Early Summer 2017 Garden

22. June 2017 21:32

CornBetween one thing and another, I have not had a lot of time for faceting lately. The garden has been one of those "things" that have kept me occupied elsewhere. Due to the wonderful rain this winter and how late into the spring it continued, more than a couple routine garden chores did not get done as early as usual. Some (such as tying up the trailing blackberries or the third dormant spraying) did not happen at all.  

The winter pruning of the fruit trees did get done eventually. At first, it was like in past years -- removal of obvious problem branches. But then a second pass was made where the focus was on getting the trees shaped better. That resulted in the removal of a lot more wood, and in some cases was that pretty much removed most of the fruiting wood. In the long run, it will be worth sacrificing a year's harvest to get a well-shaped tree for the remainder of its life. And as it turned out, most of the trees still had plenty of flowers and now have lots of developing fruit.

The later rains and seriously windy weeks between them, meant that the fruit thinning did not happen as early as it should have been done. Actually, at the proper time for thinning, the fruits are terribly hard to find in the foliage. And although I thought I removed more than enough of the fruit when I finally got it done, now it looks like only half as much should have been left on most of the trees.

The sweet cherries finally provided more than a few for a snack in the garden. It was much better than I expected. (The local birds did not try to share them!) It appears we will finally get some apricots this year also. And the dwarf mulberry is producing berries. The birds have not attacked those either so I collected enough to make a pint of mulberry jam. The mulberries are tiny -- I guess it goes with it being a dwarf tree. Birds are supposed to like mulberries better than fruit from other trees and the idea is that the mulberry would protect the other fruit. So far that is not working. Maybe I need to have a tree with full sized mulberries? Or maybe the country birds just happen to have different taste than the ones in more suburban areas?

Meanwhile, the blackberries have appeared in abundance. Since the did not get pruned properly over the winter, reaching into the bush to pull out the berries is hazardous -- most have lots of thorns as well. How the deer can munch the parts they can reach through the fence is one of the great mysteries.

The veggies in the raised beds are starting to be productive. The snow peas and snap peas have been producing. The green beans have just started and the zucchini is just about ready. We were doing the sunroom addition last summer and access to the garden was difficult because of the construction. There were a lot of crop failures last year and that was one of the factors. Critters also were a problem. For instance, field mice attacked the corn just as it ripened. The later plantings of carrots and lettuce just did not germinate or were dispatched by the local wildlife was sprouts. Things are so much nicer now. Hopefully the veggies will also be better with a little extra attention.

(See photos of the garden at http://www.vistagrande.com/gallery/album.aspx?aid=198)

Faceting Demonstration This Weekend

16. June 2017 23:22

I will be demonstrating faceting during the San Luis Gem and Mineral Show this weekend, Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18. The show is being held at the Cambria Vets Hall from 10am to 5pm each day. Parking and Admission are free.

See http://www.slogem.org/4-shows.html for additional information

Ten more added

20. April 2017 23:21

Just added ten more stones to the gallery.

Or, if you are in Paso Robles this weekend, you can see them in person at my booth at the Rock club show being held at the fairgrounds.

Image is of an ametrine weighing 8.37 cts. which has concave facets decorating the pavilion.

Faceting Demonstration in Paso Robles

18. April 2017 23:20

Join me this weekend, April 22 and 23, at the Paso Robles event center (Midstate fairgrounds) for the Santa Lucia Rockhounds Annual Rock and Gem Show.
http://www.slrockhounds.org/santaluciarockhoundshow.html

I will have a table there and will be showing off an assortment of unique gemstones which I have faceted which will be available for sale.

Hours are from 10 am - 5 pm Saturday and 10 am - 4 pm Sunday.

If you can't make it this weekend, I expect to be demonstrating faceting at the San Luis Obispo and Orcutt club shows this summer.

Garnets and Quartz

4. April 2017 23:18

Three garnets and the rest of the dozen are quartz varieties -- citrine and amethyst. A few of those have concave facets.

Garnets posted

17. March 2017 23:18

Another batch of garnets just posted. The rough material for these came from several countries in Africa as well as India and even the USA.

Before and After - Rough and Finished

24. February 2017 13:00

Rhodolite garnet rough and resulting faceted gemsI usually don't take photos of the rough gem material. However, because I had a few questions about what it looks like before it is faceted, I did remember one day to get some pictures of parcels I had recently acquired. Now that I have cut some of those pieces, I have a group of "before" and "after" pictures of few garnets.

Obviously in these photos, the scale is not consistent. However, you can see some typical rough garnet and what was done with it. Most of the garnet rough I have encountered is similar to water worn pebbles rather than a nice geometric crystal.

Malawi garnet rough and resulting faceted gemsIn some cases, a very fine saw may be used to split the material or remove excess material. However, the bulk of the faceting work is done by grinding off the excess to create each facet of the gem. The faceting process involves first removing flaws in the material and shaping the stone with a coarse grit. Then with a finer grit, each of the facets is cut. Often a very fine grit is used to produce a "prepolish" on the facets. Then each facet is polished with an extremely fine grit or an oxide to produce essentially a mirror finish. It is not unusual for two thirds or more of the original rough material to end up as sludge in the bottom of the splash pan of the faceting machine. 

