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Latest in Solar Water Heating/Auracana and Silver Sebring Bantam Chickens

Our garden is booming right now.

Two members of our bantam flock: Auracana rooster on left, Silver Sebring on right. Aren't they gorgeous?

Hot Water from the Sun I installed an outdoor solar-heated shower 12 years ago. It's a large box with a black tank and double-wall plastic glazing. I never shower in the house any more. Each time I feel that hot water I'm amazed and excited and delighted to think that the heat is free energy (other than the cost of the materials of the box). Plus I swear the shower feels different. Molecules of hot water heated by the sun, like rice cooked on a wood stove.
There was an excellent article on the 2008 state-of-the-art of solar water heating by Scott Gibson in a recent Fine Homebuilding: Click here for PDF

Paddleboard and Kayak/Low Tide-Lagoon/Mud Bath/Pelican World and SwoopingTerns

Art Ludwig visits my town once in a while, and, if I have time, we go out in search of adventure. Last night there was a real high tide so we took paddleboard (me) and kayak (Art) and headed into the channels of a nearby estero. Of all the many times I've followed this watery route, this was the best. No wind down in the marshes, glassy water. 6 PM, a cloud cover but not too cold. Wonderful light, way more subtle than bright sunshine. Tide flowing in, pulling us along. Birds everywhere. My 12' Joe Bark ultra-light paddleboard flew over the water. We went through the serpentine channels (20' or so wide at this tide).

At a point I beached my board on a mud flat. My foot sunk knee-deep when I stepped off the board and when I pulled it out, there was a layer of inky black goo on my leg. Hmmm...a mud bath was obvious, but it wasn't exactly warm weather. I made a decision, one that I've followed a lot lately. I'm going to get cold, or uncomfortable, or in a slightly dangerous situation, but if I push myself to go for it, it always pays off; I get energized.

I took off my short-sleeve wet suit, scooped out the goo and applied it. I mean, this stuff is right here, nearby, waiting to be used in a ritual of purification, so to speak. What a planet!

Art came paddling over as I started coating myself with this beautiful sticky, slippery goo. He was amused; he got out on the mudflat, grabbed my camera, and started shooting photos. When I was pretty well coated I took a big blob of mud and plopped it on my head. Art was laughing so hard he almost fell in the water. Hey this was fun! This is also an expensive skin rejuvenation methodology as practiced in many a snooty spa.

I washed it off as best as I could (next time I'm going to leave it on my face until I get home). We went on into the open part of the lagoon and there were at least 1000 birds, never seen so many pelicans, terns darting and swooping in swallow-tailed black and white elegance. We skirted the huge family of birds, just far enough away to observe, but not stampede them. You never know when a moment like this will happen. A lot of things have to come together.

Book With 1200 Photos Coming Up/Dervish Bamboo Skateboard/Three Birds in the Garden

So much is going on in my life right now I have a hard time finding time to blog. In a hurry:

1. My book on Canadian carpenters is in the final weeks (of a 3-year odyssey). Two days ago I finished a 4-page last-minute addition of curved-rib saunas that I think are the best pages in the book. I'm reworking the intro for the 20th time and doing cover layouts. Rick has almost finished doing color separations (of some 1200 photos). After agonizing over paper choices for a few months, we picked Somerset Matte (with 10% recycled content) as our paper; it's a beautiful paper. The book is gonna be made in the USA.

2. I just got my best skateboard ever.

Dervish" model: note how trucks mount above deck, giving you a lower center of gravity

The decks on Loaded boards are made out of thin layers of laminated bamboo. They're springy and the good riders accelerate by pushing down with each turn and rebounding, pushing the board forward. These are unique boards. get on one and you'll be hooked. Cruisin' with style. You guys in yr. 40s and 50s who have skated in the past and given it up: like surfing, skateboarding has continued to evolve. The decks, wheels, trucks keep getting better. Check out Loaded boards at: http://www.loadedboards.com/. The Purple Skunk longboard skate shop on Geary at 23rd in San Francisco has a bunch of these you can try out.

3. A few birds in my life lately:

Great Blue Heron. These are ultra wary birds. I was reading in our 2nd story bedroom and he coasted into the deck; never knew I was there.

Mourning Dove

American Goldfinch

4. "The things I used to do/I don't do no more."
On the radio Saturday was an interview Mike Bloomfield did with old Chicago blues master Robert Nighthawk in the '60s.
Bloomfield: "Have you ever done religious music?"
Nighthawk: "Well, I don't like workin' for two different men — pause — You know, I work for the devil now."