Sunday, September 28, 2014

Broken Plate Mosaic Bird Bath ...A Garden Project in the Last Rays of Summer

Back in August we laid out our broken dishes on the garden table and began a repair on the bird bath that had both a big edge chip and a crack.  It  would no longer hold water. With summer heat and drought, I like having bird baths for our feathered friends to perch on, drink from and splash in. 

Despite our August intentions, a number of intervening realities left those dishes  spread out for several weeks, waiting on the garden picnic table like a Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Then on the last Saturday of summer, I saw the was a day of gentle September sun and we were unscheduled. A small backyard project was just the rest we needed.

It was calming, in our somewhat fractured world, to take disparate pieces and fit them into a new coherence, to bring new purpose to objects too damaged for their original purpose, yet too pretty to just throw away.

Thinset is smeared into the bottom of the bowl.  the broken cherub
 was tried out and removed.
Thinset is nice that can pull things off even after they have dried.
Mark taught me how to use his wet saw and I made some of the pieces smaller.  I plopped some thinset on the back of each piece, fitted them as shape and color seemed to suggest (and hopefully in a way the birds would like) and smooshed them into place.  

Here is my first  broken plate mosaic ready for the Thinset to dry which took over night.

It was fun. You can see we have broken a lot of dishes over the years.  I am glad I saved them. As I wiggled pieces around I remembered where or who the plates were from.  One was Mark's grandmother's and one was from my grandma.  My dad gave me some of the plates.  A few I had bought at garage sales to sit under potted plants and two of them were gifts many years ago from a boyfriend; dear people each one and I believe they all felt kindly towards birds as well.  

I  did the mosaic by myself, but when it was time to do the grout, Mark helped me...which really means, he did all the work, but it allowed me both to learn and take pictures of the process.

He had white grout, but the bird bath was terra cotta, so we added a little red to match it up better.  You pour the grout into the water in the bucket and mix it up so it is smooth and sticky.  

The goal is to spread the grout into all the empty spaces between the broken plates.

The grout tool he had was designed for larger flat surfaces, so I got one of my kitchen spatulas which worked pretty well. 

 Next step is to sponge the tile or in this case plate surfaces clean with gentle wipings with a very soft wet sponge that you keep rinsing out.

 Eventually the grout is confined to the spaces between your pieces and it is time to let it dry and cure.

 The test now was to be sure it would hold water.  It does.

So back it goes on its be filled it up for the birds...

And then you step back in hopes that the birds might come and use it. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

California Fire ...a Happy Update

Happy Update on California Fires

Some much-needed rain stormed into Northern California on Friday complete with super loud thunder and bright lightning strikes.

The first rain drops out on the street!

 It was a gift out of the Pacific Northwest and has helped Northern California firefighters on both the Happy Camp  and  July Complex fires,  as well as the 97,099 acre King Fire in the El Dorado National Forest which is now 78% contained.  

 I was outside on a covered deck, saw lightning and heard hugh cracking reports of thunder very proximate.  It took me by surprise and so did the scream I cut loose.  When I got back up the stairs and inside during a lull I found my kitties hiding under the bed. I didn't feel so silly then, they were scared too. 

I am so grateful for this rain. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

California Fires and a Little Town Called Weed

Oh my dear California, so dry you have been and beset by fires.

Cal Fire says they have answered at least 1000 more fire calls than usual by this time of year.  The KING fire, that is believed to be arson, started east of Sacramento on September 13th and is only 35 % contained as of today.  It has already hit over 90,000 acres.  Some news reports compare it to cities - it's said to be a wildfire bigger than the entire city of Las Vegas - to help us get a sense of how much terrain that is. There are fires near Yosemite too.  Another dear town that has suffered is Oakhurst.

On August 9th we set out to drive up into northern Idaho to a family wedding and a visit in the new home family had recently made there.  Our planned route to Idaho was up in the air for a few days as the most direct way via Highway 97, off Highway 5 at the town of Weed, was closed for while due to fire.  Fire was already on our minds as my brother's northern California ranch had a front row seat for the "Log Fire,"  one of the several blazes that got started from the July 29th dry lightening strikes.  It came very close, but the ranch itself is unscathed.

