Thursday, April 23, 2015

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend

Well, they are IF they come attached to saw blades or grinding pads.....the rest are fairly worthless.  You all may remember me pouring the first bar top for the kitchen way back in this post, and I finally got around to doing a bit more work on it.  For one thing, I really needed to get that thing out of my studio where it was taking up quite a bit of room.  I truly hate trying to work around clutter or junk and since I am really trying to ramp up production here for impending shows, that thing had to leave!  Secondly, it finally stopped raining for a few days so that I could actually work outside.  Of course, it doesn't matter if the slab gets rained on, but I didn't want to get rained on.

As matter of fact, it has to be soaked down real good before I could grind on it anyway.  The diamonds in the pads last longer, as the water cools things slightly, and it doesn't stir up the dust when it's wet.  And you actually have to keep wetting it as you work.  A messy job for sure but these rubber aprons came in very handy! 
At first, it seemed like I was only managing to scrub the grout out of the slab, because it remained slightly rough, but after getting up to about 200 grit and staying on that for a while the concrete began to polish up quite nicely.  I will not be able to polish the cast in place counter tops quite this well, I don't think, so I didn't want a mirror finish on these bar tops and have them not match.  So I just kept it at 200 grit.  Actually, I did go up to 400 grit but the red pads started staining my grey concrete.  NOT good.  I believe I will have to email the maker of these pads and express my displeasure at that.  So, I went back down to 200 and polished until the stains came out, which didn't take too long.

I finished the sides off a little and called it good.  I was very pleased with the way this one came out.  Hopefully I made it the correct dimensions.  Ha!  Just kidding....sorta.  It's still outside now, drying out a bit and then we will bring it inside and set it in place.  It will not be permanently anchored yet.  I just want to get it inside where it can fully dry in a less humid and rainy environment and it not be in my way somewhere.  After a couple of weeks I'll anchor it in place (basically glued) and finish sealing it.

If you click on this photo you can get a good look up close at the finish.  Keep in mind it is wet so that accounts for the high gloss.  The finish I'll put on it will be more a semi-gloss or satin.  As I said, I am very pleased with the look of this mix and how the aggregate looks when polished.  Very cool.  It reminds me of some of the recycled glass counter tops I've seen.  This is considerably cheaper though!  Now I just need to find a good food-safe, water proof sealer.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Stroll

The Christmas fern forest is in full gear.  These are the only ferns here, out of about 8 different type, that I can positively identify.

No idea what this type is.  Maybe a type of bracken fern?

Chigger guards the entrance to the Enchanted Forest.

Okay, now these are definitely sensitive ferns; I do know that one too.  They haven't put up their little brown center stalk yet though.

Some very large trillium.  No idea the variety.  I should have gotten one of the chickens to stand by these because they are easily taller than the girls.

My red azaleas are in excellent form this year.  Very pretty.  I can't wait until they are big!  The ferns around these steps and walls just planted themselves.  I haven't moved any so far.  They seemed to have picked good spots.

My opinion is this is a rattlesnake fern........but I could be wrong.  Maybe some type of grape fern.

My photo designer checkin' out the set up before hand.  She's got an eye for detail.  Actually, she's making sure I didn't drop any treats anywhere in the area.   She's got an eye for that too.

My never-ending quest to get some decent photos of the birds around here.  Didn't do too well today.  We had intermittent showers, so that's my excuse.  I was happy to see a male grosbeak again this year but my photos did not come out well at all.  Actually, Jack spotted him first.  I hope he will be back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Throw Sum Mo

    That title says it all!  I've really been trying to keep the ol' nose to the grindstone lately and turn out a fair amount of work.  I'm no where near full speed yet but I'm certainly doing better than I was.  Good enough that I applied to my first show for this year.  Next month in fact's a 3-day show, so that just shows ya what a glutton for punishment I am.  No reason to start out slow, ya know?  Well, the show is one I used to do regularly and it was always profitable, and it's only 30 minutes away from home.  So....there you go.
    I also had to go through standards (a judging procedure) this week to reenter a fine craft guild I used to belong to.  They have one show a year that is usually VERY good and good to participate in for exposure.

    I threw for a few hours today and right towards the end I could tell I was getting tired.  My hands get tired a lot easier than they used to.  And then I actually dropped a mug.  Haven't done that in a very long time.  I only had 2 more to go to finish the board I was on, so after I finished those I said that's enough for one day.  It was time for supper anyway.

