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Showing posts from February, 2010

Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

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... I hope blog readers will not be offended by the newer, stricter comment moderation. The spam-spewing robots have found us. I'm mildly amused by the terrible syntax and weird content of some of these messages, but in truth, dealing with them is pretty darn annoying. So, from here on out, people leaving messages will have to type in a " captcha " which is a randomly generated string of letters, designed to filter out the spam-bots. Sorry spam-bots. Sorry drunk ex-boyfriends. I still don't want to share your incoherent writings with everyone reading this blog.

Slouching Tigers with Hidden Flagons

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... The backyard fruit class was fascinating. The woman who taught it had an encyclopedic understanding of the micro-climates of the San Francisco Bay Area, and could discuss (without hesitation) which types of fruits would grow in which areas. The Bay Area has very unique topography, and weather varies dramatically over very small distances. For those interested, here's a link to websites, describing what kinds of fruit can be grown in the Bay Area. I exercised admirable self-control, and only bought a single pluot tree, which I planted before heading out to the Chinese New Year's Treasure Hunt . This is an incredibly fun event , held the same night as the Chinese New Year's parade. Teams have to race all over Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill. You have to figure out the locations of the clues, and then map a route that won't get too tangled up by the parade. Prizes are given for best team name (based on combining the animal of the current lunar

Water in the Garden

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... Around here, there's a lot of emphasis placed on conserving water. Gardeners are urged to find ways to eliminate waste. Many people install drip irrigation systems. But here's the thing: I just *hate* these systems. Miles of hideous plastic hoses, snaking all over the place. Huge costs. Complicated plumbing. And all that non-eco-friendly plastic degrading in the garden! I'm sure that many people are very happy with these systems (although I've heard them described as "drip irritation systems"), but they're just not for me. I've been trawling around the garden blogs, and found something that I do like. A simple unglazed terra cotta pot, buried in the garden. You fill it with water, which seeps into the soil. Apparently, this is thousand-year-old technology. Of course, the only place that that I've found selling these things is currently out-of-stock. Are there any ceramicist out there who might want to sell me something li

Care for Some Fruit?

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... Does anyone want to join me for a free class on fruit tree growing , this Saturday? It's at 11am, at Annie's Annuals in Richmond. (Click here for directions. I understand that online mapping doesn't work for the nursery.) The class will be taught by Idell Weydemeyer, of the California Rare Fruit Growers' Association . Sounds like fun!

Snapshots

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... A hover-fly on one of our lemons. Click on the photograph to enlarge. Baby peas in the garden. Spring will be here, soon. It's 9:30pm, and I've got to head out the door to work. We've got a late-night paint emergency to attend to.

Feline Architecture

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... The new Kitty Pavilion is a success. The cats are obsessed with white bead foam. Linguine seems to approve. Yes, we have our cat on a leash in the back yard. We're sick of pulling her out from under the laundry room. Danged kids - STAY OFF MY LAWN!!!

Do It Yourself

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... As usual, we had a glorious week in February, and we're back to what passes for winter around here. It's cold and rainy, and while we got some outdoor projects done on Saturday (picking up used rabbit bedding for the compost, trawling the garden centers, working on tomato trellises), we stayed close to home on Sunday. Robb has been making more bee gear. Now that we actually own some bee hive boxes, he's able to use them as templates, and build some from scratch. I started work on a quilt. Years ago, someone very close to me asked me why I bother making quilts, when it's so much easier to go out and buy one. As you may imagine, I was flummoxed by this question. Both Robb and I derive a lot of pleasure out of making things for ourselves and for the people in our lives. We like to have the skills to do things for ourselves. We like making something of our own design. We like being part of a long continuum of people who know how to build the things we use.

Tuba before Coffee

Robb and I woke up early this morning. Was there really oompah-tuba music playing in our bedroom, before 8am? Well, yes, there was. One of our neighbors was hosting a party, and they were playing live music. Tuba, trumpets and a drummer. I don't know about you, but I think there's something a little cruel about making your neighbors listen to tuba music, before they've even brewed coffee. I guess I should count my blessings. At least I the neighbors didn't hire an accordionist. (The band is actually really good, thankfully. They've been playing non-stop for an hour and a half. The tuba player weaves in and out of the music, creating some incredible syncopated rhythms.)

Making a Bee Line!

