Hatching Free Range Ideas

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page


In Make something on May 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm

This idea unfolds in a series of points with the title explanation coming at the very end. Hang in there.

1. An engineer friend of mine is working on timber frame homes, you know those lovely wide spans supported by enormous beams? The personality of the house is about those timbers.  I love timber frame houses but I can’t afford them and neither can a lot of other people. Often conventional construction loans won’t work ’cause you have to have the work done before the bank pays out the money. They take cranes to assemble, although they go up in a week.  Timber frames mean you need a fairly deep pocket to begin.

2. And, those big timbers come from big trees. Granted, they are from places that grow those big trees on purpose, and since the framing is all bound up in a few big timbers, you don’t use all those small sticks that conventional frame houses use. Don’t know how the sustainability sum compares between the two. Here’s a group that is designing bamboo timber frame houses. Lovely! http://www.bambooliving.com

3. While this same friend was working on his advanced engineering degree, he ran across another scientist using soy-based glues for construction. Soy-based! And very strong!

4. Then I started thinking. Laminate timbers are also lovely. And straight. And much stronger because of all the surface area. Trash trees, grown quickly make laminate timbers. Museums often use them for walls because they are so true, and they stay true.

5. Bamboo flooring (now you’re getting a hint) is made of laminated bamboo. It’s lovely. And hard. Timbers made of laminated bamboo should be doable. With soy glue. Wait, you still need that crane which means that you will go ahead and build a BIG home, ’cause you already paid for the equipment.

(And then there’s this site that I found while looking to see if anyone was doing bamboo laminate timbers. Worth checking out if sustainable design is your thing. www.inhabitat.com)

But wait, there’s more.

6. Box beams are also very strong. Surface area again. Can’t you build box beams from bamboo that are then light enough for a crew of folks to hoist into place? Can’t you grow bamboo quickly? Isn’t it well suited to grow in areas of the world where another industry would be helpful? And, lamination doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment. A home built press will do. We saw one in New Hampshire using hydraulic jacks and some crude but effective welding. What might it take to put a bamboo farm/laminate box beam construction company together, say, in Nicaraugua?

So, imagine. A small strong timber frame house, open inside, made from sustainable materials that many people could afford. And why wouldn’t you call the operation wop-bop-a-loo-bop-balop-BAMBOOM!



The first time, follow the instructions

In How we learn and think, Make something on May 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I don’t always read the manuals, especially if I can see that slot A and part B very obviously fit together. That’s fabulous design and I appreciate it. However, I’m learning about dealing with the less obvious.

I started knitting for the first time since 3rd grade about 6 months ago. My sister in law got me started; she does that. After knitting a couple of cowls, I decided to work on something a little more ambitious — a sweater. My first sweater. I found an easy, fast, attractive pattern. It called for a particular cotton yarn; I thought, “I’ll find something interesting and less expensive.”

I found a relatively nice acrylic yarn. And I began to knit. . . and knit. . . and knit. I ended up knitting more rows than I unravelled, but just. Then I sewed it together, put it on and made my discovery.

 Cotton yarn doesn’t stretch like acrylic yarn. My new sweater turned out to be about 1/2 again as large as I needed. Hmm.

It has other flaws, but for a first sweater I can accept them. It wasn’t until it was finished that I recognized the value of the sweater designer’s yarn suggestion.

A lesson that leads us to another subject: Making Robert Rodriquez’s Puerco Pibil recipe and questions and assumptions about instructions, and why the lesson from knitting might not always apply. But that’s another post.

Sharing morels

In Let's eat on May 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm

This has been the most wonderful Texas Spring in many years. The unusually cool and wet weather has brought out the wildflowers, the asparagus and several other surprises. Plants that were assumed long dead have reappeared. And then, of course, there are these.

These are Texas Morels. They only appear when Winter conditions AND Spring conditions have been exactly perfect . . . wet enough, cool at the right times, enough sunlight filtering through the cedar branches. And only they know what’s perfect. Their last appearance was 6 years ago. This year, I didn’t look, but while helping fill a gap in a dam, there one was at the toe of Eric’s foot. Well! That set the day’s agenda. We tromped around and found all of these that same day.

Two days later, we had four other friends over for morels in cream sauce, with something else. Doesn’t really matter what else. We ate all 2 pounds of morels in one sitting. They were glorious. When they cook, they look like little sea creatures.

After that haul, we had more rain and I continued to hunt. I found a few, which I shared with family. I learned on the small portion what no one had told me for the large; morels are best when browned in butter, not sauteed in butter or lathered in cream. Browned. So, in 2016, when they may reappear, please remind me that I told you this really important point. Butter!!! I hope we remember.


In Wandering on May 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Last year, we took a 2 week driving/camping trip around the Western U.S. Each evening we looked at a map and asked, “Where do we want to go tomorrow?” We followed a small canyon where the river ran uphill and drove a narrow road up the side of a mountain. . . all that stuff. It was freeing not to have a schedule or a plan, however, even then, we found the best surprises when our one day plans went slightly awry . . . like when the Chaco Canyon campground turned out to be closed and we had to camp at Angel Peak, the place that we think the Anasazis called the navel of the world.