Out on Highway 97, the firefighters contained the flames and reopened the road, so we stuck to our original plan to go north to Weed and over on 97 instead of getting ourselves to Reno and then north into Idaho.
 That afternoon we stopped to rest and eat a bit in the shade of a tree outside the log cabin

that serves as the Weed, California visitor center.

A small part of a welcome sign mural

We had driven past Weed on Highway 5 many times, but never stopped before  We were charmed and heartened by our brief visit.

Our view from the town of Weed as we ate our carrot sticks and almond butter sandwiches.

Then we drove on out of Weed, but not without noticing what a fine little town it was. I wish I had taken more pictures.

 And as we headed out highway 97 we saw that fire had indeed swept through on both sides of the road.

Unfortunately little more than a month later, fire raged through the town of Weed on September 15th and the  town of 3000 took a very large hit.  They called it the Boles Fire.
News Photo

The people of Weed lost around 150 homes, their community center, their library, and several churches. The town mill was damaged, as was the elementary school.

You can imagine all  the efforts that are being made to rally round those burnt out of their homes...blankets and meals and money and somewhere to stay and the coming alongside with friendship, hope and energy.  It will be a long haul and hard.

  Life is full of reminders to count our blessings and check our priorities, isn't it?

I watched a video today on Cal Fire which first began serving in 1885.  I sure feel grateful for those who serve from Oregon to the southern border.  Thank you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Backyard Food, Flowers and Fun...Pluck the Day

In the last week of August,  the pears on the tree sing "carpe diem."  I have read that a more literal  translation of  "carpe" than the imperative  "to seize" is "to pluck."  
"Pluck the day"... it is ripe.

Our very old pear tree is still putting forth

Early Girl lived up to her name

Tomatoes ripening on the vine is something I had nearly forgotten about the last seven summers on the coast.  We had a few red tomatoes in time for Christmas in Carmel but Sebastopol sunshine has brought forth an abundance.

The strawberries have been providing
 a daily treasure hunt opportunity.  

The Golden Delicious tree was cut in half last year by a neighbor's falling  Incense Cedar tree.  The clean up crew phoned us down in Carmel and wanted to cut the  remaining half apple tree down.  I'm so glad I didn't take their advice.  Our half-a-tree is bearing beautiful apples who sing a saucier song...and sometimes call for pie.

 and flowers...the roses are still blooming...

And all that broken pottery I saved in Mark's shop...we hauled out the box and we've begun to fix a bird bath that was broken in our absence.  This is a very experimental repair and as it's for the birds I'm hoping they they won't mind if it's more goofy than artistic.   

May we pluck the day and give thanks, while it still yet August.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Story Quilt

Sometimes I have to make quite a mess to get the creative juices flowing.  Phoebe the cat wanted to be right in the middle of it all.  She is usually more help than not, except for when she wants to get right on top of projects to see if she really likes them. She thinks all little blankets must be for her, right?  Not this one, Phoebe.  So first I cut a pile of little squares, each centered on a picture.

I played around with various arrangements of the pictures I'd  cut out, and then I photographed them to use as a map for putting them together.

This is truly a scrap quilt, other people's scraps. I  bought the fabrics at a store that supports the local senior center by selling donated craft items.  You never know what or how much  you'll find. There were several times I wished I had just one more little piece of  this or that color or pattern but scraps force one to improvise.

One click makes these photos bigger then the back button returns you to the text.

Perhaps there is another name for this type of patchwork, but I call this a story quilt.  I hope the pictures of trees and whales and teddy bears, villages, churches, lighthouses and ducks, strawberries and polka dots inspire the imagination of the two little guys at the home where this quilt now flops around.  See the yellow squares that each depict a raccoon on either side of the watery blue?

I know that real raccoons aren't pink.  The same week in June that I  was stitching these fabric pictures together I met some real baby raccoons who were born in a box in a crawl space under my brother's house.  We were cleaning and packing for his upcoming move  when one of the boxes wiggled a bit... Hello! 

Patchwork top ready for the next step...that's when I slow down.
I think it might help me to dive into the messy process more often if I  keep a little log of the things I make.  I like the idea part of the process a lot.  I have fun pushing the elements into different patterns and then at a certain part of the actual construction I start to lose it.  It is a good thing babies are small and  that they aren't likely to complain that their blanket mixes pretend pinkish raccoons with giant strawberries and whales leaping in the waves.  

