Friday, April 30, 2010

Homemade Butterfly House


Our internet got cut off recently due to unpaid bills, but despite an inordinate amount of Home Depot trips we are back in business!

The bus-to-RV conversion is moving about as fast as one man (Tom) can manage to build an new home from scratch on a budget provided for by his infrequent writing gigs and my random art workshops and placenta pill making. Ordinarily this wouldn't be so bad, but we have committed to move out of our house in 2 months so unfortunately pressure is on.

Thankfully Transit Antenna alumni, founder, and our personal hero, Bob came down to Miami to oversee the installation of the veggie system. He and Tom have been coming back exhausted and covered in engine grease for the last couple weeks and although Bob is now safe at home, Tom has continued to tinker and apart from a few connections I think its safe to say that its almost done.

Following them on their way to work on the bus one day, Mateo, Harper and I set about yet another homeschool project. With springtime and the promise of burning veggie oil in the air we decided to remake our makeshift butterfly house - it was looking particularly sad that morning.


The basic design consists of two wooden circles, a top and a bottom, held apart by sticks - the more tree/branch like the better for the butterflies - and wrapped in mesh.

Our first lesson was the use of a compass. Mateo was impressed that we could make a perfect circle with this little device.



We then jigsawed the circles we drew. We used wood scraps that the boys cast aside from the bus build-out.



With the baby strapped on this was no was no easy task!

Next we used a router to round out the edges - thanks Richard for the loan of the tools. Then Mateo sanded the wood rounds with a jitterbug sander - he was happy to get his hands on some tools without adults intervening.


We found some fallen branches from a nearby mango tree and then we, or rather, Richard, screwed the branches into place.





Finally we took the old mesh (with chrysalis still attached) and wrapped it over the new frame, leaving a little gap for access that we pinched with a small bulldog clip. I would like to add a string to the top of it so that once we are on the bus we can hang it.


And hey presto! A home fit for a metamorphosing king or queen. Maybe I can make a bunch of these and sell them on for a bit of pocket money while we're on the road. In the meantime, leave your orders in the comments section!

Yesterday - about a week after we finished the project - Mateo's first butterfly emerged. Unfortunately it did it at night so we didn't get to see it, but Mateo had fun releasing it into the wild all the same. Its a Cloudless Sulpher butterfly that we pulled of off Ariella's tree (Childhoodmagic).




Now we have 3 more caterpillars in pupa form that have made it their home. Quite the getaway!

Happy May Day!

Friday, April 9, 2010

eisenia foetida ad vermicompostium


For Mateo’s fifth Birthday, a friend of ours (Cassidy) brought him an ice cream tub of worms, Eisenia fetida (red wigglers) to be precise.

OK, so it was not the typical Birthday gift. They aren’t a new kite, ball or lovingly crafted accessory, but in truth they killed! The kids went nuts over them. Granted some, and admittedly some adults too, were a little taken aback (especially as they arrived during cake), but on the whole they went down (gulp) like a house on fire!


So why are my friends sabotaging my son’s birthday party with containers of worms? Well, for one, my son is a boy and likes all things creepy and crawly (especially if they are sanctioned as interior pets), but mainly because they are used for vermicomposting, a process of composting where in the bodily functions and general day-to-day activities of various species of worms - usually red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms - are used to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, similarly known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by a species of earthworm, in short, its poop.

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Currently we produce a lot of compostable kitchen scraps as we host an organic produce club and eat almost exclusively home cooked food and our compost bin, amorphous fly blown mass that it is, currently servers a number of purposes in our lives, not least of which is its intended function of producing rich yummy soil (which in Miami is a rarity). Tom also delights in banging on the bin to dislodge bugs which he then feeds to the chickens, but we’ll go into his failed attempt as Buddhism later.


One worry of mine about becoming nomadic, living on a bus, or simply not having a trusted source of produce has been that despite burning veggie oil and running solar power we would be forced to be less green. The idea of buying non-organic food in bulk from Wal-Mart, sleeping in their parking lots, and producing tons of dead weight trash is frightening to me. So what we are working towards is something close to sustainability where by even without a garden much of our water and waste can somehow be reused. For example when we install the water tanks on our bus we will dedicate the gray water tank as a plant water tank and use only natural based toiletries like Dr. Bronner’s. The worms are a significant step in this direction because they make the act of composting more adaptable to life on the road. We can use the vermicompost the worms produce from our waste in our micro farm as a water-soluble nutrient rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner and should find we have extra (like earthworms, red wigglers are hermaphroditic) we can use the worms as live bait for fishing or as treats for the chickens who, cooped up in the luggage bays, will no doubt be in need of a little TLC.

Sadly the worms are native to Europe, and not the US, but prior to our adoption of them (risking their dissemination in just about every state of North America and, if we make it that far, Central America too) they have been introduced (both intentionally and unintentionally) to every other continent except Antarctica, occasionally threatening native species. They also don’t like citrus fruits, but since I’ve found that eating citrus while breastfeeding gives Harper a diaper rash fresh squeezed orange juice has been off the menu anyway.

We don't quite yet know how boarder control officers will feel about a bus teeming with its own ecosystem, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it... or not.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Recycled Newspaper Baskets


Today in preparation for Easter on Sunday we weaved our very own baskets! I think this was a little over my 5 year old's head. Although he would check in on the basket's progress now and again to snip some paper and give a nod of approval it is probably more a project for children 8 years old and older.

We were inspired by this tutorial, however we made some modifications. For the project you will need: newspaper, scotch tape, duct tape, stapler, school glue and scissors.


The night before we weaved our baskets I prepared the newspaper into folded rolls. The folded rolls should be about 3/4in thick and you will need roughly 9 short folded rolls (approx 2ft. long), which will make up the ribs of the basket and a couple longer folded rolls (approx 4ft. long). I doubled up a couple of the shorter ones to make the longer strips. I then glued these strips and let them dry over night.


Start with your shorter newspaper rolls. Begin by weaving 4 strips together.


Keep on weaving till you have used all of the short strips. This woven surface will make the floor of your basket.


Start to shape the basket by folding the lose ends of the strips upward. Once you have folded each side you can then then weave the long strips through the 'ribs'. To keep my forming basket from unraveling I stapled one end of my horizontal strips on to one of the vertical strips (see above far left).


Keep on weaving and with a little patience a basket will begin to materialize. When the strip you are weaving runs out simply lengthen it by stapling another strip to the end.


When you are finished weaving, fold the ends over and staple or tape them.


Trim off any extra paper.


We added a strip of neon orange duct tape along the rim of our basket for extra durability and to keep the staples from poking out. We also added a handle made of duct tape for more efficient Easter egg gathering. Ribbon would also be beautiful, but we thought duct tape is just a more bit bad-ass.


Happy Merry Easter!

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