It’s a good metaphor for my life. I’ve found a lot by wandering around, careers that connect to careers, friends, houses, home. And it’s both a large and small metaphor. When I hike with others, they leave me in their dust to wander alone. As they head for broader and higher vistas, I meander around looking for tiny treasures, little vistas on the ground.  While you jog the beach, I search for small creatures, parts of shells, shiny rocks which sometimes turn out to be tar balls. It’s amazing what you find when you aren’t looking for something in particular, huh?

Harriet painted for 70+ years

In ART! on May 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

My mother, Harriet Hayward, painted for over 70 years. She painted and then gave her paintings away. Often, before we had seen them.

I knew her well as a mother. She was fierce!

When she died late last year, we found a wealth of additional work, in photos and on paper. It was like discovering more of her. I went through journals and notes, drawers of paper drawings, lots of photos, and assembled a “catalog” of her life as an artist. You can see it at www.viovio.com. Search under Harriet Hayward.

We’ve recently discovered a place that will print images on canvas, as large as 3 x 4, which means that we can have more of her or copies of her work, that is. You need one?

My mini-celebrity watch — name dropping

In Friend's doing cool stuff that you can share, I NEED THAT!, Let's eat on May 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Okay, well these folks aren’t HUGE celebrities yet, but they ought to be. Here’s a list of friends who are doing cool things. . . and you can share in the experience.

For instance, Billy Ray and Beverly are running an art center in San Marcos. See them here www.zzzdog.com

And Karen and Jim are making olive oil and flavored balsamic vinegars from their own olive trees. The Mesquite-smoked olive oil won’t stick around my kitchen. Every time I look there’s less of it. I wish they would fix that. They had a spicy lime stuffed olive that transforms a Mexican Martini, but alas no more. Get the good stuff before it’s gone.  www.texasoliveranch.com

And Leslie is creating Spanish chorizo from a 300 year old recipe (Aurelia’s recipe, hence the name) with lots of great smoked paprika. You can’t make paella without it. Plus, she showed me how to saute it with cubes of good bread, crushed garlic and more smoked paprika, then put a cube of bread and a slice of sausage on a toothpick for appetizers. I hate to quote Rachel Ray, but “yummo!” www.aureliaschorizo.com

And then there’s Abby, who is re-inventing yoga for the rest of us. www.heartfeltyoga.com

Who do you know who is doing something that we can share in?

Christmas enchiladas

In Let's eat on May 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Make the Green

This part takes the longest. You might want to make extra green chili; it freezes well. But, it seems to get hotter the longer you have it in the freezer, so beware.

Find fresh green chilis, about a pound or more. Roast the chilis on a baking pan under your broiler or on an open flame. Turn until the skin is black and blistered. Put into a saucepan and cover. Let steam for 10-15 minutes. Peel chilis and remove the seeds if they are the really hot ones. Chop them.

Chop an onion. Chop garlic. Put into a skillet with oil and soften. Add cumin and salt to taste. You really want the taste of the green chilis to come out. Cook until slightly dry. You can also add a few tomatillos if you like a bit of tang.

Make the Red

Mix equal parts red chili powder with flour. Add to equal amount of oil. You’re making chili gravy. Add salt to taste. Dump mix in frying pan. Stir over heat until well blended and slightly thickened.  Add enough water to make chili gravy about the consistency of thin cream gravy.

Stack ‘em up


Stack on oven safe plate. Add raw chopped onion on top if you like and place in 350 oven about 20 minutes or until bubbly and melty. Top with an overeasy egg. Yes, Really!

Seven sisters seven ingredient secret salsa

In Let's eat on May 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

This is a fast and easy salsa recipe that’s a favorite. You can doctor it up the way you like it. Sometimes I add lime juice, cumin and/or ground red chili. Below is the basic recipe:

  • 1 can rotel style tomatoes with chilis
  • 1 can whole tomatoes drained
  • garlic (1-3 cloves; you choose)
  • Jalapeno or serranno peppers (you choose the heat)
  • 1/2 onion
  • bunch cilantro
  • salt

Throw it all in your blender and whirl until you like the consistency. It makes a quart and a little tester/treat for the cook. Have chips standing by.

Visual notetaking

In Visual Thinking on May 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Two years ago I attended the first ever VizThink conference, an international conference on visual thinking tools. Light bulbs came on. I mean lots of them. I have been taking picture notes ever since and find that I can recall the time and place of the note, what was happening at the time, the relationships between other concepts and events, etc.  They are both rich and private.

Here’s one note now.

And another, this one about Visual Notetaking techniques.

Big Fun!

In Big Fun!, Make something on May 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

 This is Melcrum. He’s a guardian from a Big Sculpture workshop at Sleeping Dog Art Center. And he was a little guy compared to the work of the artists who were all around me. Give yourself the opportunity, at least once a year but more often if possible, to create something concrete (no pun intended; this guy was clay). It makes you bigger. 

You can see some of the rest of the big fun in the background here.

Some people know what they will make from the start; others find their way. Melcrum appeared on Day 2 of the 5 day workshop. On Day 5, he got a birthday hat.