Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Get It While You Can

Just a photo heavy post showing a little of what's going on around here.  The rains have slacked up a bit (even tho it's actually raining as I type this) and some warm sunny days have snapped the garden into production.  We have very little planted right now but hope to remedy that by the end of the week.  Looks like we are going to have waaaay more blueberries than we'll use this year!  I still have 2 bags in the freezer from last year.  It's a good problem to have though.

The lettuce in the asparagus bed seems to be dong well.  Time to plant the second wave.  The asparagus is doing really well too.  We have a constant supply on hand this year.  Maybe even enough for me to freeze a little for later.

The flowers are all doing well too.  Not a tremendous amount blooming right at this moment but that should change soon.

I don't know how much you can tell from this photo but this is one of my tea plants.  I have 3 left, out of 6.  They have not grown much over the past 3 years but this year they have put out a ton of the little new leaves that you actually make the tea from.  I am really going to try to pick some this year and experiment with actually making tea.

I tilled up part of the garden today in preparation for planting and the girls rushed in, while they are still allowed in, to bathe in the fresh, cool soil.  They really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

All except for Ms. Ella that is, who has gone broody for the umpteenth time, but since we actually have a rooster this year....we are going to let her sit on these eggs.  She has wanted to be a mama for so long I just didn't have the heart to take her off of them.  I hope some of them actually hatch for her!  We joked about it quite a bit because we are not sure that Big T is.....uhh....always hitting the target, let's say.  He falls off on his head sometimes but who knows?!  He may be a regular Don Juan of the chicken world.  Haha!

All the little songbirds are in the mood for love too!  Quite a lot of squawking and various activities.  Our regular bluebird pair has already hatched out one brood in the house in the garden, so we put up 2 more bluebird boxes around the place.  This one is behind the house and can be seen as you look out the kitchen windows.  The other day a bluebird pair was very busily building a nest in it, which is when I took this photo, but I have not noticed any activity since then.  Maybe they decided they didn't like it after all?  It is a good distance from the others so I don't think that is a problem.

I've noticed quite a lot of new (to me) birds around this year since we moved the feeder closer to the house.  At least 2 types of grosbeaks!  I think this is a female rose-breasted grosbeak and I also saw a male blue grosbeak but my photo of him did not turn out as well.  He also didn't stick around long but Ms. Grosbeak here stayed around for 2 or 3 days and was very laid back about photos; she didn't mind at all.  The indigo buntings have arrived also and I've been trying to get a good photo of them but no luck yet.

I also found out I was accepted to the local art fair here, so I'm going full-tilt now to make enough inventory for that.  The show is May 8-10 so I don't have long!  Hopefully, it will be profitable and worth all this effort lately.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend

Well, they are IF they come attached to saw blades or grinding pads.....the rest are fairly worthless.  You all may remember me pouring the first bar top for the kitchen way back in this post, and I finally got around to doing a bit more work on it.  For one thing, I really needed to get that thing out of my studio where it was taking up quite a bit of room.  I truly hate trying to work around clutter or junk and since I am really trying to ramp up production here for impending shows, that thing had to leave!  Secondly, it finally stopped raining for a few days so that I could actually work outside.  Of course, it doesn't matter if the slab gets rained on, but I didn't want to get rained on.

As matter of fact, it has to be soaked down real good before I could grind on it anyway.  The diamonds in the pads last longer, as the water cools things slightly, and it doesn't stir up the dust when it's wet.  And you actually have to keep wetting it as you work.  A messy job for sure but these rubber aprons came in very handy! 
At first, it seemed like I was only managing to scrub the grout out of the slab, because it remained slightly rough, but after getting up to about 200 grit and staying on that for a while the concrete began to polish up quite nicely.  I will not be able to polish the cast in place counter tops quite this well, I don't think, so I didn't want a mirror finish on these bar tops and have them not match.  So I just kept it at 200 grit.  Actually, I did go up to 400 grit but the red pads started staining my grey concrete.  NOT good.  I believe I will have to email the maker of these pads and express my displeasure at that.  So, I went back down to 200 and polished until the stains came out, which didn't take too long.

I finished the sides off a little and called it good.  I was very pleased with the way this one came out.  Hopefully I made it the correct dimensions.  Ha!  Just kidding....sorta.  It's still outside now, drying out a bit and then we will bring it inside and set it in place.  It will not be permanently anchored yet.  I just want to get it inside where it can fully dry in a less humid and rainy environment and it not be in my way somewhere.  After a couple of weeks I'll anchor it in place (basically glued) and finish sealing it.

