Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Re-cap Of Last Friday...;~)

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For my beer buddies, Bill, Frank, Deb, Denny, and Craig...

...enough said?


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Monday, January 30, 2006

Greenleaf Manzanita

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I've taken pictures similar to this before, and probably even posted one, but I just love the patterns in the leaves of Greenleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), and the way the light penetrates them.

The photo was taken today at 3:52 P.M. with my Canon Powershot S2 IS in the M (manual) and Super Macro modes, with the aperature at f /3.5 and a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second. No attachments were used. The picture is not cropped and I shot it close-in to emphasize the intricate design.

post script-

I posted the camera settings for Norene who recently purchased the same camera.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hollyhock, Raspberry & Hops

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I've been playing with the scanner again today, and this Hollyhock is for Norene, who wanted to see more.

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Above is a leaf from our Raspberry vine and this one is for Sonia, at 'Leaves Of Grass', who gave me the inspiration to try this method of capturing images. Thanks Sonia, I'm having fun with this.

Addendum-10:05 PM; I just noticed this leaf somewhat resembles 'Rustle The Leaf' from the comic strip.

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These are hops, and this one goes out to Bill who provided the beer for our seven year sampling last night of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale.

Bigfoot is brewed and released in limited quantities once a year and Bill has bottles of the stuff for each year going back to 2000, including the just released 2006 batch.

Bill and I did a long slow taste comparison, sharing each bottle, and I think we agreed the 2005 batch was the best overall, by a slim margin, there's no such thing as a bad Bigfoot.

And during our little Bigfoot Fest we also listened to some very good music. ;~)

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Hollyhocks In January

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After seeing Sonia's gorgeous scanned flower images at her Leaves Of Grass blog I had to try this myself.

Not too bad for a first attempt I think, but wait until you see hers, with fresh flowers, and the ones Sonia was inspired by, from Katinka Matson.

Mine needs full enlargment to be appreciated at all, and I will be doing more of this!

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Dog Day Afternoon...

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This is my very good friend Dallas. We go most everywhere, and do most everything, together. Dallas is smarter than I am, he has an undeniably good heart & soul, and he doesn't like to talk politics or religion.

If someone raises their voice in an argumentative way, Dallas will gently lay a paw on their leg, looking into their eyes, in a quiet plea for peace. If he isn't successful, he will go upstairs until the unpleasentries have subsided.

Dallas was rescued from the pound, as a puppy, by a mean-spirited good ol' boy who also had a dog named Bullet, get it, Bullet and Dallas, as in Texas, and Kennedy.

Our son knew this person through his carpentry work, and when the ol' boy could no longer afford to keep Dallas, our son adopted him, and then our son got a job that took him on the road, and out of town, so I became Dallas's guardian.

We have become inseparable. If I were to rename Dallas, his name might be Ishmael, after the gorilla in Daniel Quinns extraordinary book of the same title.
Dallas is the spirit of Ishmael in my life.

Dallas appreciates me because I treat him like a friend, with respect, and in turn, he teaches me every day about what it means to be alive and enjoy your moments...

... and I enjoy every moment I spend with this fellow.

In the photo, he's giving me 'the look', the 'we haven't been for our walk today' look.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bridge Over Icy Waters...

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Out playing with the camera again this morning, I thought I'd take some more pictures of the ice.

The ice always seems to crack outward from the pilings of the boardwalk, which sways slightly in the wind, or when groups of people are walking on it. The pilings are made out of some sort of plastic and aren't quite as rigid as wood.

Some of these cracks extend for hundreds of feet into the marsh, possibly even all the way across. The sound of the ice sheet resonating as a crack moves across the surface is fascinating, and to me rather hauntingly beautiful, but quite terrifying if you happen to be out on the stuff.

I was vacationing, at about age 12, with my aunt & uncle who owned a cabin up here, when my cousin David and I went tobogganing toward the lake down a slope from their place. We picked up too much speed and went way farther than we expected, ending up several hundred feet out on the ice which began cracking all around us.

