Friday, January 30, 2009

Garden notes

Yup, I was at it again today. Bare root season isn't going to last much longer, y'know? Everyone has put them on sale, and they're going fast.

Yesterday, I noticed that they had bare root artichokes, and I love artichokes! I didn't buy any, because I had not prepared a bed for them, but I sure wanted to. So, this morning, I got up and got digging. I dug out a bed large enough for the artichokes and some berries as well. Yes, I noticed them yesterday, too!

So I now have five blackberries and six artichokes planted on the ridge above the area where I planted the fruit trees. There is a bit more room in front of that bed; I may move my rosebushes there. I had planted them temporarily on the side of the house when we were considering hiring a landscaper. I knew that they needed to be well out of the way if anyone other than me were working back there! Especially anyone working with a tractor. Tractors are wonderful, but they don't have a lot of respect for rosebushes. Now that we've decided to do it ourselves, however, the roses can come back out into a sunnier place.

Erm, not today, though!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Garden notes


Today I planted five bare root fruit trees. Fuji and Gala apples, an O'Henry peach, a Lapins cherry, and a 20th Century Asian pear.

Five trees is definitely my limit! As I continue to work on this backyard, I hope to get stronger, but right now, planting five trees is about as much as I can do. I'd already pretty much dug the holes; I enlarged them a bit today, and made sure the gopher runs that I'd bisected were plugged up. Then I went out to get some chicken wire, some potting soil for humus, and the trees.

I lined the sides of the holes with chicken wire, to keep the gophers from munching all the roots off over night, and mixed the potting soil with the soil I'd dug out. Then I planted the trees and watered them in. All in all, I'm pretty proud of myself! Our garden is now officially begun.

After resting up a bit and snacking on a Fuji apple (I'll be picking them from our own tree one day!) I decided that I really should keep track of what I've planted. So I went outside and made a note of each tree. Then, of course, I decided that I wanted a more permanent record. Instead of taking the trouble to measure out our yard and draw the plot, I copied a satellite photo of our house and sketched in my new trees.

I'm going to keep adding dots as I plant; this way I'll have a good record of my progress.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Back to the beginning

Sometimes things just don't work the way I think they will. Shocking, I know.

The necklace I've been working on is a case in point; I made the beaded beads, strung them, and watched them shrink. Seriously. They got smaller and smaller, and before I knew what had happened, the necklace was too small to wear. I'd run out of small pearls, so couldn't make more beads . . . I needed a rescue.

So I got an idea for a truly long embroidered clasp; one that would make up the length of the incredible shrinking beaded beads. But when I finished it, it overwhelmed the beaded beads. I'll use it on another piece, I like it; but it was not what the beaded beads needed.

Back to square one.

I admitted to myself that I really wanted the necklace to be just beaded beads, so I decided to reinforce them and see if I could make them go back to their original size. Success! Now they have a lovely, but small, embroidered clasp, and they are keeping their original size.

I never know where a project will take me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Garden notes

If you've been following my blog, then you know that last July we sold our house in New York, packed up the teenagers and the parakeet, and drove cross-country to California's central coast. We rented a house for six months, and immediately embarked on finding a place to call our own. We found one, and moved in a couple of weeks before Christmas.

It's a fairly new house, and the previous owners had never gotten around to doing anything with the backyard. The front yard had been nicely (if unimaginatively) landscaped by the builders, but the back yard was left pretty much alone. Other than a small lawn, ringed by a row of bushes spaced 20 or so feet apart, the yard is bare.

Well, except for the gophers. We have a thriving population of gophers.

We naively thought that we'd call in a landscaper and hire them to solve our bare yard problem. We have a bit of cash to spend, and figured how much could it cost? Uh, times our budget by about five, and that didn't include plants. We'd really hoped to include plants.

So we figured we'd just do it ourselves. After all, I've already made two gardens; this one is just a bit bigger. My first garden was a city plot, about a sixth of an acre, and a lot of that was house. Our New York house sat on half an acre. This house is on three-quarters of an acre; the front yard is small, and the house is two story, so I'm estimating about half an acre of bare land lies outside of our back door. We immediately decided that we'd go slow.

