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Old Dog, New Tricks

Old Dog, New Tricks

Our ten year old miniature Aussie, (known here as The Disreputable Dog), is as puzzled by the effects of the pandemic as are the people. He is having a hard time with this weekend that never ends. All his people are home, but the Saturday / Sunday routine is not being followed! This is causing anxiety! And the mail and delivery people are constantly around the neighborhood and must be barked at. Clearly he needs some new activities. A canine Pandemic Project!

Of course he is of herding dog heritage, so one of the things we thought of first was agility competition! In agility competitions, dogs run through an obstacle course with poles to weave through, gates to jump over, ramps to climb, etc. There is specialized equipment you need – however, there are things that you can build. We had a number of PVC bits and pieces left over from a previous plumbing project, so building some new agility course structures was a simple matter of doing some research on the Internet, one trip to the hardware store, and some quality time with the tabletop circular saw.

We decided to build a two-level gate, out of 1 1/4″ PVC pipe, and a pole-weaving course out of 3/4″ pipe. We just stuck the pipe segments into the fittings without gluing them, to make it easy to disassemble and store or transport the gadgets. For the pole course, we will probably drill some holes through the fittings into the pipes and put some machine screws in there to keep the poles straight up and down, but for the most part this isn’t necessary. And, if we have an irrigation emergency that requires PVC fittings … they’re already here! Just kidding. Mostly. Finally, we had a folding ramp that we use to get the dog in and out of tall truck beds: with a support under the hinge it becomes a ^ shaped ramp.

Then of course we had to introduce the Disreputable Dog to his new toys. He immediately assumed that they were obstacles to be cirumnavigated, which he did, at speed. Well done. But no. Some training is necessary.

With considerable nudging from knee and lead, he made it through the weave course. Frankly, we don’t think he quite understands how that is supposed to work just yet. Maybe we’ll get him to watch some videos on Youtube.

The jump was a bit easier. We started him off on the low setting for now, should be a piece of cake. We’ll set it to the higher height later. First try? Around! No, wait, try again … over! Excellent form.

The ramp, however, he already knew what to do: after completing the jump, run at full speed to the ramp, then up to the peak, turn right and leap off into the air! Once again, Dog, your ability to make up new rules for the game is impressive. Most impressive.

Second time was more the charm, but he still is jumping off early. He considers it inefficient. It will take him longer to return to the starting point if he runs all the way down! Who would do that?

After a few more runthroughs of this short course, it’s time to take a break. Can’t have all the fun at once!

Did you say … TREAT?

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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Tomato Times!

We love a good organic tomato; preferring a home-grown and heirloom variety or from the Farmer’s Market. Growing your own food is a great activity with kids, a satisfying way to teach organic gardening and the value of feeding the soil.

Do a little research to find out which plants do best in your climate. Our incredible propagating (plant growing) friends at “Island Seed and Feed” in Goleta, help us to figure out which tomato plants did well last year and what might be better this year. Of course, the amount of rain may be too much (fungus problems) or too little. We use a drip system linked up to a controller for reliable watering even if we’re busy or away.

Ask a few local irrigation companies if you’d like recommendations for setting up a drip-irrigation system with a controller. There are many ways to do-it-yourself and with help.

We use a good organic _potting_ soil in 15 gallon pots because the gophers will destroy our tomatoes if we plant in-ground. (Don’t reuse last year’s potted tomato soil to avoid transferring diseases; use that old soil with other non-tomato plants.) Be very cautious not to use contaminated soil or pesticides on your food plants.

Dr. N stirs in a few handfuls of organic plant food.

Then, hand waters with a B vitamin liquid + water to prevent “transplant shock.”

He leaves enough room at the top for an occasional deep watering by hand, and a sturdy tomato cage. He always puts the plant tag in the pot so we’ll remember which ones did well at the end of the harvest.

Just planted.
The original four tomato plants at 3 weeks and a new one on the right, at 2 weeks! Happy growing times.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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Game Design Challenge!

Inventing games to Reuse Before Recycling.

Designing games with recyclable materials has got to be one of the best ways to engage the mind, invent an “interactive” that entertains the household, helps provide Environmental Awareness and gives the challenge of designing for many ages.

Give yourself and your fellow designers a few guidelines. 1) materials should be safe, clean and unbreakable, 2) games should reuse items around the house, 3) try to design for multiple ages and physical abilities, 4) games should encourage players to cooperate and provide learning times.

We love a good Treasure Hunt! Take turns hiding so younger players aren’t competing against each other (learning cooperation and caring). Choose items that won’t spoil if lost behind a cushion and can be reused several times. Avoid using sweets, which could attract vermin and may cause health problems down the line. Ask the chef which spice jars you may use- it’s an aggravation if the cardamom goes missing when it’s needed!

Line the hallway with flattened boxes to reduce the noise and impact of balls hitting the wall. Don’t block doorways if you can help it, and, make your back board low enough that family and housemates can step around it on the way to the bathroom, kitchen or living area.

A) Bowling with empty water bottles and a softball. (Easy does it!)

B) Bounce a Ping pong ball into Strawberry baskets.

C) Bounce II- Egg cartons are easier for youngsters to be successful. But laugh with each other as the randomness of the bounces creates playful not competitive times.

D) Bounce Basketball– Clean coffee K-cups give a bigger thrill under the red ‘basketball’ backboard. Plus, the balls may get stuck in the red cups. Empty yogurt cups make for an easier target.

Clean up, Clean up, Everybody Does Their Share

Encourage your players to neatly stack their recyclable games against one wall. Remember, household safety is important. If these games will be stored for awhile, “flag” the ends with something bright white or reflective (visibility at night time) and remind housemates there’s a bit of a tripping hazard.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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Yeast is Yummy

Believe it; yeast is yummy! Have you ever wondered why yeast is beneficial and even good for you?

Yeast comes in many forms. Wild yeasts occur in nature! We find it on the skin of wine grapes and other fruits. Here are just a few types of cultivated (specially grown) yeasts who will help make many types of breads, pizza dough, mead (honey wine) and other, grape wines. Bread and pizza yeast are on the left side, sweet mead yeast is at the top, and wine yeasts are on the right side.
We rely on yeast to help ferment cacao beans which turn into chocolate!
Here are some of the many forms that chocolate can take. On the left, dark chocolate “Baton” from France- meant to fill pastries; a white cup filled with French dark chocolate “Callets” (chips) for general baking, cakes and candy making; at the top a popular hazelnut spread, drinking cocoa & candy. At the center, from one of our favorite chocolatiers- some specialty chocolate bars made by Richard Donnelly, in Santa Cruz, CA.

(Parents, please preview these episodes, below, to see if they are age-appropriate for your family, then enjoy together!)

See (enjoy watching with your family) the Netflix series called “Cooked” episode 3: Air, if you want to learn about yeast and bread making. Watch episode 4: Earth if you want to learn about fermentation and how it is essential for chocolate and cheese! These are great launching points for learning to bake and cook together, a set of life skills which you’ll enjoy as a family. Michael Pollan is one of our favorite writers and TV hosts!

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!