    I also managed to get a large load of dinnerware and mugs out to my stores before I started production for this show.  I was very glad of that.  Now I can just concentrate on doing for the show.  Well, I may be able to take a few more pieces in to the others.  This new color scheme/ design is selling really well.  I like it quite a lot myself.  I just need to come up with about 2 more color variations.

    I will straight way say this is a very poor example of my show booth but it was all I could scrape together at the time.  This show requires a LOT of documentation that each craftsperson actually makes what they intend on selling and this past week I have had to work my butt off to get photos of everything, even including my raw materials, and get it sent in, in a reasonable amount of time before the deadline.  And of course, they want at least one photo of your show set-up, so they can see you have the correct color/ type tent.  Well, it has been years since I did a show; I didn't even have a tent anymore.  What was left of it got taken to the scrapyard last year and my shelves are just a shambles (which is why I photographed it from this particular angle, lol!)  You can't see that they are not actually complete.  But they will be before the show time.  I had to get a new tent and round all this stuff up, including dragging out every last piece of pottery I could locate around here, set all this up in the yard before an impeding thunderstorm arrived, take photos and then get it all taken back down and put up.  I know it does not look great but it is basic and all there.  At showtime I will have a banner and more decorations for a more complete look.  Jack was kinda scratching his head, wondering if it really mattered that much but it really does.  The better your booth looks, the more people perceive your work to be worth.  It's all image, baby.  Haha!

    So, things are quite busy here but I'll try to have some more posts soon.  We have several new things going and things to tell about.  My fertilizing last month seems to be paying off as all the fruiting trees, shrubs etc. are getting loaded with baby fruit.  I'm excited about that.  I would love to be able to bake a real homemade cherry pie this year!!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Grow Your Own

 Not the best of photos I know, but maybe you can make out what I'm so excited about.  The asparagus has started to come up!  Hopefully, it will soon be coming up in a bit more quantity, so that it doesn't take me a week to get one batch.  This is the main reason I added another row this year.  The shoots that do come up are doing well and fat but there is just not enough at one time.  Ahhh, patience weedhopper...

 Since our cold frame is currently disassembled (meaning non-existent), I decided to just sow some lettuce in the one available, clear area that I knew would not get messed with.  It could sort of act like mulch for the asparagus also.  I will sow the rest of this row in about a week so I can stagger my lettuce harvest a bit.  It is about worthless in my opinion to buy loose leaf lettuce at the grocery.  It's expensive, it always goes bad before I can eat it all, plus, it's incredibly easy to grow yourself (and cheap), even with a teeny bit of space and it just sits there until you are ready to harvest a salad amount at a time.  Of course, it will eventually bolt but in cooler weather that takes awhile and you can get many servings before that happens.

Here is a few examples of the shrub starts that I did from prunings.  You can see in front, with the teeny yellow buds, is one forsythia shrub and to the right and behind is 2 blueberry bushes.  Just prune them off and stick 'em in the ground.  Of course, not all take but many do and it's free.  And yes, they are very small at first, just kinda like sticks, but they grow pretty fast, especially if you keep them in rich soil.  Since I know these are rooted well now I'll transfer them soon.

And one of the most wonderful surprises of this week!!!  The morels are starting!!!  I am officially hooked on these things now.

I found enough for a nice supper and we pigged out.  We celebrated their annual return again with a bit of steak and wine but I stuffed myself so on these that I honestly didn't end up eating much steak.  Oh well.  It makes a good breakfast.  Hopefully, I caught these at the beginning of the season here, so I'm hoping to find more in the next couple of weeks.  The Earth has a bounty if you know where to look!

Oh, and I meant to show ya'll these in the last post and forgot!  When we were up at my Mom's for Easter and were outside taking those photos, I noticed a small flock of birds that settled in a great big oak tree right by us.  My brother and Jack did not appear to notice but I knew immediately that there was something different about these birds.

Their soft, muted colors and just the way they landed all around us seemed foreign somehow.  Upon closer inspection with my telephoto lens I then knew that I had never seen these before!  Unfortunately, I did not have my most powerful lens (I figured I wouldn't need it! ha!) and so I could not get real close or detailed shots but these are enough that I'm pretty certain that these are Cedar Waxwings.  I was just mesmerized by them.  I would guess there were about 20-25 in this group.