Today I decided to find out what our dirt is made of. Good news; although it's got a lot of clay in it, there is also some sand, not a lot of humus, but enough to make it fairly easy to dig. Our recent rains had penetrated the top four to six inches, and it wasn't in the least bit soggy. I dug five large holes for trees; our first order of business is to put in some bare root fruit trees. I wanted to dig the holes before buying the trees, just in case digging was harder than I expected. It was much easier than I expected, so that's good.

Unfortunately, four out of my five holes crossed gopher runs. I let the water run, hoping to find the end, but three of them just kept draining. I poured enough water down there to cause them some consternation; I will wait and watch to see how they react. In the meantime, I'm going to research gophers. They're smaller than woodchucks, but I gather they're every bit as difficult to deal with.

Let the battle begin!

Monday, January 26, 2009

What a week it was

This week has been a rather stressful one chez nous; and this weekend, I just crawled into my lair and hid out. Yup, sometimes I just need to get away from it all.

Since a Caribbean holiday wasn't in the cards, I did the next best thing. I unplugged myself from all electronic media, curled up in front of the fire, and read novels until my eyes could no longer focus. Escapism, pure and simple.

This morning, I hit the ground running. I processed two loads of laundry, cleaned out the fridge, and went back to work on the beaded piece that missed the year of jewelry contest. I also found two new contests to enter; one that the piece I'm working on will suit (if I finish it before the end of this month) and another that required me to send off for a selection of beads to use in my entry.

As with the Year of Jewelry projects, I've watched this type of contest, but never sent off for the kit so that I could participate myself. This morning, I decided it was just what I needed to break out of my doldrums.

I'll be haunting the post until my kit arrives.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Year of Jewelry

Do you participate in one? Do you follow any? Are you sitting there wondering what on earth a "Year of Jewelry" is?

A Year of Jewelry is an organized event where a bunch of jewelry makers agree to design and create a piece of jewelry based on a common theme, in a limited amount of time, over the space of one year. There are variations, of course; some give a new assignment every week, others are monthly; some are judged and winners chosen, and others are just for the challenge of it. Some are quite firm about their deadlines, and others couldn't care less.

I've followed several different ones over the years, but I've never committed myself to participate. Many are weekly, and I know I would feel overwhelmed if I were to try to come up with a new piece every week. Sometimes I design and work fast, and sometimes I don't. I like to give myself the space to let the fallow times be fallow.

But I've found a Year of Jewelry project that doesn't require a commitment. Themes are announced weekly, but there is no requirement to meet every one. Some do, of course, but it isn't required. This week the theme really spoke to me, and I have been working on a piece for it. Alas, it won't be finished in time; this is one with a firm deadline, and I have much too much to do before the week ends.

But that's okay. I really like the way it is coming out, and it's not worth rushing it. My Year of Jewelry will roll by in its own measure.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How did I do that?

Some days, everything just works out. I can be in my own little world, not even particularly paying attention to what I'm doing, and everything I touch turns out. Every stitch is in the right place, and the solder flows where I want it to flow.

And other days, it doesn't.

Today is one of the latter days; a day where I make a mistake, pick it out, and do it wrong again. And, after picking it out a second time and thinking about it very carefully, I go right back and make the same mistake again. Even worse, I start over, think, "Ha! There's my mistake!" change before making it, and, yup, you guessed it, make it again.

But this takes the cake: I needed to make a small circle out of ladder stitch, and instead of joining the two ends together, I joined one end to the second from the last stitch.

How did I do that?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This is why . . .
I'm not a businesswoman

I make plans, I work on executing them, and then, before I finish, I'm off in a different direction. It's not that I'm highly distractible; I just get ideas. Ideas that I cannot let stand; ideas that grab me by the hand and lead me into wonderful new places.

Let me explain. I was working on the tutorial I'm writing, when suddenly, a new idea struck. With just a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, my earring design would make a stunning beaded bead. It will only take a few minutes to work it up; I must see it now, before I forget. Of course, my first go needed a little tweaking, and then it needed a variation, or two, or . . .


I've been at it all day. But it's all good; now I'll be able to offer two tutorials very soon. A necklace and a pair of earrings that coordinate!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tutorial time

I've decided that my first tutorial listed on Etsy will be the earrings I made yesterday. What better way to inaugurate my store? So today, I worked on refining the pattern; distilling it to its essence and making it as sensible as possible, so that it will be easy to follow.

