Archive for the 'The Ages' category

Fresnel Lens – Solar Cooking will be happening at Suburban Stone Age

Nov 15 2015 Published by under Fall, Information Age, Journal, Stone Age, The Ages

What do you do when you have a bum shoulder and can’t dig your pond? Why, you buy a death ray on eBay so you can melt glass and cook food, of course!

Let me explain…

A Fresnel lens is a thin plastic lens made of small concentric grooves on one side that focuses light like a magnifying glass. You’ve seen them around – they are those plastic sheets that are used to magnify text, and on a large scale are what’s in a lighthouse to create that beam of light.

When you use a Frenel lens to concentrate sunlight, you take the warm embrace of gentle sunshine and focus it into a face-melting, unholy death-ray. Seriously, if you do it right, that spot of light is strong enough to melt steel. Wow!

So naturally I HAD to have one.

Why? Well, to my mind, this Fresnel lens unlocks a whole wealth of possibilities using only the power of the sun. I can cook, disinfect water, start fires easily, and even go to new places such as metal cutting, welding, and making homemade obsidian. All from the benign power of the sun! Which, by the way, will still be available in the aftermath of a major earthquake.

And so enters a new Era of solar cooking and more at SSA. On the way are two Fresnel lenses, one spot and one linear, plus a parabolic mirror just for funsies. I’ll do my solar cooking and experimenting while my shoulder heals, then go back to finish digging my pond before spring.

(Side note – guess what the pond can also be? An emergency store of water for a disaster. Which I can distill into safe drinking water using the Fresnel lenses and only the sun. A beautiful thing, no?)

I’ll keep you posted!

No responses yet

Siberian Husky Shedding (Blowing) Her Coat

Siberian Husky Coat Harvest

As you know from previous posts, our Siberian Husky Roxy is the family sheep.  We harvest her undercoat and use it to spin yarn and weave hats and scarves.  In case you haven’t seen what it is like when a Husky blows their coat, the video below will give you a taste of the experience.

 

No responses yet

Siberian Husky Shedding (Blowing) Her Coat

Siberian Husky Coat Harvest

As you know from previous posts, our Siberian Husky Roxy is the family sheep.  We harvest her undercoat and use it to spin yarn and weave hats and scarves.  In case you haven’t seen what it is like when a Husky blows their coat, the video below will give you a taste of the experience.

 

No responses yet

(VIDEO) Spinning with the Babe’s Pinkie Spinning Wheel

Spinning is Old School

Spinning WheelSpinning with a spinning wheel originally dates back to around the 11th century.  Here at Suburban Stone Age, it dates back to last month.  After 120 agonizing days spinning with a drop spindle in 2010, I swore the next time I’d make yarn I’d be doing it with a spinning wheel.  Four years later, that has finally come true.  Meet my first spinning wheel; the Babe’s Pinkie Double Treadle wheel.

Fossil Fuel Free Fiber

Part about what I love so much about this wheel is that, aside from what it took to manufacture and ship it to me, it will never use fossil fuels again for make wondrous, homespun fiber.  This machine runs on butt fat, of which I have plenty, and I’m not afraid to get a workout to produce yarn for garments and gifts.

Dog? Sheep? Yes.

The true reason I got this wheel is because our Siberian Husky, Roxy, is our family sheep.  Every year, she explodes with fur as she sheds her winter undercoat.  This coat is a magical, mysterious thing of beauty and usefulness.  After a washing and carding, it becomes a marvelous yarn that make the most unique hats of all time. For me that closes the circle.  Girl feeds dog, dogs make clothes, girls wears clothes, and girl happily feeds the dog again.

Take It For A Spin

not it’s time to show you the Babe’s Pinkie Spinning Wheel itself, fresh out of the box and working away.  I hope you enjoy this old school piece of technology finding it’s way into our modern lives!

 

No responses yet

(VIDEO) Edible Landscaping Tour at Suburban Stone Age

You asked for it, and here it is! Come along for a personal, first-time-ever video tour of Suburban Stone Age!