I had never heard that sound before but it scared the hell out me when I realized what was happening. We knew we were in trouble but had enough sense to stay on the toboggan which evenly distributed our weight. By pushing our way backwards toward the shore, with very gentle hand-paddling motions against the ice, our mittens giving us some traction, we somehow made it.

We're very lucky we weren't any bigger, heavier, or riding on sharp-edged sleds, or I might not be writing this.

No one saw us out there, and we were afraid to tell anyone what we'd done when we got back.

But we never did it again!

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A Mallard Moment...

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This pair of Mallards look much more comfortable than I was yesterday. The frigid biting wind made it near impossible for me to keep my gloves off long enough to get more than a few pictures.

I meant to get the following few pictures posted yesterday but was too busy with other things.

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This otherwise handsome male Mallard looks a bit silly with his tongue sticking out, and it's so cold that those droplets look to be freezing instantly as they fall from his beak.

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Gull Wings

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A California Gull shows off its lovely wings and dripping beak yesterday morning during our walk by the lake.

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January 23, 2006 - 8:24 AM

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Looking west across Big Bear Lake from the Stanfield Cut-off on this icy-cold morning with a biting wind blowing from the east.

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Hard Water!

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Trees reflected in the iced over Stanfield Marsh yesterday morning. The Marsh finally froze over, the ice appearing to be at least 3 or 4 inches thick, but the main body of Big Bear Lake is still open water.

I miss the days when the entire lake froze over, 2 or 3 foot thick, in expanding plates that would buckle and lurch over, or under, one another much like the tectonic shifting of earths crust from quakes.

The sound of cracking ice and shifting plates would reverberate from the lake and echo through the valley. It's been many years since that has happened here but I hope to see it again someday.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Basket Case...

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Today is house cleaning day, we moved all the furniture, took the rugs outside for a beating, mopped the floor, brought everything back in, and then sat down for lunch, a beer and a break. During our break I was sitting on the floor adding some wood to the stove when Peggy came over and sat, kind of Yoga style in my lap to snuggle for a minute, when shortly she started chuckling, and pointed to Neo staring at us from behind me, cozily perched in one of our pine-needle bowls while Steely Dan played softly from the iPod. Funny how our pets pick up our vibes and want in on the action, often stealing the show.

Thanks Neo!

I was comfy there by the fire with Peg before she made me get up and grab the camera so I could take a picture of you...

This post reminds me that I'm supposed to be continuing our basketry project and sharing some techniques.

O.K., O.K., I'll get back to that real soon.

But right now I have to get back to work, Peggy is cracking the whip today, and so far I've been a good boy, but you know what they say, "you're only as good as your last deed", or something like that?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Canada Geese & A Meme...

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Hey Mum, Ontario Wanderer, Laura and all you other Canadian blognuts up there-

Dallas and I ran across a bunch of your Canada Geese the other morn (first time this winter that I've seen them) lollygaggin' and sun bathing down here near the 34th Parallel. We'll send 'em home when we're through with 'em but right now we're enjoying their antics.

O.W., & Lene-

I'm going to play the meme game again just because Lene did, so here goes.

Four jobs you've had in your life-

1. The Victory Car Wash in Van Nuys, California---a fun outdoor job for a kid.
2. Christmas help at Macy's Department Store, NYC 1964/65---a great experience.
3. Food prep & dishwashing at the Canyon Kitchen for Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl---cool times indeed!
4. 30 years as a Mailman---a great way to become part of your community.

Four movies you could watch over and over.

1. Koyaanisqatsi - Francis Ford Coppola
2. The Private Life Of Plants - David Attenborough
3. The Weeping Camel - Byambasuren Davaa & Luigi Falorni
4. The Blue Planet/Seas Of Life - David Attenborough

Four places you've lived

1. Greenwich Village, NYC
2. Topanga Canyon, California
3. Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California
4. Big Bear Valley, San Bernardino Mountains, California

Four TV shows you love to watch

What's a TV?