When I'm creating, I often change my mind as I go; the way I make my designs is usually pretty odd. Tutorials shouldn't be like rabbits, hopping all over the place and doubling back; tutorials should proceed nicely from beginning to end.

In the process, I made up some variations; I swear, I am constitutionally unable to repeat myself. Even when I want to, I find myself changing things just a little bit. But no matter. I mean, it's a good thing, right? Isn't it better to get more for your money?

I've gotten the diagrams drawn up, and tomorrow, I'll do some more editing and writing. I don't know exactly when I'll be done, but I'll keep working on it until it's good to go. So don't look for those photos right away, okay? I want to unveil them all together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The power of creation

Making things has always been a haven for me; when I am creating, I am calm and relaxed. Even if I don't start that way, the very act of sitting down with my beads settles my soul.

This morning I had some frightening news; everything is fine, no one was hurt, but it could have turned out very badly indeed. Of course, after experiencing relief that the worst did not happen, I began thinking, "What if it had?" and I found it very hard to let go of those disturbing thoughts.

Finally, I took myself firmly in hand, and turned my attention to my beads. I chose pearls for purity and innocence and made a very sweet and pretty pair of earrings. I will photograph and post them later; today they were important not for themselves, but for what making them gave to me.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wii, anyone?

It was our Christmas present to our family; well, sort of. We couldn't find it before Christmas, so we bought a few games and tossed in an IOU for the console. We figured that it would be available sometime in January, and it was. Friday, we went to Costco, and they had a whole pallet of them. So we grabbed one quick, and tossed in the Guitar Hero World Tour band for good measure.

I have to say, it is really fun. And surprisingly good exercise. I may get fit this year after all!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Saraguro Beadwork

I'm hooked.

This type of beadwork is fun, fun, fun! I started with a tutorial from Jubeads Box and made a bracelet; then I made up my own design for the necklace pictured here.

As usual for me, I'm not copying the traditional Saraguro patterns; I'm more interested in using this method to create designs in my own style. I really like the way netting and brick stitch are combined in this style; it reminds me a lot of making crochet lace. I'm looking forward to trying out some more ideas based on that thought; in fact, I was at the library just this morning looking up pattern books.

Hmm, now that my internet connection seems to be stable, I'll bet there are lots of sites with crochet lace out there!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This time, it wouldn't have been my fault!

Really. My internet connection has been down all day, and I was really getting peeved about it. You see, I really wanted to post today; to get back in the habit of updating this blog. But every time I went to check on it . . . nothing. No access.

So I went back to my beads, and hey, I got a lot done today! In fact, I had just ended off the last thread on a necklace when I heard the unmistakable sound of my son getting pinged by one of his friends. And the sudden sound of my daughter, laughing her head off, at (what else?) another YouTube video. So I set down the beads, held my breath, and clicked on my browser.


Erm, this wasn't what I'd planned to write about today . . . but it's what happened. Maybe tomorrow I'll share my thoughts on Saraguro Beadwork. In the meantime, if you'd like a preview, click here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oops, I did it again

This morning, Judy wrote, "You're doing it again. Just got started and had me all hooked then disappearing. I miss you when you don't write, want to know what a LOS is and wish you well."

I haven't been very consistent lately, have I?

Quite frankly, renovating and moving house at the end of last year threw me. And all the things that had to be done around the holidays didn't help. But, I'll be the first to admit that all that's over, and I just haven't gotten back in the groove. It's not just the blog; I'm a bit off everywhere.

After being all excited about ordering LOS, it came, and I didn't use it for two days. (Judy, LOS is Liver of Sulfur, and it is used to create a speedy patina on silver. It isn't predictable, but on a good day, one can get colors ranging from golds, to blues, purples and reds. On a bad day, it's all greys and blacks. Time will create a patina, but LOS is faster.)

I finally kicked myself in the rear and did use it this morning. It was a moderately good LOS day; and after I get the earrings polished up and photographed, I will post them on my Jewelry Tales blog.

