Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Latest From Around Town

Ella Painting The Brat

The Brat Lined Up With its Competitors

Ella Sings at the Cabaret

I haven't written in a while, and of course that doesn't mean we haven't been busy. Now that the weather has returned to a cold and wet pattern, I'm finding a moment to catch up on indoor work.

First of all, we've all been sick for several weeks. At last, it appears we are nearly through it all. Back at the beginning of the sickness, the Mattole School (Booster Club?) hosted the annual Pinewood Derby. Ella is old enough this year to appreciate the activity and the competition, and wanted to make her own car. Drew helped her create the design, called "The Brat" after our actual Subaru Brat mini-pickup. When we went to town, she wanted to buy an octopus and a blue sea horse to drive the car, but alas, we couldn't find such specific items, and we settled for farm animals instead: A white rabbit driving, and a cow riding in the bed in the back. She obviously had a full body experience of painting her car on a warm day. Ella's car came in second place in the kid category!

Next, we have Ella singing "Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose" at the Cabaret last weekend. Those pre-schoolers are so cute. It's a good thing we have them around for comic relief and cuteness. More of that with Easter coming this weekend.

Finally, our other big news is that our un-permitted house has been found by the building inspector, so we are now going to have to go through the permit process. After a brief moment of annoyance, we've decided it's really for the better. Now we won't have to feel we're hiding it anymore. So we're actively engaged in figuring out what to do and how to proceed. More will come on that, I'm sure.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mountain Lion Visit

Tonight while I was cooking dinner, Drew came inside and asked if I could leave for a minute. "Hmmm, sure for a few minutes."
"I found something you have to see. I won't say what it is, but bring the camera."

I know both of us well enough to know that when we say such things, we've usually found some odd, natural history curiosity, for which either of us will drop everything to explore. We walked out of the yurt and headed south along the loop road, and then Drew led us down an abandoned road toward the place where we were going to put a second yurt. As we descended into the tree tunnel, I could immediately see what it was.

No way. I have lived here for more than three years, and I have spent many years before that looking, and I have maybe only seen definitive big cat evidence once, until today. It is unmistakable. The dead animal, covered with leaves and twigs and dirt, surrounded by raked grass. A look-alike to the small offerings our pet-cats leave in a patch of unmonitored sand, but oh-so-much-larger. Freakishly larger. Frighteningly larger.

Acer, our dog, has been barking more than usual into the bushes, and now we know why. Also, our neighbors have not only seen another lion kill right near their house, but they actually saw the critter itself. So I suppose we should be aware and on the lookout. I don't think I'll be sending Ella out to play in the yard by herself anytime soon.

It's curious to contemplate why there is a cat around now. Late winter hunger? Is it a momma with kittens? Drew also saw another recently dead deer across the creek, though he suspects a coyote kill. Maybe they have pups now, too, so there is extra pressure for food? I once thought there were lions around several years ago, based on the way Acer behaved on a walk home from our neighbor's home across the creek, but it was fleeting, and until now there hasn't been any action aside from coyotes. Though I admit to feeling some fear, I also try to look at it as an opportunity for learning and increased awareness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

House Insulation

At long last, we are insulating the house this week. It has been a long road to get here. We had hoped this step would have been completed in the fall, but if house-building and construction life has taught us anything, it's that everything takes much longer than you thought it would.

The reason it takes so long to prepare for insulation is that all the wiring, and all the plumbing and roof penetrations, and really anything that needs to travel in the walls or ceiling, needs to be in place before the insulating can take place, because once it's there, that's it. No more access.

We've had pushes like this before. The floor plumbing and drain and vent system, and water supply was like this too, before we poured the slab. It's chaos making sure we have covered all the details, decisions must be made, and all the while, we are praying we haven't forgotten something. The chaos was enhanced in this project because in order for the insulators to do their job, we had to make sure the house was empty. This shouldn't be a problem, because we don't live in the house yet, right? Well, in theory, yes, but the house was full of building materials, tools, and un-cleaned-up projects. So the cleaning/moving out project took a day and a half. But now that it's done, it's really relaxing, to watch the professionals do their thing, AND to appreciate the cleaned out space.

We are insulating with a spray-foam product that is very very cool. Grow Insulation uses a product called Sealection 500, which is a corn and soy based spray foam. They spray it in a liquid form, and in seconds, it expands 120 times it's volume, sealing all cracks and gaps. Once it cures (which happens quickly), it has no odor, is hypo-allergenic, and is totally non-toxic. We are really excited to see how this installation changes the thermal performance of our passive-solar home. We'll keep you posted on that.

Spring Planting

One of my first tasks upon returning home from five weeks of vacation (besides mowing grass) was to plant my warm weather seeds: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. I had the wherewithal to remember to make my seed order while I was still shussing the slopes of Heavenly powder, so my seeds were patiently waiting for me in the post office.

Each successive year with Ella right now is more and more fun, as she is able to participate in the regular, seasonal homestead jobs in more and more meaningful ways. I told her I was going to plant seeds, and she said, "Momma, I want to plant seeds too! [giggle]. So I set up the flats with potting soil, and made little depressions for the seeds, and she placed each tomato and pepper and eggplant seed lovingly into the cells, and gently covered them with soil. She also very much wanted to place the variety labels into the flats, to mark the rows: Sungolds, Brandywines, Muscovich, San Marzanos, and Super Marzano 3's. As last year, I am starting them inside the yurt, to avoid mouse predation, and to protect against the frosts we are still having.

In addition to the warm crops, I also planted about 1,000 onions, a mix of storage and sweet onions. They are hanging out in the cold frame, waiting to sprout. I also replanted beets, and transplanted out my broccoli and cabbage, which I started before we left on our trip. Our cold frame performed beautifully (coupled with dear housesitter Andrea's watering ministrations), to produce gorgeous seedlings ready for the soil on our return. I've tucked them in with a floating row cover and they are already growing well. I also transplanted in some bok choi, kale, lettuce and such. The spring garden is so full of excitement, so full of hopes for the whole season, planting fantasies and visions of what we will eat in the fall.

I do hope warmer spring weather comes soon...