Epic Backpack in the Sierras – Two moms and two kids

Day 1

Setting up camp at the trailhead to Maggie Lakes in the Sequoia National Forest was the perfect way to spend the summer solstice. We are the only ones at Shake Camp ($15/night).

The kids, R and Christian, are amazed at the sequoias. Now that they’re out of the car, they’ve been alternating between dancing on the bear boxes and starting a pine needle blaze in our ample fire pit. They kids never asked for matches, but got a fire started from the coals left buried in the ashes.

Though the car ride was about five hours, we never ended up stopping for food, as I had packed bagels with cream cheese and salmon (Bella broiled it with lemon and fresh dill) and cherries. The bagels were fresh-baked from I Love Bagels.

Dinner was  Trader Joe tortellinis with a bit of olive oil and salt. We threw in a chopped zucchini and let it cook in the last five minutes. Celebrated our arrival (and solstice) with s’mores (1/2 bag marshmallows, 1 pkg grahams, 2 bars Hershey chocolate).

My hiking partner and friend, L, had to get a second bear can – half-size- to fit all our food. Even so, we ended up sleeping with some of it under our pillows the first couple nights. She says that she can fit nine days of food for one person in one full-size can. We each took three dinners, three lunches, and six sets of snacks for two adults and two kids.  Three days of food for four people, so basically 12 days of food for one person… L has a great little stove. I want one. In turn, she covets my inflatable solar lantern from my in-laws (by Luci).

I love being out here and I can hardly believe that I’m already out of cell phone and internet reach. It was so easy and feels so good. I’ve just slipped into the darkness and the world can’t reach me out here. Keep track of the important news for me! I just barely got my vacation responder set on both my email accounts before I left (ah damn it, I never submitted my Earthroots hours for this pay period… well, there was bound to be a dropped ball)

My meals:

#1 Dinner: 1 bag tortellini, 1 fresh zucchini

#1 dessert: sesame treats (korean, home-made by my mom)

#1 Lunch: 2 pkg tuna (in foil packets by Wild Planet). 2 mayo and 2 mustard packets (from The Hat), 3 fresh everything bagels

#1 snacks: chestnuts (org., in foil), 2 granola bars

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#2 Dinner: angel hair pasta (3/4 bag cooked and dehydrated), spaghetti sauce (1/2 jar dehydrated on 2 dinner plates)

#2 dessert: 1 pkg astronaut ice cream (not as big a hit as I’d hoped, but still tasty)

#2 Lunch: salami (trader joe’s already sliced), 1 block cheese, 2 mayo, 2 mustard, 2 thousand island dressing, 4 ww pita bread (remaining 3 pita was made into pb and prune roll-ups – surprisingly popular and satisfying)

#2 snacks: dried banana (4 bananas dehydrated), beef jerky (house-made Maui-style by Celestino in Costa Mesa), 2 granola bars

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#3 Dinner: 1 box rice pilaf, 1 head cauli dehydrated, 1 pkg freeze-dried chicken and rice

#3 dessert: chocolate (ritter bar; dark with marzipan)

#3 Lunch: 4 pita with peanut butter and prunes(I intended to have tuna again, but brought the tuna home)

#1 snacks: Trader Joe’s partially popped popcorn, prunes, dried cuttle fish (korean version of beef jerky), more beef jerky

Emergency food: 1/2 tub almond butter, 2 pkgs toddler formula (freebie, but ended up being tasty in the morning oats)

I also brought 10 hard-boiled eggs (from Jodi’s chickens) and my contribution to breakfast oatmeal was a bag of organic raisins, a bag of raw almonds, and some of Bella’s homemade granola. I keep a couple honey sticks in my first aid kid. I also brought 6 Starbuck’s espresso Via packets for morning coffee and some teas for nighttime and health: 5 tummy health, 3 smooth move, 2 throat coat, 1 green tea, and my mom’s fave, 6 solomon seal tea.

