Sunday, December 30, 2007

Just Another Brick In The Wall...

Downtown Los Angeles - 1972
Click on photo to enlarge - © 1972 jim otterstrom

Downtown Alameda - 2007
Click on photo to enlarge -© 2007 jim otterstrom

Brick wall photos, old & new.

I was a newly-hired Postman (a Special Delivery Messenger to be exact), back in the early 1970s when I took the "No Comment" photo at the top, but I still had delusionary ambitions of making a living as a free-lance photographer/artist/craftsman (before I realized that would also entail becoming a businessman, something I have absolutely zero talent for).

In those days I mounted, signed, framed, and hung my pictures in any joint that was interested in having art 'for sale' hanging on their walls, and I actually sold quite a few too, at funky little galleries, restaurants, saloons, grocery stores, and craft fairs.

At that point in time, when I prepared my photos for framing, I always rounded off the corners of the prints (using a quarter as a template for the radius), then sanded a thin white border around the edges before mounting them on black mat board (you might say it was my signature style of matting).

Those ancient mounted prints are either long gone, or, too deteriorated to display anymore, so, just for fun, I thought I'd try to duplicate the look of my primitive old technique in Photoshop.

So, if you enlarge the 1972 photo at the top, you will see it presented exactly as it was 35 years ago, when I was 27 years old.

Then I decided to take one of my recent photos, from this past November, and 'mount' it the same way.

There's 35 years of life in between those two pictures, yet they look to me as if they could've come from the same roll of film.

"Some things change very slowly, if they ever change at all."

But the art of photography has sure changed. In 1972 you actually had to acquire some skills & knowledge to make a good picture, where any of today's digital cameras capture near perfect images in simple point & shoot auto-mode. I still like to compose my shots with manual settings though, which is why I have a digital camera that allows me to do so.

I love the way color photos look against a black background (similar to the way Earth looks against the blackness of space) which is also why I chose this particular blog template (although I've noticed that, on some laptops, Earth Home Garden comes up with a white background??).

The days are short and the weather's cold, so it's as good a time as any to be messing around with photographs, old or new.

The Los Angeles photo was taken in 1972 with a Nikon F2, and probably a 24mm wide-angle lens. All exposure data is long forgotten.

The Alameda photo was taken on November 12th, 2007, with an 8 megapixel Canon S5IS, in manual mode. Settings - ISO 80, f /8.0, 1/160 second, 32.2mm zoom (35mm equivalent).

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

~Christmas Dawn~
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Click on image to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wake Up Call - Earthquake At 4:14 A.M.

~A Mild 4.0 - This Time~
Click on map to enlarge
All maps in this post are courtesy of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
I added some of the text to personalize the information.
Peggy and I were jolted awake by a shaking rattling house at 4:14 this morning.
It was a relatively mild quake but it served, once again, to remind us of where we live and what we can expect from the geology of our locale.
As life-long residents of Southern California, and most particularly, because we've always lived on, or at the edges of, California's Transverse Range and the infamous San Andreas Fault , we're both well experienced with earthquakes.
The above map shows significant earthquakes in Southern California over the 25 year period between 1970 and 1995. I have added the numbers 1 through 4 to the map to show where I've lived my life, in close proximity to the most frequent and strongest quakes. Peggy has lived her life in the same places, except that she was born in the San Fernando Valley, where we grew up within a few miles of each other.
Todays little temblor (shown on the USGS shake map below) was a polite wake up call for us to make sure we're as prepared as possible for the impending disaster somewhere ahead of us.
In the last map of this post I've highlighted an oval which shows a 100+ mile section of the San Andreas Fault that is way overdue for a major quake, and, where we live in relationship to the fault.
It's not a matter of if, but when.
You can read a related National Geographic News article, by clicking here, which explains the known history of this segment of our infamous fault, and what we might expect in the very near future.
This isn't lunatic fringe doomsday prophesy, it's the factual reality of the geology of places like this, which straddle the edges of tectonic plates.

Today's Mild Temblor

The closer you are to the red areas on the above map, the more frequently you can expect earthquakes to occur.

Click on the above map to see the highlighted overdue section of the San Andreas Fault, which could very well bring us the next Big One, if the, also overdue Hayward Fault, in Northern California, doesn't beat us to it (again, you can see a related National Geographic News article by clicking here).

Fires! Floods! Earthquakes!

Why would anyone, in their right mind, want to live in the crowded, congested, expensive, smoggy, crime-ridden sprawl of Southern California when they also know, for certain, that some catastrophic disaster always lies just ahead?