Apparently, I’m a talker, because this vid is almost 30 mins long. But if you have the attention span, I’ll share with you (in detail!) the edible landscaping as SSA and why we planted the way we did.

Enjoy!

 

No responses yet

(VIDEO) How to Build a Fire with Flint and Steel

When camping for the weekend, I love to take the opportunity to practice survival skills.  This weekend I was testing out how to build a fire with flint and steel.  This technique dates back to the Iron Age, and is still incredibly effective today.  Find out how to use flint and steel, along with what works and what doesn’t.

 

No responses yet

(VIDEO) Going Tropical in the Greenhouse

Let’s face it… a greenhouse in Southern California isn’t *really* necessary.

True, it’s great for starting seeds in the spring. But in summer it gets as hot as the surface of the sun, and in winter it stays only a few degrees above freezing. Because I don’t do a lot of container gardening, the greenhouse has been standing idle most of the year because the temperature extremes make it unlivable.

Today, I fixed that. Hating that valuable space was being wasted, I made some adjustments and rededicated the greenhouse to going tropical. I added shade cloth to cut down on the blasting heat, and brought electricity into the greenhouse so I could run an aquarium and a fan. The aquarium is for heat and humidity (I repurposed my son’s unused 12 gallon tank), and the fan is to keep the air circulating. By the end of the day, things were running smoothly and I must say it was quite nice in there.

My tropicals that have been overwintering inside will like it a lot, I feel. And now I have a new microclimate to explore, which opens up a whole new world of plants to play with. As the greenhouse evolves, I’ll keep you posted, but so far, it’s a winner!  
 

No responses yet

Urban Beekeeping When You Can’t Keep Honey Bees

Mar 25 2014 Published by under Agricultural Age, The Ages

Urban Beekeeping For The Rest of Us

Urban beekeeping honey beehiveUrban beekeeping is a rising trend among many who are interested in producing their own source of honey and interacting with honey bees.  Unfortunately, there may be several reasons why a would-be backyard beekeeper is unable to start and maintain a honey beehive of their own.   Challenges such city ordinances, pets and small children, liability issues, and unenthusiastic neighbors can all pull the plug on dreams of being a honey beekeeper.

Beekeeping By Supporting Bees

Honey bees need more than a hive to be successful.  The good news is that you can be involved in some very important aspects of beekeeping, even if you can’t have the actual beehive on your property.  Here are some alternative ideas for “keeping” bees, by supporting bees:

  • urban beekeeping bee friendly plants peach blossomGrow bee friendly plants – Having an abundant food supply is important to a healthy, productive bee hive.  By planting bee friendly plants that bloom throughout the seasons, you’ll be giving bees a delicious, long lasting buffet.  Excellent bee plants include cilantro, lavender, rosemary, borage, lamb’s ear, echium, bee balm, echinacea, and many others.
  • Let the lawn grow - Caroline from London’s Buzzing recommends, “for those who prefer lawns to gardens… instead of cutting the lawn every so often, leave the grass to grow for one week longer or so – this will give clover the chance to flower and bees can get some much needed nectar”.
  • Don’t use insecticides – Insecticide use can have unintended consequences for bees.  To keep bees safe and healthy, use alternative organic methods to control garden pests.
  • honey bee drinking basinSupply clean water – A shallow basin of clean water can supply bees with much needed moisture, especially in hot weather or in a dry climate.  Fill a basin with pebbles or stones to give the bees a safe place to land and sip without drowning.
  • Involve the community – Caroline also suggests, “For the keen golfers among us, talk to management and ask that they use ‘bee-friendly’ products to keep their courses in pristine condition”.
  •  Get involved – Join a local beekeeping group and learn about urban beekeeping from the experts.  Even if you can’t have your own hive, beekeeping groups are a great way to interact and build a relationship with bees and people.  Depending on the group, you may able to participate in swarm rescues, harvest honey, or work with public education, among other activities.  Every group is different, but getting involved is a great place to start.
  • Other resources: Friends of the Earth has a great pamphlet on other ideas for supporting bees.  Find it here.

