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Amparo Bertram

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You are viewing 10 entries, 10 into the past

May 22nd, 2017

05:38 pm: Busy as a bee
After seeing my parents off on their trip back home, I've been working on restoring my house to some kind of order. It's going slowly, as I can only find a few minutes for unpacking boxes here and there between bouts of gardening, walking the dogs, cooking, and continuing my dye experiments.

This past weekend, I checked on my beehive, and I found that the bees had been making some of the comb improperly (for example, perpendicular to the frames instead of attached to the frames). I had to scrape a bunch of it off and collect it in a bowl. It's full of uncapped proto-honey, so the hive is definitely being industrious. After taking the picture, I stuck the bowl back in the hive so the bees could reclaim all the contents.

I've been continuing to test out various natural dyes. My favorite so far has been a dye made from loquat leaves. It gives a lovely peachy pink color that can get as dark as reddish brown on plant fibers. In the picture, the ball on the left is 80% wool/20% angora dyed by immersion in a glass jar set in the sun for a few days, and the ball on the right is 50% wool/50% bamboo dyed by dipping in a pot on the stove.

Currently, I'm experimenting with adding iron solution to the dye. Iron "saddens" colors, making them darker, and when combined with high tannin dyes it creates shades of gray. The tricky part is using the right quantity for the desired effect. I'll probably have a picture or two in my next update.

On Saturday, I took my current partner Brooke to a local mall for a public relations event put on by the police. She wasn't thrilled by all the noise and crowds, but she put up with it. She participated in two demonstrations along with a number of law enforcement canines.

I'm looking forward to attending the KublaCon game convention this coming weekend.

May 12th, 2017

06:32 am: Lofty goals
My bathroom renovation is still waiting on the shower glass and the custom door, but in the meantime, here's a mostly finished picture showing the sink side, with the shower reflected in the mirror.

The bedroom is also finished, and the crowning piece is my new bookshelf loft. The sitting area underneath has tatami mats for a Japanese feel. I'll be adding a low table, lights, and some Japanese-style floor cushions. The shelves will be populated with books and solitaire-playable games. Right now, I'm just really glad I can sleep on my bed again rather than the couch.

I got my shipment of yarn on Saturday, and I've been experimenting with my new dyeing hobby. My first ball of naturally dyed yarn came out reasonably well. The yellow color is quite pretty...the main flaw is that I don't normally wear yellow, so I'm not sure yet what I'll make with it. I'm sure I'll think of something.

May 2nd, 2017

11:12 am: Flowers and furnishings
I had a rather productive weekend, even though it was only Saturday. My parents drove me up to Richmond to listen to the plant dye talk, after which I bought a bunch of plants for my yard, including a passion fruit vine, a hibiscus, a sunflower, and a couple of hollyhocks. Despite how crowded my yard already is, I managed to squeeze all the new acquisitions into nooks and crannies.

The peas are finally starting to mature, so we'll have a few of those to eat over the next couple weeks. The blackberries are in full bloom right now, and my bees seem to be happy with the abundance of flowers.

The plumbing for my new bathroom is all hooked up, so it's technically functional. I had someone come on Monday to measure for the shower glass. Once that and the custom door arrive, it will be complete. My dad is now hard at work fixing up the rest of the bedroom. Once he gets the new floor done, I should be able to move back in.

April 26th, 2017

03:30 am: To dye for
The progress in my bathroom has been going in starts and stops. The whole past week has been spent on tiling, but they have to stop for a whole day between different sections to let the mortar dry. It is nearly done, though, with just a couple of small sections of decorative tile remaining to finish before the grouting can begin.

My garden is doing great. The beans and corn have sprouted, which is nice to see. My irises are in full bloom. This past weekend I planted out the squash, cucumbers, and cabbage. I also trimmed back my stand of bamboo, which had grown to envelop my camellia bushes, and my dad spent a whole day digging up the root masses to get it back under control.

I checked on the bees, and they look like they are settling in well. There is lots of activity around the hive, so they seem to be going strong.

My parents had originally planned to have returned home by now to get back in time for babysitting duties, but they were notified that they don't have to do the babysitting anymore, so they are able to stay longer to see the conclusion of the work on my bedroom.

