03 April 2011

Short and Sweet

Last weekend Milé and I performed our first puppet show together.  I've done a number of puppet shows with other people, but after seven years together, we are now officially a couple of puppeteers.  Life and love can be full of surprises, and I'm so lucky to have a partner willing to embrace the weird world of puppetry with me.  The piece was called Short and Sweet and was presented as part of Maple in the County, Prince Edward County's annual maple syrup festival.

Milé hard at work on character design
I wrote the script for Short and Sweet while we were in Arizona. The play's diminutive heroine, Theodora, must rescue spring from the evil hands of The Creeper, defeating a perpetual winter and ensuring the return of the all-important maple syrup. The design of the show mixes several theatre and puppetry techniques. I call it a ‘suitcase show’ – although there are technically no suitcases involved, just two antique wooden boxes. The boxes sit atop an old wooden ironing board, and contain the entire show.  We think the "old-timey" vibe of our props goes well with puppetry.  Banners unfurl from the boxes, bearing titles and painted backdrops.

Our puppets are two-sided cardboard puppets on small sticks, the tops of the open boxes are their stage. Milé designed all of the characters and banners, and I helped him paint and colour them.

Our cast of zany characters

There is one three-dimensional puppet, the terrifying Creeper, which we built several years ago (the genesis of this puppet is chronicled in Milé’s blog). Milé did a great job of puppeteering him and probably gave more than one little kiddy nightmares (sorry about that).  The boxes are great for containing surprise elements, such as paper snow and leaves to be tossed in the air, and a small pair of cymbals which are used as aural punctuation. We had a great time performing for an attentive crowd of kids both young and old.

Milé spent the rest of the day stiltwalking and rescuing helium balloons stranded on the ceiling.

Meanwhile I was papier-mâchéing a giant puppet head with a bunch of kids. We had a lot of fun, evidenced by the river of glue flowing from the table. 

Milé and I had sculpted the head in advance, using cardboard and one of my favourite tools,“the creech,” a.k.a. staple pliers; a few features were made from wrapping masking tape around bundles of stuffing.

Pre-mâché sculpture

Milé sketched a picture showing what the final puppet will look like. His name is “Shack,” and he’s supposed to be a sugar shack worker. Yet everybody seems to think this is just another portrait puppet of Milé… what do you think?

We had a chance to perform Short and Sweet a second time this past week, at a Picton fundraiser for victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. If you want to do something REALLY sweet, you can make a donation via the Red Cross; all you have to do is click HERE.

01 April 2011


“My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.”
– Mitch Hedberg

As I’ve mentioned before, we depend on our well for our in-house water so, to help conserve this precious ground resource as much as possible, we've been collecting rainwater in barrels to use on the gardens and the flowers outdoors. But last summer at Small Pond was a really dry one: by August our rain barrels were no longer full of sky water, and by September we started getting concerned about how long our well would hold out. Luckily, the well didn’t run dry, but, clearly, we needed to supplement.

Hail the new (used) water collectors!

We asked around and it looked more and more like we should consider getting moisture vaporators, which are usually found in arid climates but work just fine (better, even) in climates like ours, which can get pretty humid in the summer. We eventually found six used GX-8 models on Kijiji that were just in our price range and, as our tests of the units proved, in perfect working condition. Aside from a little rust and some carbon scoring, they were as good as new.

Krista scrapes away at some carbon scoring.

I make some minor adjustments.

As far as the weather was concerned, March may not have been the best time to install these beasts (the ground was actually quite workable, albeit cold and muddy), but considering how busy we’ll be in April and May –not to mention this summer!—this was the best time for us, as far as our schedules were concerned. It only took us one day per unit to install, anyway. We decided to put them all in the Pasture to make it easier to gather the water and also to keep an eye on them when the strong winds blow in case the heavy, in-ground bases should fail.

The first three are up and running!

The GX-8s are very quiet and pretty self-sufficient, using solar panels to power the condensers in the outer bars. They’re like giant de-humidifiers.  The water that collects there is then filtered and funneled into a 60L holding tank near the bottom of the unit. That doesn’t sound like a lot of water compared to our rain barrels, but these things pull moisture right out of the air and can reach capacity in less than 24 hours, so we’ll have (at least!) 360L of cool, clean water every day –even if it doesn’t rain for weeks.

All six vaporators installed and
quietly humming in the Pasture.

Now all we need is a droid who can speak the binary language of moisture vaporators…