Apple Pie Time

13. October 2019 23:26

Fall is definitely here.  The vegetable garden is pretty well done for the year and the stone fruit trees are losing their leaves.  However, the harvest continues.  Currently it is apples. The trees are still small and thanks to getting a better job done with respect to thinning the fruit, there have been a lot of very large apples this year.  A few days ago, after bringing in the latest batch from the garden, it was time to consolidate with what had accumulated in the fridge.  A couple dozen nice sized eating apples were picked out for snacking and went back to the fridge for the future. 

Then there were the remainder.  I was planning on making an apple pie.  But this was a bit more than one pie. The three rows on the right in the photo are Granny Smith apples.  The huge ones in the middle are Mutsu.  The remainder are an assortment -- mostly ones that were bruised, bird pecked or not very pretty for eating out of hand. 


After a marathon session of peeling, coring and slicing, I had three large bowls overflowing with apple slices.  It was then I discovered that the shopping list my last Costco trip should have included all purpose flour.  I had only enough flour for at most three pies. Things went downhill from that point. The bowls with the apple slices and pie dough went into the fridge until I could get to the grocery store the next morning.

With the additional flour on hand, I lined up the six available pie plans, rolled out the crusts and filled them with the apples. For most, I used a streusel topping.  (It is easier and faster than making a top crust.)  When all the pie pans were full, there was still the better part of one of the bowls left with apple slices.   I found a couple of other pans and made more streusel for two apple crisps.

The largest pie pan went into the oven for desert later that day.  The rest received multiple layers of plastic wrap and went into the freezer.  It appears we will be having a lot of apple pies in the coming weeks.


Next up -- what to do with all the pears.

Last off the dop

22. September 2019 14:49

It feels even longer than it probably has been, but at last I finally finished the baker's dozen stones that were dopped in preparation for the faceting demonstration the first weekend of August. Now that fall is just about here and the shows are over for a while, I hope to get back to a routine which has a lot more faceting time included.

Here is pictured one of the last off the dop - a 5.08 ct. lemon citrine which is 18.7 x 7.0 mm. and was another experiment with the fantasy machine tools I am still learning to use.

End of Summer Harvest Notes

21. September 2019 17:18

Walking into the local Costco and seeing the artificial Christmas trees blinking in the seasonal area is a sure sign that summer has come to an end for the year. Much of the garden faded a month ago.  Of course, some of that was due to the critters which have breached the perimeter defenses. The cottontail bunnies started arriving at dawn and dusk to dine on greens.  It is absolutely true that they like carrots -- or at least carrot tops.  Green beans and peas seem also to be favorites on their menu.  While the bunnies tend to avoid being out during the bright parts of the day, ground squirrels seem to favor that time.  Until a few years ago there were none in our neighborhood.  This year they came in invasion force.  Fencing barely slows them down.  They seem to have very short attention spans picking an almost ripe tomato and then dropping it half eaten in another part of the garden.

The early summer was cool, so the garden peas did well until too much cool fog encouraged mildew in the thick tangle of the plants.  Unlike the previous year there was a nice harvest of apricots as well as other stone fruit.



One evening I found a large gopher snake making its way through the garden.  It seemed like there were not as many snakes around the past couple years as there had been, so I welcomed this visitor and hoped that it would eat well reducing the gopher population that has been making swiss cheese like holes everywhere.



By late July the stone fruit was abundant.  Lots of canning and freezing and juicing resulted in a full freezer and pantry shelf.




As the stone fruit faded, the apples and pears made up for it.  The trees are still fairly small and I did manage to do a reasonable job of thinning the fruit clusters.  The result has been much larger apples seriously weighing down some of the still thin branches. To handle this bounty, we decided that turning it into a few gallons of cider (not the alcoholic kind) was a good solution.

At this point there are plenty of apples remaining on the trees which will ripen over the next couple months. And figs and a few pomegranates will be ready as the year ends. 