Well, I can't speak for the millions of people who came here from somewhere else, for the climate, the scenery, a job, or to make it big in Hollyweird, whatever. In fact, it wouldn't break my heart if they all went home.


For me, it's simply about Place!

And, regardless of those who would question whether I ever had a right mind to be in, I'm going to explain why place is important to me anyway.

I was born here 62 years ago, at the west end of this gorgeous range of transverse mountains. And, if overdevelopment, sprawl, pollution, squalor, and outrageous prices hadn't driven me off, I'd still be living with the fires, floods, and earthquakes of Santa Monica, Reseda, or Topanga Canyon.

But somewhere along my journey I realized that we can't keep trashing the places we call home, and then just move on, because, as we should understand by now, we're about to run ourselves completely off the planet.

So, instead of invading someone elses part of the world (maybe even yours), I'm hanging on here, at the easternmost end of my home on the Range, where I can still afford to live, where I'm familiar, and where I'm surrounded by the relatively unspoiled beauty of Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains.

A few minutes walk from our dwelling, in any direction, takes me home to the nature of my place.

Fires, floods, and earthquakes define Southern California every bit as much as our beaches, mountains, and deserts.

They're the interacting forces of nature, which together, created the once gorgeous wide-open freedom of this place we call home.

Plate tectonics built these mountains and coastlines, while floods carved the canyons and filled the valleys with rich fertile soil, and wildfires groomed the dense forests and chaparral, allowing magnificently diverse gardens of botanical inventions to evolve into existence, along with a corresponding abundance of animal species.

The Transverse Range of Southern California is my home, I love and respect this place deeply. What is good for the nature of these mountains is also good for me.

So, naturally, I would also have a great respect for wildfires, floods, and earthquakes, the most fundamental building blocks of my place.

It's not my goal in life to control the forces of nature, it's my goal to try and learn to live in harmony with them.

Our small cabin is a sturdy wood frame structure which came through the 7.3 magnitude Landers Earthquake (July, 21, 1992 - 4:57 A.M.), and the 6.4 Big Bear Quake a few hours later, relatively unscathed.

Most everything inside the house was damaged or broken from the severe shaking, yet aside from a hairline crack in the foundation, and some slightly tweaked kitchen cabinets, the structure is still sound.

That doesn't mean the place will make it through the next shaker, especially if it's an 8+ magnitude 'mother of all quakes' along the San Andreas Fault some twenty miles from here.

And, a wood frame house doesn't seem the ideal structure to inhabit in a fire prone alpine forest either, does it?

We're also in a bit of a flood plain and have twice experienced our home becoming and island in two-foot deep floodwaters.

Fortunately the builder was aware of that problem and built our place nearly 3 feet above ground but some of the neighbors aren't so lucky.

Still, the unpredictable and extreme weather predicted as part of global warming & climate change could bring us heavier rains than we've ever known before.

If this house is eventually destoyed by fire, flood, or quake, and I live through it, maybe I can construct a dwelling more compatible with the forces of nature (or go back and reclaim my cave in the Santa Monica Mountains).

Architect Nader Khalili, of the Cal-Earth Institue in nearby Hesperia, has had the plans for this environmentally friendly earth home (click here) approved by the County Of San Bernardino.

The house was structurally tested and proved to be very earthquake and fire resistant, and, if thoughtfully situated would withstand floods too.

A wood frame home in a forest makes about as much sense as mobile home parks in the hurricane ravaged gulf coast states, or in tornado alley, or as skyscrapers, freeways and bridges do in earthquake country.

Nature can accomodate us quite sufficiently if only we would live in accordance with her counsel, or even with plain old common sense.

Any species long term survival is all about how they adapt to the opportunities, and the limitations, of the places they inhabit. Humans have a relatively brief history, as species go, yet we have already forgotten how to live, in, and of, our places. We now live upon, and separate from them.

I believe our relationship with our place should be an open reciprocal exchange, like a good marriage. Instead, we conquer the nature of our places, subduing them, like an abusive spouse dominates a potential partner. And when our places become stifled and debased by our control, we covet the wild, free, beauty we see elsewhere, and move along to consume new horizons which soon resemble what we left behind.

In our relentless quest for power, control, and omnipotence, we have essentially divorced ourselves from nature and the ability to love our places for what they are. We mold and form those places to be subservient, something nature's not capable of being.

But the lessons of our time tell us with blunt urgent clarity that we cannot continue living out of context with the nature of our place, whether it be Los Angeles, New Orleans, Greensburg Kansas, San Francisco, Big Bear Lake, or Planet Earth.