They sat around preening and just enjoying the sun.  Didn't seem bothered by us at all.  Which made me happy.  It was fantastic to get to observe them so such a long time.

I wish a group would come by the house so I could get a better shot (maybe) but I'm ecstatic to have seen them and gotten these.  I really had no idea that Waxwings ever came down here, so it was a real surprise for me.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Changin' Skies

Well, once again I have been trying to create a coherent post on a particular subject but just can't seem to get the time or thoughts together.  We are trying to get the garden at least started and I'm also trying to really build up my pottery stock and it just seems like there is not enough time in the day for everything.  One day the weather looks like this and the next it will be sunny and warm.  Stormy days we work inside and on pretty days I try to take advantage of that and do some outside stuff. 
I have managed to get all the fruit bushes/plants, vines etc. fertilized but haven't got them all remulched at this point.  Started some lettuce also and noticed that it has sprouted well.  We really need to get the potatoes in and some cabbage and such.  It has rained so much though that it's hard to work in the garden a lot of days.

 So, I've also got this going on and this is just a small portion.  Lots more dinnerware made.  I think this past load came out really well and I'll show ya'll a photo of it all finished.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to apply to a local show here next month.  I should get accepted and if I do I've really got to get my butt in gear because it is a 3 day show and I'll need lots of inventory.

 The cherry tree is blooming well this year so I really hope I get a halfway decent harvest this year.  And I really need to get another one of these also.  That would help greatly; just haven't done it yet.  We also need one more plum and another apple too.

I've been in my studio a lot lately and I always keep the door open so I can keep an eye on the girls out in the yard and all.  When the downpours come many of them run inside to keep dry.  Jack fusses but I don't mind.  They do poop a little but it's a concrete floor; easy to clean.  Low flying hawks will also prompt them to run inside!

We took some time out today though to have an early Easter dinner with my family.  I realized a while back that Jack and I didn't really have any decent photos of just us, sans baseball caps, mud, chickens etc. so I took the opportunity to get my brother to take a few photos of us.  He used to be a professional photographer so he knows how to make even me look decent in a picture.  There were a couple more that came out pretty good, for an impromptu session, and I'll have those printed up for my scrapbook.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The First Days Of Spring

No kind of deep, existential post today.... just a little look around of what's going on in the past week.  We had a bit of a cold snap for the past 2 nights but things should warm back up tomorrow.  And hopefully, STAY warm!  I was pleased to see that the cold did not harm the blooms on this forsythia.  I've noticed that a lot of people don't like forsythias because they say, they're just big, green shrubs after the blooms fade.  But I like them.  I think the blast of sunny yellow lasts long enough and is worth just green the rest of the summer.
Whenever I have some free time I've been trying to get the yard and garden cleaned up and ready for the growing season.  We've got a lot of brush to burn, and have burned a good bit already, from when the tree trimmers came through for the power lines.  I'm fine with that though because the alternative is that they spray those horrible chemicals and I'm not having that on my land. 

I like forsythias so much that I fairly regularly take cuttings off my big one and root them, like the one above.  These and blueberries are really easy to do.  With several acres in what could be considered yard, I can't afford to buy shrubbery and flowers for everything so it helps greatly to just propagate what you have.  For many shrubs I just prune off a nice strong branch, shave the bark off maybe 1/2"-1" on the end to root and just stick it in the ground.  Now, I do take them to a spot I have reserved in the garden because the garden soil is much better than what's in the yard.  Sometimes I might dip the end in rooting compound...or not.  Once I know they are established, usually about a year, I simply transplant them out into the yard.

I love to see the little fidleheads of the ferns coming up.  To me, this is the first true sign of spring.  Around these parts anyway.  These don't come up until it is shor 'nuff spring.

I finally got around to doing what I should have done long ago and that is add a third row to my asparagus bed.  I only put in 2 rows when we first made this bed because I was afraid of over-crowding but I came to the conclusion that was probably not going to happen.  Besides, if they do seem to get crowded in the years to come I can always thin them to share with friends.  As we always used to say in construction....better to have too much than not enough.  (and that goes for about anything, lol!).
This year I am determined to finally finish the entrance to the garden and the fruit beds that line the perimeter.  I got a pretty good start on that this weekend.  Hopefully I can keep my momentum up.

