Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Make Friends With Wool

Maria's wool ventures are growing and growing!

Once upon a time, Maria and I visited the Atwood Street Festival and it was there that we learned what we could do with all the wool we had stashed at home: make wool bracelets by gently rolling the fibers, in sudsy water! It was a simple and fun project that gave us the confidence to venture into more wool felting projects. We tried making felted wool balls... small, colorful, fun, success! Then we felted a bar of soap, too. Felting soap feels really great. The texture of the wool and the suds, plus the sweet fragrance are a delightful sensory combination.

Have you ever noticed when you learn a new word, or concept, that you start to see the new word everywhere? I suppose it's simply a matter of noticing those things that are familiar... they become recognizable, and register. Well, this happened for me and Maria, and we began noticing wool everywhere! I found a very basic needle felting kit at the craft store. I did feel a bit intimidated by the idea of this craft, but it took, honestly, a matter of minutes to feel at ease and excited about needle felting. And Maria caught on real fast, too, and we started making little pictures out of wool... using the batting we had from Barcelona, and with felted wool fabric from thrift shops and bargain bins, it's an easy craft to do. Needle felting takes nothing more than full attention and some patience, and the process feels like what I imagine meditation can be. Making little projects with wool just seemed to click for us!

So, when Love and Rockets started planning its trip to Maker Faire, I asked Maria, "Is there anything you would like to share at the Faire?" And she wholeheartedly declared, "Let's show everyone how to make bracelets from wool!"

Brilliant, I thought. We filled out the Maker's application, and started preparing for this year's trek to the Faire. We even did some fundraising, and community outreach. Sharing all of our club's activities, including making wool bracelets with neighbors and friends, was a real pleasure. Maria got some practice in sharing her project, and we earned some very much appreciated gas money. Easily the best part: sharing our love and interest in Make, Craft, and Love and Rockets!

Okay... all of that was background story, and now we have a wonderful new chapter! Maria's grandmother, Delia, lives in Oregon, where there are lots of artists and farmers, and artistic farmers, and she met one such woman at Wild Rivers Wool Factory. Being a proud, supportive grandma, Delia told Sandie all about Maria's plans, including Maria's desire to meet actual sheep and learn all she can about where wool comes from and the processes involved in collecting wool, preparing it for use. Delia bought some beautiful roving for Maria to take to Maker Faire, so she can demonstrate felting, and share with visitors. And! And Sandie, from Wild Rivers Wool Factory, contacted Love and Rockets to express her interest in helping Maria!

This is what she shared, "I'm Sandie, I run Wild Rivers Wool Factory, Inc. I'm very child oriented, have been teaching wool and fiber classes to children for many years. I'd like to give Maria a few things to maybe keep her interest up, and further her education.

I have about 20 of the "Sheep Reader" publication put out by the American Sheep Industry Association, aimed at grades 1-6. I have access to over 20 different breeds of sheep, and could provide Maria with a "wool collection" to show to people. With your permission, and your home address, I'd like to send her a package."

We are thrilled to have made friends with such a thoughtful and generous wool expert. "20 different breeds of sheep?!" We had no idea! Maria was leaping, happy as a lamb, when we read Sandie's letter. Truly wonderful things can begin with curiosity, and we look happily forward to what lies ahead. Thank you Delia. Thank you Sandie and Wild Rivers Wool Factory. Thank you, everyone who came to our Lemonade-Bake Sale and Mini-Maker Demonstration. We are making friends, and we are making adventures, with wool!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Make A See-Saw

Maaaaa! Daaaaa! What are these for?

Since we started building our barn, the quantity and variety of cool construction scraps has been steadily mounting. Everyone has an interest in those scraps, including the newest Bird House kids.

Well, at first we just stacked the 2x4s and let the goats walk the planks, so to speak.

Then I rolled in a eucalyptus log I salvaged last year, and that was fun. They really do play king of the mountain. And we added wider planks from the barn siding.

Then I got extra ambitious, and countersunk some screws into scraps. I made a dandy little bridge, elevated on one end. But, you know kids... they outgrow little things so quickly, and it wasn't long before they were giving me doleful glances and pleading for something new, something challenging.

