Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Check out this amazing website featuring bizarre clouds! Click here. It's got about a gazillion photos, but if you've got the time it's pretty rewarding going all the way to the bottom.


Flower Shop

Flower Shop
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Yesterday I took the girls down to Oakland for an appointment at Kaiser. India was being evaluated for jaw surgery! To correct her open bite. Her orthodontist isn't happy with the job the implants are doing and suggested we get on the list for surgery--it's about a 6 month wait.
On one hand we have the insurance (it's about a $10,000 operation) and it would correct the problem for sure. It's a procedure they do every day. The doctor said they do about 500 a year. So it's pretty standardised.
On the other hand it's a very invasive major surgery with a two month recovery time.
We're a little freaked out, to tell you the truth. It's the kind of decision I like to avoid and here it is right in our face. Or India's face.
What's your opinion? Feel free to comment.
Anyway, I tried to make the trip more fun by planning to visit Oakland's Rockbridge district on College Avenue for some window shopping and a quick bite to eat.

French Bakery

French Bakery
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

A very pretty place. I noticed it was entirely staffed by tired looking Hispanic women.

High on Pastry

High on Pastry
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

We only had a little time for lunch, so we ended up eating a French roll and an almond and chocolate croissant! The kids were happy!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cob pedestal meets the Buddha on our Special Day

Cob pedestal meets the Buddha
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Today was India's 17th birthday and our 21st wedding anniversary.

For her birthday we gave India her own laptop. I got a used one from a fellow in the neighborhood. Since she's just begun a photoshop class and her own blog and flickr page, it's perfect timing. She was pretty happy with it! It also came loaded with an enormous amount of music, which should keep her busy exploring.

I gave Krista a card. She gave me a haircut. She also gave me the pair of cargo shorts she bought when we were in Bangkok. I was feeling sad that mine were falling apart (literally). I rarely buy clothes for myself and had gotten those the day before we left on our big trip. I'd worn those shorts all across Thailand and Bali and Moorea (New Zealand was way too cold for shorts), and OCF and cobbing.
So getting her shorts was a wonderful present. Especially since I remember her trying them on in a tiny crowded little shop off Khao San Road.

In other news: we finally brought in our little cob project and set up the Buddha on it. And after almost a month on the front porch, I have to say I'm thrilled to see it there.
I know I posted photos of the pedestal some time ago, but truth to tell there were some problems...we used way too much clay in the plaster and not enough sand and the whole thing was pretty crackly (especially the top, which I actually had to scrape off).
Luckily I had saved the left over plaster in a couple yogurt tubs and had some sand and straw to add, to make it right.
Unluckily that leftover plaster was about 4 weeks old and smelled pretty ripe. At first I thought it stunk like old compost. Then I decided it smelled more like shit. Pretty soon the 'smells like shit' decision was unanimous. Little Zephyr bent down to sniff it and pronounced "cat poop!"

But really, it was only the flour and straw decomposing. So I went ahead and replastered with it anyway. And yes, it was disgusting.
When it was done the pedestal looked alot better. And smelled like shit. Great. Everyone should have a beautiful one hundred pound piece of shit on their front porch.

My family was appalled. But I said, hey, we'll just let it dry out and it'll stop smelling. Sure enough it did. It just took a lot longer then I ever imagined.
So yesterday I dragged it out to the end of our walkway, where it would get hot sun all day long. Let the sun bake it. After two days we deemed it good enough to bring in. To sort of celebrate this special day.

It was a nice evening. Jerry and Joyce, Jon, Lux and Zephyr, and Danny came over to help us celebrate. I made a wicked batch of enchiladas and Joyce made her margharita salad. Krista made peach cobbler from our last peaches of the year.
India worked all day on her new photoshop skills, making cool psychedelic portraits of everyone to print out as party favors. We never did quite get to printing them, but we had a fun slide show.

Cob Buddha Stand

Cob Buddha Stand
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

One day Jerry invited the girls over to make apple pie with some gravenstein apples he bought at a local farm. He and India came up with this incredible pie. A real Autumn celebration.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

My friend Susan invited us out to her place in Bloomfield for a swimming party and lunch. Eden and I got to go and it was lovely. She made us an incredible lunch! And I finally got to meet her friend Cora and her son Pasha.
Eden sure loves the water!

Shining Face

Shining Face
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

From a recent trip Krista and Eden took up to Auburn. They were visiting family up that way. This is from her uncle Hal's old Ford truck.

Shiloh Park

Shiloh Park
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

We've really been enjoying this Indian Summer. Lots of good tomatoes and nice warm evenings.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Macy welcomes Eden to the Farm

Love Hug
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Natural Building Road Trip

Originally India was supposed to take the train back from her Not Back To School Camp.
But after my workshop at White Oak Farm in July, I hatched a plan to head back up there with Krista, to show her what we'd done, and get her more interested in cob construction.
I also was interested in checking out different parts of Oregon for possible relocation, but that didn't really happen.