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... I was curious about the bees foraging in my backyard , and asked the Alameda County Beekeepers' Association if anyone knew if there were managed hives in my neighborhood. While nobody said, "I do! I keep bees two streets over from your house," I did get a message, introducing me to Bee Lining. While I'd heard the expression "make a beeline" for something or other, I'd never really thought about what it meant. It seems that when bees finish foraging, they fly back to their hives. They take a very direct route, with no stops along the way. They fly in a bee line to their home. Back when processed sugar wasn't widely available, and people sweetened their food with honey, people understood that if they followed the bees, they could find (and harvest) the bees' hives. It was a good skill to have. So, here's a link to a website teaching about bee lining . Basically, it involves giving the bees enough food (at a bait station) so

Bobcat or Bobsled, there seems to be some confusion.

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... Here's an article about the bobcat (or cats) that have been roaming around the Olympics. Doesn't the bobcat look as cool as cool can be?

Bee Hives as Architecture

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... Thanks to the internet, I found the following: A beekeeper in the United Kingdom (I can't figure out where he's located) put a glass bell jar on top of one of his hives in the hopes that the bees would build in it. What resulted was a beautiful example of the architecture of insects. Click here for his descriptions of the project. The beekeeper attached embossed wax "foundation"on the inside of the jar. An old t-shirt was wrapped around the jar, because bees naturally live in total darkness. A hole was drilled in the top of the jar, to prevent buildup of condensation. (How anyone could drill through that knob of glass without shattering everything seems pretty impressive.) The bees get to work, "drawing out" comb. Bees produce wax from glands on the undersides of their bodies. The bees then manipulate the wax, and create the structure of the comb. This is a week's progress. A look at the construction, from the bottom of the

Continuing Progress

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... Both Robb and I have noticed how much stronger and more flexible he's become, recently. I asked him what he thought had changed, and he said that he thought that doing all the projects around the house may have helped him build up his core muscles. He's been really surprising me with what he's able to do. And when projects get a little further along, I'll share photos. (I know you're all *dying* to see the patches in our concrete garage floor...) Until then, some more pictures of garden visitors. Butterflies in February? (Sorry he's a bit out of focus. It was windy.) East Coast birders will notice that our Chestnut Backed Chickadee is wearing a little brown vest, to distinguish himself from his Black Capped cousin.

An update on the bees

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... Our friend Taylor is splitting her colony of bees, which means that at the moment we have hive "frames" parked inside of her hives. Eventually, her bees will lay eggs on our frames, and a new generations of bees will begin. It was a warm sunny day today, so Taylor took the opportunity to check on her bees' activities. The bees are building comb on the wax foundation that we provided for them. This is a very good sign. I'm really excited! Who knows? Maybe we'll have bees in March. It seems that to me that every February since we've moved to California, there's a week of utterly glorious weather. Our pittosporum tree is blooming, and the neighborhood bees are all over it. If we sit quietly, and there's not much noise, we can hear the hum of honey bees. It reminds me of my childhood, laying on the grass, and listening to bees in the clover. Do you notice how fuzzy these girls are? I think that means that they are very young. Appar

A Delightful Short Film

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Year of the Tiger

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... "Sleeves" would like everyone to know what a fierce little tiger he is, and to make everyone understand that he's roaring, not yawning. Linguine would like everyone to stop blowing stuff up in their back yards. The noise is scary.

Garden Porno, for those buried under the snow.

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... Today, after finishing the job of totally repainting the black floor that we painted a few days back (the paint never cured, it was a gummy mess of un-walkable badness), I got to work, digging up the bed that is going to be my larger vegetable garden. Isn't that black soil beautiful? It's full of plump earthworms, and must be the result of decades of composted mulberry leaves and fruit. I think I'm going to singlehandedly drive Annalisa and Robb's dad insane with these photos. Anyone who is sick of snow, and dying to get their hands dirty is welcome to come visit us in California. I could use some help, digging. I'm digging out thousand of onion plants, which sort of kills me because I really think the flowers are pretty. I believe that around here, this plant is considered a major weed. I'm pretty flexible about weeds. My definition of a weed, is "a plant that grows too easily." I find a lot of beauty in plants that other peop

Valentine's Day Flowers (and Windows)

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... Robb and I want to send out a little love to all of our blog-reading friends. We're sitting inside of a fog bank, which is a bit of a San Francisco cliche, but is unusual for our neighborhood. We can see the houses across the street, but beyond that, it's a white-out. The mist brings out all of the spiderweb traceries in our garden, which is really dream-like. It is also the Lunar New Year today, and our neighbors have been setting off firecrackers, which terrifies our kitty Linguine. The Calla Lily heart, above, is from our garden. Robb actually forgot these were the flowers that I transplanted during the foundation work on our house. I'm still thinking of their location as a temporary one, until I have a better handle on the composition of our garden. But they certainly are pretty. This was what they looked like when we moved in. In this photo, the plants have pushed through the rusting metal of a discarded window screen. I tend to forget to take &qu

