Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wanted :: Black Bart The Poetic Bandit of Gold Rush Days

This particular California Gold Rush assignment brings Maria full circle, back to the day when she knew for sure she wanted to be in Ms Butler's class, just like her friend Leo, and making wanted posters, a Mission, inventing a toy, and in a classroom brimming with activities. Fourth grade has been good, sometimes even better than expected. Open House is next week, and we'll get to see more of Maria's creations, and works, and maybe she'll want to pop over to the fifth grade classrooms... to see what's in store for her there. As for Black Bart, he got off pretty easy for his crimes. I guess it pays to be a gentleman and a poet when you hold up stage coaches. He served his time, then was never heard from again.

Maria, I love how you portrayed Charles Bowles in his flour sack disguise!

Friday, April 24, 2015

{this moment}

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to see.
Alex, Max, William, Maria... my dreams coming true.

Dinner, after school, before homework. It's even more wonderful taken on the porch, with the sun lost in deep clouds, so we are reminded of afternoons in Honoka'a. Even our porch door's squeak adds to those memories. We've been to so many beautiful places... some I miss, some I can imagine living in, but right now, this place, this moment... it feels more like home than any place, than ever before. So happy to take this moment, and this gratitude, with me when I go to see my mother and grandmother... so happy to return, and enjoy more moments with Geoff, our children, our home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Little Planet Big Wonders

Happy Earth Day











We've been playing in the earth all week, getting dirty, making ourselves happy and tired. Tending the potted flowers, clearing out expired bits, moving in new specimens, and sharing our thanks, with small bouquets. Maria made her own little place on the planet with fallen leaves, petals and stones: A welcome mat, a bed and covers, the fire ring, and a colorful dinner. Alex and I sowed flower seeds, carrots, too. We planted chard, tomatoes, zinnias, peas. The jacarandas have bloomed early... it certainly feels like June, or May, at least. Hard to believe it's only April. Birds everywhere, bunnies growing. William spied the weasel couple who live in the foundation of the home next door... cheeky fiends. Max paces 'round the garden bed, and leaps over the hedges. There is fruit on the peach tree, apricots, apples, lemons, plums, figs. The pomegranate is blooming. Our hens are plump, and busy. Busy scratching, dust bathing, pecking, laying, being dear. The goats butt heads, and gambol. They eagerly accept all treats and affection. Mister Washburn Foo, our polka spotted Foo, waits for the gold finches to come to the feeder, then he springs to the ledge, nosed pressed to the screen. Or he drops to the floor, to pick up the dust. Chango walks out the front door, waits at the back door, then he goes at it all over again. Everyday, I wish that everyone could play in the earth, make themselves happy and tired, then go at it all over again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Imagine and Make

"For all your days be prepared, and meet them ever alike.
When you are the anvil, bear - when you are the hammer, strike."

Edwin Markham

Somewhere there is a list of all the things we hope to make, that we want to make, that we are compelled to make, and it includes build a forge. The list isn't exactly 'written down,' and we may not always agree on what's at the the top of the list, but the list does exist, and we do aspire to address every line of it, sooner or later. Alex was probably the first one to dream of a home forge, and I am sure Geoff agreed it would be good, William, too. No doubt Max has been on board since his freshmen year metals class. It's certainly something the children have dabbled with for many years. Well, some things on our make list happen right away, and some develop over time, organically. Last September we acquired an anvil, which is a good first step toward building a metal heating hearth. Then at a Viking Festival Alex was recruited as blacksmithing apprentice, and this only fueled the fire. Then, as though it were suddenly, Alex brought build a forge to the top of the list; he called his good friend James to come over, then he collected and gathered all the parts to make a soup can forge.

The Parts To Build It:

Propane torch
Steel soup can
Plaster of Paris
Sand
Steel pipe

The Parts To Use It:

Tongs
Anvil
Hammers
Scrap metal... copper coins, iron nails, clock springs
Goggles
Closed toed shoes
Boric acid
Bucket of water
Spark lighter

The iron nail was a fun one to heat up. Iron's melting point (2,800 degrees fahrenheit) is too high for this mini-forge, which was probably topping off at about 1,800 degrees fahrenheit. The soup can forge is sufficiently hot enough to soften the iron nails, so they can be hammered and shaped.

Copper has a much lower melting point, so we scrounged for some copper pennies, and put them in a steel pipe... the steel pipe turned out to be less effective than just sitting the pennies directly in the forge. Alex prepared some sand with the impression of a sea shell to pour the molten copper into. They were able to get the copper very hot, but it would cool as soon as the heat was removed, and it wasn't possible to pour the copper into the mold before it hardened. No surprise, since they knew the forge was almost 200 degrees cooler than necessary to really heat the copper up.

So... what next? Aluminum! Aluminum, with a melting point of only 1,221 degrees fahrenheit! A perfect match for the heat of the soup can forge.