So our first stop was White Oak Farm and we got there just after dinner time. Folks were still hanging about the barn area and it was deeply wonderful getting warm welcomes from my farm friends. And amazingly Katie and Macy happened to be visiting! Macy (the two year old) really lit up when she saw Eden! Wow, another small person! She came right up and gave Eden an enormous hug that went on and on. It was so darling to watch and yet, poor Eden, who is so reserved and shy, was just totally freaked out. Especially because Macy was inadvertantly pulling Eden's shirt up and skirt down. Oops. They did end up playing the next day, once Eden got over her terror of Macy.

Anyway, Jim wasn't there. I really wasn't expecting him to be, though I secretly hoped. And Taylor was also gone, hiking around Mnt. Shasta. That was a bummer.
But we got welcomed 'home' by Stacy and Tami and Lee and Sam and Mike and they put us up in the Common House, which had been freshly plastered the week before. It looked great, too. So did the cob oven, which was empty of sand and looking big and impressive. And the deer fence walls and the cob bench outside. It all looked great.
So we visited, and looked around, listened to Mike play his guitar, and went to bed pretty early. My one big disappointment was with the moon. I had been longing to see the stars there again, which are just so bright and clear. But the moon was out and very strong. Oh well, maybe next time.
The next morning we had breakfast with everyone and then pitched in doing some chores. I raked up goat and duck shit with Mike and Krista worked in the kitchen. We also dug potatoes and mint. Farm work. After lunch and a swim in the pond, we took off for the next big stop:
Meka's Cottage.

I had emailed Meka and gotten permission and directions to visit. I'd also called Dragonfly (who owns the property) and she said to c'mon over. So we got off at Wolf Creek and only got lost once on the way.
I had seen Meka's photos of his cottage, and seen more on the web, and I really didn't expect to like it that much. It seemed a bit 'over the top' to my taste and I figured Krista might just hate it. I was so wrong!
It was stunning. Eden got so excited she was ready to move in right then and there. The photos just can't capture certain key aspects of the place--the sense of proportion, the way it all fits together, the way it smells and feels. I don't know. It was lovely.
We took a gazillion photos and even a bit of video (which I'll hopefully be posting on Youtube soon). The stairs were probably my favorite part. They were so beautiful and economical of space. And just plain fun to climb.
You'll just have to study the photos. I could never say enough. The place had been closed up for some time I think and it was a very hot day. It was hot inside and a bit stuffy. Even so we stayed and stayed and Krista finally had to drag Eden and I out of there. We all agree--it was the high point of the road trip.
From Wolf Creek we tore up the road to Eugene and Nancy's house, where we basically just crashed and took off the next morning for Portland. The Road Trip continues....

Monday, September 11, 2006

People's Co-op

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Our first sign that we were in the right place.

Waking Up

Waking Up
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Waking up in the Tea Whale at Tryon Life Farm. It got very COLD during the night.

Babe in the Woods

Babe in the Woods
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Eden poses. One of our favorite sites we visited in Portland, or anywhere! What a great place to hang out.

City Repair and Portland

On tuesday, the fifth of September, we left Eugene and headed up to Portland, where the freeway system is dazzling in it's complexity. You've got bridges going over water, over highways, over buildings, all looped together like spaghetti. Somehow we found our exit, crossed over the Ross Island Bridge, shouldered our way through heavy traffic and made the turn onto SE 21st Avenue.
Within two blocks we were greeted with the gorgeous cob structures of People's Coop and a beautiful residential neighborhood full of BIG beautiful old houses, cafes, coffee houses and astonishingly huge trees.
I fought the urge to pull over, leap out of the car and start photographing like mad. We were on a mission to find the City Repair offices. We actually saw several beautiful cob benches and a kiosk just driving around a few blocks. We were clearly in the green epicenter.
Walking in, the office seemed uninhabited. There was an amazing 'birds nest' up above the front desk. Big. Really big. Big enough for three or four people to....nest in? A hallway led us back to a huge room with many tables, displays and Erica--who gave us a map of this year's Village Building Convergence projects and then closed the office to give us a walking tour of the neighborhood! What a great welcome!
It was rather hot and sunny and we hiked for blocks, seeking out benches, kiosks and ending up at People's Co-op. Eden was a trooper and never complained once. In fact, she seemed delighted by the benches and enjoyed them as much as anyone. And she got a popsicle out of the deal.
At People's we said goodbye and thanks to Erica and made the strategic decision to go find Tryon Life Farm, just outside of town, to be in time for dinner. We would sleep there that night in their "Tea Whale", a whimsical structure that had been built in Portland and then moved to the farm.