L’s meals:

Dinners

#1 alpine spaghetti (capellini pasta, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil) w/ kale chips

#2 Mac-n-cheese (three boxes of Annie’s in a ziplock) w/ dehydrated broccoli (Trader Joe’s)

#3 Bean and cheese burritos (dehydrated black beans from Mother’s bulk bins, shredded cheese, ww flour tortillas – very yummy – with the 2 remaining tortillas we made almond butter and ginger chocolate roll-ups)

Lunches

#1, #2, #3 Salami, cheese, Akmak crackers plus 2 fig newtons

Snacks

beef jerky, dried mangos, dried apricots, dried apples, salted almonds, wasabi almonds, energy goops and clif energy gummy blocks

Breakfast

Quick-cook irish oatmeal (instant digests too quickly) with brown sugar for all seven days, supplemented by left-overs

My in-laws have loaned me an incredibly lightweight tent, which has made a big difference in the weight of my pack (which I have not yet carried…) It’s a fly-and-tent-in-one combo called a tarptent. It comes with two poles and a small baggy of aluminum stakes. at their recommendation, I got and cut a .7 mm plastic painter’s dropcloth to use as a footprint.

Turns out the lightweight pack my mom-in-law loaned me was too small, because I am carrying for me and C. So it’s back to my old North Face Perseverance.

It’s been so hot in south Orange County that I’d forgotten how cool it could get in the mountains. Fully dressed however, I am prepared: wool socks (2), thermals (top and bottom), zip-off long pants, wool t-shirt by icebreaker, down vest (stuffed in a bag for a pillow), rain gear, and warm hat.  That plus 2 pair non-cotton undies and a long-sleeve linen shirt were all the clothes I dared bring. The only things I have two of are undies and wool socks and hankies. Well, and I’m obsessive about having lip stuff so I did tuck three of my favorite current addiction: treatment-free, locally-sourced, Backyard Bees Lip Dew in Prairie Grass flavor. If you’ve camped with me, chances are that I’ve given you one.

There is a small bird chirping at 11pm?

Tomorrow is 12 miles – we’ll see how we do with so much to carry. We plan to do it in two days, spend three nights there, and spend two days hiking back out. The plan is to get home Saturday. Today is Sunday.

This tent is spacious. Chad could fit in it, but it’s low overhead.

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2014 Movie Review

So many good movies in 2014! I do not presume to say  which movies are the best, because I will spurn even a very good movie if it has too much psycho-drama and self-loathing (Birdman) and I’ll always watch a musical, even if it’s mediocre (Into the Woods). The following movies were simply the ones I liked the best from last year.

Another list that may be useful is the metacritic.com “Films Mentioned on Most Critic Top Ten Lists in 2014” which lists the top 31 movies last year based on a point system of how many 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places they got. That link also takes you to 201 critic top ten lists of the year. That’s the kind of website my husband uses to make sure no watchable movies slip by our greedy movie-watching eyeballs.

Yup, watched all the movies below.

FAVORITES

Guardians of the Galaxy

Snow Piercer

I liked Interstellar. It was massively long (indeed, because of technical problems there was no picture for the first fifteen minutes, but by the end of the 3.5 hour-long flick, I’d completely forgotten about the missed opening – Chad didn’t; he complained and got us 4 movie passes!) Jessica Chastain had a minor role, as did Matt Damon and  Ann Hathaway – practically cameos, but Matthew Maccoughney carried the movie easily as he tends to do. (Wow, the Dallas Buyer’s Club was some serious acting, no?)

Still Alice didn’t get the play I thought it would, but I suppose that makes sense for a tightly acted emotional drama about early-onset Alzheimer’s. Geez. I cried a lot. More than a months worth of crying in one movie. It felt like it was based on a true story, but it wasn’t. And even though she will forever make me think of Amber Waves, the motherly porn star in Boogie Nights, Julianne Moore deserved the Oscar she got for Best Actress.

We Are the Best!

