Showing posts from February, 2015

What the Heck is a Scenic Artist?

.... I'd like to invite you into my studio for a glimpse of what we've been working on over the past ten days.  I am in charge of painted scenery for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where we are in the midst of building a fascinating show called Head of Passes.  Essentially, we're building a large two-story house, piece by piece. Tuesday, February 10th The large grey shapes on the right of the photo are each eight feet wide and twelve feet long.  That's some of the lumber that will make up the stage set.  We paint the back of everything a neutral grey, partially for lighting reasons, but mostly for flame retardancy. The boards in the pile at the center of the photograph are eight-foot lengths of medium density fiberboard (mdf). We will be treating these boards to look like old wooden siding boards.  We're taking a fresh new material and making it look like the siding on a lovely older Southern home. We spend a lot of time in my studio making newly b

Monday Garden Update

... The San Francisco Bay Area often has an odd bit of warm weather in February.  My memory tells me that we typically spend a glorious few days running around in short sleeves, before returning to our proper winter.  This year is that there really hasn't been much of a winter.  So much of the rest of the country is covered in snow. And we're stuck in climate limbo. In the last few days, my pluot tree has started to bloom, as have our fava beans. Our younger hens -- who we had nicknamed " The Adventure Chickens " have been flying over the fence into the vegetable garden.  Our poor chard has been reduced to a cluster of stems.  The kale looks equally bad. Robb has been building more fencing for the garden .  He individually mills each picket .  You can see an unpainted bundle of sticks on the table in the center of this photo.  The fence pictured here is protecting the strawberry and currant plants, which I'm certain our fruit-obsessed hens w

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

.... One of my favorite local shops is Pollinate Farm & Garden in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland.  They sell everything one might want for one's urban farm.  They've got beekeeping supplies, baby chicks , garden seeds and plants, and tools of every description.  In addition to selling all manner of tempting goodies, Pollinate offers fascinating classes . On Sunday I took a cheesemaking class with Louella Hill , the San Francisco Milk Maid .  Louella is a wonderful teacher. Even the shop cat was enchanted by the Milk Maid. Our class was guided through the process of making fresh farmer's cheese and kefir.  Here we are cutting curds, and releasing the liquid whey.  Cheese making is a beautiful tactile process.  In this photo, the newly made cheese is being drained.  Every student took home tasty fresh cheese, kefir and whey .  Robb and I added this fresh farmhouse-style cheese to our lunch, which we ate in the backyard.  While much of th

Goo-y Ducks

.... This handsome fellow is a male Surf Scoter.  He is one of the many splendid species of waterfowl we see in the winters here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Over the last week or so, I've spent most of my free time (outside of my already very physical job) volunteering at the International Bird Rescue center, because this bird and many others have been contaminated by a mysterious substance that has covered their bodies with an unknown goo . Hundreds of birds washed up on our shores dead, and hundreds beached themselves.  The International Bird Rescue center took in over three hundred birds covered in a strange substance, remarkably like rubber cement. These birds received superlative medical care.  Upon arrival at the center, their health was assessed.  Once they were strong enough, the birds were thoroughly cleaned, first with baking soda and vinegar, and then with Dawn dish washing detergent . The newly-cleaned birds were housed in specially-construct