Having seen a log and plank see-saw at Coral Tree Farm, I asked Geoff if he could bring home a really long and sturdy board. Then he asked how long? and how sturdy? And I said, twice the width of a 2x4 and long enough to teeter-totter, because I am technical, and precise, and stuff. Fortunately, for me, he's even more technical and precise, and he knew exactly what to bring:

4 galvanized 1/2" x 8" lag screws
4 galvanized washers
1 2"x 8"x 12'plank

We marked the center of our twelve foot long, and sturdy board, then Geoff marked a square center for the long screws, that would go into the log. The board was pre-drilled with four holes.

Then Geoff set to pre-drilling holes into the eucalyptus log.
This is the part where my simple plan gets complicated.
Eucalyptus is hard.
We were astonished at the effort it took to drill those holes, and really, we were making very little progress. Do I have to clarify... "we" means "Geoff," and me, in close proximity, saying encouraging things like, "Dang, that is some hard wood." And offering thoughtful reflections, like, "Hmmmmm."

I think we all know what this means...
More Power!

At first, I was going to apologize, because I thought this might be an inspiring tutorial about how easy and simple it is to make a fun backyard play thing, then it got a bit complicated. And I feel kind of bad about that.
But. But, some people love a challenge, and even more... some people love an opportunity to bring out big tools, bigger tools, bigger, more powerfuller tools!! Bwahahahaha! Well, bigger powerfuller tool fans, this unapologetic project is for you!

It took a big drill to bore into the log. It took multiple passes to make the holes big enough.

We did not know: Goats love power tools, too. They loved checking the progress, and would run up when the drill was running. I think Ada wants to thank Geoff for persevering.

With all the holes prepped, it was time to insert the lag screws, with the washers.

And here's Ada, again, all ready to lend a hoof.

But the wood... and those eight inches of lag screw... it's a bit much to handle without... more power!

So, Alex has the compressor ready, and the pneumatic impact wrench.

Yes, you read that correctly.
Now, say it aloud, and feel the power: Pneumatic Impact Wrench!

This is getting the job done.

And while the see-saw comes together, Ada has her last bottle of the day. She'll be fueled and ready for one more romp, before her goodnight.

Can you tell, they see their new toy?
But it's too fun, just for goats... so, they'll have to wait their turns.

Goat's turn!
We have a see-saw! Teeter-totter!
Easy. Sort of.
Fun. Definitely.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Making The Most of Our Lemons!

The sun came out, and we opened for business! Maria's Lemonade and Bake Sale, with a mini-demonstration of our Young Makers Club, Love and Rockets, was a delightful success. It was fun for Maria to get this chance to explore her entrepreneurial interests and for all of us to share what we love about Young Makers, and the Maker Faire.

Thank you, generous and curious friends, and family! We had a steady stream of visitors, and it was a lot of fun sharing Lavender, the parade robot, the egg-bot, wool felting, and our hula-hoops! The fun lasted long after dark, when we lit a fire, roasted dinner, and had a live concert from Eli and Paul.

Though I was supervising activities, making shave ice, and simply enjoying everyone's company, I did manage to take a few pictures...

Chango, the cat, with Lavender!
Everyone had a chance to take over the cool controllers that turn Lavender, and open her jaws. She moves with the aid of pistons, which sound soft and hissy when they compress.

Here is the core work force behind the success of the day + Geoff keeping the egg-bot busy and operating smoothly.

Oh, one more thing: besides demonstrating robots, and selling homemade cupcakes, we were also on tooth watch. Maria had been hanging on to this loose front tooth for a really long time, but today may be the day it finally pops!

It's Corina! It's Sophie! It's Caia! And Henry, too!
It was so much fun. Every time familiar faces arrived we had a new thrill!
And I admit: we were heavily marketed. I didn't let this lemonade-stand go on chance alone, which was a good idea, because all those invited friends gave a great party-feel to the day.

Lisa, Michael, Carol, and Leo are getting a good close look at the egg-bot.

