Saturday, November 27, 2010

Two Wheels along Vineyard Sound

I keep tabs on a number of blogs in which the topic, when distilled to it's essence, is about the joy of riding a bike, and today that's what this blog is about. It is with some regret that my bike has gathered more dust this year then at any time in the last ten years, so the opportunity to ride around for a while is reason enough for me to make mention of it. Building a house is an all consuming project, and time on my bike has fallen by the wayside.

It is our great fortune to spend many holidays and vacations here on Cape Cod at Nancy's family's place and this is often when I take advantage of the warm temperatures and flat terrain for some cycling adventures. Yesterday I noodled around Woods Hole and Falmouth as the sun was starting to set.

It felt great.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Extracting Honey

Our stack of honey supers (the boxes are called "supers") which each hold 9 or 10 frames of honey

The extractor

Uncapping a frame of honeycomb

Two different (mostly) uncapped honey. Most likely the light one is from earlier in the summer and the darker one from the fall

Filtering the golden take

Nancy and I spent a lot of time the last two nights extracting honey from all of the honey supers we've been storing in our basement since the summer. We gathered most of this honey in early September but haven't had a chance to do the extracting until now.

The process requires having an extractor, which is a barrel on legs with a rack inside that holds all of the frames of honey. There is a crank that spins the rack, creating centrifical force that slings the honey out of the comb and against the inside walls of the extractor, a lot like the way a washing machine on spin mode gets a lot of the water out of wet clothes.

Before putting the frames of honey into the extractor you have to cut off the wax cappings that the bees put there to contain the honey in the comb. Uncapping is done with a electrically heated knife that melts and cuts as you work down the honeycomb.

After you've put a load of uncapped frames into the extractor and then spun the whole thing, the honey that got flung out slowly slides down the walls of the extractor and gathers at the bottom where there is a spigot to drain out the honey. It helps to be doing all this while its warm in order to keep the honey flowing.

We run our honey through two filters to separate out the various bits of wax and bees and other debris that would otherwise end up in the honey.

Although we didn't get as much as we thought we might, it looks like we ended up with somewhere around eight gallons of honey. With that much we'll probably sell some, give some away as gifts and have plenty for ourselves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mt. Pollux

I spent a night visiting my friends Bill and Sam and their son August. They live in on the Amherst side of the Holyoke Range in western Massachusetts. We had a great visit that included a couple of hikes, some good food and some nice time hanging out.

On my way out of town I stopped for a few moments to walk up Mt. Pollux, located in South Amherst. In fact it is really a hill at all of 331 ft. high, but it's breadth and view lends it a majesty that is unsuspected until one arrives at the crest of the hill. I lived in this area for many years and it was only late in my tenure there that I discovered this special place. When describing it to Nancy this evening I told her I can go there and somehow sense being alive a hundred or more years ago. For me there is something profound about this spot. Had Nancy and I chosen to live in western Mass, I would have advocated for our wedding to have happened here.

I don't think I'm the only one who feels this. Tim Eriksen, an amazing musician who is deeply tapped into traditional American music has chosen this spot to record assorted videos of himself singing and playing.

This photo came with the description "Amherst, 1920's". I fancy that maybe this was set on Mt. Pollux. Even if it wasn't, it evokes a similar mood and feeling to what I experience there.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Less is More: Five days of fun at Yestermorrow

Today I finished up co-teaching a class called "Less is More: Designing the Smaller Home" at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. Despite some apprehension about teaching in a new area (design) leading up to the start of the class, I had great time. My teaching partner was Andreas Stavropoulos who I really enjoyed working with and getting to know. Andreas is a landscape architect based in Berkeley, California. He's a smart and ambitious guy who has done a variety of interesting and inspiring projects and it was fun to hear about his ups and downs along the way. Likewise, it was a pleasure to work with the seven students who, in some cases, came great distances to take this class. They all worked hard and did excellent work.

Over the course of the week we went on a couple of house tours of some small homes ranging is size from around 500 sq. ft to up around 1,800 sq. ft. that included an old sugar house made into a home, our yurt, a modular house, and other variations on small footprint living. We also did some exercises to get students thinking conceptually about their project and then steadily worked towards more and more concrete presentations. Its always amazing how things seem to accelerate as the week goes on.

Among the design projects the students worked on were a couple of mobile dwellings, a Catskills get-away, a spec house for down-sized retirees, and a variety of ski-house active outdoors-living homes. It will be so fun to see if and where any of these projects emerge from dream to reality. With time, I think there is a high likelihood this could happen.