More From Faceting Demonstrations

13. September 2019 20:28

Pictured below are a few more stones started at a local club show as part of a faceting demonstration, and then eventually finished at home later.  The previous set was from the show by the club to our north, so these are from the show put on by the club to the south.

The first is a 9.81 cts. lemon citrine that is 12.4 mm. across.

Next is a 6.12 cts. prasiolite quartz 11.6 mm. round.  For this one, the crown was shaped into a dome before a few flat facets were placed on it.

And of course, I had to include hexagons.  This lemon quartz gem is 12.2 mm. wide and weighs 7.16 cts.

This is another citrine at the other end of the color range. It is 2.39 cts. and 8.6 mm. across. 

All of these gems have concave facets on the pavilion so really sparkle.  And they are all from rough material obtained in February during my Tucson adventures.


Initial harvest

30. June 2019 16:48

We had weeks of "May Gray" and "June Gloom". Some days the sun failed to show up at all. And on a couple it was so drippy from the fog that it registered as 0.01" on our weather station. But just as I finished the task of getting the weed population down to a respectably low amount, summer came to our part of the central coast. And about that time some of the veggies in the garden and stone fruit trees started being ready to harvest.

Bush Beans, peas, blackberries and some early stone fruit were finally ready.

I realized that waiting for the fruit to be really ripe on the tree was a few days too long. It was ending up falling and getting bruised. So I came in with a basket of almost ready Peaches, nectarines and apricots.

Today's harvest was more of the same. Only this time, a harvest of Flavorosa pluots

The early corn did not do so well. It was such a cool and rainy spring that even the corn that usually doesn't mind the cool temperatures did not germinate well. So now we have tassels for the second attempt which was started indoors.

One of the apricot trees which has a nice amount of golden goodies ripening. In previous years we got only a handful or so of apricots. This year we have six or eight that are being generous.

One of the nectarine trees where I should have thinned fruit a lot more than I did.

One of the other apricot trees.

Apples here are always confused about when they should bloom and when the fruit will be ready. This tree is very productive and got an early start on the season.

The low chill pears are as usual full of fruit. I did not thin these, but I did prune back the tree so there is a lot less of it than there was last year.

The view down the orchard row

Marigolds are one of my favorites since childhood. This is a dwarf variety that I planted a number of years ago and has produced many volunteers each year since. This one is growing in a mix of mostly volunteer herbs - a couple of basil varieties, summer savory and parsley as well as some French tarragon.

Did I mention that I liked hexagon shaped gems?

27. May 2019 00:53

Did I mention that I liked hexagon shaped gems?

These were started as part of the faceting demonstration at a local rock show and then provided a base for learning more about using some other tools on the fantasy machine.

4.48 ct. smoky quartz, 10.2 mm. concave facets on pavilion and apex crown.


lemon citrine, 6.69 cts., 12.1 mm, compound concaves on pavilion with the slitter tool


5.13 cts., smoky quartz, 10.8 mm., similar to previous using slitter tool to make small compound concaves on pavilion


Crown Variation

30. March 2019 15:04

Instead of the typical step cut crown, this 12.39 ct. smoky quartz has a series of steps across the entire upper side of the stone. With the concaves on the pavilion, the result has a stone that looks like it has rows of tiny LEDs hiding inside.

Finishing 2018 rough

29. March 2019 17:00

This 4.58 ct. Amethyst is among the last stones cut from rough purchased in 2018. The stone is 11.0 mm in diameter and has concave facets on the pavilion. Now it is time to start working on the new rough purchased during my 2019 Tucson adventures.

Further Experimenting with the fantasy machine tools

29. March 2019 08:51

Here is another result of initial experiments with the fantasy tools. This 12.98 ct. smoky quartz was cut with v-groves on the pavilion instead of the rounded concaves that have been used for previous stones.

Spring is almost here

17. March 2019 16:43

The official start of spring is still a few days away. The orchard is getting dressed for the occasion now.

a clump of daffodils under the pear trees

Hollywood plum tree in bloom

plum blossoms

apple blossoms

5-in-1 peach tree




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