Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Oh Man! Not Another Art Project!

As we all know, sharing is hard - one desk, two computers, two people. Engaged in on-going and never-ending negotiations. So finally, I took my computer and moved downstairs. No desk, though.

Craigslist was no help. And my new workroom is so tiny that only a small desk would work. Enter Ikea, with a small solid wood dining table . Very pale, very sturdy, very basic. Some fine tuning was clearly in order.

A little bit of sanding, a little wash of stain to darken the wood, a few coats of sealer, and the table top was ready to join up with some glass tiles leftover from the kitchen backsplash project. Lots of leftover tile from that job. Heck, I even had leftover adhesive.

It only took a week or so to get the tiles glued onto the table. Of course, all four corners of the table are perfectly square. But these are "art" tiles, so they are neither the same size nor thickness, nor square...  You just have to do the best that you can. After all, it's a damn art project, right, not fine building?
Professional assistance became essential in assembling the table. Though I confess it's hard to follow the instructions when someone is lying on top of them. At least I was allowed to use the screwdriver. That way I could attach the legs backwards a few times all by myself.

Voila! Now all I need now is a chair...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Trekking in the Markha Valley, Ladakh..... Say Where?

After nine years without having to travel halfway 'round the world, we blew it. We became convinced that returning to Ladakh to go trekking in the Himalayas was absolutely essential. Silly, silly us.

Door-to-door: over 33 hours in transit. Altitude: from sea level in Oakland to 11,500 ft. in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh. And only up from there. But we really loved the place then. And, for all the challenges, it truly was worth going back once more.

I am very happy to give our team -  Gelsim, Jigmet, Dorje and Norbu  (l. to r.) - full honors, because without them, quite literally, we wouldn't have "gone the distance" (+/- 70 miles). And it sure wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun, or as interesting, or as tasty.
And to the rest of the team - names unknown - without whom none of us would have wanted to keep on going. They carried everything, including my lunch some days, when I wasn't hungry enough to haul any extras for seven or eight miles up 1000 feet or more. Usually more, and often straight up.

We camped out and hiked for ten days. A typical morning started with hot tea at the tent door, followed by bowls of warm water for washing and a large breakfast eaten outdoors in the bright sunshine.

Then we were ready to walk:

Upwards, with fabulous views of the early light on the Ladakh Range.

Along the Markha River (that's me and the teams near the water), where barley has been cultivated for centuries. There are no roads in the Markha Valley, meaning no cars, no traffic, few bridges and great quietness.

Most of the sounds came from the wind moving through the willow and poplar trees which are found anywhere there is water. And from the bells which all of the horses were wearing - we called it the Ladakhi Pony Gamelan.

To the top of  Gongmaru La (la means "pass" in Ladakhi) at 5200 meters (17,050 ft.), one of the few places where there is cell phone reception. From there, in one direction, you can see all of the Ladakh Range. And beyond. In the other direction is the Zanskar Range.

Past chortens constructed by villagers (a "village" can be as small as one or two families).

And back down alongside the barley fields. The white tents in the distance are parachutes donated by the Indian Army. They now serve as summertime tea houses for trekkers and other travelers.

And back into a newly set-up camp, where a snack of hot, milky tea and biscuits ("cookies" to Americans) was always waiting. Followed by a nap. Otherwise, how could you do it all again the next day?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Poop Sisters

Susan and friend

My friend Susan and I have become regular visitors to Skyline Ranch.  I call it the "poop store" which may be why Susan's husband, Matt, calls us the "Poop Sisters."

Equipped with gloves, shovels, large bags and buckets, we drive (slowly and respectfully, of course) through the complex to a lean-to shed around back and load up. Horse manure and straw. Usually very well composted.  One time it was so hot we thought that the plastic bags might melt and the car blow up. (The obituary would have been a hoot.) And, since it is well composted, it's easy to shovel - almost fluffy, even. And entirely free.

I'm using it to help improve and condition the dense, impenetrable clay muck that is called "soil" at my house. I know it won't be a great all-around fertilizer, but it does seem to aid in breaking up those giant clods. (Gardens Alive! has a helpful overview on using various manures in the garden.)

So if your garden needs a little help from some large furry friends, go visit Skyline Ranch. No need to call first. Just drive slowly. And keep the windows open on the way home.