I have recently started combining my gardening and crocheting hobbies by making forays into the realm of natural plant dyeing. At the moment, I've mainly just been studying books on the subject and collecting various garden prunings for making dye. I haven't bought any yarn yet, mainly because I don't have anywhere to put it with all the renovation going on in my house. There is, however, a scheduled talk at a nursery in Richmond this coming Saturday, and I'm hoping to get a chance to attend.

April 17th, 2017

04:34 pm: To Be Continued
It's been awhile since I last updated, mainly because I was debating what course to take after the recent LJ Terms of Service update. I did make a journal copy over at Dreamwidth, but I didn't want to switch over there abruptly without warning. I decided that I would keep updating here just until I finished some dangling threads. Mainly, I'm thinking of my Germany trip report, which still has one more installment left. I plan to finish that after I get my bedroom set back together once my remodeling project is completed. I'll switch over to using my Dreamwidth account (same username) as soon as I post the last trip report.

Last Saturday, April 8th, I went to San Francisco with megory. We shopped a bit at the farmer's market, picking up some cheese and flavored olive oils and pastries, then we hopped on a bus and headed over to Japantown to meet up with mangaroo for the cherry blossom festival. Thanks to the warmer weather this spring, the sakura trees were already mostly done blooming, but we still enjoyed wandering around the various vendor stalls. I hadn't intended to spend any money, but in the end I bought a number of items for decorating my bedroom.
On Sunday, Jenn came over, and we all attended the Flower and Garden Show at the event center. It was about half the size of the events in previous years, which was somewhat disappointing. One of the vendors explained that, thanks to the heavy rains this winter, most of the landscaping companies who usually participate in the event had to pull out because they were too busy with a backlog of customers. She said they should have just reduced the ticket price to compensate; instead, the event organizers were dealing with angry calls all weekend from people who felt cheated. We still found plenty of things to buy, but most were items such as flavored balsamic vinegar and other non-garden-related products.

This past Saturday, my dad took me out to pick up a new batch of bees. This time I got a nucleus (essentially a miniature, functioning hive) instead of a package. I'm hoping they will get off to a stronger start than the ones last year. After that, I planted all my corn and beans. This year I'll have 24 different types of beans in my variety trial.

The back yard is looking quite nice. The apple and cherry trees are blooming, as is the wisteria and the peony. The grape vines are starting to sprawl everywhere, and the surviving peas are about to put out flowers. The blackberries and raspberries are showing signs of having a heavy crop this year, and there are tons of baby plums on my Santa Rosa tree. Nothing on the apricot this year, but the quince looks like it might produce at least a few fruit. I've already gotten a few handfuls of blueberries.

The bathroom project has been making more progress, though there was about a week delay as my parents hired the workers to replace all the pipe for my whole house, both water and gas lines. It seems the wrong type of metal had been used in places, and there was corrosion everywhere. The bathroom is back on track now, and the workers are finishing up the drywall. They should start installing tile tomorrow. It's actually looking more or less like a bathroom now.

March 30th, 2017

07:52 am: Long weekend in Long Beach
This past weekend, I accompanied my parents to Long Beach for a cousin's wedding. We arrived Wednesday afternoon and had time to walk around for a few hours to see the area around the hotel. We visited the Aquarium of the Pacific, which isn't as extensive as the aquarium at Monterey, but it did have some interesting exhibits.

The next day, we set out exploring in the morning and came across the commuter train. We saw that it went straight to Los Angeles for a ridiculously low price, so we all hopped on board for some sightseeing. After getting off the train at the final stop, we wandered over to the Los Angeles Public Library, which has some decorative architecture. On the other side of the library, we found a tourist information booth with a helpful attendant who provided us with a map and circled items of interest that we could enter for free.

We had an excellent lunch of vegan ramen and then entered City Hall to catch the view from its observation deck. We could see the whole city, including the distant Hollywood sign.

We continued walking around, also taking in the cathedral, noticing that the sidewalks were unusually empty. I had expected that it would be like any large city--Tokyo, Frankfurt, London, or even San Francisco--with crowds of people everywhere. In contrast, the sidewalks of Los Angeles had only the occasional passerby. The place we had eaten lunch was packed with people, but stepping outside was like returning to a small town.