American Sniper

Boyhood

Whiplash

Two Days, One Night

Force Majeure

Edge of Tomorrow

GOOD (would recommend):

The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch is impeccable as the brilliant guy who broke the cipher code during the war, but the movie’s real importance is the historical revelation that despite his enormous contribution to world peace (seriously, he ended the war), that he was driven to suicide because it was illegal (ILLEGAL!) for him to like men in that way. Kinda like watching Milk: Well-done, good, and you pat yourself on the back for knowing a little more about gay inequality (*shudder*)

Foxcatcher

The Theory of Everything

Selma

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Gone Girl – one instance where the movie is better than the book. Perfectly cast with Rosamund Pike,  Ben Affleck, and Moore with even and better pacing than the book – which had a strange yank-twist too close to the end – like reading two separate books. I felt a little betrayed. (Girl on a Train is this year’s Gone Girl and highly readable; I did, in one night)

Big Hero 6

Ida

Mr Turner

The Immigrant

Leviathan

Nightcrawler

Wild Tales

Love is Strange

Wild

Rudderless

Unbroken – this one shouldn’t be on the list because there is a long list of things-that-were-wrong-with-this-movie (too long, good god, what was Angelina Jolie thinking to take on such a megolithitic beast of a historical wartime movie) but still, it’s a story that should be known: based on the true story of an Olympic gold runner who becomes the pet peeve of the intern camp sadistic manager.

I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND (but my husband might)

Inherent Vice – Based on a Thomas Pynchon book, which pretty much means it can poop gold as far as my husband is concerned

Love in the Moonlight – ugh, don’t bother. I guess I’m over Woody Allen.

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Florida Summer Memories

I’m looking to book my flight to Boca this summer for another adventurous three weeks in hot steamy Florida. Two moms, five kids, we sure fit in a lot of fun. Here are some snaps of last year’s vacation, in no particular order.

Remember the hive we removed from the eaves of a shed? We used a couple gallons of it to start our first 5-gallon carboy of MEAD

Remember the hive we removed from the eaves of a shed? We used a couple gallons of it to start our first 5-gallon carboy of MEAD. It will take 1-2 years to be ready – so perhaps by summer 2015?

 

We carved spoons out of the native Florida tree, gumbo limbo, while we binge-watched Masters of Sex.

We carved spoons out of the native Florida tree, gumbo limbo, while we binge-watched Masters of Sex.

Veil-less Sierra showing a frame of bees. C was a samrty-pants and knew all the answers to her bee questions, much to the entertainment of the crowd.

Veil-less Sierra showing a frame of bees. C was a smarty-pants and knew all the answers to her bee questions, much to the entertainment of the crowd.

Sierra' first bee yard! How sweet and small. Humble beginnings. This pic was taken on her her visit to her first bee yard in summer 2014.

Sierra’ first bee yard! How sweet and small. Humble beginnings. This pic was taken on her her visit to her first bee yard in summer 2014. She has 100+ hives now – less than a year later.

Polishing our steel bracelets that we made in Joe's metal shop with Joe's instruction.

Polishing the ends of what will become my steel bracelet that we made in Joe’s metal shop with Joe’s instruction (Sierra’s neighbor).

Harvesting starfruit from a neighbor's tree to make jam. Very mild.

Harvesting starfruit from a neighbor’s tree to make jam. Very mild.

Hanging at the lagoon in Jupiter. The water was amazingly clear and the shore was bounded by mangrove trees.

Hanging at the lagoon in Jupiter. The water was amazingly clear and the shore was bounded by mangrove trees.

Smoking a freshly caught swarm before moving it into a proper hive. Bees can be moved 12 inches or 12 miles - so the box being taken to Sierra's bee yard and being swapped out for another swarm. This box caught a second swarm while I was there.

Smoking a freshly caught swarm before moving it into a proper hive. Bees can be moved 12 inches or 12 miles – so the box was taken to Sierra’s bee yard and swapped out for another swarm. This box caught a second swarm the following week.

Fishing off the sea wall (another neighbor's backyard - across the street from Adam Sandler's vacation home!). C caught a mangrove snapper

Fishing off the sea wall (another neighbor’s backyard – across the street from Adam Sandler’s vacation home!). C caught a mangrove snapper

A rescued sea turtle - no pics of our first night when we watched a wild mama sea turtle lay eggs on the beach.

A rescued sea turtle – no pics of our first night when we watched a wild mama sea turtle lay eggs on the beach. This poor guy has a fish hook in his mouth.

In the background of all our activity we were constantly tending the borrowed solar beeswax melter. Sierra had piles of old comb to go through.

