Make Your Own Landscape Lighting

There’s two kinds of 12 volt landscape lighting: cheap, ugly and flimsy or expensive and durable. You can find the cheap stuff at the big retailers and the expensive stuff at specialty retailers that cater to professionals. I’ve always been dissatisfied with the cheap stuff but I’m also unhappy with the pro lighting, which tends to have a overly sleek Dwell Magazine type vibe.

We had some unused Moroccan style lamps laying around and I figured out that I could wire them into our existing 12 volt system by implanting them with some G4 light sockets and G4 LED bulbs that I picked up on Amazon. It was a simple project to install the socket and seal up the top of these two lamps with some silicon caulk. I hung the lamps in our pomegranate tree and wired them into the system which is set on a timer to turn on at sunset and go off a few hours later.

I placed these lights to help illuminate the treacherous and irregular 1920s staircase leading up to the house. I also have a few pro style downlights along the stairs and another light hanging over the entrance arbor.

The entrance arbor light was a 12 volt path light that I turned into a hanging light.

In general I like to keep outdoor lighting to a minimum as it’s not good for insects and birds. I use outdoor lights only where necessary, in this case to prevent staircase accidents, and I run them only during the hours they are likely to be needed. We need to embrace the night not try to hold it back.

That said, I’m happy with this DIY effort and plan on making some more lights with some of the metal cutting skills I’ve picked up doing inlay work on a bed project. More on that in a future post when I get that bed done.

Our Daily Bread: Sonora Sesame Za’atar Bread

In an effort to take off some pandemic pudge and eat more healthy we’ve been baking our own 100% whole wheat breads. The King’s Roost and a Mock Mill make this easy and convenient but you can also get decent whole wheat flour from Central Milling and King Arthur. On my last trip to the King’s Roost I accidentally bought a bag of Sonora wheat, a white whole wheat originally brought to the Sonora desert in the 17th century. It has a light yellow color and makes a delicious bread. Sonora wheat tastes great plain but, inspired by Josey Baker’s book, I’ve been adding additional ingredients for some variety. This week I added some sesame seeds and one of my favorite spices, za’atar.

Sonora Sesame Za’atar Bread
The night before mixing your dough create a pre-ferment:

56 g Sonora wheat (or any whole wheat)
67 g water
10 g sourdough starter

In a separate container soak 90 g of toasted sesame seeds in water.

In the morning mix together:

509 g Sonora wheat (or any whole wheat)
403 g 80º F water
13 g sea salt
sesame seeds
3 T za’atar

1. Mix the dough until all signs of dry flour disappear. While you’re mixing the dough heat a mason jar of water in your microwave. Place your mixed dough in the microwave to proof for a few hours. Stretch and fold the dough a few times every hour to shape into a rough loaf.

2. Once the bulk fermentation is sufficient, shape into a log and place in a greased bread pan (I use this one with Pam baking spray). Use a spatula to make some diagonal indentations and sprinkle the top of the loaf with some more za’atar.

3. Reheat your water and put the baking pan in the microwave to proof for an hour or two. When the dough is getting close to the top of the pan pre-heat your oven to 475º F.

4. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is golden to chestnut brown, likely another 10 to 15 minutes.

The Rain Got Real

Our home city of Los Angeles is in the news for a series of heavy hitting winter storms. While we’re on high ground and in no danger of flooding, our under-framed old house made ominous creaking sounds throughout the night.

Reliably, the Cosanti wind chimes on the front porch start clanging before the approaching storm.

I checked on our rain garden late last night (excuses for the bad photo) and the water level was the highest I’ve ever seen it. The rain garden gets all the water from one half of our roof which I calculate to have been about 1,500 gallons of water in the last 24 hours.

To briefly get back to the Žižek book I rambled about last week, I was reminded of Lacan’s notion of the “Real”, that which is unrepresentatible, unthinkable. Subjects such as our own deaths and climate change fall into the category of the Real. The incomprehensibility, the challenge of forming symbols or language around climate change and the hard choices we face in the future are why it is so difficult to understand and discuss this issue. Five inches of rain in one night in Los Angeles ain’t normal. It calls for a response outside of our current symbolic system. Welcome to the New Real.