All freshened up and ready to mail...

I might have taken a better picture of it but I was just so happy it was now filled with 100 % cotton and machine quilted, stitched in the ditched style.  It was ready to go so I popped it in the mail.

My favorite picture of this quilt is actually the one I got back with a certain young fellow making use of it.

So that's the story of the little bears who one day visited the ocean but there's no need to stick to it.. we can make up a new one for nap time tomorrow.

Did you ever see that old 1948 movie "The Naked City"?  It ended with the line,  "There are eight million stories in the naked city, this has been one of them."  I suspect my little story quilt won't have quite that generative effect, but I do hope it will inspire some fun and wonder and maybe help me remember how much I enjoy ( most aspects of ) a sewing project.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Looking for the Real Thing? Stay Close to the Source

West of Highway 80 in Northern California there are still valleys where farm after ranch seems to be keeping it real.

                  I was glad to see this farmer wasn't wrapping his hay bales in white plastic as some of the Sonoma county farmers have begun doing. It isn't pretty to look at, it might leach into the hay and where will the plastic go when the bale is unwrapped?

Across the golden field a plume of dust alerted us to the baler on his green John Deere tractor.

These longhorns were not the least bit friendly.  Not one ambled to the fence, nor even looked up from their grazing. They like their grass green and plenty of it.

 Just around the corner the grape lines march up the hill. The grapes are so purple they almost look black.  The other side of the road is hedged thick with fig trees that dangle their fruit over the lane.
We found a ranch selling peaches and bought a box of tree ripened beauties.

                  The passenger  who sat in the back seat with the his momma could sit in front... started singing about bales of cotton and "if it had'na been for Cotton-eyed Joe I'd a been married a long time ago..."

And then we saw a crop we weren't sure what it certainly didn't look edible.

Such a rich color...we plucked a sample and sure enough, we'd found a field of cotton.

Just the day before I'd been searching for a nightgown that was not part but 100 % cotton.  Label after label disappointed me.   Cream is cream, butter is butter and cotton is cotton. Am I fussy or old fashioned?  I must be both, for synthetics and substitutes just don't cut it...

"You got a jump down, turn around
Pick a bale a cotton
Got a jump down, turn around
Pick a bale a day..."  

  Bucktown Lane  was a sweet road to of the farms near the end sells honey and eggs on the honor system.  The creek is edged with a tangle of roses with round red hips and blackberry bushes and we passed goats and donkeys and horses and the chickens wander wither they will.  And Grandma who had asked us to take her for a ride enjoyed it all, even though she couldn't remember why on earth we had wandered out there in the first place. Farm girl that she once was, it was she who made us figure out what that prickly looking crop was...soft lovely stuff is sometimes hidden behind  sharp and spiked exteriors, and that is certainly true of cotton.

When you are looking for something real... it helps to stay close to the source...

Hope  you have a real good day! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Acorn Woodpeckers to Volcanoes ... Roll along on our Northern Cal to Reno Loop

While we do live definitely in Northern California, we don't live far enough north or east to see Mount Shasta until we mount up on our wheels and ride. And on June 17th we did just that. 
I don't remember what I was trying to capture at freeway speeds, but I caught this yellow truck.  It is a road trip...
Everything is green and gold as the road rolls north until suddenly from various vantage points, a white peak looms into view.
John Muir called her " ...a noble landmark...for all within a radius of 100 miles."
As you approach it's like peek-a-boo...
and I felt happy as a child waiting for the next sudden glimpse around a bend.
It is actually 4 overlapping volcanic cones  rising 14,179 feet
  Black Butte is a lava dome satellite cone of Mount Shasta and has already lost any frosting she may have had this last winter and spring.
Looking north east at the Butte's 6334 feet

We were treated to some very unexpected super gracious hospitality by dear family friends who live right close to Black Butte.  The family tour guide, already a near expert and not yet five years old, also had much to share.
Beyond Shasta, traveling north on old highway 99...the valley was quiet.

We kept stopping to look back at Mt. Shasta and Black Butte .