Malawi garnet rough and resulting faceted gemsMost faceters in the US try to do precision cutting -- angles chosen are to maximize the light return and all facets properly shaped meeting its neighbors exactly according to a predetermined pattern. Another approach to faceting is what is often labeled "native cut". In that case, the material is cut to maximize the weight of the finished stone, often at the expense of the brilliance. The facets on native cut stones also tend not to meet nicely, they are misshaped and do not line up with each other. One other major difference between "native cut" and precision cut, is the polish.

 

 

 

Wind and Rain and Falling Trees

20. February 2017 22:48

Some of the larger trees along the roadThe last storm to pass through this part of California brought lots of rain, but also serious wind. The result was that quite a few in our area spent two or three days or President's Day weekend without electric power.  Huge (non-native) eucalyptus trees were toppled over by the storm taking out power lines and poles. Smaller ones blocked neighbors' driveways and / or broke fences. The road leading to ours was blocked for hours due to the many eucalyptus trees which had fallen across the road. For some time, the only exit from this street was to drive past a road closed sign and under a branch which went over the road to lean on the top of a power pole on the other side.

Unlike some of our neighbors, we had taken precautions for a prolonged power outage. When the house was built, the design included a way to use an external generator to power most of needed items. In addition to keeping refrigerated and frozen food items from being ruined, this is really important since we aren't on a city water supply. It was easy enough to get by without using the electric oven for a few days, and we could have managed without the heater, but without water pressure, things would have quickly become annoying. 

smaller trees downAfter almost two and a half days, we were back on the power grid again and enjoying the quiet of the countryside without noisy generator. There is another wave of rain and wind scheduled to come through shortly, so the quiet could be short lived. Alongside the road water is running through what has dry creek throughout the drought years. There are many more large eucalyptus trees along the creek's edges which could meet the same fate of those which disrupted things a few days ago.

Malawi Garnets for Girls' Scholarships

11. February 2017 01:48

Malawi GarnetThe short version: Like a number of others who enjoy turning rough into sparkling gemstones, I have found a way to give something back to one of the areas where the gem rough originates. All the money from the sale of the Malawi garnets I have cut will go to the K.I.N.D. fund to provide scholarships for Malawian girls' high school education. See http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/introducing-the-kind for the background on the fund.

The longer story...

I have had a soft spot for garnets since I started faceting. Perhaps it is because they cooperated in the polishing stage better than many other types of material. Or maybe it is because the material I had was the common red variety of garnet and red goes well with my favorite color, green, to make the traditional Christmas colors. Probably it is because when I was very young my mother told me that garnet was her birthstone -- and she never had a real garnet.

The second factor in picking this project has been that education has been a huge part of my life. My dad found his vocation as an educator. For a number of years my mother worked as a secretary in an elementary school. And when circumstances allowed her to obtain her college degree, she became a special education teacher. A great many of our family friends were folks they knew from the schools where they worked. Furthermore, the importance of education for girls is something with which I had much personal experience. As a female baby boom child, the world I found had many doors closed for girls. It was just assumed that after high school girls would get some clerical job, or perhaps enter nursing or teach elementary school children or work in a retail store. And generally that career was going to be just long enough to land a husband. Even recreation focused on the boys. Our neighborhood had little league baseball games for the boys all summer long.  There was no sports in the community for girls. Because my parents cared so much for the value of education and were willing and able to make the  sacrifice needed for the tuition, I went to a private school. There I was exposed to much more than what would have been the case for the girls who went to the local schools. That led to the high school experience and eventual college degree -- an opportunity that many of the girls of my generation never had. I cannot imagine how different my life would have been without the education I was lucky to have received. 

rough Malawi garnetThe third piece in this project was the Lawrence O’Donnell show on MSNBC. Around the holidays he talked about his experiences in Malawi and the K.I.N.D. fund. The lack of opportunity for girls to get even a high school education is something that would likely keep them and their future families in poverty. Those stories and the images of the young girls stuck with me.

Thus when I came upon a rough dealer's page of garnets with many from Malawi, the pieces came together. All money from the sales of gems I facet from Malawi garnet rough will go to the K.I.N.D. scholarships for the Malawi girls.

A Bit of Sunshine

2. February 2017 03:55

daffodils and clementinesThe forecast indicates that more rain should be here again shortly. It was nice to have a week to dry out with several days getting out in the sunshine to do some of the winter garden tasks. According to our weather station, in all of 2015 we had less than 7 inches of rain and last year, not quite 17 inches fell despite "el nino". The total for January 2017 has been just shy of 13 inches of rain. After years of drought in this area, no one has been complaining about getting wet.

Most of the garden is inactive. However, several of the citrus trees (actually closer to bushes because they are probably no more than four feet in height at this point) are loaded with fruit. Mandarins seem to like our climate and so I harvested some of the Clementines to enjoy over the next few days. 

I also found that the daffodils were starting to bloom and brought a handful of those in to brighten up the kitchen. The bulbs were planted within the "drip line" of the fruit tree groups so they add some color to the "orchard" before the trees come into bloom. As it turns out, daffodil bulbs are not bothered by gophers, so we should be able to look forward to more daffodils with each year.

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