Today, on so many levels, we humans are confronting the dire consequences of trying to subjugate nature.

The immediate reality of a grossly overpopulated world, addicted to an economic system that demands growth in the face of rapidly dwindling resources, and the now perpetual wars being waged to gain control of those resources, is sobering and scary.

"Go Forth And Multiply" worked OK, I suppose, until we overshot the carrying capacity of our whole blessed biosphere!

We are now face to face with the man-made calamities of global warming, ozone depletion, climate change, rising sea levels, depleted fisheries, mass extinctions, peak oil and a subsequent economic collapse, as well as nature's relatively benign fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanism, hurricanes & tsunamis. And none of this is lunatic fringe doomsday prophecy either, it's here now, whether we like it or not.

We've been like the Mr. Magoo of cultures as our myopic clumsy civilization bumbled its way into a self-made disaster which threatens the entire globe.

Whereas, throughout human history, extreme events in the natural geology, or weather, of any given place typically affected only those areas. Places where more attuned beings, living with an accumulated, respectful, historical knowledge of their places, might avoid the worst aspects of predictable natural events (like the Sea Gypsies of Surin Island did during the 2004 Indonesian tsunami).

So, the very hard realities of humankind in this Twenty-First Century A.D., and our dismal failure in adapting to our ecosystem, should be our true Wake Up Call. Nature will regenerate much of what we've destroyed (sometimes by fire, flood, and earthquake), and create countless new life forms too. Mother Nature is generous and will even include some of us in the future if we will only cooperate.

A big part of my earthquake survival kit (or should I say, my generic, one-fits-all, disaster kit?) is my awareness of the inevitability of it all. I am mentally prepared for it and will not be disoriented or confused as to how such events could happen. And that applies equally to the ecological and economic cataclysms now unfolding all around us.

In the very near future the unwieldy materialistic lives we now know will have ceased to exist. For much of my life I've seen this coming and I fully understand why we're on the verge of societal collapse. So, if I actually live to see the worst of it, at least I won't be stumbling around in a dumbfounded state wondering how it happened, or why.

I realize the dizzying momentum of all this is overwhelming to many people, but our collective lack of will to change course still pisses me off!

It's not something we want to envision, but young people, alive right now, are going to witness the human population of Earth decline, substantially, to something resembling sustainable numbers.

That is a prediction based on a lifetime of open-minded witness to the verifiable down-to-earth facts of the realities we live with, not on some end-times religious dogma.

I'm not predicting the end of the world, just the decline of the human species.

And, whether you think this prediction qualifies me as a fringe lunatic doomsday prophet or not, history will corroborate the accuracy of this disturbing observation, if anyone's left to record it.

And, when my time comes, whether I succumb to old age, disease, or die as the result of one of these disasters---either natural or man-made---I hope to be right here where I belong, at home, in Southern California, the place I know and love.

In the meantime you will find me, for a good part of each day, outside, walking, and worshiping what's left of the lost paradise that once graced the west coast of Turtle Island.


This post is now complete. My personal experiences with Southern California disasters, which I was going to insert here, will now be a future post.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

November Train Trip - Part I .................. The Destination

~The Reason for My Trip~ Click on any photo to enlarge - all © 2007 jim otterstrom

This handsome fellow is Levi, he's 10 months old, and the much adored son of Norene and Andrew. I am part of their extended family and this was my first chance to meet Levi.

I rode the Amtrak Coast Starlight up to Jack London Square in Oakland, where Norene picked me up. Then I spent 10 fleeting days at their comfy home visiting as much as possible amidst the demanding schedules of two very busy new parents.

Levi Playing With Mom Norene and Levi play on the rug as, Skinny, one of the family cats, reads the mail.

Levi's Proud Papa Andrew is a devoted husband and loving father, and a first rate drummer too, I might add. I took this picture as he and I were heading out on one of our many morning walks.

~And Levi Again~ I think Levi most resembles his mother, except when he makes certain facial expressions.

I see Andrew in his smile.

And once more... Levi is very friendly and easy going. He's a lot of fun to be around and loves having his picture taken.

~Another Family Member~ Mister Peepers

Mr. Peepers & Skinny used to rule the roost at Norene & Andrew's place, until Levi came along, but they've had to make a few adjustments lately!

Aliens Saying Goodbye?
You really should click on this photo to enlarge it!

This may look like two alien cats in need of exorcism, but I think they were actually saying goodbye, or perhaps they just wanted to make sure I was really leaving.

The photo was taken early the morning of November 15th, the day I had to catch the train south. I had just brought my packed bags downstairs and sat down to have a cup of tea.