Four places you've been on vacation

1. British Columbia
2. Three Months Hitch-hiking through Mexico
3. The Sierras - Yosemite, Sequoia and the eastern side, Mono Lake & Lundy Canyon
4. The Grand Canyon Of Arizona

Four websites you visit daily

1. ENN - The Environmental News Network
2. GNN - The Guerrilla News Network
3. Earth Home Garden and all the blogs linked to it.
4. The comics page at Yahoo News

Four of your favorite foods

1. Broccoli
2. Yellow Crookneck Squash
3. Tomatoes
4. Buffalo

Four places you'd rather be

1. Outside
2. On a footpath through the woods
3. Naked in a hot sulfur spring
4. In bed with Peggy

Four albums you can't live without
I can live without any albums, but here's some favorites

1. Any Bob Dylan album
2. Any Greg Brown album
3. Any J.J. Cale album
4. Any Joni Mitchell album

Four to pass this meme along to

You know who you are, if it tickles yer fancy, go for it.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Does It Seem A Bit Warm?

Several people at the blogs we are linked to have commented on the unusually warm winter they are experiencing in their parts of the world, and there's been some discussion on whether or not the steeper slope of global warming is now upon us.

For about 15 years I've been saving articles and charts related to global warming and climate change so I thought I'd share some of these with you, so you can digest the information and arrive at your own conclusions, or speculations.

The graph below is from a newspaper article this past December and shows annual average temperatures since 1880.

Temperatures started their steepest climb in 1975, but if you study the graph you'll see they started gradually climbing back around 1910, just about the time the automobile was becoming popular and everyone was getting their own personal infernal combustion engine.

It's interesting that the heading reads "Slowly warming", because when I look at the rest of the charts, it appears to me that, historically speaking, this is actually a quite rapid and alarming change.

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The following graph shows the correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature change over the past 2,000 years. I think this graph includes data through 2003.

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The next graph very clearly shows the relationship between CO2 and temperature during the past 20,000 year period. As you can see, the longer the timeline for the CO2/Temperature comparison, the more extreme the recent increases seem to be.

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Below, another CO2/Temperature correlation spread out over 160,000 years, really looks scary to me. It includes the projected increase in the very near future to over 600 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. The is an X on the upward line marking 380 ppm which is the current level of of CO2. If you notice how closely the temperature aligns itself with CO2 levels it looks to me like we're in for some really big changes very, very soon.

To the left a graph shows the increase in our human population since about 950 A.D. and not surprisingly the steepest increase starts at just about the same time as that CO2 begins its climb.

And last, but not least, the chart below shows the radical increase in species extinctions since about 1910.

I'm no scientist but good old-fashioned common sense tells me there's something very disturbing in this information. I don't think it takes a genius to conclude that what is happening is the result of human activity, and that we are in real deep trouble if we don't change our ways soon.

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I've posted this incomplete as I'll be adding some links to it if any of you would like do some more research.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Dirt Road Dogs...

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All bundled up in our warmest coats, Dallas and I walk toward the water at 8:14 this morning in one of the last best places on the south shore of Big Bear Lake. It's way below freezing and an icy wind blows strong out of the northeast. A very beautiful morning if you're dressed for it, and we are.

Dallas and I aren't big on roads, but if we have to travel one, this is the kind we like, two ruts in the dirt, minus the clunkers that it was made for.

I don't know why Dallas likes them so much, maybe because they're full of life, because they smell better than asphalt or concrete, or because he never has to be on a leash in a place like this.

I like them because they're quiet, slow, meandering, compelling, picturesque, interesting, pliant (as opposed to rigid), impermanent, and not the slightest bit oppressive, unless some drooling yay-hoo in a belching groaning 4X4 comes barrelling through, which hasn't happened to us here yet, knock on wood!

