Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Work

Greetings!  Are you as excited about fall as I am?  I'm so yearning for rain, and cool weather, and fires in the fireplace, and home made soup.  After a busy, warm weekend away in a wonderful class with Kristina Logan, I'm back home and in the home stretch preparing for the Sacramento Arts Festival.  This year I have a completely new booth, so if you're coming to the show, look for me in space 628.  It's a center booth (not a corner), and I'm looking forward to a more intimate arrangement, with more work on the walls, and a stepped up branding experience.  More on that later.

I'm trying to be better about posting new work to Etsy on a regular basis, so here are a few things I've listed in recent weeks.  We've had to have quite a few dead trees removed lately, which we always hate, but the upside of that is more light for photography outdoors.  I now have a great spot in the front where I can take soft box shots with natural light, and I'm loving the results.
"Ancient Fruit" necklace.  I love how the etched Reptilian spacer beads harmonize with the copper focal, don't you?

Vibrant Fuschia Acorn Necklace.  Sometimes you just have to tweak nature a bit.

Speckled Tan Acorn Necklace.

Earthy Browns and Greens Lampwork Bead Necklace.  This is more lampwork and less metal, and I love how it turned out. Inspired by a fabric bunting-style banner made for me by local artist Eileen Brewer of ThrowintheTowel.

Heart Shaped Felt, Glass, and Metal Brooch.
If any of these pieces are softly calling to you, my advice is to grab them while you can, because they're heading to Sacramento with me in a few weeks and may not be back.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The 2014 ISGB Gathering! Thanks for the memories.

I'm just back from an incredible week in Houston attending the 2014 International Society of Glass Beadmakers' annual conference in Houston, and will probably be basking in the glow for weeks to come.  In case you can't imagine what such a meeting might be like, picture a few hundred people from all corners of the world who are addicted to melting glass all converging in one place to take classes, catch up on each others' lives, play on the torch together at night, honor their members, hear amazing technical and inspirational talks, sell their work to the general public, buy tools and supplies, and generally have fun.  All of this while freezing in the hotel and hardly ever venturing out - ha!

This happens every year, and despite the sad sound of "Houston in July", I decided to submit a presentation proposal and also take a class.  I put together a presentation highlighting a number of years of collaborative work with metalsmiths, seed bead artists, and other glass artists, which also included a filmed demonstration of some of my techniques.  It was so much fun to recall the inspiration and creative processes, and share photos of the work in progress, and I really enjoyed my first time as a presenter.  The class I took was from UK bead artist Amanda Muddimer, and it was incredible.  More and more I find myself pushing myself to master precision work in glass (it's hard!), and her sundial and harlequin cabachon designs are both challenging and stunning.  I can't wait to translate these skills into my own designs.

The Meanies were front and center in my presentation as they were part of my first collaboration with Cyndie Smith.  At the show in Houston I showed them in a new way, as a botanical specimen collection.  What do you think?

Meanie cultivars.
My most recent collaboration, while not covered in the presentation, was to work with the amazing Joy Munshower (glass sculptor extraordinaire) on an aquatic-themed donation piece for the live auction the night of the banquet.  It included one of Joy's incredible octopus focals, plus some of my own hollows, electroformed shark vertebrae, and gemstones brought back from Israel a few years ago.  

The slideshow below includes many of my wonderful memories from the conference, and also a shot of Penny Dickinson (ISGB Southwest Regional Director) modeling our collaborative piece that she won in the auction.

Are you making lampwork beads and intrigued about the benefits of being an ISGB member?  Visit: to learn about the various levels of membership and their associated benefits.  I am deeply grateful for all of the opportunities to learn and grow that have come my way through this organization.  And if you're a Silicon Valley area bead maker please visit our local Silicon Valley Fireflies chapter's website to learn how you can attend one of our monthly meetings and become part of this wonderful group.

P.S.  I won a Paragon kiln in the raffle.

Straw Bale Garden Update: Week 15

I've been out of town for a week and the garden has skyrocketed!  I'll show you what's happening there, and then my next post will be about my trip to Houston for the ISGB Gathering conference.  It was FABulous!

How does my garden grow?  FABULOUSLY, thank you very much.
Yep, we've barely begun to start the harvest and I'm a convert.  This is already the best producing, healthiest, lowest effort vegetable garden we've ever grown here, and I'm still loving it.  The bales are getting drip irrigation once per day for about 10-15 minutes, and they seem pretty happy with that schedule.

