20. February 2021 16:33

We have a row of small citrus trees lining one side of the driveway. The other day, it was calm and warm and sunny and I couldn't help but notice the tangerines. The golden orange of the fruit contrasted wonderfully against the glossy green foliage of the tree. I didn't think to get a photo of that until after I had a full basket harvested and in the kitchen. I left a few on the tree for snacks while outside working in the garden. These were juiced and will be an alternative to OJ for the next few weeks. Perhaps by then some of the oranges will be ready to pick.

One of these things is not like the others...

17. November 2020 22:47

A lone medium-sized Ametrine with concave pavilion facets is surrounded by an assortment of small garnets. It being 2020, as the pandemic news continued to get worse through the summer and into the fall months, I found myself in a faceting slump.   I just could not get feeling creative enough to do justice to the great rough I had brought home from Tucson in February. So I started cutting simple, smaller, less costly pieces of garnet.

Since I have a soft spot for garnets there were plenty in the inventory. Some of them dated back to when I was just learning to facet and buying though the mail from advertisers in the back of Lapidary Journal. Thus some of the rough has been more to the learning-to-cut material rather than gem quality. Even then, garnets can often show all sorts of interesting inclusions when examined with the 10x loupe and still sparkle when held at a normal distance.

Normally, this time of year I would be making reservations for Tucson. Because the US has not brought COVID under control, I will not be going to Tucson in 2021. (At this point, we aren’t having our usual family gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas is looking unlikely as well.) I guess I will keep working on small garnets for the next few months. Maybe if things are looking brighter by February, I will be inspired to start working on that 2020 stash.

Meanwhile, please stay safe folks. Listen to Dr. Fauci.

Pie Time of Year

1. October 2020 23:05

September and October typically have some of the nicest weather here along the California Central Coast and also typically have a few especially hot days. This year there seem to be more of the later including some record breaking temperatures. We have a home weather station set up out in the garden and 112 degrees was recorded one day -- something seriously unusual. There is a strong marine influence here since we are only a few miles from the Pacific ocean and our home, like most in this area, was not built with air conditioning. To make matters worse, some of our heat spells coincided with smoke from the wildfires, so opening the windows even when it cooled off was not a great idea.


So, probably because of the extra heat, the apples were ready before I expected them and the pumpkin vines were more dead than alive. I ended up with a double crop of pie pumpkins as about the time the first batch were ripe, the vines produced another crop. When I took down my pumpkins (yes, I had them growing up rather than out), I left them on the steps hoping they would stay nice and be available as holiday decorations. By the end of last week, it was clear that they were not going to last. So this past weekend it was time to process most of them for the freezer an make one pumpkin pie for us now.


The previous weekend it was the apples as they had filled up a shelf in the fridge. Our trees are only a few years only and still small, but several of them are extremely good producers. Because we don't get the cold required for many varieties of apples, I am pleased that we have found quite a few which are doing well although sometimes the seem confused about the season. I ended up with seven pies. One for the oven and the rest triple wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the freezer.   A local farm stand has wonderful homemade pies as one of their special features. In addition, they also, make extras that are frozen for take and bake. After seeing that, I did a bit of a google search and now do my own version. They are not as pretty -- but doesn't that add to the home made appeal?



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.



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