back in Beesness!

Thanks to a wonderful friend and a recent swarm at her home, we are back in bees! The swarm was captured by Steve of Bee Catchers and delivered to our door. I was with the dog at the vet. Eric took the bees and dumped them into our hive. He poured them a plateful of honey in the top feeder instead of using sugar water. After almost a week, I'm happy to say the bees are still here. I was watching them leave and return with legs packed with pollen.

I'm still on the look out for another swarm. I would like to capture it myself. We'd like to have two hives to insure ourselves from being beeless in the future.

Thanks so much to Jackie for the swarm and Steve for the hive capture and delivery. We are so grateful & very happy to be back in bees.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Desert Celebration

My good friend celebrated her birthday with a party in the desert. The rendez vous location: 29 Palms Inn. A flourless chocolate cake and pavlova were in order.

Add candles, creosote, desert night, the smell of it all. Everyone together cycling around the sun, filling our lives with experiences that we share together. Moments apart. In retrospect, these experiences become stories. The stories of our lives. Epic. Mundane. Pieces that fit together. Sliced apart. Compiled together. All complete.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Promise of Lemons to Come

The delicate blossom bears the promise of future fruit. Our little lemon tree returns to its former glory.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Two weeks ago, we noticed usual activity surrounding the bees. When we went to investigate, we saw our hive was under attack by robber bees. Eric reduced the entrance to the hive. I covered the hive in a sheet.

But our measures we no match for the robber bees. Within a day, our six box high hive was an empty shell of the thriving bee metropolis it once was.

Eric pulled what honey he could from the hive. I cannot express the deep sadness and loss I feel. I went out the very same day on a quest to pick up a swarm. A friend said she had spotted one. When I arrived to the canyon, the bees were not there. I now have a mobile swarm capture box with veil, spray bottle for sugar water and assorted tools to help with the acquisition in the back of my car. We are on the cusp of swarm season. I hope to pick up two swarms to start two new hives at Camp Ramshackle. If you see any swarm in the LA area, in particular Northeast LA or Pasadena, please post a comment to let me know. I'm on the hunt.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

Flourless chocolate cake to be exact. A dear friend celebrates a significant birthday this year. To celebrate, I presented her with a flourless chocolate cake. Our dear friend Phoenix has been making quite a few lately. I used his recipe. Wonderfully easy to make. And the product is tastebud poppingly delicious.

What week doesn't deserve a bit of celebration? Wednesday for being Wednesday. Birthday optional, I say. Give yourself a gift and make a flourless chocolate cake.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
12 oz. chocolate (I use the dark chocolate chips from Whole Foods)
1 cup Earth's Balance (butter for dairy eaters)
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 dairy free milk (or regular)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Oil and dust 9" spring form pan.
2. Melt chocolate.
3. Cream butter, add sugar, eggs, melted chocolate, cocoa powder and milk. Transfer batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Although in my oven, I bake it for a full hour until the top cracks. Let cool on a cake rack. Break from spring form pan. Dust with powdered sugar. Eat and be happy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cork Bandolier

Pirates, or at least pirate weaponry, are hot again at Camp Ramshackle. My youngest son with his art director sensibility decided he would like to make a bandolier. We talked about the project and came up with this idea that made for a fun afternoon project. Plus, he looks pretty wicked and ready for the high seas now. Calico Jack, take note.

29 corks
2 toothpicks
2 pieces twine, approximately 48" each

Tape the toothpicks to the end of the twine. This will serve as a sewing needle to attach the corks. We color coded the toothpicks, which helped us assemble the corks without twisting the bandolier.

Drill two holes in each cork about a half inch from the ends. I used a larger drill bit so it would be easy to pass the toothpick needles through the holes.

Sew the corks together using both twines parallel to each other.

To secure the cork in place, loop back into the same hole.

And tighten. Once all your corks are on, size the bandolier to fit your pirate, then tie off the ends.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I received a call from my funny friend Maryellen Hooper. "Is everything okay?" she asked. We talked for about an hour as she returned home from from a comedy gig. We talked about holidays, family, yada yada yada. In the end she said in what's with the blog? How come you aren't writing as much? I explained I had been writing quite a bit but not on the blog. I've been at work on some projects.

Maryellen understands this. Two years ago, Maryellen went through a similar dryspell with her Stinky Flowers blog. She had an eyeopening experience when she realized she had written a total of seven entries for the entire year. She made a resolution to write more and as a woman of her word, has done so.

This new year, I have made only one resolution. To laugh more. Not that I don't already laugh a lot, but I want to laugh more. Good thing I have friends like Maryellen. She keeps me laughing. And I appreciate the blogging nudge, Maryellen.