If you click on this photo you can get a good look up close at the finish.  Keep in mind it is wet so that accounts for the high gloss.  The finish I'll put on it will be more a semi-gloss or satin.  As I said, I am very pleased with the look of this mix and how the aggregate looks when polished.  Very cool.  It reminds me of some of the recycled glass counter tops I've seen.  This is considerably cheaper though!  Now I just need to find a good food-safe, water proof sealer.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Stroll

The Christmas fern forest is in full gear.  These are the only ferns here, out of about 8 different type, that I can positively identify.

No idea what this type is.  Maybe a type of bracken fern?

Chigger guards the entrance to the Enchanted Forest.

Okay, now these are definitely sensitive ferns; I do know that one too.  They haven't put up their little brown center stalk yet though.

Some very large trillium.  No idea the variety.  I should have gotten one of the chickens to stand by these because they are easily taller than the girls.

My red azaleas are in excellent form this year.  Very pretty.  I can't wait until they are big!  The ferns around these steps and walls just planted themselves.  I haven't moved any so far.  They seemed to have picked good spots.

My opinion is this is a rattlesnake fern........but I could be wrong.  Maybe some type of grape fern.

My photo designer checkin' out the set up before hand.  She's got an eye for detail.  Actually, she's making sure I didn't drop any treats anywhere in the area.   She's got an eye for that too.

My never-ending quest to get some decent photos of the birds around here.  Didn't do too well today.  We had intermittent showers, so that's my excuse.  I was happy to see a male grosbeak again this year but my photos did not come out well at all.  I hope he will be back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Throw Sum Mo

    That title says it all!  I've really been trying to keep the ol' nose to the grindstone lately and turn out a fair amount of work.  I'm no where near full speed yet but I'm certainly doing better than I was.  Good enough that I applied to my first show for this year.  Next month in fact and....it's a 3-day show, so that just shows ya what a glutton for punishment I am.  No reason to start out slow, ya know?  Well, the show is one I used to do regularly and it was always profitable, and it's only 30 minutes away from home.  So....there you go.
    I also had to go through standards (a judging procedure) this week to reenter a fine craft guild I used to belong to.  They have one show a year that is usually VERY good and good to participate in for exposure.

    I threw for a few hours today and right towards the end I could tell I was getting tired.  My hands get tired a lot easier than they used to.  And then I actually dropped a mug.  Haven't done that in a very long time.  I only had 2 more to go to finish the board I was on, so after I finished those I said that's enough for one day.  It was time for supper anyway.

    I also managed to get a large load of dinnerware and mugs out to my stores before I started production for this show.  I was very glad of that.  Now I can just concentrate on doing for the show.  Well, I may be able to take a few more pieces in to the others.  This new color scheme/ design is selling really well.  I like it quite a lot myself.  I just need to come up with about 2 more color variations.

    I will straight way say this is a very poor example of my show booth but it was all I could scrape together at the time.  This show requires a LOT of documentation that each craftsperson actually makes what they intend on selling and this past week I have had to work my butt off to get photos of everything, even including my raw materials, and get it sent in, in a reasonable amount of time before the deadline.  And of course, they want at least one photo of your show set-up, so they can see you have the correct color/ type tent.  Well, it has been years since I did a show; I didn't even have a tent anymore.  What was left of it got taken to the scrapyard last year and my shelves are just a shambles (which is why I photographed it from this particular angle, lol!)  You can't see that they are not actually complete.  But they will be before the show time.  I had to get a new tent and round all this stuff up, including dragging out every last piece of pottery I could locate around here, set all this up in the yard before an impeding thunderstorm arrived, take photos and then get it all taken back down and put up.  I know it does not look great but it is basic and all there.  At showtime I will have a banner and more decorations for a more complete look.   The better your booth looks, the more people perceive your work to be worth.  It's all image, baby.  Haha!

