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Free Plans for 700 Sq. Ft. Cabin With Solar Panels


Western Scrub-jay in Garden

This jay flew down into the garden a few days ago. They're like the coyotes of the bird world: adaptable, tough, mischievous—and smart.

Go to the post page…

"…For the last decade, Zac Freeman has been saving pieces of household junk that would one day become a part of his masterfully intriguing art collection. He wanted to give his two dimensional portraits three dimensional value by using glue to meld everything from bottle caps, nails and old keyboard pieces onto a board to create faces that can only be seen from a distance.…"

Go to the post page…

"…For the last decade, Zac Freeman has been saving pieces of household junk that would one day become a part of his masterfully intriguing art collection. He wanted to give his two dimensional portraits three dimensional value by using glue to meld everything from bottle caps, nails and old keyboard pieces onto a board to create faces that can only be seen from a distance.…"

Mystery Object Found on Beach

Can an ocean person identify this? Lesley found it on the beach yesterday. It looks like a bunch of eggs, but it's kind of spongily hard.

S.F. Chronicle Flounders On

It's my hometown newspaper. I've been reading it (ulp!) almost 60 years. I don't want it to close down, but it reminds me of a chicken with its head cut off, still running around. They recently made the stunning improvement of printing some sections on glossy paper. Big whoop. Smaller size pages. Well, OK. But now they are desecrating the front page with sleazy ads like this. What an embarrassment. Is anyone at the controls?

Yurt Living in Alaska: Broadband Yes, Toilet No

Bretwood Higman and Erin McKittrick live in a Mongolian yurt high on a spruce-covered mountainside of the Kenai Peninsula in the coastal town of Seldovia, Alaska. Article in Dec. 30 New York Times by Sarah Maslin Nir. Photo by Stuart Isett
Article here.

Rufous-sided Towhee/Tanned Deer Skin

On left: Rufous-sided Towhee in garden this morning, shot through kitchen window,
Ain't he handsome?
On right: Deerskin from road-killed fawn I found near Gualala (CA) a few months ago. I skinned it, then cut up the meat and put in the freezer. I stretched and salted down the hide for a week, then sent it via UPS to a tanning place in Pennsylvania; and voila!—6 weeks later the beautifully tanned hide came back (via UPS). What a win-win situation from an animal that would otherwise have rotted on the road.

Freezing Run in Rain

As I took off on my weekly coastal run last night at 6:30, it was pelting a little rain. I was wearing my Maxit® tights and long-sleeved shirt, and a knitted hemp hat. This outfit has worked for me for years. Even tho it's cold starting, I always get warm after 10-15 minutes of running. Last night I got up to one of "my spots," a finger-like ridge of land that you can walk out on; It's maybe 30' across, with crashing waves on the rocks 500' below on both sides. You stand out on the end facing southeast and the Ocean beach side of San Francisco, it's like being on the prow of a ship. Last night the storm was coming in from the south and the air was perfumed with ozone and ocean essence.
I took off on the rest of the run, climbing up a fire road, light off because moon was full behind clouds. Every so often one of those little mice-hunting owls would float across the road in silent grace. It took about 20 minutes to get to the crest of the hill and I turned around to run back. By now the rain was increasing, and the drops felt just on the verge of being snow. Chilled to the bone. Back at the pub parking lot, changed into clothes in rainstorm, then went in and got a pint with the boys. We were sitting at a candle-lit table, it looked like the middle ages..

Cheap & Useful Tools From China

On Dec. 20, I did a post on the growing concerns I have about all this insanely cheap and useful Chinese-made stuff we all use. Here's a comment today I thought deserved a post of its own:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Stuff Made in China is Too Cheap":
Lloyd - I think I have the same Ryobi set. You're right, its not total crap. Its servicable. I use a Makita drill most of the time, but the Ryobi is great for not having to switch between 2 bit sizes. The circular saw is quite workable, though the battery only lasts a minute or two.
Your larger point is a good one. We don't even have options any more. Sure there are some fine handsaws available if you hunt hard enough, but who among us can really shell out a couple hundred bucks for each of a handful of types of saw? Elite hobbyists (and perhaps genuine craftspeople, although I suspect they are fewer in number) sustain the boutique tool market, not daily tradespeople. We can't all just fire up the forge and fashion a chisel to our liking. I constantly harp on this same issue. Living on a small homestead, I need all kinds of tools as essentially a matter of survival. When I need an axe for hand-splitting kindling, do I pay $250 for a Gransfors, or $25 for a Chinese or Mexican tool at the local hardware store? I'd rather pay $65 or whatever for a decent-enough American one, but they rarely exist as options.
I'm running into the same problem with pumps, solar panels, solar water heaters, and nearly every other aspect of attempting to live more responsibly. It seems its too late to revive American manufacturing, so what can be done?

Power Tools Still Made in the USA


Bob Hope & Jimmy Cagney Tap Dancing

I had no idea Bob Hope could dance.

Homegrown Tomatoes in January

Lesley picked these tomatoes green about a month ago in the greenhouse and, due to the miracle of tomato ripening, they're now sweet. It's great to have a little red sunshine in the dark of winter, and they didn't have to get here on a plane from Mexico. On the right are yerba buena leaves I gathered Sunday, they make delicate mint-like golden tea.

Year of the Tiger

…starts on Feb 14 (Valentine's day) 2010. Year to kick some ass!

Turn Off All Your Electronics For A Day, says Elizabeth Gilbert

"We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless... Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: the world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down. So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap. My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating ease."
-Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Her new book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage will be published in January, 2010.
from: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/files/what-matters-now-2.pdf

Chanterelle Year

Just so you know how flaky I am (I think a mentioned this a few years back): when I see my first chanterelle in the woods, I get on my knees and do a Buddhist bow to it, and to the earth that produced it. Yep.
The crab season is good this year, so we've got local crabs + mushrooms, thanks to the rains. These got distributed to about 6 happy neighbors.

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Interviews Evo Morales

From Amy Goodman's interview of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, who was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month.
AMY GOODMAN: "How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?"
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] "It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.…"
Photo from AP, www.esmas.com