Tomato Time

16. August 2020 20:29

So finally I am having a good year for the tomatoes and it is time to start canning jars of sauce and crushed tomatoes for the coming year.  I had only a box and a half of lids left from last year, so I went out early yesterday morning to get additional lids.  I found empty shelf space where they should have been at several stores.  Reluctantly, back at home I looked for an online source and did not have much better luck.  Oh, there are a few sources which claim to have the lids but they appear to be price gouging unless their lids are actual gold rather than gold colored metal.  Apparently a shortage of canning lids is yet another result of the COVID pandemic in the US. 

From the Garden

14. June 2020 19:02

At the same time the garden is starting to produce fruit and veggies to harvest, I am still working on tasks that should have been completed by early April.

While I was clearing the neighboring raised bed to make way for another planting of corn, I noticed a couple of carrots that looked like they might be ready. Carrots tend to be very random in germinating for me, so the crop comes in over a long time. And the raised beds with hardware cloth at the base are the only way to go with carrots. Otherwise the soil may be too tough and the gophers will see to it that none are ever ready to go to the kitchen. So it was nice to get a couple of decent looking carrots. Only how, since the bed is made from two 6 x 1 boards, did the one get to be 15 inches?

Among the should-have-been-done-months-ago tasks to clear the bed is moving a clump of tarragon. Two years ago I started moving it and took most to another bed as a "temporary" home for it. Thus I now have two big tarragon patches. I took the shears to initial planting so I could find the base of the plant, I will have to see about drying it and perhaps doing some herb crafts in the fall.




Initial Harvests

8. June 2020 17:12

It is the beginning of June and the garden suddenly has fruit and veggies to bring in. The citrus row along the driveway is providing my morning orange juice as well as lemons and limes for lemonade or limeade for months to come.

The Flavorosa pluot is always first of the stone fruits to be ready. While I don't expect as much from the apricots this year as last year, so far we are getting plenty of them. A plumcot which had never done anything but grow leaves must have heard me threatening to cut it back and graft on peaches as it actually produced a small number of apricot like plum tasting fruit. I hope it will do even better in future years. The early peaches and nectarines are not doing well -- there was still too much peach leaf curl.

Although the blackberries did not get much care over the past year, a couple varieties are still providing plenty of berries. Hopefully next year they will be relocated to a better spot where I can deal with them properly and harvest the berries with less bloodshed on my part.

The snow peas and lettuce were the first veggies ready for the kitchen. Now zucchini and beans are starting. We had to build a bird net cover for the raised bed to protect corn seedlings from birds who uprooted about a third of the first planting to get to the sprouted kernels.  It will probably be another month before corn, tomatoes or winter squash are ready -- if all goes well. Weather and critters in past years have managed to destroy a promising crop.  And given the kind of year 2020 has been, it seems almost anything might happen.

A Few African Garnets

30. May 2020 17:44

Garnets are generally one of my favorite stones to facet. Usually they cooperate and take a nice polish without fighting back.  Sometimes they end up a bit too dark -- a classic red that won't sparkle.  Sometimes there are fine needle inclusions that make for a sleepy look to the stone.  Often they can contain interesting inclusions that are easily visible while the stone is on the dop and being examined with magnification but when finished, the inclusions are not a detriment to the overall appearance of the stone.  So while I was in Tucson, I could not resist picking up a few parcels of small African garnets.  As a balance to the larger (time consuming) pieces I was cutting using the fantasy machine, I dopped up a few of these for quick positive reinforcement.

This is a 1.30 carat garnet from Malawi which is 5.5 mm. across.  There is quite a color range in the stones coming from this region.  This stone tends towards the orangish side.

Next is another Malawi garnet which is has a purple red color.  It is 7.8 mm. in diameter and is 1.64 carats.

Even more purple this garnet from Umba region of Tanzania is 1.56 carats and 6.7 mm.

Like the Malawi garnets, the Umba garnets also have a wide range of color.  This orangish red one is 1.06 carats and 6.0 mm. across.

 Another parcel was labeled "Ruvu River" which is also in Tanzania.  This slightly purplish garnet is 1.02 carats, 5.8 mm.





Amethyst experiments

21. May 2020 22:33

So once things were more or less caught up after Tucson, it was time for additional experiments with concave and fantasy variations.  First up is a 12.0 mm., 5.24 carat amethyst pentagon where concave facets were used for every other pavilion facet reaching the culet.

Next is this hexagon shaped amethyst which is 12.31 carats and is 14.5 mm. across. Similar to what was done with the pentagon,  this one has every other culet facet done as concave rather than flat facets.

The third amethyst in this group is 14.0 mm. across and weights 13.47 carats.  The concave facets were placed on the pavilion corners and as the center culet facets.

Then, for fun, a series of four round amethysts ranging in size from the 8.79 carat, 13.6 mm. one pictured above down to an 8.9mm., 2.58 carat version.  The culet facets of the pavilion were done as concave facets.  The diameter of the mandrel used for these was adjusted as the diameter of the stone changed.  Then for the crown, instead of the usual series of flat (or concave) facets, it was done as a single ring .




March Garden Report - Lemonade Time

25. March 2020 23:39

It has been a wet March, so not a lot of outside time.  Which is perfectly fine since we got no rain in February and the rainy season will be ending very soon. 