These two have been very aloof the few times we've met but they warmed up to me, ever so slightly, during this visit.

Skinny actually sat in my lap for a 15 minute petting session, and Mr. Peepers allowed me to be in close proximity for extensive picture taking.
Andrew, Norene, and Levi
I miss you guys...

And your weird cats too...
And even your alien sea-level plants!
Some of them are fascinatingly bizarre, like this potted succulent in the back yard.

And Some Of Them Are Seductively Beautiful... this Orange Clockvine twining up Norene's garden fence.

But most of all...
... I miss moments like this

But my time there was over. Ten days had flown by in a blur of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, fixing cars, doctor visits, household chores, running errands, walking, talking, playing, and visiting Levi's pre-school. All the things that define the life of a young family in a fast moving world.

And, by now, I was homesick for my wife, my dog, and my cats. Homesick James!

And they missed me too!

My own life, my home, gardens, and chickens needed my attention.

~It was time to catch my train~


The photo of Norene below was accidently deleted as this was being posted so I added it as a separate post.

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~Parting Shot~
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Norene dropped me off at Jack London Square at 8:30 Thursday morning on her way to work.
My train wasn't scheduled to leave until 9:00 so I took her picture in front of the odd building across the street while we said our goodbyes and sipped good coffee from her favorite little bagel joint.
And, is that the Swiss Army Knife of buildings or what? Look at all the gadgets, gizmos, and doo-dads attached to that thing!

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The Matterhorn... it looked December 9th
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

We're calling "Jim's mountain" The Matterhorn now! Click here to see the original post. But, to my credit, I did excavate a rambling little trail over & around one side of it so we can at least hike into in the yard now, without bushwacking through our stand of Oregon Grape.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beneath The Snow...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

As you saw in the previous post, winter has unofficially arrived here, about 13 days early. The temperature at 6 A.M. this morning was minus 2° F, while yesterday it was a bit warmer, 9° at 6 A.M.

However, snuggled beneath an insulating blanket of snow, a winter garden is alive and well.

This is one of two beds of cold-hardy greens we are growing this winter and we just covered them with 6 mil plastic about 10 days ago, at which time we also harvested a good amount of baby spinach and lettuce, and a bit of kale too.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, Shiver Me Timbers...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

It rained all day Saturday and we thought the storm was moving out during the night so we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to winter on Sunday morning.

I see that our Badwater Springs mascot is still in good spirits even though the waterfall & pond are frozen beneath the snow.~


~Lookin' Out My Front Door~Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Nine inches of light white powder is what we found upon opening the front door Sunday morning!


What a difference 22 days makes! Just four Sundays ago we were sitting at that same table, in shorts & t-shirts, enjoying Orchid's acorn processing class, shown in the previous post.

Hey, like I said, I'm a little behind...

The next two pictures are for Linda at Urban Wild, she'll understand...

Buddha Kiss One - Sunday Morning
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Buddha Kiss Two - Monday Afternoon
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Orchid Black's Acorn Processing Class...

...Live, at Earth Home Garden Click on any photo to enlarge
All photos © 2007 jim otterstrom

Orchid displays a bowl of 'batter' for Acorn Fritters during the class she presented here on Sunday, November 18th. To me, the "fritters" have a taste something like the best vege-burger I can imagine. Orchid came up Saturday night to prepare for the class, but this photo is from late in the class on Sunday, so, we need to go back and show you how we got to this point.

The photos were taken over a two day period, during preparation & also during the class, but they do not cover every detail of the process.

See Orchid's instructions at the end of the post for a step by step tutorial.

First, You Will Need Acorns! Orchid collected these California Black Oak Acorns here in the San Bernardino Mountains where they were once a staple for the Serrano Indians who lived here during the warmer months, long before we came along. The Black Oak leaves in the picture are from a tree native to our yard. Before processing, the acorns should be dried (they don't need to be dried if you're going to process and eat them all right away). This can be done outdoors if you have a safe place to dry them, out of reach of squirrels and other foragers. Or you can dry them in the oven (see Orchid's instructions at bottom of post).

Orchid's Acorn CrackerAnd now, the Saturday night preparations (before the class).
This cool little device is actually a pecan cracker but it also happens to be perfect for opening acorns. It has a screw adjustment for different sizes of acorns.

The Acorn Nut Once acorn nuts are out of their shells they somewhat resemble large peanuts, but they are loaded with bitter tannin that must be leached out of them before they are edible. Tannins are not only bitter, they're poisonous, and toxic to our livers, but acorns are also very nutritional and high in protein once the tannins (and the bitterness) are gone.