Spanish Musica (a lovely flat Italian bean) and Kentucky Blue Lake beans are starting to ripen.
Persian cucumbers - love 'em!  This one is almost a little too big now.
The German Orange Strawberry tomatoes are nearly ready too, and they're the biggest we've ever grown.  Oddly, this determinate plant is one of the smallest of the lot.  The sprawling Sungold (indeterminate) has loads of tiny little tomatoes.  I'm starting to think I may actually need that tall trellis after all, at least for some of our tomatoes.
We've got a number of clusters of plum tomatoes, and some seem to have blossom end rot.  I ground up some egg shells and watered them into the bales.  I'm hoping this will work, since calcium is supposed to address that in soil, at least.
The onions are getting big too.  I may have to harvest some as green onions to allow the rest to bulb out.
OK, so technically these leeks are not in a bale, but they're looking great!  I planted them deep and slowly added soil around them as they grow, to make more of the tasty white part.  Like the onions they will need thinning.
Squash, eggplant, basil and broccoli.
We've gotten at least one yellow pattypan squash to date, and I need to harvest some basil to make pesto.  There is one eggplant in process, and the tiny plant has several more stunning blooms.  I can't imagine that tiny plant growing even one of those enormous vegetables.

We have had a problem with broccoli caterpillars.  I tried hand picking them every day for almost a week, but the moths just keep laying eggs under the leaves (ick).  I made a concoction of soap, water, and cayenne (it clogged the sprayer until I ran it through a coffee filter) and sprayed the top and undersides of all the leaves, and miraculously the worms have abated, but I see new eggs to next I'm going to try some Bt powder from Safer.  Broccoli is a lot of work!  I remember my dad growing it when I was a kid (organically?  who knows) and he would just soak it in a sink full of salty water to eliminate all the worms before we ate it.  <>  I guess another alternative is the floating row cover, to prevent the moths from laying the eggs.

I'm feeding worm casting tea, sometimes aerated, sometimes not, and I imagine that's largely responsible for everything being so vigorous.  And I feel warm and squishy all over every morning when I go out to walk among the bales and soak it all in.  This is truly food for my soul.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Straw Bale Gardening Update - Week 10. Progress and plant list.

The garden on the Summer Solstice.  The broccoli and potatoes seem to be growing the fastest these days.
Happy Solstice!  It's a comfortably warm high overcast day here in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, and I'm trying to focus more on the warm growing days to come rather than the downhill trend of the light.  We had a lovely little Solstice Eve dinner party last night and it was heaven to be able to be outdoors lingering over our appetizers and cocktails, enjoying the light and warmth.  Coincident with the World Cup we chose a South American theme for our food and drink, and yes, it's true that Pisco Sours pair wonderfully with Peruvian ceviche.  Yummm!  And while the last course is seldom something I attempt, this dessert was absolutely killer and easy to make.

Much has passed in the garden since I last posted.  Shortly after putting up the fence we're pretty sure one of the 4x4 posts had a deer encounter.  Or vice versa.  One morning on my typical bathrobe garden patrol I discovered the deer netting in one corner was sagging, and the 4x4 post was wobbly and had a chunk missing from one edge.  WTH?  The fencing was not breached, just loose.  I had marked the enclosure all around with white flags as instructed, but it sure looked like a deer had knocked into it, and my discovery of a half eaten stalk of green grass on the wood chip covered ground next to the post confirmed that hypothesis.  My husband dug up the 2.5' long metal fence post stake we used to install the 4x4s and found that two of the four welds was broken.  Fortunately it was fairly easy to pry it up and he installed a new one and we're back to business.  As a precaution I bought some solar powered spot lights to illuminate the posts at night, and they're working great. 
This is the long stake that holds the 4x4 posts for the deer fence.  These are the two welds that broke from the deer encounter.  I bet he had a headache for a spell.
True to my nature I've been impatient with the rate of growth of the vegetables, and insanely check everything at least twice a day to see how they're doing.  When I look at photos from a few weeks ago I guess I can see the progress.  I've been feeding everything with organic fruit and vegetable food from the nursery, as well as aerated worm compost tea.  I take a handful or two of castings from my worm bin (where we recycle our kitchen scraps) and run water over them in a sieve over a 5 gallon bucket until it's about 3/4 full, returning the dazed and confused invertebrate helpers back to their bin.  I add a tablespoon or two of molasses and seaweed extract, and about a cup of fish emulsion.  Then I use either an aquarium air pump or my oxygen concentrator (with a bubble stone on the tubing) to aerate it for a day or two until a scum forms on top.  This is a food and beneficial bacteria treatment in one that I can water with or spray on the leaves.  It's a bit labor intensive and I have yet to do this for an entire season, but I hope to continue it and report good results in the fall. 