But most of all, for me I guess, it's nostalgia.

These are the kinds of roads I lived on when I was a kid, and I wish all kids could grow up someplace like this, running with their dogs, off the leash, dodging tumbleweeds & chasing dragonflies in the summer.

Tampa Avenue in Reseda, California was like this in 1952, except there was no lake. But the rutted little road did run right down through the Los Angeles River, just a cowpath through a meandering creek in those days.

Today, fifty-four years later, the kids on Tampa---now a six lane ribbon of hardened petroleum goop & gravel slathered through the midst of the 1,700,000 lost souls of The Greater San Fernando Valley---sit on their fat diabetes-prone asses in front of TVs, killing things in video games. Good practice for when they must go outside and dodge real bullets in the alleys behind their apartment slums, or in the prison yards they call schools, or in the future wars they're going to fight defending Halliburton & The Carlyle Group's freedom.

Progress? Sure, tell that to the family & friends of the suicidal 8th grader the cops shot to death as he wielded a pellet gun at his school in Longwood, Florida on Friday.

Right here, in our County of San Bernardino, kids are killing each other every week and the community solution is to hire more police, create a stronger Police State, and enforce the law!

"WE'LL TEACH THEM TO RESPECT THE LAW!", our newspaper headline screams.

Yeah, the law of private property, the law of growth, the law of profit, the law of Capitalism, the law of selfishness and greed, the law of the Military-Industrial State, the law of the rich & powerful, the law of the thief and gangster. The law of servitude & slavery, The law of No Trespassing, No Skateboarding, No Swimming, No Fishing, No Boating, No Loitering, the laws of self-annihilation.

In my 60 years I've seen enough of what we call progress, and its laws, thank you!

But, in my early childhood, I learned from the laws of Nature, the laws of beauty, magic and mystery that draw us into the world, not push us away and alienate us from it.

Generous inviting laws which point the way to our skills and nurture our interests, the laws of natural instinct that teach caution, self-preservation and wisdom.

We humans can make all the laws & rules we want, but as long as they're incompatible with the laws of Nature, as long as we think we're separate from, and above Nature, as long as we treat this planet like it's ours to do with as we please, we'll continue toward our own destruction, and the demise of what we claim to hold sacred.

I personally, am way fed up with the patriarchal tyranny of the
Corporate State, the leadership of the almighty dollar, and I've also heard e
nough about an even more patriarchal GOD that says we're too helpless to change ourselves, that only HE can save us from the eternal misery of sin, for Christ's sake!

The GOD of the same religion that has ordained the barbaric murder & torture of millions of indigenous people around the world as their land was stolen and colonized. The same religion that still defends Capitalism and Imperialism everywhere, as we today, continue robbing people of their land and livelihoods, to satisfy our bottomless gluttony, with GOD on our side.

This isn't the Dark Ages, it's the 21st Century, and we're educated enough to know how we got here, what we're doing, and exactly why we're doing it.

Just pick up the paper, it's all there in black & white, although you'll need to read some non-Western press to get the whole picture.

So let's get real friends, the future of life as we know it is very likely in the hands of those of us living today, and it's our decisions that will determine where we go from here.

Civilizations, their myths, superstitions and religions come & go, just as species do, and our civilization, and species, though young in historical & geological terms respectively, are teetering on the brink of extinction.

But we now have the information to understand our predicament, and maybe even the tools to do something about it!

We no longer have to sacrifice victims to the Volcano God, The Earthquake God, The Tsunami God, The Hurricane God, The Automobile God, or even the Almighty Dollar God! We know where & why things happen, where & how we should, and shouldn't be living, it's our choice now, not blind fate.

Los Angeles is forever doomed to destruction, as is San Francisco or New Orleans, and any other location where we choose to live out of context, or scale, with the Nature of the place.

We can't escape disasters, tragedy, or death in our lives, but we certainly don't need to be this incredibly stupid anymore, by now we should know better.