Acorn Nuts In A Pine-Needle Bowl
Once you have the dried acorn nuts out of their shells, like this, they must then be coarse-ground to about to about 1/8th inch nuggets for leaching (see Orchid's instructions at bottom of post).

Leaching Tannin From The Acorns
Orchid has dried & chopped a large batch of acorns for the class, and has been leaching the tannins out them for about 2 weeks.

She does this by tying up the coarse-ground dried acorns in cotton/cheesecloth towels (from Smart & Final), or in paint strainers from the hardware store, and soaking them in a tub or utility sink. She rinses the acorn mush & changes the water at least once a day until the tannins are gone.

The acorn batch Orchid brought with her wasn't quite finished, so, in the above picture, she's boiling out the last of the tannins.

Grinding Flour
When the acorns are fully leached of tannins, and completely dry, they can then be ground into meal or flour with this nifty hand-operated flour mill.

Making Acorn Corn Bread
Now it's Sunday morning, the day of the class, and Orchid is making a batch of Acorn Corn Bread (see bottom of post for instructions) for us to have with breakfast, and to share with the class.

The Class Begins
Orchid gives an oral history of oaks and acorns, and their huge impact on the development of civilization.

Clockwise, from top center: Orchid, Debbie, Meredith, Michele, Cheri, Samantha, Deb, Peggy, Robbie, & Christie.
I'm manning the camera, as usual.

Oak - The Frame Of Civilization
For those interested in the importance of Oak to the development of humankind, this is a must-read.

Key Lime-Aid With Chia Seeds
It's Break-Time, so Debbie and Meredith enjoy some home-made Key Lime-Aid with Chia Seeds. Orchid brought the chia seeds (native to the San Bernardino Mountains) and Deb provided the Key Limes (from her garden down in Murietta).

Meredith & Debbie are local school teachers and their home is on acreage at the east end of the valley, property which also includes a huge greenhouse where they may host community gardening in the future.

You Had To Be There
Robbie & Christie mix it up during the break.

These guys are our good buddies, part of our social group. We've been on the Xeriscape Tour Committee together for years, they recruit us for talks on native-plant gardening, pine-needle basketry, or car-free living at their Sierra Club meetings etc., and, we go to the same music festivals (Strawberry & Millpond).
It's always a joy to be in their company.

Back To Class
Orchid uses a Cuisinart to coarse chop acorns before soaking and leaching them.
They are gound to approximately the same size as chopped peanuts, like the ones used as bird & squirrel food.

A Sack Of Acorn Mush
In one of the earlier photos we saw acorns being boiled in cotton/cheesecloth towels wrapped & tied with rubber bands. That is one method of containing the acorns for leaching, but you can also use a readily available paint strainer (as shown here) to soak and leach your acorns. Just soak them in a sink or tub, changing the water, at least daily, for a week or two, until all of the tannins are leached out. The water will be relatively clear once the tannins are gone.

Tasting The Goods
After Orchid showed us how to process acorns, she treated us to some of the delicious stuff you can make with them. Above is the Acorn Corn Bread she was making (with some of her previously processed acorn flour) Sunday morning before the class (see above photo titled 'Making Acorn Corn Bread').

Frying Up Acorn Fritters
The scrumptious Acorn Corn Bread was a hit with everybody, but these fritters are just something else (see recipe at bottom of post)! They were made with the acorn 'grits' we finished leaching last night, and with acorn meal from a previous batch.

These were so good we couldn't cook them fast enought to keep up with the demand!

After Class Entertainment
Once class was over, and we had gorged ourselves on the bounty, we broke out a little beer & wine, and were treated to a live folk/blues jam by Cheri & Robbie.

Below is a copy of Orchid's instructional handout (with recipes) from the class if you get the notion to try this yourself.

Please read it carefully...


Dry the acorns. Drying is only necessary if you are going to store them, otherwise they can be eaten right away.

If you store without drying, they can mold. I believe First Nations people would use fresh ones to make soup at the acorn gathering festivals, which would have been preferred.

I dry them in the oven, by the pilot. If there is no pilot, use the oven light. Baking pans suspended over floor registers also work.

The idea is to not let the acorns get too hot, or it may bake the tannins in, making the tannins harder to remove in the leaching process.

I was drying in pans in the sun, until my local squirrel came around and started chattering about all the acorns: that he was going to take some. I got out there in a hurry and put them inside, barely beating him.

Crack the acorns. Something to do in the evening by the fire. I compost the shells. One reason to dry the acorns is that it makes cracking easier. Cut out any black spots and stripes.