I took 191 photographs Tuesday and Wednesday...lots had to just be deleted.  None of my photos are great...but the subjects themselves keep me trying. At the ranch, the home of one of my brothers and
 his dear happy-to-have-her-new-horse wife, I watched birds flock to a second-story-balcony-isolated-from the-cat  bird feeding station.  I saw a lot of sharing, birds of different feathers fed together.  In an hour's time I saw 4 acorn woodpeckers, a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, several Rufus sided Towhees, a lone Nuthatch, a very large woodpecker that I think was a female Red-shafted Flicker, several Quail, Black Birds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Banded Doves and at the adjacent feeder, Honeybees and Hummingbirds. Alas, the bird photos were  taken through the window glass.

Acorn Woodpeckers
Remember you can click on the photos to see them enlarged.  

The pastures of the ranch and the Marble Mountains

The pond outside the guesthouse.

Water Iris in the pond.

View past the chicken house on the left and greenhouse on the right from the guest house.

Well...we better keep moving....yes there are horses and goats, one sheep, two dogs, one cat  and beaver in the creeks and osprey diving into the ponds to snack on fish...but we had also promised to visit some extended family in Reno.  So, after pancakes on the ranch, we got on the road, turned back toward Mount Shasta and then east toward the historic timber and railroad town of McCloud.
Generations of hard workers have lived in this town.
We had checked with Uncle Google and learned that the road was open through Lassen Park; and you know, volcanoes have their draw.  The Ranger pamphlets say that Lassen Volcanic National Park is "a valuable laboratory of volcanic events and hydrothermal features."   I think that rather euphemistic language.  Only 100 years ago this peak blew a huge cloud of ash over 30,000 feet into the air; hot stuff, these volcanoes. Hat Creek travels that neighborhood too.  Hat Creek looks quiet now, but ...

Hat Creek not as high as it might be,
 but still a lovely sight

Hat Creek 

"On the  night of May 19, 1915, the few people homesteading outside of Old Station along Hat Creek near the foot of Lassen Peak, a volcano in northern California, went to bed expecting a peaceful night’s sleep. By now they had become accustomed to the sounds of small steam explosions coming from the volcano, which had been intermittently active during the past year. Around midnight, Elmer Sorahan

 was awakened by his dog barking furiously and pawing him. Dressing quickly, Elmer went outside, expecting a bear or other animal. Instead, he dimly saw a 12-foot-high wall of muddy water and logs rumbling down Hat Creek. After running more than a mile to warn his downstream neighbors, the Halls, he burst through their front door exhausted and shouting “Get out! get out! there’s a flood coming.” Mrs. Hall quickly spread the alarm downstream by telephone, and then the family scrambled uphill just before the house was swept off its foundation.
The next morning residents of the area saw that a wide swath of the northeast slope of Lassen Peak had been devastated by a huge avalanche and mudflow triggered by a powerful explosion at the volcano’s summit. Fortunately, because of the warnings, no one was killed, but several houses along the creek were destroyed. When Lassen Peak erupted again on May 22nd, the area was further devastated by a high-speed flow of hot volcanic ash and gas (called a “pyroclastic flow”), and the incorporation of snow into this flow generated new mudflows. Ash from the eruption rose high into the air and wind blew it eastward. Fine ash fell at least as far as 200 miles from the volcano. Because of the eruptive activity, which continued through 1917, and the area’s stark volcanic beauty, Lassen Peak and the area surrounding it were declared a National Park in 1916."  ( from the .S. Geologic Survey

Lassen is one of the world's largest plug dome volcanoes
Yikes, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to set aside Yosemite Valley to the state of California to be held for public recreation..."inalienable for all time," because of its  unique beauty....but  Congress declared the entire Lassen area a national park because it is a bit of a hot spot!  Park brochures use words like "stark beauty" rather frequently and there are areas in the park with signs that read "Devasted Area."

But it is indeed a beautiful area...and perhaps some day we can visit longer...but we were on a mission and though we stopped here and there we were just passing through.

Just outside of Reno where the traffic really flies...I stuck my camera outside the window ( the passenger window of course, I wasn't driving at this point)  and aimed it westward .... we were entering the desert and  the last stop before we turned back toward home.  

And thus ends my roll along, hope you've enjoyed the trip. I did.
best wishes!