House Cats

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... Lest you get the idea that I'm the only tender-hearted animal-lover around there parts, I want to show you Robb's latest project. This is a handmade feline shelter, built by Robb out of redwood planks that I literally dug out of our back yard. There isn't a nail or screw anywhere on this project. It's all joinery. The only mechanical fasteners are hand-carved redwood pegs. Robb has spent a lot of mental and emotional energy, worrying about the local feral cats, and how miserable they must be on cold rainy nights. Over the course of this winter, he's built and re-built a series of kitty-shelters. There were tarps, and also cat-walks to keep the kitties out of the mud. But those all looked pretty janky, and didn't please Robb's aesthetic sensibilities. We may not have glass in all of our windows, but at least the cats will stay dry. Robb is a maniac. A cat-loving, wood-working maniac. And I love him for that.

Paint It Black

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... I haven't written much about work, because all we've been doing is painting things black, black, black. We've got a shop, crammed full of black walls, and now we're working on a black floor. To get a sense of scale: Find the large black frame, at the back of the window. Now look for the small square shape to its left. Standing between those two things is Sheri, and she's about six feet tall. (If you can't find her, click on the photograph, and try again.) That's a lot of black!

Arbor Day

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... BEFORE AND AFTER In this photo, our awesome arborist Martin Arnest is deep inside our pitosporum tree, hacking away all the strangling vines. His assistant Noah is on the ground, having just been handed a single clump of vines from the three. ONE SINGLE CLUMP OF VINES. We suddenly have a lot more sky in our little garden. We suddenly have more garden in our little garden. When we first bought the house, you literally couldn't walk through the garden, because the mulberry tree and the vines were so overgrown. I'm really delighted with the change. And, I'll admit it now: it was hard for me to chop down this tree. I'm one of those tender hearted idiots who brings home sick house plants and nurses them back to health. I try to save every living thing, no matter how pathetic. Removing this one tree will give everything else in the garden more opportunity for growth. I'm so impressed with the work that was done. The trees look good, the ya

Kitty Party

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... Today was such a beautiful day that we decided to stay home and do garden-related tasks. Robb rigged up a temporary "run" for Linguine. How many cats can you put on a leash? Linguine is one in a million. Before we moved, we got her immunized for "outside cat" illnesses. Linguine's too much of an escape artist to let off the leash. Given half a chance, she dives under our house, and dragging her out is no fun. While everyone else was gorging on football and chicken wings, we were digging in the dirt and hosting a little kitty party. "Sleeves" (washing his belly, on the left, by the ladder) had been missing for most of last week, and re-appeared with huge bite wounds on his flank and back. He's showing no ill-effects, in addition to a total lack of dignity. I'm keeping an eye on his wounds, as much as he'll allow. If things look bad, I'll get some antibiotics to add to his food. He doesn't let me get near enough

All Around the Mulberry Tree...

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... It has been so raining hard the last few weeks that our door mat has grown an impressive coating of furry white mold. The rains have also meant that the arborist we've hired to cut down our mulberry tree hasn't been able to work. I really hate to cut down any tree, but this one has to go. The base is rotted out, it has a form like the Whomping Willow , the berries get stuck in everyone's shoes and make the floors look like bloody murder. I'm hoping that when this tree is removed, we'll have more sun, which will increase my gardening options. Not very attractive, huh? If this were a native tree, or a tree that produced fruits that either Robb or I actually enjoyed eating, I'd work to improve its health. This is the view from the back corner of our yard. I'm standing under our plum tree, which is also in rough shape, but which I'm hoping can be pruned (over the next few years) back into a healthier, more manageable form. You can see

"Do you like our owl?"

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... Robb and I were listening to a lecture on California native plants, at the Flyway Festival. We were sitting next to a bird rehabilitator's booth, which had all manner of dubious taxidermy on display. Up front was a Great Horned Owl (click here for some insane baby photos of this species) and in the back was a glassy-eyed Eagle Owl. At one point, Robb leaned over to me and asked, "Do you like our owl?" (I love a man who can find the perfect moment to invoke Blade Runner .) I responded -- of course -- by asking if the owl was artificial. And then I just about fell out of my chair when the owl, which I was so certain was dead and stuffed turned and looked me right in the eye. I think the only thing that surprised me more than being fooled by the stillness of this beautiful predator was experiencing it spread out its ear tuft feather, and fluff up its chest, and hearing it hoot. It was enchanting.