    So, things are quite busy here but I'll try to have some more posts soon.  We have several new things going and things to tell about.  My fertilizing last month seems to be paying off as all the fruiting trees, shrubs etc. are getting loaded with baby fruit.  I'm excited about that.  I would love to be able to bake a real homemade cherry pie this year!!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Grow Your Own

 Not the best of photos I know, but maybe you can make out what I'm so excited about.  The asparagus has started to come up!  Hopefully, it will soon be coming up in a bit more quantity, so that it doesn't take me a week to get one batch.  This is the main reason I added another row this year.  The shoots that do come up are doing well and fat but there is just not enough at one time.  Ahhh, patience weedhopper...

 Since our cold frame is currently disassembled (meaning non-existent), I decided to just sow some lettuce in the one available, clear area that I knew would not get messed with.  It could sort of act like mulch for the asparagus also.  I will sow the rest of this row in about a week so I can stagger my lettuce harvest a bit.  It is about worthless in my opinion to buy loose leaf lettuce at the grocery.  It's expensive, it always goes bad before I can eat it all, plus, it's incredibly easy to grow yourself (and cheap), even with a teeny bit of space and it just sits there until you are ready to harvest a salad amount at a time.  Of course, it will eventually bolt but in cooler weather that takes awhile and you can get many servings before that happens.

Here is a few examples of the shrub starts that I did from prunings.  You can see in front, with the teeny yellow buds, is one forsythia shrub and to the right and behind is 2 blueberry bushes.  Just prune them off and stick 'em in the ground.  Of course, not all take but many do and it's free.  And yes, they are very small at first, just kinda like sticks, but they grow pretty fast, especially if you keep them in rich soil.  Since I know these are rooted well now I'll transfer them soon.

And one of the most wonderful surprises of this week!!!  The morels are starting!!!  I am officially hooked on these things now.

I found enough for a nice supper and we pigged out.  We celebrated their annual return again with a bit of steak and wine but I stuffed myself so on these that I honestly didn't end up eating much steak.  Oh well.  It makes a good breakfast.  Hopefully, I caught these at the beginning of the season here, so I'm hoping to find more in the next couple of weeks.  The Earth has a bounty if you know where to look!

Oh, and I meant to show ya'll these in the last post and forgot!  When we were up at my Mom's for Easter and were outside taking those photos, I noticed a small flock of birds that settled in a great big oak tree right by us.  My brother did not appear to notice but I knew immediately that there was something different about these birds.

Their soft, muted colors and just the way they landed all around us seemed foreign somehow.  Upon closer inspection with my telephoto lens I then knew that I had never seen these before!  Unfortunately, I did not have my most powerful lens (I figured I wouldn't need it! ha!) and so I could not get real close or detailed shots but these are enough that I'm pretty certain that these are Cedar Waxwings.  I was just mesmerized by them.  I would guess there were about 20-25 in this group.

They sat around preening and just enjoying the sun.  Didn't seem bothered by us at all.  Which made me happy.  It was fantastic to get to observe them so such a long time.

I wish a group would come by the house so I could get a better shot (maybe) but I'm ecstatic to have seen them and gotten these.  I really had no idea that Waxwings ever came down here, so it was a real surprise for me.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Changin' Skies

Well, once again I have been trying to create a coherent post on a particular subject but just can't seem to get the time or thoughts together.  We are trying to get the garden at least started and I'm also trying to really build up my pottery stock and it just seems like there is not enough time in the day for everything.  One day the weather looks like this and the next it will be sunny and warm.  Stormy days we work inside and on pretty days I try to take advantage of that and do some outside stuff.
I have managed to get all the fruit bushes/plants, vines etc. fertilized but haven't got them all remulched at this point.  Started some lettuce also and noticed that it has sprouted well.  We really need to get the potatoes in and some cabbage and such.  It has rained so much though that it's hard to work in the garden a lot of days.

 So, I've also got this going on and this is just a small portion.  Lots more dinnerware made.  I think this past load came out really well and I'll show ya'll a photo of it all finished.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to apply to a local show here next month.  I should get accepted and if I do I've really got to get my butt in gear because it is a 3 day show and I'll need lots of inventory.

 The cherry tree is blooming well this year so I really hope I get a halfway decent harvest this year.  And I really need to get another one of these also.  That would help greatly; just haven't done it yet.  We also need one more plum and another apple too.

I've been in my studio a lot lately and I always keep the door open so I can keep an eye on the girls out in the yard and all.  When the downpours come many of them run inside to keep dry. I don't mind.  They do poop a little but it's a concrete floor; easy to clean.  Low flying hawks will also prompt them to run inside!