Friday, October 29, 2010

Paper-making and Autumn Leaves

I recently found Mateo playing in the sand pit next to our bus pretending to make paper with an experimental mix of sand and water. This lead to a discussion about paper, its history, different things in our lives made of paper, and the natural ability of wasps to make their nests from paper. Later that week we created our own paper making project. This is our recipe"ish":
Making the sieve and mold:
My original plan was to make a very simple sieve with pantyhose and a wire hanger, however, I could not find what I needed at hand so in keeping with my vow to keep this project purchase free I ended up finding and using scrap wood, screen, wood screws and staple gun.
To make things easy we cut the four sides of our frame the same size.
Mateo enjoyed measuring to make sure that all pieces were exactly the same.
We then screwed the pieces together and stapled the screen mesh to the frame.
Mateo hammered the staples that poked up for a stronger hold then carefully trimmed the excess mesh from the sides.
The slurry or pulp:
Our ingredients consisted of newspaper, lint, sawdust, leaves and flowers and we later threw in some glitter. Next time I would like experiment with more color variations and sculptural forms, but for our first attempt we kept it simple.
First we shredded the newspaper and mixed the rest of the ingredients together in water.
Then we blended everything together to make the pulp. I recommend small batches at a time.
The pulp should have the consistency of porridge.
Now we are ready to make paper!
Any additional flowers or decorative elements should be added to your sieve first.
Then add the slurry over top. Our frame happened to fit perfectly into our cooler, making it easy to press the water into the underneath container.
We found it easiest to press the water out with our hands.
Once the majority of the water is pressed out, carefully flip the formed paper on to your drying area. We used a combination of felt and newspaper to absorb the excess water in our paper. We covered and then pressed and rolled the paper with rolling pin.
The result will start to resemble thick paper card.
Hang to dry and move on to the next batch.
We dried overnight.
The next day we found leaves we liked around the neighborhood and use them as templates to cut out from our new recycled paper.
Added some watercolor and..
...they ended up gorgeous. We hung them up inside our home. They remind us of the autumn leaves we don't get a chance to see here in Miami. But we'll soon get a chance to admire the changing colors of autumn next week when we take the bus on its first trial run up to North Carolina. Wahoo!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week in Pictures

1Cassidy Fry loves Transit Antenna.
Another week has whizzed by. As our departure date (Nov 1st) to pick up solar panels in NC becomes increasingly unrealistic, our life continues to expand and contract. Opposing forces of liberation and stress - a sense of freedom twinned ironically with an increasingly confined space - speed us toward the inexorable 'cracking' of our old routines like desert rocks. If we had to we could drive away tonight, but things would fly from our shelves, shake loose in our luggage bays and we only have enough fuel for about 180 miles. None of this would matter of course because our dry rotted tires would probably blow out no further than the end of the road. Nonetheless, the notion is tempting. Erring on the side of caution, however, we'll spending the next week getting things in order - filtering veg and tying things down - and attempting to quell our impatience, but as the weather continues to cool, the threat of economically catalyzed martial law looms, and the ground surrounding the bus becomes increasingly compacted and lifeless, our urge to take off becomes all the more.. well, urgent.

2After last Sunday's post, Muriel hosted a seedling sale at her farm next to our bus.

3On Monday morning we just hung out (gravity boots donated by Kathleen Burko, sarong from Fiji).

4Then the kids helped Muriel harvest peanuts.

5Mateo got savage new hair.

6And Harper discovered the emergency roof hatch - bungee to come.

We were visted by a giant moth.Later in the week we were visted by a giant moth.

And yesterday we finished building out our over-head storge.And yesterday we finished building out our over-head storage.

Harper took exception to this...Harper took exception to this...

...and not even coaxing with sanitary towels could persuade her to come down....and not even coaxing with sanitary towels could persuade her to come down.

As far as we know she might still be up there.As far as we know she might still be up there!
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Money Lessons


Making, organizing, trading, owing and spending money has been a large part of our life. Mateo has become increasingly interested in making and spending his own money. When he asks for something he sees on TV or at the store, I now allow him to make his own decision about spending his money. I have been able to introduce to him the ways that advertising and marketing work. He is able to make confident decisions about whether a "product" is worth spending money on - What is it made from? Will it break quickly? Will it hold my attention long? What is the value? Is it healthy for me? Is this something I want to gain a certain type of knowledge from or is it just for fun? These are questions that we make as adults everyday and these are questions that he should also start to consider. I don't want him to take the things available to him for granted, but instead make wise choices about whether these "wants" are necessary.

This discussion about money has been going on for a while. We started out by making a wallet several months ago. At first we considered buying one but Mateo decided that he wanted a wallet that was like his fathers - a duct-tape wallet.


So we went to work selecting a colored tape and coming up with a functional design. We included an area for the bills, but instead of card slots we opted for a Velcro pocket for loose change and the occasional salvaged-treasure find.


Our summer in a Europe added to Mateo's money lesson since he had to consider other currencies. Euros, pounds, and dollars all became a little overwhelming so he designated different pouches and zip-purses for each type of currency. And while, being only five years old, he couldn't quite grasp conversion rates, he at least now understands that countries have a different currency and value systems.

My little entrepreneur is still furthering his interest by working. Every Sunday he sets up a lemonade stand that runs along a side our friend Jason's BBQ days. Its become a regular hit. This past Sunday, however, Mateo moved his location to Muriel's Little River Market Garden (an amazing local project located on the same property as our bus), and not only did he help with selling plant seedlings, he also sold lemongrass tea and lemonade.


Through his lemonade business we practice our math skills - addition, subtraction, decimals - and learn their use in everyday life. He also understands that sometimes you need to spend a little money to make a little money.

Mateo is very proud of the money he has made and frequent pulls it out and shows it off to his friends. And although we sometimes worry about his recent obsession I know that he has every reason to be proud of accomplishments. Just last week Mateo was buying himself a snack at our weekly homeschool coop group, where we take a Lego class, and he decided to buy Sofia (his aunt and my 4 year old sister) a snack as well. Without any hesitation he offered to buy her something and gave her big hug and said, "because I love you Sofia!" I was proud to see him on the right track and not only learning about the value of money and his sense of independence through it, but also about generosity too.

Seeing my little man mature is rewarding, but, as is often the case with parenting, pride and concern go hand in hand (not to mention embarrassment). After a particularly successful day of lemonade selling, Mateo turned to one of our friends who happened to be helping him at the time and quite frankly asked to see her breasts. When she refused, explaining that she felt it wouldn't be appropriate, Mateo offered her money. Naturally we had a long talk about this and while I neglected to probe too deeply into his motivations and the motivations of adults in similar situations we did cover the basics ofrespect between people and the misuse of the power of currency.


Money will be a lifetime lesson, but for now I simply want him to learn that money comes and goes, can't buy love and should not define you as a person.

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