Soak the whole acorn meats overnight. I do this because my blender won't grind them dry. Acorns are very hard. Also, soaking for more than 24 hrs makes it easier to remove skins, which have more tannins.

Grind the soaked whole acorns very coarse, about 1/8" pieces. I do this in a blender or cuisinart. I call this coarse mush. I put the coarse mush into a paint strainer, inside a big enamel pot. The mush needs to be coarse, or it will not stay inside the strainer. The paint strainer could also be cheescloth in a colander, a muslin bag, or a pillowcase that you don’t mind turning brown.

These options would require more squeezing or pressing during the water changing process to get out all the tannins with every change of water.

Soak the mush and change the water at least once a day. Soaking removes the tannins. You can change the water twice a day or more to go faster.

This part seems to take me about 5-7 days, more or less, using dried acorns.

Hilla Futterman said in her acorn class that with fresh acorns it took her about 3 days. I test the mush by chewing on the largest piece in the batch, because the tannins soak out faster from the smaller pieces.

When the mush no longer has a bitter or astringent taste, I go to the secondary drying step. Also, at this stage, the water should be clear.

Pouring the rinse water into a porcelain sink will dye it brown. Stainless steel doesn’t dye. The rinse water can go in the garden, or to a dyer-tannins fix dye, and also tan leather. Removing all the tannins is crucial, as tannins are toxic to the liver.

When the largest pieces taste bland and are not astringent, and/or the water runs clear, they are done soaking and ready to dry.

Dry the coarse mush in the oven on the pilot light. If grinding in a blender, regrind when it is not fully dry, so it is softer. If using a traditional flour grinder, the mush must fully dry to get fine flour.

I sift it, and use the finest flour in pancakes & cornbread. The stuff that is more grits consistency, I use in fritters.

Pancakes: Fritters for Two:

1/3 c wheat or buckwheat ½ to 2/3 c acorn grits
1/3 c cornmeal 1 to 2 eggs
1/3 c acorn meal 1/3 c buttermilk
pinch baking powder 1 tsp miso paste
salt 1/2 onion
egg handful chopped parsley
milk or water to thin 1 heaping tb parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Cornbread: Cornbread recipes usually call for half cornmeal & half wheat flour. Replace wheat flour in your favorite recipe with half to all acorn flour.

This material was inspired by Hilla Futterman’s acorn class and is written in memoriam. Please use this information with care, and at your own risk.
No part of any wild plant should ever be eaten without positive identification.
Orchid Black © 2006 Any duplication must be by permission, and must contain this information.

PH: 626-794-1275 FAX: 626-794-6992,, 1443 E. WASHINGTON BLVD. #163, PASADENA CA 91104

Orchid's Acorn Process reprinted at Earth Home Garden by permission.

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Dallas With Snowflakes...