In the background of all our activity we were constantly tending the borrowed solar beeswax melter. Sierra had piles of old comb to go through.

Food was an important part our visit; we made Korean BBQ twice with specially cut ribs from Whole Foods

Food was an important part our visit; we made Korean BBQ twice with specially cut ribs from Whole Foods

Drinking was also part of our trip - here's what remains of our rainbow vodka shot jello cake by the time I remembered to take a picture.

Drinking was also part of our trip – here’s what remains of our rainbow vodka shot jello cake by the time I remembered to take a picture.

My buddy Sierra (milking coconuts here) who put up with me and C for three weeks. Hope she's ready for another three weeks!

My buddy Sierra (milking coconuts here) who put up with me and C for three weeks. Hope she’s ready for another three weeks!

 

 

 

 

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Marcus is w1n5t0n is m1k3y

Ilittlebro still prefer holding a real-live book in my hand than a computer device, but a friend has just offered me her old kindle which I am going to give a try. Chad has been reading books exclusively on his ipad now for a couple of years and mocks me when he sees me holding a book.

The main attraction is that all my books would be stored on a single device and not become dust collectors on the bookshelf. I am finding that my tolerance for dust collectors is decreasing as I age.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow would have been the perfect first book on my kindle; not only was it written by a coeditor of Boing Boing and available for free download in more formats than I could be bother to count (download it here) but it’s about exactly that chasm between today’s technically savvy youth and my generation who grew up without computers or (gasp) cell phones. That chasm is yawning wide right now and I can feel it even between me and my friends who are just ten years younger who seem to be able to find anything, a perfect gift to buy or any nugget of information, in mid-conversation.

It’s about a handful of teenagers who get scooped up and unethically treated in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in San Francisco – it hits scarily close to a possible truth (especially if you’ve read Zeitoun, a true story about New Orleans’ Katrina’s police state) when the kids are enraged and strike back by scrambling and messing with all the city’s surveillance systems. Communications happen via gaming and pilfered internet access and M1K3y is suddenly at the helm of the unanticipated revolution.

It’s a good fun fast read, but it left me craving something slower and perhaps more poetic. I think I’ll go check out another one by Ruth Ozecki…

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Best use for an old t-shirt

photo 3

Sierra and I made a list of things to do together while I was visiting in Florida; top of that list was “how to cut a t-shirt for crocheting into a rug” because I’ve wanted to learn how to do this for years. It didn’t happen until my second-to-last night because it’s something Sierra was doing a couple years ago. Start saving your old t-shirts. You’ll never throw or give away another t-shirt again.

Cut off the sleeves and their seams so that you have as much of a square piece of fabric  as possible. Then begin cutting an inch strip from the bottom corner . The idea is to a single long strip of fabric from the entire t-shirt..

Begin by cutting off the sleeves and their seams so that you have as much of a square piece of fabric as possible. Then begin cutting an inch thick strip from the bottom corner. The idea is to a single long strip of fabric from the entire t-shirt.. Go diagonally all the way around the t-shirt like peeling an orange in one long strip. Cut straight across side seams.

When you get to the cut armpit, you can start going back and forth. When you get to the neckline make your way over to the other side.

When you get to the cut armpit, you can start going back and forth. When you get to the neckline make your way over to the other side. The hole pictured above is the neck hole. When the entire shirt has been transformed into a single long strip of fabric, roll it into a ball.

You'll need a BIG crochet hook (fat as a kindergartener's first pencil - at least). For a rectangle, crochet a chain the width of the rectangle you want. at the end of the row, turn  and single crochet back to the beginning. To turn the next row,  chain one before beginning the row. Crochet as many rows as you want the rug long.

You’ll need a BIG crochet hook (fat as a kindergartener’s first pencil – at least). For a rectangle, crochet a chain the width of the rectangle you want. at the end of the row, turn and single crochet back to the beginning. To turn the next row, chain one before beginning the row. Crochet as many rows as you want the rug long.

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You can make circles and ovals as easily as rectangles., by crocheting in a spiral. Each stripe of color in this little rug is one entire shirt.

