Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Health Care for All

Hi all, I'm a little fired up right now, as I get periodically, and right now it's about health care. This status quo HAS GOT TO CHANGE! People are dying preventable deaths, or suffering long, slow humiliation, because they can't afford insurance, can't afford Dr. visits, treatments, medications, preventative screenings, etc.

Three action steps:

1. I recently received this communication from my great aunt, Nancy, who has been active in calling for Single Payer.

"Our House Democrat, Mike Thompson, District One - when asked about Single Payer answered:

"There is no public support for it." and "If 2,000 of you had been here to ask, I might have thought there was."

We are in the process of generating at least 2,000 letters to him From His District -Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Yolo.


Dr. Representative Thompson,

I generally find I agree with your positions and votes as a legislator. Thank you for your ongoing service.

It recently came to my attention that you said there is no public support for a Single Payer system.

You are wrong. I support a Single Payer system, and nearly everyone I know in my community supports it, too. I hosted a Health Care for America public meeting here in Petrolia back in December. We are a small community and 8 people came, but ALL EIGHT OF THEM AGREED: Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and that the insurance companies are all ripping us off left and right. It is criminal that people are left to fend for themselves, and even if we are insured, we are one illness away from bankruptcy. Two of the participants at our meeting were health care providers, and they too agree that Single Payer is the way to go.

Frankly, anything short of that isn't going to do anything, but preserve the predatory practices of the insurance industry that doesn't give a damn about taking care of people and their health. Please support AT LEAST a public health insurance option, but if I had my druthers, I would suggest that you support ONLY A SINGLE PAYER SYSTEM, PROVIDING HEALTH CARE ACCESS FOR ALL AMERICANS! We deserve it!

Thank you,
Amanda Malachesky
Petrolia, CA
Mother, Massage Therapist

2. Visit Barack Obama's Health Care Page and submit your own health care horror story about why we need health care reform:
http://stories.barackobama.com/healthcareOr just read the stories and bear witness to how messed up the whole thing is.

3. If you're really ambitious and are You Tube savvy, submit a video of yourself asking Barack Obama a question about health care. He might answer it on his online town hall meeting tomorrow:

Thanks for reading this public service announcement. Now get out there and perform your civic duty!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wall Pour #1

The house the night before the pour, with reinforcement and bracing

Ryan holds the concrete hose while the pump operator fills the walls.

Karl using the stinger, which vibrates the bar to make sure it gets into all the wall cavities.

The extra pad, ready to go!

Drew working the chute

Screeding the form

My burly stud muffin, splattered with concrete

The whole crew: Ella, Samuel, Chris, Karl, Ryan, Ryan, Drew and I, in front of the dining room door buck

Yesterday, we poured a little more than four feet of the walls of our house, all the way around. It's been a bit of a push to get through to the pour, it required some challenging tasks...epoxying rebar into the foundation (our engineer determined we needed more than we had originally put in), building window and door bucks, and correcting the mistakes of the masons who set our first course of blocks.

At last, we finished all these (and more!) tasks, and dialed up the concrete. Drew did the estimating, and the number seemed a little large, but he checked it twice, and Karl checked again, and came up with the same number. We ordered 21 yards. Well, turns out we over-ordered due to a small math error. Oops. We did figure out what went wrong, so we won't make the mistake again next time, but we had 6 extra yards at the end of the wall pour!

Drew asked me, "Do you have any good ideas?" I thought for a moment. "Water tank pad?" "Where?" "Over there, behind our future barn?" "That's a good idea..." So after a few moments hesitation, Drew set the crew on building a last-minute 16' x 16' form, compass-oriented, for some future water tank(s). The crew manifested the form in approximately 30-40 minutes, which was pretty impressive, considering everything. People were rifling through the grass to find the scrap concrete stakes, running wildly with jiggling lengths of rebar, swinging hammers, and wildly gesturing over the din of the concrete truck. I really think they should all win an award for their performance.