The aluminum melted quickly...

and poured easily into the sand. Ideally this would not be "playground" sand, but a special sand combination called green sand: "...there are many recipes for the proportion of clay, but they all strike different balances between moldability, surface finish, and ability of the hot molten metal to degas."

We have a homemade aluminum sea shell blob. Which is really cool.

Things have come a long way from those first fire lessons, and it's wonderful to know that all of their experiences, at home, at Maker Faire, in the school metal shop... it builds, evolves, and inspires next steps, new paths, more confidence, bigger ideas.

Alex called this experiment "Good fun, but we need the big one."

The Parts on The Wish List:
Green sand
Leather aprons
Fire bricks
Refractory cement
A steel tube
A burner
Bellows, or forge blower


And the iron nail? They made it into a mini hook! I'd like about ten more of these, for hanging art on the porch, please!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Definitely My Favorite Mini Cooper


Behold the Mini Copper Coop... The Mini Cooper!









Just the next town over we have friends with chickens. Friends with chickens, and gardens, and children. Friends with chickens, gardens, children, projects, ideas, tools, plans, notions, good humor, and generous natures... so, you can see why dropping in on them would be irresistible! I invited ourselves {me + Geoff + Maria} over to meet the new chicks, visit the big ladies, and see what's new. Robin and Sean were warmly obliging, which was grand, because I had to see the new wing of Casa de Chickens... an addition still under construction, yet already a stunning contender for finest chicken coop in the world... it is that beautiful. It's a copper feathered coop... or, as my mind keeps saying it, a Cooper!

The curved wall of the coop is overlapped in scalloped cut sheets of copper, artfully suggesting a gorgeous fat hen. These scrap pieces, leftover from a very old job project Sean did, inspired Robin in a big way, and together, Robin and Sean, have been putting this secure, and lovely chicken shelter together for the new additions to their flock. It has a secret door, and a concrete floor, breezeway windows, and an automatic door, so everyone is safe for the night! It is loaded with charm... and growing chicks!

I cannot remember any of the breed names. The blackest ones are a Norwegian breed {I will have to Google, I suppose.} Of course, I do recognize the Buff Orpingtons, but what about the mostly white ones with feathered feet? Robin says eventually they'll be more black than white. Could the one in front be a rooster? I love the gentle turn of the head and sweet faced gaze of the chick behind the one with a comb and cocky stare. Maria made friends with all of the mature hens, when Sean showed her where to find the sunflower seeds. She especially enjoyed holding the Ameraucana. In our experience, Ameraucanas, like our Mako chica, have some of the sweetest, most docile personalities. And of course, their pretty green and blue eggs are delightful to see.

This was such a wonderful start to our day... seeing our friends, and catching up a bit, talking about dirt, and weasels, sharing ideas, getting tips. Robin and Sean keep gorgeous garden beds, and have vast stores of practical knowledge. I feel reignited, which is a good thing, because, as I was confessing to Robin, my garden theme at the moment is: Fatigue & Neglect. Not pretty. I honestly do envy people who can close down most garden duties during the snowy season. Still, I effectively close down, when my internal gardening clock simply stops ticking, and I let everything go to seed. It really helps to get re-inspired... I feel a dirt order coming on!

And chicks? Ooh yes! Maybe a few chicks, too.

Look at this! Robin sent me this picture, and now I am ready to go back and hang out, again! Any chick would be lucky to call this place home~

Friday, April 17, 2015

{this moment}

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to see.

Bambi, Alex, and Maria... lunchtime.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

En Plein Air


















Not just painting outside, but sculpture, fiber arts, woodworking, bonsai, ikebana, too. The Art Festival was so much fun, so engaging, Maria and I went back the next day, with Bambi and Alex. The first day there was a contest called a Quick Draw, participants were found throughout the gardens, plying their crafts with paints, charcoals, silk, and pencil, and they had three hours to complete a work for judging. We were thrilled for Toni Williams receiving a blue ribbon, and the sale of her oil painting. We'd enjoyed such a friendly visit with her, while she discussed her work, and encouraged Maria in her own art. Having seen the changes she made, her thoughtful application of light and shadow to her painting, it made the finished work even more beautiful, familiar.

We found another kindred spirit in Jan Greenwald, a wood turner, and patient teacher. He also has a mischievous humor, which added to the fun of watching him work, and waiting for Maria's turn at finishing her ginkgo branch turned mushroom. Jan has a gift for giving each child all the time in the world to make their choices, and finish the lathed piece with markers... all complimentary, all with his amusing remarks. And when he's not turning tops and mushrooms on his lathe, he is making much bigger, more elaborate bowls, urns, and chalices from locally found wood. Each piece is so carefully, painstakingly finished, it feels like the smoothness of warm silk, timeworn wood, buttery, comforting.

In the gardens we saw spring, and growth, changes. It was nice to be back, nice to see friends, and make new ones, nice to walk for hours and feel reinvigorated for it. When we returned the next day, Alex and Maria came with their own art supplies... being creative en plein air is irresistible.