...On The Porch This Very Morning
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Dallas, at 9:30 this morning, watching me from the porch with his chin resting on the lower railing.
Snow is falling lightly, Peggy is curled up on the couch downstairs reading Naomi Klein's 'Shock Doctrine', there's a warm glow coming from the woodstove and John Fahey is playing guitar on 'Robinhood Radio'.
I'm upstairs enjoying the peaceful ambiance of home on a Saturday morning while I sit at the computer restoring some ancient family photos in Photoshop and finishing up the Acorn Class post which will be on the blog sometime today!
Now David Lindley and El Rayo X are coming through the old Sansui with 'Tiki Torches At Twilight'.
Our 30 year old Sansui 9090DB receiver, and matching 1977 Sansui 5000A speakers, seem right at home with the nearly 13,000 hand-picked tunes playing through them by way of that new-fangled i-Pod gizmo hooked up to the system.
The songs below were also heard on our own homegrown Robinhood Radio today as the minutes ticked sweetly away...
Get Up, Stand Up - Bob Marley
Hip-Hugger - Booker T & The MGs
Dragalevska Ruchenitsa - Traicho Sinapov
There's A Moon Out Tonight - The Capris
Run Pete Run - Jimmy Martin
Raunchy - Bill Justis
Two Hearts - Chris Isaak
That Growling Baby Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
The Fool On The Hill - The Beatles
Ti-Pi-Tin - The Andrews Sisters
Prairie Lullabye - Jimmie Rodgers
Choo Choo Ch' Boogie - Asleep At The Wheel
Dancing In the Dark - Cannonball Adderly
Saucy Sailor - The Wailin' Jennys
Carry On - Crosby, Stills & Nash
C'est Un Mauvais Garcon - Baguette Quartette
Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis Presley
Blue Motel Room - Joni Mitchell
Ain't Enough - Guthrie Kennard
This Masquerade - George Benson
The Devil's Great Grandson - Sons Of The Pioneers
No Ordinary Love - Sade
In The Rhythms - Nobuko Miyamoto
Swanee River - Oscar Aleman
He's Funny That Way - Billie Holiday
Walk Between Raindrops - Donald Fagen
Spadella - Spade Cooley
Can't Feel At Home - The Carter Family
Come See About Me - The Supremes
Coal Creek March - Pete Seeger
Rock Island Blues - Lewis Black
When You Come Back Down - Nickel Creek
It Had To Be You - Billie Holiday
Mademoiselle Will Decide - Jools Holland's Rhythm & Blues Orchestra with Mark Knopfler
Khar-Shabi - T. Fazylova
I Betcha My Heart I Love You - Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys
Abilene - Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men
That Nasty Swing - Cliff Carlisle
Rollin' & Tumblin' - Canned Heat
Working Class Hero - Beatle Jazz
People Are Strange - The Doors
Opus 57 - David Grisman
Truck Driver's Blues - Cliff Bruner & his Boys
And So It Goes - Graham Nash
Just Like Starting Over - John Lennon
Hobo's Lullaby - Arlo Guthrie
Disgusted - Lucinda Williams
Em Mi Viejo San Juan - Los Panchos & Noel Estrada
I Know That You Know - Lionel Hampton
Mistreated Blues - Jimmy Gordon
Cookie Man - The Jazz Crusaders
Blue Light Boogie - Taj Mahal
El Paso - Marty Robbins
My Uncle - The Flying Burrito Brothers
I'll Be Ready When The Great Day Comes - Teddy Bunn
Driftin' - Eric Clapton
Contemporary Blues - Barney Kessel
The Day You Came Along - Jimmy Rowles
Carmelita - Linda Ronstadt
Viavy Raoxy - Henry Kaiser & David Lindley
I Wish It Would Rain - The Temptations
Beautiful Delilah - The Kinks
Cryin' Shame - Lyle Lovett
Lookin' For A Leader - Neil Young
Chains Of Love - J.J. Cale
Just Waitin' - Hank Williams
Ain't Got No Home - Clarence 'Frogman' Henry
Follow Me Home - Dire Straits
Take A Whiff On Me - Woody Guthrie
One World - Dire Straits
Las Cuatro Milpas (Four Little Cornfields) - Mariachi Coculense de Cirilo Marmolejo
Vaseline Machine Gun - Leo Kottke
4 on 6 - Lee Ritenour
Lucky Thirteen Blues - Brother Yusef
Keep It Clean - Charley Jordan
When The Sun Goes Down - Leroy Carr
Cold Blooded Murder #2 - Bumble Bee Slim
Nocturno - Andrés Segovia
The Roundup In The Spring - Martin Roberts
Slow Walk - Bill Doggett And His Combo
Blue Flame - Elvin Bishop
Almost Cut My Hair - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Man In The Long Black Coat - Bob Dylan
Give Me One Reason - Tracy Chapman
Can't Put A Bridle On That Mule This Morning - Julius Daniels
I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me - Hot Club Of Cowtown
Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor? - Lonnie Donegan
Mosadi - The Crusaders
With A Little Help From My Friends - The Beatles
Don't Get So Down On Yourself - Chris Isaak
Wrong Man Blues - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
What'd I Say - Jerry Lee Lewis
Morning Train - John Prine
Muskadine Blues - Little Walter & Baby Face Leroy
Tralala - Mark Knopfler
Blue In Green - Miles Davis
Gotta Serve Somebody - Bob Dylan
Hattie & Janelle - Joe Craven & Rob Ickes
Love Is A Rose - Neil Young
Oh Carol - Chuck Berry
Creepin' In - Norah Jones
Dance Me To The End Of Love - Madeleine Peyroux
...and, there you have it.
Nearly an entire day of Robinhood Radio (at least what I remembered to write down) as presented by the iPod at Earth Home Garden while Jim caught up on computer stuff, and Peg finished her book.
Goodnight all, it is now 10:03 P.M.

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There Really Is No Place Like Home...

...Believe Me!
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

This picture was taken Saturday, November 17th, about 1:30 in the afternoon.

It was my first day home after being gone for two weeks, and oh, how I had missed Peggy, Dallas, and our cozy little cabin.

Don't get me wrong now, the train trip to & from Oakland, on Amtrak's Coast Starlight, was a blast! And, I got to visit dear relatives I haven't seen in a good while, meet a brand new member of the family, and spend my 62nd birthday with my good friend Brian, but there's still no place like home!