At last, we were ready to dump the last of the concrete, and filled the form. We got to the last 9 square feet or so, and truck was empty. Uh oh, now what? Cold joint later, or lower the level of the slab? Karl guessed if we lowered the level 1.5 inches, it would be just about right. Turns out (how does he DO that?!) he was right. Luckily, the concrete hadn't set up too much to allow such a mid-course correction.

The following day, the crew stacked a large section of the north wall much taller, to the top of the window bucks. It's really starting to look like real walls! We're hoping for another pour next week before the holiday, or if not, shortly thereafter. We're not far from complete walls. After that, we'll need to wait 28 days for the concrete to cure completely, and then we can begin the roof. We'll probably do the septic and the garage slab in the meantime. Wow. Our house is happening!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


At long last, I harvested my garlic and onions today. I planted the garlic last October, and the onions I started from seed last August. Wow, talk about long-term commitment! Overall, it feels really nice to have produced these lovely bundles of storable food, but I would like to strive for more consistent and ripe results. The onions and garlic both vary greatly in size, and one of the garlic varieties would have liked to be harvested a few weeks ago. The outer paper skin was nearly rotten all the way through on most, and all the way through on a few. They kind of look naked, without the skin, their cloves bulging out at odd angles.

In any event, next time, I would feed them more regularly, and make use of the automatic water, which I set up a few weeks ago, after they were nearly done. But really, who can argue with over 70 heads of garlic, and approximately 50 onions? This year we won't need to buy garlic for our pesto, so long as our basil makes it through, which I'm sure it will.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Toad in a Hole

The other day, I was walking back from the house to the yurt and noticed a small black hole in the driveway. I've seen it before, though I've typically only had a subconscious recognition of it. Well, I decided to try to collapse it a little bit, assuming it was a gopher tunnel. I began kicking at it, and lo and behold, a western toad hopped across the opening underneath, such that I could see it, for only a split second!

And then it dawned on me, "Hey! That's a toad in a hole!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stacking Wall Blocks

I took some more photos two days ago, and nothing's changed since then! We've now got 6 courses of block on the whole thing, and I think we'll do 8 before the pour. Our next steps, once we get all those blocks stacked, is to epoxy in vertical rebar into the foundation, and then shim, level, and plumb the walls before a pour. We also will need to construct window bucks to make sure the window openings are perfectly square and remain so during this and future pours.

It's so exciting to stand out there inside the emerging walls! I just want to hang out all the time, and rehearse moving through the rooms, and practice looking out the windows. I'm also excited to see just what the views out the windows will look like when the windows are finished being framed in. The sound quality has already changed. The walls are containing sound much more completely than when there were just short 2 block walls. Drew is usually playing the radio out there while he works, and you can no longer hear it in the yurt.

Drew is excited for a "topless" party for his birthday, get it? Party without the roof on?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

House Unfolding

The view south through the master bedroom.

The zig-zag-y south wall, in all its glory. That curve is an optical illusion from the camera lens...You can see the beginnings of windows on the segment closest to the bottom of the frame.
These photos are from last week, more to come soon!

We began stacking our wall block about 10 days ago, and the house is emerging from the ground quite rapidly. It takes about a day for two people to stack one complete course, though with window openings coming into play, this should change for a while. Just before I came in right now, we started on the sixth course, which is one fewer than we can do in one pour. Once those blocks are stacked, we have some rebar work to do, and then we have our first wall pour! Within a week or two! And then on to more stacking.