Sunny Delight squash may be the next eaten since the sugar snap peas have finished.
Heirloom tomato German Orange Strawberry is laden with fruit.
This Midwestern girl loves her potatoes.
Looking down the tomato row.  I've interplanted some kale here and there for lack of space.
What started as tiny little onion sprouts are now starting to hold their own.
Here's a list of the 28 different food crops we're growing in this 23' x 18' space in our Sunset Zone 15 garden, in the 12 bales and a few extra containers:

Heirloom tomatoes:  German Orange Strawberry, Isis Candy, Black Krim.
Other tomatoes:  Roma, San Marzano, Sungold
Swiss chard, dinosaur kale
Cucumbers:  Green Finger, Diva
Beans:  Kentucky Wonder pole, Spanish Musica pole
Potatoes:  Red Norland, Yukon Gold
Evergreen hardy white onion
Squash:  Sunny delight, Cocozella heirloom squash
Peppers:  Red Beauty bell, Golden Treasure heirloom pepper
American Flag leek
Marathon broccoli
Albion strawberry
Italian basil
Mexican lime

In containers on the deck I've got radishes, more basil, Improved Meyer lemon, Black Mission fig, and sugar snap peas.  Among the vegetables I've also got lobelia, marigold, Alba nasturtium.  My husband is also looking after some salad greens, corn, and additional chard and kale in a shadier area. 

Maybe next time I'll share a little about my worm composting setup and how I make the aerated tea.  How is your garden doing this year?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Straw Bale Garden Update: Week 7

I think I was recalling the bucolic vineyards in New Zealand that have roses planted at the ends of the rows.  Why not marigolds to attract beneficial insects?
 Things are really shaping up nicely now in the new straw bale veggie garden.  The bales would have been fine to plant in a month ago, but between work and life, I'm approaching this slowly.  It's not too out of whack for our coastal mountain gardening zone though, where we lag at least 30 days behind what's growing down in San Jose.  As of mid-May we're past any danger for tomatoes, but the true warm summer weather is (technically) at least a month away.

So what have we accomplished since the last time?  Everything!  Well, not quite.  I still need to put in the irrigation.  But I've installed the vertical structure for the tall things in two of the four rows of 3 bales where support will be needed.  There's a ginormous structure for the tomatoes made from salvaged aluminum conduit and wire fencing.  I did the prescribed straw bale garden fence using metal fence posts, a salvaged 2 x 4 top beam, and fencing wire for the beans and cukes.  I can tell you with certainty that the my new fence post driver is elbowing the leaf blower out of the top spot as my favorite tool.  That danged thing got a fence post in our hard clay ground faster than a speeding bullet - so much so that it's actually shorter than I'd like right now.  Get one - much safer than swinging a sledge hammer too.

Fence Post Driver.  Hole on the bottom, solid and weighted at the top.  Fits right over fence post and you'll never miss it when you swing.
Holy Tomato Tower Batman!!
Beans and cukes.
I ordered, assembled, and installed the metal deer fence gate, and got the final wall of deer netting up (with help).  My wonderful husband helped dig the post holes for the frame, and did the concrete.  The McGregor Fence Company makes a wide range of gates for their deer fencing products, and while I didn't get the deer mesh from them the gate is the bomb.  They have online videos of the assembly process and their customer service is great, and shipping is free.   I still want to install a permanent threshold under the gate as there is a gap big enough for a rabbit to squeeze through, and the same for the vertical gap where the gate meets the frame.

Planting in the bales was a learning experience.  Don't expect to gently part the fibers with your hands and nestle a plant in the straw.  These are very tightly bound bales.  The thing that worked best for me was my husband's dykes - pliers with long handles that have a fairly good biting surface.  I used the pliers to extract clumps of straw to create each planting pocket.  In doing this I found that the density of the bales varied widely.  But for each of them I needed the pliers to pull the straw out.  I discovered that just below the outer surface of the dry looking bales there was loads of moisture, which was reassuring.  I had been watering them with the soaker hose every day for about 15 minutes, and it was keeping them plenty moist.  Anyway, once I pulled enough out to fit a 4" potted veggie plant I put a handful of soil in the hole, inserted the plant, and used the removed straw to make a little collar around the plant.

The potatoes were planted about 2-3 weeks ago (late for around here, but I'm hopeful) and some very healthy looking leaves are already poking out of the tops of the bales.  At the same time I planted some onion seedlings, and for those I added a little more soil to help keep the very tiny sprouts moist until they got larger.

Potatoes - YES!
 And then my reward was to make it pretty, so I put some marigolds on the ends of the rows (on the side of the bale - apparently this works fine), and a few nasturtiums here and there to wander.  For me the sight of neat rows of edible plants is beautiful enough, but the flowers will make my early morning bathrobe-clad trips out there even more special.  Also on my list is to find four ornamental fence post toppers for the 4 4x4's holding up the corners of the deer fence.  Something fun.  Maybe glass obelisks?  Know anyone who blows glass? 

As soon as my muscles recover and I get some time I'm going to hook up the irrigation - I'm going to run 1/2" poly tubing supply lines to each of the rows where it will connect to the soaker hose segments. 

OK, that's the garden update for today.  Even though the hard part is nearly done I'll be posting updates as things grow.  I'm planning to make another batch of worm compost tea (the aerated kind) very soon, as liquid fertilizer is best for this gig and I'm keen to do it again.


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