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When you get as advances as Sierra, you can make rugs like this one. Sierra used a spool of cotton rope (ten pounds of 5/32 ” cotton piping from an upholstery web store: diyupholsterysupply.com) to make this beauty for her daughter’s bedroom. She made two baskets with the leftover spool too. The actual pattern is free here.

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The Sound of a Queenless Hive

Working with bees is exhilarating and empowering. There is a lot of deep breathing involved, especially if you are stung, because bees will react to your fear.

A couple days after I arrived in Florida, Sierra got called out on a live bee removal for some friends of friends. The family was reluctant to see the bees go, but they were ready to renovate a small wooden shed in the back yard and the bees who lived in the soffit (eaves) were very much in the way (read: nobody dared approach that general area). As it turned out, the hive was REALLY BIG.

The three of us arrived late afternoon – it’s sweltering in those bee suits – and assessed the situation and set up the area. Basically, every beekeeper needs a bee jacket, a hive tool, and a smoker. For the removal, we also had a swarm box inside a larger vacuum box with a hose attached, large plastic trash bags, clean 5-gal buckets for honey, ladder, saws, and various other potential useful tools.

Sierra used as little smok as possible but Nicole and I wanted to use it heavily to sedate and disorient the bees.

Sierra used as little smok as possible but Nicole and I wanted to use it heavily to sedate and disorient the bees. Once a lady bee stung you and released an “attack” pheromone, her sisters would angrily congregate to sting the same spot.

The main object is to find the queen, because she is the vibrant egg-laying fertile heart of any bee colony. The queen is essential to a healthy colony, but  there are several circumstances when a hive is (momentarily) queen-less. When this is the case, the bees are typically cranky (no leadership!) and even make a different sound than a queened hive. Once the queen is captured (there are special queen cages for this purpose) the hive will follow. The problem is that the queen, essential as she is, usually lives deep in the layers of comb, attended by a worker bee retinue. This hive proved to be queen-less, a theory that was substantiated by the finding of several queen cells. The colony was awaiting a new queen to emerge and the old queen had probably taken off (“swarmed”) with approximately half the worker bees several days previously.

The queen cells are the size of a peanut - they are so much bigger than the worker cells that look like large growths.

The queen cells are the size of a peanut – they are so much bigger than the worker cells that they take over and absorb dozens of worker bee-sized cells. Sierra uncapped a few queen cells so we could all get a taste of royal jelly.

My favorite bee fact is the fact that the queen and the worker bees start from the exact same eggs laid by the exact same queen. While all the larvae are initially fed royal jelly for three days, most are switched over to bee bread for the rest of their larval growth stage. Larva intended to become queens are only ever fed royal jelly and their growth is not only accelerated but queens are nearly triple in size when born. Plus queens have extra special reproductive mating and egg-laying powers.

The only difference between a queen and a worker is what she is fed as she is growing up. How’s that for a sobering lesson on the importance of childhood nutrition?

Sierra had to use power tools to get access to the hive. She cut and then she vacuumed.

Sierra had to use power tools to get access to the hive. She cut and then she vacuumed.

So the first thing we did was to puff smoke at the bees. It’s supposed to help, but the buzzing of the bees gets distinctly louder and angrier when smoke is involved. Then we began to vacuum as many bees as possible into a bee box that is enclosed inside a larger wooden vacuum box. The idea is to get as many bees as possible plus the queen and take them away – alive – to start a new home elsewhere. The problem is that the old bee home, the hive, smells like bees and honey and will attract other bees who might move in, so the other goal is to scrape every single bit of comb off and to take it with us.

The hive just kept going and going. Perhaps you can tell from the wavy cut lines that this was Sierra's first time using power tools for a "cut-out"

The hive just kept going and going. Perhaps you can tell from the wavy cut lines that this was Sierra’s first time using power tools for a “cut-out”

Taking off the comb is a tricky business. The comb is tenaciously plastered to the wood with propolis, which is code for bee cement. Basically, it was like scraping dried glue up above my head while on a ladder, with swarms of angry bees buzzing, with very sticky heavy honey raining down on me; all done with limited vision because of the mesh veil and rivulets of sweat running into my eyes. I only managed to do it for 30 seconds. It was scary, hard work! Note in these pics that Sierra and Nicole are cool as cucumbers. Pretty impressive. Bees can sting through jeans, you know.

