Master Tinkerer Ray Narkevicius

While I’m sitting on my ass writing this brief blog post, my neighbor Ramutis “Ray” Narkevicius is building something, tending his poultry, making compost, growing hops on the rooftop of a brewery, scavenging materials, grafting a fruit tree or wiring the inside of a Fed Ex cargo jet.

Over the years Ray has turned his yard into a elaborate nutrient loop. Spent grains that he gets from the brewery feed the poultry. Poultry manure nourish fruit trees and the duck water waste hosts crayfish. All the water gets pumped around to a series of raised beds that grow herbs, dragon fruit and strawberries. His small yard overflows with the most delicious citrus you’ve ever had. And he’s a generous and kind neighbor who is always willing to lend a helping hand.

Thankfully, the folks at Fair Companies, including friend of the blog Johnny, of Granola Shotgun, made a video about Ray. One of the cool things about this video is that the footage spans seven years so you get to see how much Ray has done in just that short amount of time. One little takeaway you see in this video is how well citrus does with the liberal application of compost. The other takeaway? It’s time to put this laptop down, head outside, and get to work.

Framed

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A post shared by Lloyd Kahn (@lloyd.kahn)

Lloyd Kahn’s Instagram alerted me to a delightful set of models built by University of Illinois at Chicago architecture students that pay tribute to something we don’t think about enough, the wood framing that forms the skeleton of most houses in the U.S.

The models are in the U.S. Pavillion at the Venice Biennale. Odds are you’re sitting in a wood frame structure right now. While the debate between masonry and wood framing is above my pay grade, it’s fun to see a representation what’s under our walls. The nerd in me wants to make one of these framing models, maybe a version our own house.

Creating a Perpetual Garden Journal

One of our ongoing regrets around the Root Simple compound is not having taken better notes on the garden in the 24 years we’ve been here. What year did we plant that toyon? How long do the avocados take to ripen? What’s the best date to pick the pomegranates? To some extent the blog functions as a diary and I can sometimes go back through entries to figure out, say, what month I picked the olives two years ago. But there are a lot of gaps.

Towards the goal of better note taking and inspired by the work of botanical illustrator Lara Call Gastinger, I started a perpetual garden journal. To make one, you get a blank journal with enough pages to devote one or two pages for each week of the year. When you want to record something you go to that week and do your drawing. You can, of course, add written notes. As the years roll by you keep adding to the same pages thus creating a week by week visual diary of  what’s going on in the plant and fungi world in your garden or in the world around you.

I know that drawing is intimidating to most people (myself included) and looking at talented folks on Instagram only makes this worse. But drawing is not really about the end product, it’s about the act of observation. You could make a perpetual garden journal with digital photos or just written entries and there would be nothing wrong with either approach. However, I’ve noticed that when I draw things I tend to observe details that I think I would have missed had I just taken a quick photo or written notes. For instance, when I drew the prickly pear cactus fruit on the page above I noticed that the spines (technically, glochids) on the fruit form a kind of spiral grid.

You can use any medium–pen, pencil, watercolor etc. For most of my drawings I use a pen, ink wash and watercolor. I use ink so that I don’t overthink things and just commit to the lines. I would recommend finding a journal with enough pages to devote a spread of two pages to each week. I have only one page per week and I think the results will be a little cramped.

Are my drawings great? Nope. But I’ve decided to embrace my slightly wonky draftsmanship and just roll with it. It’s the act of seeing, after all, that’s more important.

Lara Call Gastinger’s Instagram is a great introduction to the perpetual journal idea.

If drawing ain’t your thing here’s a way to use Google calendar to do the same thing.