The blocks are rather easy to work with, if a little scratchy on the skin. Gloves are important. They weigh about 20 lbs each, which is less than Ella, but their bulk makes them a little awkward to carry around. It's kind of like working with Legos. Stack 'em up! Keep a running bond! And away we go. Sometimes, when Ella is feeling charitable, she plays with toys on the slab, and both Drew and I can work together stacking. It does end up being a lot of walking, so in addition to creating wind-proof walls, it is also good exercise. As soon as Ella wakes up, I'm gonna go take some more pictures.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Seaweed in the Bowl

Seaweed-covered rocks south of the Mattole mouth

Sea Palm, far out on the rocks

The Catch- Drying on screens in the garden

Close up of the lovely colors

Though we live very close to the ocean, I often forget to visit it frequently, or just how abundant of a resource it can be for us. This morning, I rose at 5:15 AM and fixed a very light, quick breakfast so I could leave for the beach. Last night's full moon brought a -2.1 foot low tide this morning, and right now is high seaweed season. Our seaweed stash is rather low, since Drew and I haven't made the half-hour trek south of the Mattole mouth to collect it since before Ella was born.

It was a lovely, if cold morning. Being a parent of a late-sleeping child, I rarely see the pre-sunrise day in all it's shape-shifting glory. The birds' morning chorus was in full effect, a sweet cacophony of melodic tunes overlapping. This birdsong is made even sweeter by the fact that it is so short-lived. We will really only be graced by it for another month or so. The moon was hanging low in the western sky as I drove away.

I stopped to photograph the Mattole River as I crossed the Hideaway bridge. There was mist hanging around, the greens of the riparian forest were so vibrant, and the river was reflecting the sky. The swainson's thrushes were singing in the brush by the parking lot, and I hoisted my empty pack and headed south. What a treat a solo walk in the early morning by the ocean is!

It's probably a mile to the third collection of rocks, that jut out from the continent into the Pacific ocean. This spot stretches out the furthest into the sea. On my approach, I startled a family of sea lions, who were relaxing on the rocks. I imagine they would have been long gone had I been with someone else and talking. I timed my arrival perfectly. I made it out to my farthest reach just as the tide began to shift. I was surprised that the turning was such a palpable feeling, but I was way out from shore, and everything was calm and still, pulling away, quieting, and then suddenly, it wasn't anymore. The swell seemed a little more urgent, and the waves began pressing inward again. Time to begin my return, picking carefully over the very slippery rocks, collecting various kinds of seaweed as I go: wakame, iridescent seaweed, and unidentified green seaweed, sea lettuce, and so on. I tried to remember what nori looks like, but embarassingly, I couldn't remember. I think it's been four years since I last collected seaweed!

On my way home, I practiced some tracking in the sand and low light conditions. On my way out, I had noticed one and then two trotting tracks of coyote that basically stretched the entire way out to my destination, and continued on. They were fresh, having been laid while the tide was on its way out, evidenced by the erasure of a few of them. I caught this image of the animal clearly stopping to look over its left shoulder behind itself. I've always wondered how you would see that in tracks, but here is a clear example.

Coyote turns to look over his left shoulder before continuing down the beach

Close up of Coyote's over-the-shoulder glance

A nice direct-register gait, "making tracks" while conserving energy

I also followed a series of raccoon tracks, one and then two (and then one again) trails winding their way through the sand. They were perfect raccoon tracks, and I photographed a sequence of the four feet, as well as its trail, which looks like two feet side-by-side, but is actually left hind next to right front, and the opposite. They seemed to like to travel along the surf line where there is a lot of debris. Presumably, they were looking for a tasty morsel.

Two side-by-side Raccoon trails

One set of all four raccoon feet

I returned home, and cleaned the seaweed with Ella and laid it out to dry in the sun. It's now almost dry and ready to put away. And then, I moved right on to canning strawberry jam! It's a food preservation kind of day! I feel so grateful that the seaweed resource is available to us just down the coast in a short walking distance...

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Herding Dog With a Job

Our poor little herding dog, Acer, has had to tolerate our boring, slow-moving, exasperated selves since she was a wee pup. Before she met our neighbor's herding dog, who has an obsession with chasing aerial critters (i.e. birds), she was somewhat satisfied with racing after tennis balls and frisbees, when we found some time to indulge her. But for at least the last calendar year, we have been saying to each other, "Poor Acer, she really needs some goats or SOMETHING to herd".