Jack got a couple of new bird feeders, including this one specifically for the goldfinches and I have been amazed at how many are now coming around.  In the past, I had seen 2 or 3 at most but now we are getting 8-10 or more.  I just love them and the bright yellows.  Or even the dull yellows.  They are feisty little birds too!  They fight over that thistle seed and will get up in each other's face, screaming as loud as they can.

So, that's about it for garden progress.  Hopefully I'll have a lot more pretty soon.  Anybody already got theirs planted?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Going Up The Country

 I have honestly been trying to get back here to make a post way before now but life kept getting in the way.  Well, that and the posts that I wanted to make were going to require a bit of effort (meaning thought and planning) and I just haven't felt like going to that much trouble.  Ha!  Been having a few headaches this week and the ol' noggin just wasn't much on deep reflection.  Anyway, my Mom has been under the weather for several weeks now also and I went up to spend the day with her this week and then I have been trying to get caught back up on my pottery after being out of clay for so long.  And no, I have not gotten any garden started yet either.
 So, since we are so behind and all, Jack and I decided to take a day off and go hiking!!  We have been wanting to try some experiments on ways I could possibly ride in a vehicle without being in enormous pain, so we figured a road trip south to Oak Mountain State Park would be a good excuse and a fun destination if I lived through the initial drive.  I did, as you can see, and we had a very nice hike on a beautiful day.

The hiking trail we chose was pretty moderate and easy until right at the end as you start to descend to the falls.  But if you can make it down it was just gorgeous there.  This is Peavine Falls and they are about 30-40 feet maybe.  Not huge but certainly pretty.

This is one view of the trail going down.  Only for the very ambulatory.  I was very glad we had brought walking sticks.  They came in very handy to brace yourself.  The trails are very well marked and maintained though.

Another view of the falls.  I was mesmerized by the clarity of the water.  We rested for a while and had a little snack while we were there.  After a while some other folks came down with one of the guys smelling like he had bathed in cologne so we had to leave before I started throwing up.  (I could smell him before he even crossed the creek) Why do people do that to themselves?  Can they not understand that they stink to high heaven?  It is not attractive in any way.

Oak Mountain is a wonderful park with tons of activities for everyone.  I believe they have over 50 miles of hiking trails in addition to many miles of bike and horseback trails.  Also, a nice 18-hole golf course, several lakes and many camping areas.

For the most part everything was very clean also.  This one tree did catch my eye though.  It had been so repeatedly carved with people's names and initials that the bark had taken on a very abstract quality.  Almost like some ancient hieroglyph pattern.

I think this is red buckeye but I may be very wrong.  It grew here quite prolifically. 

This is the entrance to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center inside the park.  Mainly they rehab birds.  I once brought an injured cormorant here many years ago.  I don't believe I ever told ya'll that story.  I'll have to see if I can find the photos and tell you about it.  Kinda interesting and quirky tale.

They also have this Treetop Nature Trail where you can view some of the permanent residents of the Rehab Center.  Oak Mountain makes every effort to release all it's patients back into the wild but some are just too damaged and would not live without help.  So they live here to educate the public.

 They had owls, hawks and buzzards, although they called them vultures. lol!

This beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk had built herself a fine nest and even stood up to show us her one egg!  Unfortunately, we later found out that her egg is not fertile, so she's gonna be a bit disappointed.

These photos are a bit out of order but I don't feel like moving them.  Blah!

One view on our way to the parking area for our hike.  You are looking back towards Birmingham. 

By a nice turn of luck we also got to meet this little Mississippi kite.  Oak Mountain is his forever home too because some humans messed his hips up.  They tried to raise him from a baby but did not provide a proper roost, so his hips joints did not grow right and he can't feed himself correctly.  Apparently they feed while in flight a lot of times and he can't get his foot up to his mouth.

He was such a sweet little guy though and got several grub treats for letting us take photos of him.

Oak Mountain has tons of water activities with 3 lakes to choose from.  You can rent various types of boats, canoes etc. or just enjoy the water from the beach.

I always laugh when I hear people say there is no money in Alabama.  These houses overlooking the lake were several million $$ easily, and they are not uncommon.  I also laughed when I thought how that the people in the most distant house were probably so mad they could bite nails when these others built that big monstrosity right in front of them!  Ha ha!!  So much for the view!

It had been many years since I had been to Oak Mountain and Jack had never been, so we had a great time.  Although, I admit, I'm a bit sore from that climbing hike!  If you've never been here I highly recommend it and if you are ever passing through Alabama it's a great place to stop!