We ended up at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum, which had displays of costumes from the biggest hit movies of the past year, including Rogue One, Hidden Figures, Star Trek Beyond, Fantastic Beasts, and Doctor Strange. That was spectacular, and definitely my favorite part of the trip.

Friday we had breakfast at a local cafe restaurant, then walked around downtown Long Beach. In the afternoon we shopped at the nearby Shoreline Village, a cluster of shops somewhat like San Francisco's Pier 39, and walked along the water to see the Queen Mary and other ships from afar. We finished off the evening by attending the wedding rehearsal dinner.

Saturday we spent the morning walking along the beach before having lunch at a local mead shop. Despite the early hour, the place was packed with people for a mead tasting event. We attended the wedding in the evening, which was held at a local restaurant. Then we had to leave early the next morning for our return flight.

Work has been progressing on my bathroom project. I'm being kept busy running around ordering and picking up various materials. The new room has wall studs and electrical. It should be ready for the rough-in inspection soon, once the plumbing is in place.


March 20th, 2017

08:17 am: Steps in the right direction
The work on my bathroom renovation project has started. The old closet has been removed, and the area for the new bathroom has been gutted. The old bathroom has also been gutted to remake it into a closet. All of this demolition uncovered a few problems, such as dead animals in the walls (ew), bad pipes, and leaky walls. It will cost extra to fix such things, but it's better to get issues dealt with now while the walls are open.

The exciting news out in the garden is that my ume tree is producing fruit for the first time. There's not a lot, and some may still drop off before ripening, but it's a promising start.

March 16th, 2017

08:03 am: Anticipating April showers
It has been a busy time around here, as I finally got a contractor signed for my master bathroom remodel project. I've been running around selecting and ordering fixtures and finishes. Supplies are starting to be delivered, and work is scheduled to start today.

For posterity, here is the state of the room before construction. I originally wanted to enlarge the existing half bath, but that wall-mounted gas heater would make any expansion tricky, because I can't just remove it due to building codes. Instead, I'll have the bathroom gutted and converted into a closet. Then the existing closet will be removed and replaced with a new, larger bathroom with an added shower.

There's not much other news. Things are sprouting out in the garden. The peas are beginning to recover from the early slug attacks, so I might actually get something from them this year, albeit delayed. The potted squash and cabbages are putting out their first leaves, so they're on track for transplanting in early May. The raspberry is starting to send up canes outside its bed, so I'll have to go through and pull all the extra ones before it gets out of control.

March 1st, 2017

05:19 am: Having it all on tap
Sunday I planted all of my recent nursery purchases. I also got the seeds planted for my summer vegetable crops. A few of my fruit trees are beginning to flower now that the weather is warming slightly, and the asparagus is just starting to sprout.

Monday I went to a bath supply store to order a sink and other fixtures for my bathroom remodel project. It took nearly an hour to find a faucet that fit the design and came in a single-hole vessel sink model with a finish of the right color. It's rather frustrating how narrow that category is. I would find a good design, but then discover it didn't come tall enough for a vessel sink. I'd find a vessel sink faucet, but then learn it only came in a three-hole model. Or I'd find one the right design and model, only to be told it was available solely in chrome. In the end, I wound up picking a shower head and then back-tracking to get the faucet that matched it (which the shop didn't have on display and had to look up online).

I did run into a setback when the plumber recommended by the contractor I'm considering declined the job because it's too large; I guess he only does minor repair work and not full remodels. I'm going to have to wait until next weekend to have more people look at the project and give me estimates.

February 22nd, 2017

05:00 am: Water, water everywhere
The rain has been pretty heavy this past week. The most recent storm turned most of my back yard into a swamp. This makes for a lot of muddy doggy footprints on my floor.

I went to my local nursery a couple weeks ago and asked if they carried any dwarf avocado trees. The staff had never heard of such a thing. I went back this weekend, and they had gotten a bunch in stock. They must have looked them up and ordered them after my previous visit. I picked up one of those, plus a 4-in-1 grafted almond tree to try out in my yard.

Next weekend I'll start the seeds for my summer transplantable crops, mainly squash and cucumber.

Another promising piece of news is that I may have found a contractor to do my bathroom renovation project. He's a friend of one of my neighbors. He responded quickly when I called and returned a reasonable estimate. I just have to get a good estimate from his plumber, and I should be all set. If I'm lucky, the project could get started next month.

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