Pictures of the trip are coming to a blog near you, SOON!

But I wanted to post this picture today, of the little world that means so much to me, and that I'm always so glad to come home to.


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Close Encounters...

...of the Jim kind
Click on image to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

So, Peggy comes home the other day to find a small mountain just inside her front gate, blocking the walkway to the house.

The first thing that came to her mind was Richard Dreyfuss building a mountain in his living room in the 1977 movie 'Close Encounters Of A Third Kind'.

The next thing that came to mind was her husband, Jim, a close encounter of another kind...

How do I know this?

She told me...

...right before she said, "Now, tell me why there's a mountain in our front yard".

"It's for my new rock garden honey", I said, smiling, "and it's clean native dirt from right across the street, where they're building that new house, and it was free!"

She gave me one of those raised-eyebrow looks, the kind only a husband really understands, while I smiled a bit more sheepishly.

Well, my plan was to begin moving 'The Mountain' to it's permanent location the very next day (by shovel & wheelbarrow), but then I remembered there were native plants which needed to be potted up and moved out of the way, so I spent much of the day doing that.

Then it rained for a whole day, and, of course, no dirt moving could be done during a downpour.

When the rain moved out in the middle of the night, the ground froze, and the next day the shovel responded to the new mountain as if it were solid granite.

And now, today is our food Co-op delivery day so I'll have to receive the order out on the shoulder of the road because the frozen mountain is still blocking the entrance to the yard.

"But I'll get it moved, eventually ("I promise!"), and look at all those lovely rocks in that mountain, just what we need in our rock garden, and they were free!"

Oh, and I didn't tell all you bloggers out there about the theme of the rock garden, did I?

I'm going to call it 'The Garden Of The Lost Civilization', and it's going to be built up around masonry rubble from the 1992 Big Bear Earthquake!

There's a huge repository (a forgotten dump basically) of beautiful broken red-brick and native-stone chimney debris a few miles from here, an historical treasure just lying around for the taking.

As soon as I find someone with a heavy-duty pick-up to help me move that stuff, I'm going to bring a truck-load of those archaeological artifacts home to enhance the new rock garden, after I get this other mountain out of the way, that is.

Anyhow, now you know why I haven't caught up with those other posts I'm behind on (you know, the acorn class & the train trip, and, oh, there's one about my recent birthday too!).

But first, the Co-op delivery, then the moving of the mountain... be continued


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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Connecting the dots...

...a letter from Erik
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

We got a very nice letter the other day from our young friend, Erik, who lives along Lytle Creek in the San Gabriel Mountains, about 65 miles from here.

Erik and his mother, along with his older sister & brother, have come to see our Native Plant Garden during the Big Bear Xeriscape Tour for the past couple of years, and the kids really love the gardens & the chickens.

This past July they stayed here most of the afternoon picking our brains and endearing themselves to us.

So it was great to hear from Erik, and today I'm mailing off replies to him from Peggy & I, including one of our pine-needle basketry starter kits, and 2 more for his brother & sister.

The kits include a coil of hemp twine, a large-eyed craft needle, a pine-needle guide (3/8"plastic tubing), a chunk of beeswax to wax the twine, a small bundle of pine needles (they have plenty of pine-needles in their neck o' the woods too), and complete instructions on making a small basket/bowl.

One of the most enjoyable things about Earth Home Garden, for Peggy and I, is watching how much fun kids have exploring the gardens and interacting with the chickens.

It's a regular occurrence for kids to come by and ask if they can go in and see the chickens and collect the eggs for us. They're also very interested in the hand pumps on the rainbarrels, the pedal-stone, the solar waterfall/pond, the hand plow, my big eco-friendly ant farm, and all the other wildlife that visits our place.

But it's especially rewarding for us when city kids, who've never had much exposure to country life, or nature, find some joy & magic in our little patch of Mother Earth.

Erik, however, is not a city kid. He's one of the more fortunate ones who lives in the rural foothills beyond the outskirts of town. His entire family has a budding interest in learning about sustainability, about living within nature, instead of upon her, and we admire their thoughtfulness and good energy.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Unlikely Bedfellows?

Fuzzy Couch Potatoes
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Dallas and Neo commandeered the couch on a rainy Friday.

It started raining yesterday morning sometime before 3 A.M. and continued until well past midnight last night. The rain fell moderate and steady all day long and we're having very light snow flurries this morning.

The moisture is very welcome indeed and we got something over 2 inches in a 24 hour period.


I just noticed it's December!!!

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