Each piece of comb was vacuumed of bees before being put into either a large black trash bag (regular comb) or a bucket lined with a paint strainer mesh (honey comb). It was literally raining honey.

Each piece of comb was vacuumed of bees before being put into either a large black trash bag (regular comb) or a bucket lined with a paint strainer mesh (honey comb). It was literally raining honey.

Sierra would cut the wood back with an electric saw and expose the bees. One of us would begin vacuuming while another scraped the comb off in long lengths. Every length of comb was vacuumed for more bees before being sorted into the appropriate container. Cut, scrape, and vacuum; cut, scrape, and vacuum; we did this for three hours; we did this past sunset with flashlights.

The cells of bee comb are extremely versatile and are used for everything from a larva nursery to a food larder, so some comb was full of brood and others were full of capped honey. Honey comb was put into a 5-gal food grade BPA-free bucket that was lined with a paint strainer bag. Brood comb was put into a black 50-gal trash bag to be later processed for beeswax. While a live hive removal is clearly vastly ethically superior to a poisonous extermination, some bees were definitely harmed in this process. I can see why vegans don’t eat honey.

Here's the proof of the size of the hive.

Here’s the proof of the size of the hive we removed.

This live bee removal was one of my major highlights of my Florida trip. It was a huge adrenaline rush to be surrounded by bees and to continue breathing slowly while working on the important task of saving this beehive. At one moment a bee was crawling up inside my jeans. I nearly panicked. I was stung and it HURT. I learned to tape up the bottom of my pants after that, but one sting compared to the enormity of this hive (how many thousands of bees we relocated?), made my pain feel relatively minute.

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My Version of “Summer Camp”

I’m in hot, humid Boca Raton for 18 days and it’s turning out just fine. I’m learning tons of new things (beekeeping, canning…); experiencing some incredible wild life (nesting sea turtles); and spending time with some of my favorite people (the Malnove babies are now 10, 8, and 5).

Besides doing some mind-blowing things with bees (remove a live hive! split a hive! harvest honey!) here is a list of a few things we hope to do during my short stay –  new skills and sierra’s household to-do list included indiscriminately:

stalk baby sea turtle hatchlings (saw mama laying instead)

learn to cut old t-shirts into single lengths (for crocheting into rugs)

clean up craft room (Sierra’s sister Gen did this!)

call natural pest guy

finish bubble chandelier in bathroom

organize Sierra’s pantry (Sierra’s sister Gen did this!)

trailer hitch on car

carve spoon out of gumbo limbo wood (local tree adapted to FL storm weather)

prepare akee (Jamaican fruit in freezer)

make mango- jalapeño jam

make mango-passionfruit jelly

make Korean BBQ (done this twice now)

make fresh coconut jello (not a great success-none of the kids would eat it)

elderflower champagne (still puzzled how this will happen)

make carembola/starfruit jelly (I fell asleep halfway through this, but I’m still counting it)

all-you-can-eat sushi (going to happen again next week)

Charm City Burgers (train conductor from Deerfield beach rec’d – we have been to BurgerFi which was also delicious)

see live ‘gators in the Everglades (long shot bc it’s 2-hour drive south)

make jewelry in Joe’s metal shop across the street (scheduled for Monday! excited!)

make craft room curtains

hook up BBQ grill (got advice, now need to get parts)

order hankies (from dharma trading just like in the old days)

Costco (organic olive oil)

infuse calendula, comfrey, plantain, yarrow, St John’s wort, chickweed

sourdough rye bread

get kombucha SCOBY back to life (it’s weak, may need reinforcement)

harvest starfruit 

make vodka rainbow cake

hang stained glass

start a batch of mead

check photostamp gift certificates

snorkeling (Debois Lagoon 2x, Blue Heron Bridge)

 

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My Niece Can Sing

Here is my niece performing “The Hunter’s Song” at her recital.