She chases the barn swallows, who are nesting in our shed eaves, and who fly recklessly about. She chases the frequent Turkey vultures as they wobble overhead. She chases the hawks and the kites, and the songbirds who hide in the bushes. She DOES manage to keep the deer out of the garden, but they still manage to snip the tips off of our escallonia while she sleeps peacefully on the porch of the shed in her doggie bed. If we ignore her for too long, she will take off on her own adventure, as if to say, "To heck with you, I'M going for a walk."

Well, you can imagine the delight of this little herding dog, when she discovered we had chickens. We've been a little worried from the get-go, since she killed two of Cedar's unsuspecting chickens who were free-ranging when Drew showed up an unleashed Acer. When ours were three-day old fluffballs, Acer froze, quivering over the box, with drool dripping out of her licking lips. Uh-oh. When we moved them to the shed, she would race over everytime we opened the door, and intensely stare, shivering with concentration and excitement. When she is in this state, she loses most of her ability to hear our commands.

Now that we have moved the chicks outdoors into a fenced run, Acer spends most of her day "pointing" and then running a lap around the birds, presumably to gather them up. Unless they're right next to the fence, they don't seem too bothered, and our little herding dog AT LAST has something to round up. I call it "dog television". Happy happy dog...I'm not sure it's sinking in, but I am attempting to continue working on training, asking her to lie down and stay until I release her with "OK!" to run her lap around the coop. It remains to be seen what would happen if she could actually touch one with her nose. Maybe we shouldn't explore that.

Eat Your Wheaties

In case anyone was on the edge of their seat, I have a wheat update! Last evening, after putting away the chickens, I thought I'd see just how ready the winter wheat was. I've checked on it periodically, and thought that it didn't seem as though it had even flowered and been pollinated yet. But I believe I have been mistaken, and that they are just rather small, not-so-swollen seeds. Our soil preparation for this project was dismal at best, so this is something to strive for in the future. I'd LIKE to see a chicken tractor prepare the space...hmmm, (mumbling to self, with a far-away look) add constructing a chicken tractor to the list.

Anyway, the wheat is getting close to ready for harvest. We've had a spell of moist, drizzly, foggy, rainy weather all week. I suspect that when it changes, we will have hot and windy weather, which will dry the seed heads and all the grasses out in no time. Yellow hills are on the way. I've never done this before, so I'm not sure exactly when to do it. My reading suggests that you need to do it when it's partly dried out, but not too dry, otherwise the seeds will all fall off the stalks as you are moving it to your threshing area. It's gonna be an experiment. I do feel just a little proud that we did this, though I look forward to making it even better in years to come.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Providence has descended upon me, and I have had TWO full days of garden work, uninterrupted (well, mostly) the last two days. I not only have used the time to complete almost all of my bed prep for our summer annual garden, but I also created a new sheet mulch bed, cleaned out the shed from the time the chickens spent there, installed more irrigation, weeded out problem areas, installed our irrigation timers and programmed them, allowing automatic watering, and I bird-netted the strawberries to keep that pesky scrub jay out of there. Whew! I'm tired! The annual bed digging included weeding, amending, and turning two 100-square-foot beds, remulching them, and layout out the drip lines. In one of them, I had to remove a trellis from our failed :( shelling pea experiment (too many gophers). Speaking of gophers, Drew set a pair of MacAbee traps in a run this morning, and caught TWO gophers, one on either side! Between Drew, the dog, and the cats, we are in the gopher catching business. Things are looking up for our little garden. Hopefully, we won't suffer too many more casualties, and our garden will compliment our CSA share perfectly.

It's a good thing I've got all this bed space prepared, because I have a lot of starts to put in the ground: eggplants, peppers, zuchinni, butternut squash, bush delicata squash, hubbard squash, kale, cucumbers, and pumpkins. They will all be glad to get growing before they reach the outer edges of their pots.

I'll post some photos soon...