And, there's certainly no desirable future for humanity in the Orwellian nightmare that civilization is becoming before our very eyes.

For the sake of our kids, of their future, of our species, of all species, everything we do & say now is important.

But to pretend there's hope in this system isn't optimism, it's either ignorance, foolishness or fraudulence. It's time to speak not of progress and growth, but of change, personal change, spiritual change and societal change, of paradigm shift in the true sense of the phrase.

I believe most people instinctively know this, but nobody knows what to do.

How do we change, where do we go, what do we do?

Well it's obvious that we can't stay here, we can't go back, and we can't continue on the course we're on.

I, for one, am going to try and be more thoughtful each day on how to discuss what change is (not compromise), so...

More police isn't change, it's more of the same!

More military isn't change, it's more of the same!

More corporate imperialism isn't change.

More paving, more freeways, more housing developments, more unsustainable livelihoods, more materialism, more celebrity worship, more corporate sports, more brand recognition, more slums, more bling-bling, more gangs, more people, more wars, is just more of the same.

And voting for any so-called leader who has enough corporate contributions to get elected isn't voting for change, it's voting for more of the same.

Less greed, fewer possessions, less cars, smaller families, smaller homes, less people, less private property, more community, less racism, less imperialism, less laws, less pollution, less extinctions, more commons, more wildness, more diversity, More Nature! That would be a change...

A welcome change, in my book.

As it is now, we are rapaciously changing the living planet into dead objects of our own creation.

So, if we don't change, where are we going?

You tell me, and please don't say, "To Heaven", or to "To Hell", lest I vomit.

If we don't all change radically, and soon, where are we going as a civilization, as a species, as part of this beautiful living planet?

So you tell me.

Then, go tell your kids...

...but don't lie, or tell them fairytales, most of them aren't buying it anymore either, or haven't you noticed?

There, you've heard my Martin Luther King Day rant!

And there's no apology for it.

So maybe we could turn off the fuckin' TVs, get out of the cars, and start talking with each other?

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Where's Winter?

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The second storm of the winter hit yesterday with forcasts of heavy snowfall, but only resulted in this dusting, bringing our total snow for the season to about 2 1/2 inches!

Last winter by this time we already had about 8 feet. We could sure use a real storm here sometime soon!

But the forecast did get us busy splitting some more of the pine logs piling up around here anyway (see post below).

There is so much tree cutting going on in the Big Bear area because of the bark-beetle infestation that local pine firewood is very cheap, or even free much of the time, if you're willing to do the hauling and splitting. We've accumulated (and are still collecting) several cords just from our own neighborhood, which we haul home in wheelbarrows.

Last year's heavy winter and wet summer were a welcome relief from the 7 year drought that triggered the bark-beetle infestation.

Global warming contributes too, and the poor forestry practiced during the past century, where we haven't allowed fire to naturally thin our forests, or eliminate underbrush & overpopulations of insects, while adding nutrients to the soil.

Instead we subsidize the building of logging roads and the clear-cutting of older large trees, which puts whole ecosytems out of balance, ruins watersheds, causing landslides & flooding, results in dense forests of smaller similar aged trees, increasing the fire danger, while creating unhealthy forests of reduced diversity.

Above you'll see part of my contribution to logging & deforestation, in our deck and picnic table.

But, in my defense, if all the trees I've planted in my lifetime were to reach maturity, I will have been responsible for the growth of far more wood than I'll ever consume.

I've planted hundreds of trees between here and the Santa Monica mountains in the past 40 years, many of which are still growing, and producing oxygen and wood, at this very moment.

Trees---so beautiful and beneficial, their wood so useful to us in countless ways---are a very renewable resource if we would only harvest them sustainably, and then limit our numbers so we don't keep over-running the planet like so many bark-beetles.

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Peggy Power!