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Winter Count 2014

Winter Count with lots of Forest Kindergarten mamas - and NOT A SINGLE HUSBAND. Major girl camp = delicious food and juicy conversations. Minor amounts of weeping.

Winter Count with lots of Forest Kindergarten mamas and kidlets –  NOT A SINGLE HUSBAND. Major girl camp = delicious food and juicy conversations. Minor amounts of weeping. Let’s just say – we all want to come back, but it warn’t always easy. I can’t even bring myself to count the number of children in this pic.

Food was good, especially for meat eaters. The meals were predominantly gluten-free and there was always plenty of hot tea.

Food was good, especially for meat eaters. The meals were predominantly gluten-free and there was always plenty of hot tea. Hot sauce was served at every meal. I think a Korean woman ran the kitchen. No, really.

 

Dinner scene. In the background to the left you can see Alan's "knife shop': a tarp slung jauntily over two tepee poles. I'ts next to Benjamin Pixie's Meade, Honey, and essential oil stand.

Dinner scene. In the background to the left you can see Alan’s “knife shop’: a tarp slung jauntily over two tepee poles. It’s next to Benjamin Pixie’s Meade, Honey, and Essential Oil stand. Alan’s tepee is behind.

 

C looking and listening attentively to Dick who is showing him how to make a rock knife "good enough to skin a fish"

C looking and listening attentively to Dick who is showing him how to make a rock knife “good enough to skin a fish.” Dick also taught us how to make sling darts on the first day.

The kids all loved playing in the open desert all week. It was the never-ending playground.

The kids all loved playing in the open desert all week. It was the never-ending playground. I shook a whole lot of dirt out of C’s clothes when we got home.

Each of five moms took a day to make lunch. We worked up pretty good appetites out there. Not too hard to get the kids to eat.

Each of five moms took a day to make lunch. We worked up pretty good appetites out there. Not too hard to get the kids to eat.  Looks like we were eating Guatemalan black beans and veggie wraps here.

We often just followed Kid's Camp around, because they visited many of the instructors at Winter Count - here each child got a chance to make a spark and catch a piece of char cloth on fire.

We often just followed Kid’s Camp around, because they visited many of the instructors at Winter Count – here each child got a chance to make a spark and catch a piece of char cloth on fire.

So Gennica got her honey a flint and steel kit for her honey for Valentine's Day and that night Gennica made her first fire from start to finish - no matches, just flint and steel!

Gennica got her honey a flint and steel kit for Valentine’s Day and that night she made her first fire from start to finish – no matches, just flint and steel! We were impressed and celebrated with s’mores. Yup, that’s Chocolatl chocolate we’re smearing on graham crackers with jet-puffed ‘mellows.

The next day "those mothers from orange county" made fire with bow drills.

The next day “those mothers from orange county” made fire with bow drills.

EVERY ONE OF US MADE FIRE WITH BOW DRILLS. I kinda want to repeat that.

EVERY ONE OF US MADE FIRE WITH BOW DRILLS. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

The three basic primitive skills: fire, flint-knapping, and cordage. This is the flint-knapping pit.

The three basic primitive skills: fire, flint-knapping, and cordage. This is the flint-knapping pit.

The plant dye class had vats of dyes over open fires in the arroyo.

The plant dye class had vats of dyes over open fires in the arroyo: eucalyptus, purple corn, osage, black walnut and more.

Cole decided to have his own class; he set a class time and location, and taught kids to finger knit on 4 fingers.

Cole decided to have his own class; he taught kids to finger knit on 4 fingers. I love that they were imitating the true nature of winter count which is to SHARE KNOWLEDGE.

We watched a guy curing his roadkill bobcat hide.

We watched a guy curing his roadkill bobcat hide.

Then the next day we went back to help soften the hides. It take s a lot of work to work a hide. In this picture was are all pulling full-strength in all different directions.

Then the next day we went back to help soften the hides. It take s a lot of work to work a hide. In this picture we were trying to pull  full-strength in all different directions.

The deer hide was strong enough to bounce kids.

The deer hide was strong enough to bounce kids.

Christian's favorite activity was not any planned class or organized kid's club event - it was simply practicing using his new bow and arrow set that had been given to him on the first day of winter count.