And here are Teresa, and her ducky little friend, Christina Canard-Diable.
They're Devil Duckies. It's a FIRST thing.

It's not uncommon for FIRST robotics teams to party together. FIRST 2102 Team Paradox loves getting spirited with Team San Diego, and all of their FIRST friends!

Any Dr Who fans reading this post?
Maybe you recognize that this is a Tardis?

Tooth check... oh, whoa... it's all wibbly-wobbly!

More friends, and some new helpers. Some school friends came to play!

Filippo and Karen came, and brought their children, Luca and Cecilia, and Alex C.
And the beautiful fruit pie Cecilia baked... with preserves from their very own garden! Deliziosissima!

By now, we had our fire ring lit, and the lemonade stand closed, but friends were still dropping by, and we loved the interest in Maker Faire that was building! I think we may even have won over new members!

And. You guessed it! It Popped!
What a full day!

Bambi and Alex, fireside.

We roasted hot dogs, and veggie-dogs, enjoyed salad and crudites. Then Paul arrived and he brought a Mediterranean feast. Just fyi: hot dog wrapped in warm flat bread, with fresh, leafy tabouli, and hummus = a super satisfying dinner.

Eli brought his uke, and the guitar came out, for Paul. The sun went down, we feasted, reflected, laughed at Maria's new grin and lisp, and listened to music and singing...

Max, our CFO, assures us, it was a success. And if "F" stands for Fun, he could not be more correct. The Lemonade and Bake Sale, and Mini-Make Demonstration were a huge success!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making Our Way to Maker Faire!

We were excited to (finally) support Maria's long time dream of hosting her own lemonade stand. We encouraged her to sell for a cause, and so, we decided to share our plans for taking the Young Makers Club, Love and Rockets, to Maker Faire. Through this club, and the high school club, Art of Engineering, we are supporting bringing at least four students, in addition to our own children, to the Faire. A little gas money for the long drive will help a lot! Thank you... everyone that came was generous, thirsty, hungry, and curious. We had a really, really, really fun time. Really!

Before we share the sale, the demonstrations, the fun, I'd like to share peeks of some of the preparations...

Obviously, we made lemonade. We made as much as we could from our own tree, and then we supplemented with the tasty frozen concentrate from Trader Joe's. Maria was insistent on making all the lemonade fresh squeezed, which is admirable, but our poor tree had a limited supply of fruit to offer.

I think combining ours and theirs was a tasty compromise, plus we had a delicious, and homemade berry syrup to liven up the flavor and add color to our lemonade.

Max offered to be CFO of the operation, and he took all my receipts, to calculate expenses, and help create pricing guidelines. It's a genuine pleasure to be so closely acquainted with someone willing and able to provide these services!

Alex was appointed technical support, and strongman. He helped set up Lavender, the big robotic arm. He moved tables, chairs, the fire ring. During the sale, he was on hand to wave in customers, and support his sister.

Bambi, the latest and greatest Young Maker, came supplied with mixes for hot apple cider, hot chocolate... emphasis on the hot, because the day of the sale turned out drizzly, damp, cold, cloudy, windy... and decidedly unfavorable for ice cold lemonade. Bambi also made an excellent greeter and sales associate. And! The sun came out! I think she chased the poor weather away by helping us prepare for a change of plans.

We made three versions of Maria's notice. Every time it drizzled, on the days leading up to the sale, the message would get washed away!

Hmmm... I think this is version II. We wanted the neighborhood anticipating all the goodness to come. Maria was even prepared for dogs!

We baked, too. And we, of course, sampled our wares. You cannot sell unsampled cookies. It's too risky.

Speaking of risky... we made lemon-mint syrup, and berry syrup for shave ice. When the weather started out cold, like it did, we thought shave ice will be a flop. But, like I said, the day changed, and shave ice was a big hit.

Ah... I'm getting ahead of myself. I have some editing to do, but very soon we are going to share a few of the fun moments we enjoyed at Maria's Lemonade Sale and Mini-Maker Demonstration. We hope you'll come by for more!