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Although we do plenty of bicycling, walking and hiking, and Peggy is trim as she can be, she's always had a weakness for exercise machines. At different times she had one that simulated cross-country skiing, a rowing machine, and one that she could set up differently depending on what she wanted to do. Trouble is she never used them, so they ended up at yard sales or the thrift store (I think one of these contraptions is still in a closet somewhere).

So when I saw this hydraulic splitter, I thought, now there's an exercise machine Peggy can use, while getting her chores done at the same time. Here she is splitting logs yesterday before the big snow hit, and building up muscles too!

Just kidding girls!

I do most of the wood splitting but Peggy did try it for a spell yesterday having no trouble operating it long enough to split several hefty logs.

Her part of this job is usually the placing & removing of logs from the splitter, and as a two-person operation the task is done quite efficiently.

The splitter is much like the gasoline powered ones in design, a long I-Beam frame with a sharp steel wedge at the far end, and a fluid-driven cylinder for pushing the log.

But instead of an engine, this one is powered by the hand-pumping a hydraulic jack with long handles that pump at two separate speeds. The one on the right is low speed, for easy pumping against strong resistance, where the high-speed handle on the left is for pushing the cylinder out rapidly to engage the log, and breaking through it faster after the end splits.

With a little practice you are using both handles in conjunction for fast, efficient, non-polluting, healthful log splitting.

The splitter will accomodate logs up to 18" long, the same length that fits our stove, and I've split logs up to 30" diameter with it so far.

The splitter is simple, sturdy, well-made, and the jack is rated at 10 tons which is 20,000 lbs of splitting force, and does the job just fine. We got ours online for $99 at Northern Tool but the shipping is very expensive for this heavy item. I think they had a deal on the shipping charges when we ordered ours, I had been looking at them for quite some time.

We spent a couple of hours yesterday having fun together in the brisk winter cold, getting great exercise, and moved, split & stacked over a 1/2 cord of wood.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Toast To Norene's Five Percent!

A new blog in the sidebar, Norene's Five Percent, has re-focused my attention on the efforts we've been making here at Earth Home Garden for the past 10 years or so toward reducing our waste and consumption.

During that period of time we swore off owning an automobile (January 31st, 1997) which we were driving about 12,000 miles per year. A modern vehicle that gets 20mpg spews about a pound of carbon dioxide per mile, so, by my reckoning, we've personally eliminated close to 100,000 pounds from the atmosphere in the past 9 years (This isn't something everyone can do, but in our situation it was feasible to try it, and we're very happy with our decision). You'll notice that driving 12,000 miles per year for 9 years should add up to 108,000 pounds of CO2, but I think we have driven maybe a total 6,000 to 8,000 miles since 1997 in rented or borrowed cars.
I know we drove about 3,000 miles, this past few months alone, going to the hospital to visit our son and taking him to doctor appointments. We rented a car for that purpose until our neighbor Cheri said we could use hers whenever we needed. But that's mostly behind us at this point.

About 1993 we made a list of all the electric appliances we could do without, the micro-wave, the food processor, the blender, the coffee maker etc., and then when our refrigerator, washer & dryer died we replaced them with the most energy efficient ones we could afford, and about that time we changed every light bulb in the house to a compact flourescent (an article I read recently cited a study which concluded that if everyone in California switched all their bulbs to flourescent our population could double before we'd need to build another power plant---I sure don't want to see the population double---but that was a revelation).

In 2002 we heavily insulated the roof (about R39 total) and the floor of our cabin, installed dual-pane low-e glass windows & doors, and a couple of years earlier we had replaced our water guzzling lawn with drought-tolerant plants & flowers native to this area.

In any given year none of these projects required 5% of our energy (well maybe the roof did, a friend & I spent two solid weeks up there, and the cost was about $3,500 total) but the resulting savings in resource consumption and utility costs are compounding quite rapidly. The State of California also gave us about a 25% rebate on the cost of the doors, windows and insulation.