Christian’s favorite activity was not any planned class or organized kid’s club event – it was simply practicing using his new bow and arrow set that had been given to him (free) on the first day of winter count.

The wooden spoon class was one of the most popular because it was free and was offered twice a day. I might have done this class if I hadn't been gifted a lovely carved wooden spoon last Christmas.

The wooden spoon class was one of the most popular because it was free and was offered twice a day. I might have done this class if I hadn’t been gifted a lovely carved wooden spoon last Christmas.

Seemed like everybody caught the wooden spoon wave but me.

Seemed like everybody caught the wooden spoon wave but me.

Oh yes, we'll definitely be back.

Oh yes, we’ll definitely be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zimoun Installation at UCI

The sound of one of  Zimoun’s installations is the multitude of many identical noises: often, the buzz, beating, or swiveling of hundreds of the same small motors running simultaneously. The sound could be likened to pattering raindrops, clicking typewriters, droning honeybees, or the vibration of a hundred air conditioning units in a condo community. It is a musical sum of an everyday happening. Although Zimoun might refer to his installations as “static sound architectures and spaces” and tell you that “What you hear is what you get”; the acoustic experience of entering “Wall of Sound” at UCI’s Beall Center for Art + Technology might be less like entering a building and more like entering a living bee hive; such is the collective energy generated by so many moving simple machines. Like the cloned sisters in a hive each making an individual buzz, dancing a unique waggle, and adding in her small way to the hum of the larger swarm mind, the 400+ cardboard boxes stacked throughout the gallery space, each with a small dc motor swinging a cotton ball drumming against the surface of it, creates the insistent sensation of entering something organic, albeit mechanized.

Swiss-born artist, Zimoun, is fond of repetition and he has a history of reiterating large grids of simple objects. Like a favorite quilt square, he has made a number of installations that involve cardboard boxes; for instance, in 2010, he created a spacious room with 111 large open boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. The boxes created a grid that was stark and clean; and each box housed a single frenetic jumping wire that was turned by a hidden motor. This immersive installation (all the installations are named simply by the listing of materials used) presented the opportunity to oscillate between experiencing one and all; between non-living and living; and between control and spontaneity. The boxes evoke cells and the wires evoke highly magnified cilia; but strangely, there is no distance in the magnification, because as each wire hits its own cardboard surface with every twist and turn, a unified orchestra of musical pattering results. The making of sound is observable and transparent, but somehow the comprehension of the total is elusive. Each box or cell is made with the assembled with the same components – mass-manufactured by a team of assistants or volunteers – but each wire wriggles according to the minute differences in length, density, and human error. All the wires wriggling at the same time creates the feeling of a mass that somehow approaches an organism. Does that mean that enough mechanized movement can approach the quality of life?

An earlier work such as 25 woodworms, wood microphone, sound system (2009) does explicit homage to the sounds of life or the sound of nature, and is the flat-out amplified noise of live woodworms chewing a hunk of rotting wood. Recent work continues to make extensive use of cardboard and other basic industrial materials and massive repetition, but explores even more deeply aleatoric, or chance-controlled sound. The level of deliberate control and rigor is counter-balanced by the inevitable (de)generation of the overall sound, although Zimoun is clear that he is “not using chance to discover unexpected results, but to elevate the works to a higher level of vitality.” “Wall of Sound” appears to be less structured than past works, as there is no room or substantive wall constructed; instead, uneven stacks of percussive boxes sprawl apparently haphazardly throughout the gallery space like a maze with no perceptible grid. Indeed, the reference to a “wall of sound” is pointedly directed at Phil Spector who is famous for his early 60’s sound production technique of layering multiple guitarists playing the same parts to create a density in the background music. Here, the gallery space itself becomes the instrument, and as the viewer moves through the space, “the wall” of sound will change and shift.

The commissioned  “Wall of Sound” is a coup for curator David Familian, as Zimoun has exhibited infrequently in the US, and even more rarely in California. The installation is the crowning finale in the gallery’s year-long dedication to sound art, a notoriously difficult and under-represented art form. As Cage famously said,  “music… is not an attempt to bring order out of chaos…but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.”

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