Eden was absolutely delighted with the tea whale, it was like sleeping in a playhouse. A very dirty open-air playhouse with lots of traffic noise and a sloping floor and a very cold September midnight. It was an adventure.
Tryon Farm was a stark contrast with White Oak, which has two people definitely in charge and directing things, and a number of dedicated, hard working interns. Tryon, I guess, is more of a concensus run place, with residents who have outside jobs and contribute sporadically to the farm.
Unfortunately, the gal who'd invited us to stay was away at a meeting and no one else seemed to know we were coming or especially cared to make us welcome. Apparently they have droves of visitors coming through on an almost daily basis. We never did get a "tour", but what we saw had a sad air of things incomplete, tools not put away, leaking hoses left on all night. And the kitchen and dining room were very dirty. Nevertheless, we joined the somewhat chaotic dinner around a big round table, and had a nice conversation with a fellow name Matt. Matt kindly offered to watch another resident's twins (I think they were about 7 months old) so that she could go to the meditation group. One of these kids spent most of dinner on Krista's lap. We both saw him standing, edging his way along the platform where the woodstove was and we both saw him start to grab the very sharp looking scythe and knife someone had carelessly dropped there. Krista got to him first. It struck us that 16 other people, mostly young men, hadn't noticed. It felt like the worst of the 60's to me: 'hey man, chicks take care of the kids, dig?'
When Krista came back up to the house, after we got our tea whale set up for sleeping, she found Matt holding one of the babys and the other sitting by the five gallon compost bucket. On closer look he was actually eating cat food and compost off of the filthy floor. Matt was gamely trying to keep the one kid, who was wet and hungry, from screaming. He ultimately failed.
Krista ended up holding the screamer for almost an hour, getting soaked with pee. The mom, who was supposed to be gone only twenty minutes, hadn't left any diapers or food. While Krista tried to calm the poor baby I scrubbed the big dining room table and did the huge pile of pots and pans left from dinner (and perhaps other meals?).
We never did see the mom again. I really hope she reached nirvana through her meditation. Another resident (to be fair, he was a guy) showed up and relieved Krista of her miserable charge and we fled.
We decided not to stay for breakfast.
We were there at Tryon for only a short time and who knows how typical the scene we saw really was. I probably shouldn't write about it. I don't want to bad mouth the place, but it was a potent part of our tour, so there it is.

We had a nice breakfast back in Portland near the City Repair office and set out for our tour.
We pretty much started with the rebuilding center and it really was worth the trip across town. The little 'forest' courtyard they put together is gorgeous. Really, the whole place is inspiring. They have crews that will go out and take down a house slated for destruction--mining the lumber, windows, fixtures and all, instead of the conventional wrecking ball and dumptruck route. They had beautiful doors and windows and sinks and tubs. It was great.
Near the end of our tour we hit Share-it Square, where City Repair really began. All four corners have great features--the tea station, the kids' playhouse, a book sharing kiosk, nice benches. We had thoroughly enjoyed it and were about to leave when I decided to ask for a lunch recommendation from some men who had wandered out to look at a pretty red scooter.
When I explained we'd come just to see their intersection and were on a City Repair tour, one of the fellows, Pedro (who was holding his baby son in a sling) asked if we'd like to see the Sanctuary where the Village Building Convergeance began. Hell yes!
So he led us a block or so away to an old funky house he'd bought with a friend. It was meant to be a community house and they were experimenting with all sorts of green techniques, like rainwater catchement. The garage and back patio were all cobbed out. Very pretty. And in the back they'd built (with the help of our own Joe Kennedy) a sweet little cob building--a sanctuary. It was beautiful, tiny and Pedro said it only took about two weeks to put up, with maybe 15 people helping. Wow!
When they were done, they said "we should do something like this every year" and viola! The Village Building Convergance was born.
What a nice stroke of 'luck' to meet Pedro and get this behind the scenes tour. I actually considered asking if we could stay in the sanctuary that night, just because it was so cool. He probably would have said yes, but Eden wasn't feeling so well and we were feeling like getting back to Eugene and Nancy's comfy house.
We saw many projects that day, some rough, some polished. It was all so inspiring. And Portland itself was unlike any city I've encountered. There seemed to be street after street, neighborhood after neighborhood, filled with big beautiful old houses. Two or three stories, four or five bedrooms, funky or all fixed up. Almost every house on a street would be big and interesting. With big beautiful trees to go with. It really blew my mind.
In Santa Rosa we really just have one street with big homes, The McDonald Mansion area. And those houses are all precious and fancified and only the richest folks can live there. It seems like half of Portland, at least, lives in these wonderful old houses. And you can tell there's a real mix of income levels. It was truly homey. When we were headed down the freeway, we realized we'd never taken photos of these amazing streets full of amazing homes. Maybe next time.


Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Our guide.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Natural Building Road Trip

Well, we're back. Krista, Eden and I took off one week ago for a natural building road trip, which included stops at White Oak Farm, Meka's cottage, Nancy Bright's home, an overnight in Portland at Tryon Farm and a host of City Repair projects. I've got photos up over at Flickr. 133 of 'em!
Overall the trip was great. And very inspiring. For now I'll have to let the pictures do the talking. But stay tuned. I've got a few stories to tell.