But there is always more to be done and I see that we've slacked off a bit in our focus & commitment (it was a tough year for us), so here's to Norene for the wake-up call. I wonder how much could be accomplished if I were just 5% more thoughtful each day.

Here are some comparisons of our historical use of gas, water and electricity with our current usage.

Natural Gas

Below you will see two graphs scanned from previous gas bills, at the left is the December 1998 bill, and, on the right, December 2005. Don't go by the height of the columns, because the scale is adjusted to ones usage, look at the actual numbers on the left for therms used. This December we used just over 40 therms of gas as compared to about 75 last December, a 47% reduction, and we used over 180 therms for the same month of 1997, which means a reduction of 78% from 8 years ago (Not bad considering our elevation of 6,750 ft. in heavy snow country, and we're still improving).

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Our most recent electric bill shows that we used 528 KWH for the 2 month period of October & November, or 8 KWH per day, a 31% increase over the previous year, which means we've been backsliding on our conservation efforts this year (too much blogging maybe), but I dug out an old electricity bill to compare with our current bill and found that for the same 2 month period in 1996 we used 929 KWH or 14.3 KWH per day, so even if we slipped a bit we're still conserving 44% more electricity than in 1996. And we're 71% below the national average of 28 KWH per day, but we can do better.

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We don't have an older water bill to compare our current usage with but I called the Community Services District and asked if they kept historical records of usage and they told me that our record usage was 59 units for 2 summer months back in the days when we had lawn here instead of the native plant garden. Because we grow vegetables our usage still increases in summer, but our rain barrel storage and careful monitoring have this past summer resulted in a peak usage of about 20 units, a 66% reduction from our highest consumption rate several years ago.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

California Gull

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A small population of California Gulls (Larus californicus) seem to be everpresent around Big Bear Lake, but nowhere near the huge numbers you'll find at their island breeding grounds in Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake.

The California gull is credited with saving Mormon Pioneers in Utah from starvation in 1848 when swarms of crickets nearly wiped out their food crops until the gulls moved in for a feast, eliminating the pests, and no doubt contributing some fertilizer as well.

With the crickets gone enough of the crops survived to sustain the Mormons and the gulls assumed a revered status in the history of Utah. The event was remembered as 'The Miracle Of The Gulls', and 107 years later, on February 14th, 1955, the California Gull was officially designated the Utah State Bird.

The California Gulls we see here were most likely born at Mono Lake, a most enchanting body of water at the base of the Eastern Sierra, a place every nature lover should visit.

Whenever I see a California Gull I think of Tufa Towers, Brine Shrimp, Alkali Flies, Lee Vining, Lundy Canyon and the monumental achievements of the Mono Lake Committee, founded in 1978 by a few young conservationists dedicated to saving Mono Lake.

The California Gull, like the Coyote, has increased in numbers over the past hundred years, as both species are opportunists that thrive on scavenging the waste and garbage of humans.

Our lake-shore was crowded with tourists this morning as Peggy & I walked there, the gulls milling around with a craving for Cheetos, Doritos, Egg McMuffin scraps, or whatever, so we tossed them some whole-wheat bread crumbs in exchange for a photo-op, and the above is one of the resulting pictures.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

This Morning In The Marsh

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A beautiful clear morning walk through Stanfield Marsh marked a nice beginning for the fifth day of 2006.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

January Food Co-op Delivery

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Jose, a driver for our food Co-op distributor, looks on as Peggy inventories this month's delivery.

My friend Charlie was delayed for an extra day in Las Vegas but he should be rolling in here this afternoon, and it's a good thing because I already drank three of the beers I bought for us. ;~)

I doubt if I'll get any basketry stuff posted today because I'll be busy with the co-op members as they come to pick up their goods.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My Old Friend Comes To Visit

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My lifelong friend Charlie Melton is driving up to visit for a few days.

He's on his way home to the Santa Monica Mountains from Las Vegas, of all places, where he was visiting his kids and grand-kids for Christmas and New Years.