I promise!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How not to do it

My LOS gave up the ghost while we were trying to sell our New York house, and, in the spirit of hoping we would sell and move sooner rather than later, I didn't replace it. It wasn't easy for me to fit metal working into showing the house; I didn't have a bench or a workshop, and I had to solder in the kitchen. Because I didn't have a lot of kitchen cabinets, that meant bringing everything out of the cupboard under the stairs, setting it up, trying to work in-between meal times, and getting everything cleaned up and put away in ten minutes if someone wanted to see the house.

Not surprising that I began to focus more on beading!

When we moved, we lived in a rental for the first six months, and I wasn't too sure the owner would take too kindly to me playing with fire in his kitchen, so I parked my tools and continued to play with beads. But now that I have my own bench, and my own corner of the garage to play in, the torch is getting a regular workout.

Which brings us back to the question of patina. I was an LOS addict when I had it; everything got dunked. When it expired, I went through major withdrawal, but then I eventually got to like the shiny look of polished silver, and, until today, I thought I would never go back to it. But today, I really wanted one of those gorgeous purple blue patinas; I'd even settle for just plain black in the crevices. I really wanted to show off the details in a pair of earrings I'd just finished.

So, having no LOS, I tried the old egg yolk method. All I got was dirty looking silver. Maybe I was too impatient; maybe I'm just too used to the results that are possible with LOS. All I know is that I did not like it. Not at all.

My LOS should be in the mail tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Harvesting dreams

On a recent visit to my grandmother, I brought home a trunk full of boxes and bags. Many of those things went to my sisters, but a share stayed with me; including many bits and pieces of beadwork and lace representing over a hundred years in the life of a spectacular woman. No, she didn't begin collecting in the cradle; but she loved vintage pieces, and she had a good eye for spotting things in the most unlikely places.

For many years, Grandma worked with her hands. Her embroidery was not traditional; she combined media with a generous hand, seeing possibilities that others could not even imagine. In another place and time, she would have been the darling of the art set; in her time and place, she kept a lower profile, but was true to her art and filled with creative fire and energy.

Most of the beadwork I carried away has not survived the ravages of time; the thread has rotted in too many places, and too many irreplaceable beads have fallen away. So I have been harvesting the beads with the intention of using them to create new pieces that will honor the women, including my grandmother, who have handled them over the years. None of these beads are extraordinarily valuable in and of themselves; I could buy them for less than it will cost me in time to harvest them. But these beads have dreams in them; these beads are part of my genetic code; they have already seen the history of my own creativity.

How could I not reclaim them?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Yup, that's good

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to play with fire. It's been a long time since I could really get all my metalsmithing stuff out and make a big ol' mess. But now that I have my very own bench, I can spread everything out, and (oh the luxury of it!) I can actually walk away without having to worry about anyone coming in and disturbing something.

This morning I made a pair of earrings; it's a shape that I've been messing around with for a long time now, with no success. But today everything just worked out. The earrings came out exactly the way I wanted them to, and the work just flowed. Don't you love it when that happens?

And now, I've got another design in mind. The first step is sitting in the pickle pot, getting all nice and clean, and I'm back in here, knowing that it's safe. No one will get pickle in their food and suffer for my art.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A new start

It's a new year, we're in a new house, and I got my new workbench today.  When we left New York, I sold my old desk.  Long story; although it was a beautiful desk, it had some very bad associations for me.  I kept it for many years, mostly because it was a very expensive desk, and I knew I couldn't begin to get my money back if I sold it.

I finally realized that my peace of mind was worth a lot more than I'd spent on that desk, and resolved to let it go, even if I had to give it away.  So, before we left New York, I found out that some friends of mine really liked it; I tried to give it to them, but they insisted on paying me for it.  Since I wanted a workbench instead of a desk anyway, I sold it to them for about what we thought a workbench would cost, and planned to buy one when we got settled in California. 

We're not quite settled yet, but I got my workbench!  Sears was having a clearance sale on their old models, and the one I wanted was out of stock.  However, they were willing to sell me the display model.  Now, for some folks, that display model might have been a disappointment.  But for me, it was better than having a new one. 

See, the bench I wanted can be purchased with either a metal or a wood top.  In order to show customers both tops, Sears put half wood and half metal on the display model.  Can you say work surface and soldering station?  I can!  And I have them both on the same bench.  For an additional 15% off the clearance price.

Just about the amount I spent on lampwork beads yesterday.