Last fall I decided it was past time to divide the patches of daffodils that I had planted between the trees in our orchard.  It turned out that there was a lot more baby bulbs that I expected.  In several places the bulbs were being pushed out of the ground because there were so many in the group. The new spot for them had to be a spot where they would not get in the way of mowing so I decided to plant them along the fence that is on one side of our property. 

When the task was done I wondered if I would have any blooms this year in the orchard as I had removed so many.  As we got below normal rain this winter, I was concerned that the transplanted daffodils would not survive.  So I was happy to see that there were still plenty left in the orchard.  And now that I finally made it over to the fence area, was very pleased to see how many flowers had bloomed.  Hopefully, they will be happy there and multiply over the coming years.  (Note: gophers don't eat these bulbs and it looks like the deer are not interested in the rest.)


Meanwhile, along the driveway, the citrus is working overtime.  The Meyer lemon is covered in flowers.  And there is a large crop ready (or almost) for harvest from last years blooms.  The deer do seem to think citrus is delicious, so most of the fruit is in the back or well inside the branches where they were safe from the deer's pruning. 

A small number appeared ready to pick.  This group provided a couple ice cube trays of juice for use when I need a little lemon juice for a recipe.  And there was enough left for at least one large pitcher of lemonade.  When the rest is ready I will have lemonade for several months. Before I juice them, I will take peel from the prettier ones to dehydrate to use when I need lemon peel.  

 And down the row a bit from the Meyer lemon tree is a Valencia orange.  Looks like I should have lots of fresh squeezed OJ soon.

Yes, More Hexagons

7. March 2020 23:18

Before I went off February 1st for ten wonderful days in Tucson, I was trying some variations to better understand how different facet placements would impact the resulting gem.  While there are software programs that will attempt to do that for flat facets, concave facets and fantasy variations are not included.  So I set up several stones and cut them with the same flat facet pattern but differences with the fantasy machine cuts. (Besides, faceting is more fun that sitting at the keyboard.)

The first one is a 12.61 carat lemon citrine which has all of the pavilion row of facets done with the regular mandrels for concave work.  It is 14.6 mm. across, so I managed to work in more facets than I have been using in some of the smaller hexagons.


Using that same flat facet arrangement, I did two somewhat smaller amethysts.  For one, a 6.60 carat, 12.8 mm. stone when done, I used a rounded fantasy wheel and made some small curved cuts.  These added some "lights" which seem to be inside the stone.


On the other amethyst, which finished at 5.65 carats, 11.2 mm., I added a lot more of these compound concave "facets".  It looks like the stone is full of glitter.


For a totally different variation, after returning from Tucson, I tried something along the lines of the demonstration done at the USFG seminar on Fantasy cutting.  For this one, which is 5.40 carats and 11.0 mm. across,  I used a slitter and cut grooves from the culet most of the length of the corner facets.  These were left unpolished and they are reflected by the other facets to give the appearance of having many more grooves than were actually created.



Meanwhile, back at the farm

12. February 2020 18:35

When I left for ten wonderful days of gem related shows and events in Tucson, the garden was in its winter sleep except for weeds which were taking advantage of the situation to get a head start.  Yesterday afternoon when I returned, I was greeted by the beginnings of spring.

A couple of the early peaches had popped into bloom while I was away.

Daffodils of various kinds were beginning to bloom.

In the fall I had gone through the orchard and removed what I thought was most of the bulbs as they had multiplied to the point they were pushing new ones out of the ground.  As a result, I was not expecting much, if any to produce blooms this year.

But fortunately, they were not going to let me down.  Blooms are popping up everywhere.

And mixed in among the weeds are nasturtiums and calendulas which have self seeded from plantings that were done several years back.


Last ot 2019

7. January 2020 04:20

The holidays did not leave much time for faceting. Got only a handful of additional gems cut in the last month from the material purchased last February in Tucson. Hopefully now that the Christmas decorations are all put away for another year there will be more time in the next month to catch up a bit. Since there are about three dozen left from the 2019 material it is unlikely all of it will be cut before the end of January and I head off to Tucson again.

Meanwhile, here are three from a parcel of nice, dark orange citrine. Initially the parcel was purchased to try out concave facets on some smaller sizes (8 to 10 mm.) After trying for a few, at least in the lighter colored material, it does not seem to be worth the extra effort. They are a bit too small for the optical effects of concave facets to make a significant difference.

The first is a 2.58 carat, 9.0 mm round which has some concave facets on the pavilion. As usual, it looks a lot better in real life than is this photo.


Next is a 2.58 carat, 7.8 mm square.


And last, a 2.03 carat octagon which is 8.2 mm. across.


9. November 2019 23:03

While there is still a lot more to do before February 2020, I have been making some progress faceting the 2019 Tucson acquired rough. Green colored rough was among some of the first purchased and is towards the head of the list being cut. Green is my favorite color, so of course it is working that way.

Here are a two of Arizona peridots. (The photos do not do them justice. They are bright and sparkling.) The first is 9.0 mm., 2.89 carat round.

The second, also round, is 9.3 mm. and 3.29 carats.

Continuing on the green theme is this 9.3 mm., 3.30 carat chrome diopside.

There is something about that really dark shade of green...

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