Good friends for nearly 50 years now, we met when he was 11 and I was 13.

During our teens and early twenties we were inseparable sidekicks always on some adventure together. These days we only get to see each other once or twice a year but it's always a great time for us.

So we'll inevitably be sharing some good beers and stories while Charlie's here and the 'basketry lessons' may be suspended for a short period, but I trust you'll be patient with me. ;~)


De-Capping The Needles

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De-capping is the most time-consuming step in preparing the needles, and for the batch I soaked, will probably take well over an hour.

In the top photo above, I'm simply pulling the caps off with my thumbnail, which is how I prefer to do it, but I do end up with black pitch under my nail that is difficult to remove, and, if I do too many needles at one time, the tip of my thumb gets a bit tender.

Peggy has a different technique, she scrapes the caps off with the dull edge of a butter knife (middle picture), which works fine too, and I think I read somewhere that there is also a tool made for de-capping now. Whatever method you come up with is fine as long as the needles remain attatched at the ends.

The bottom photo is of de-capped needles that are ready for use.

The pine-needles we use fall from the Jeffrey and Ponderosa Pines in and around our yard and we get far more needles per year than we could ever use. Pines can have have needles in clusters of 2, 3, or 5, but Jeffrey & Ponderosa Pines are both 3-needle pines. The length of our needles varies from around 6 inches to well over 10 inches, but I think most of them average about 9 inches. I don't see why you couldn't use shorter needles, the project would just take a little longer, I suppose pine needles in clusters of 2 or 5 needles would be fine too.

I'll get to the actual stitching of the coils later on, I have a stack of needles to de-cap, a walk to take with Dallas, and some chores to do.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Pine Needle 'Caps'

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The next step is to de-cap the pine-needles, which is simply the process of removing the sticky sheaths where the needles were attatched to a branch. For some baskets, needles with their caps left intact are used as an element in the design, but for the bowl I'm working on they will all be removed.

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Fresh Out Of The Pot

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After half an hour in the hot water the pine-needles are removed and placed on a towel where excess water can be soaked up. I use tongs for this step to avoid burning my fingers.

In the background you can see the early stage of the bowl I'll be working on once the needles are prepared.

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Pine Needles Soaking

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In order for pine-needles to be pliable enough to work into coils for baskets they must be soaked in hot water. Bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the burner, add the pine-needles and allow to sit for a half an hour.

More later...

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Click on photo to enlarge

As long as I'm thinking about my son, and my mother (see below), I might as well post this photo of me and mom way back in the good old black & white days of 1947 when she was all of 22, and I was closing in on 2.

Mom is 81 now, living on her own in a big house on 2 acres in Utah, and as feisty as ever.

And I'm 60, still strong-willed, stubborn and rebellious, but I do seem to have outgrown that daredevil streak.

A work in progress, I guess you might say, very slow progress.

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A Winter Long Ago...

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While searching my files for the picture of our friend Mike (see second post below) I came across this one of Jimmy that was taken moments after he won a First Place trophy in his very first ski race at the age of 6.

By the way, Jimmy and I share the same birthday, November 14th, and many similar personality traits, including a strong-willed stubborn rebellious daredevil streak that has nearly killed each one of us.

He, in his 4X4 truck over the edge last August, and me, 27 years ago, in an 80 mph solo motorcycle crash in Malibu Canyon.

When Jimmy was about 4 years old I came outside one morning in the 5 AM darkness to collect our newspaper, and heard Jimmy calling to me confidently from the tip-top of a 75 foot tall Jeffrey Pine, and that was just the beginning.

The only time I can remember seeing my mother in public without make-up was the wee hours of the morning Jimmy was born, when she rushed to the hospital, looked me in the eyes, and said with great conviction, "Now you're going to get yours", words that have sent chills down my spine many times since.

In case I haven't said it before,

I'm sorry mom, really sorry...

I Love You!


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