Native and Solitary Bees

leafcutter bee suburban stone ageHoney bees often get the spotlight, but there are actually thousands of species of bees. Even if you can’t keep a honey beehive, you can host native and solitary bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees.  Setting up a bee house  is an alternative way to keep bees without the disadvantages of having a traditional beehive.  You may not get honey, but you can still reap all the benefits of  enhanced pollination and the interest of a garden buzzing with activity.

Take Action!

There are many ways to support urban beekeeping, but the most important step is to take action.  By trying one of the steps above, you can start your journey towards keeping bees by supporting bees.

Sharing is Caring!

If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, please share!  I’d love to hear comments, questions, and feedback on your urban beekeeping experiences. Thanks!

No responses yet

California Tarantulas Are Looking For Love This Fall

california tarantula suburban stone age

The hubby saw this (big) little guy and jumped out of his chair saying “WHAT THE …?!?”

To explain, we have native California tarantulas, and in autumn, the males wander around looking for a hot date. This male somehow wandered into Suburban Stone Age and we found him stuck to the side of the house.

I am sorry to inform you Sir, but there are no tarantula women here for you today.

I put my little friend in a jar and am taking him to a luxurious tarantula resort, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. There he can live in bliss and find the big, hairy woman of his dreams.

How to Help Tarantulas

If you see a tarantula on the move in your area, give them a break.  Instead of swatting them with a newspaper, quietly observe these gentle giants.  Chances are you aren’t what they are looking for, and will move along to find a mate elsewhere.  If you need immediate help, call a spider-friendly friend or neighbor to remove and relocate them for you.  Local wildlife centers may also have staff or volunteers who may be able to help you.

More Info on Tarantulas In California

If you would like to know more about the California tarantula, this video from Baynature.org is a great resource.

No responses yet

Monarch Butterfly: How To Help

The Iconic Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is one of the most beloved and widely recognized butterflies in the world.  Its vivid orange and black wings make it easy to recognize.  The monarch butterfly and its beauty have come to represent butterflies and conservation issues everywhere.

monarch butterfly

What Makes Monarch Butterflies Unique?

Monarch butterflies migrate over 2,500 miles in search of warmer climates to over-winter.  However, not every single monarch butterfly does this.  Only the last generation of monarchs born in a year will be the ones to make the round trip migration.  This is multi-generational migration is a unique occurrence among the insect world.

The Monarch Butterfly Is In Danger

Human activities have had a dramatic and negative impact on the monarch butterfly.  Populations are under pressure.  Activities such as logging at wintering sites, destruction of milkweed habitat, and use of herbicides and pesticides are threatening monarch butterflies.  However, there is hope.  Here are some things citizens can do to give the monarch butterflies a helping hand.

What Can We Do To Help?

  • Plant Milkweed Host Plants: The caterpillar of the monarch butterfly only eats milkweed.  Milkweed is often considered a pest plant by humans and is destroyed.  When the milkweed is gone, there is no food for the next generation of monarchs.  By planing milkweed for monarch caterpillars in a small corner of the yard, you can help the monarch butterfly lifecycle stay intact.  Milkweed seeds can be ordered here and here.
  • Grow Herbicide and Pesticide Free Gardens: Herbicides and pesticides can have a dramatic and negative impact on monarchs and their host plants.  By adopting gardening practices that avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides, you’ll give monarch butterflies a safe haven to feed and reproduce.

Take Action, Help Monarchs!

monarch butterfly sunflower nectar suburban stone ageIn addition to taking action in your garden, you can help monarchs by spreading the word about the challenges they face.  Tell your family and friends the interesting facts you have learned about the monarch, and what you are doing to help.  In addition, there are many great monarch butterfly conservation groups, such as MonarchWatch.org and Learner.org,  you can become involved in that will help support the monarch at the community level.  We hope you will join the effort to help this beautiful and iconic butterfly survive for many generations to come!

No responses yet

Older posts »