Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Harvest...

... well, one of the last anyway. An early frost in the beginning of September forced us to pick nearly all of our tomatoes as the leaves had withered in the cold. Same with the cucumbers and cantaloupes...

BUT -- and forgive my inattention to writing about the garden during the summer -- we had an almost miraculous harvest during the entire aestival season! Cucumbers grew with zeal, sending out runners and producing buds and yellow flowers like wild! And under that canopy of shade leaves, fruits grew by the DOZENS to fill our eager pantry!

Snowpeas attended trellises, and we made two complete harvests before the plants had exhausted themselves. Green onions grew from the onion sets, and were so delicious that we relied on their steady production for our daily dishes! (It's amazing how much tastier they were, fresh from the garden, than from the grocery store...) Our persistent "deforestation" of the onion groves will probably prevent any large onions from appearing, but it was worth it!

Our chard continues to produce, and we have enough frozen now to last in making quiches through the winter! The parsley survived too -- even through the plague of grasshoppers that descended upon us mid-season, (which destroyed the dill entirely!). The turnips are still growing beautifully and the beets as well.

At last we come to the end of the growing season -- it is always short here in Wyoming. I'm amazed we grew anything at all -- the soil is poor and hard as concrete, and the wind blows persistently. However, with a few loads of manure and compost and daily watering, our garden thrived, giving us glorious produce that we could enjoy.

And while tending a garden didn't necessarily save us any money from a dollar-per-hour standpoint, (I really should have been making crochet hooks), we ate naturally-grown organic vegetables and fruits that were much tastier than store-bought, (no doubt because of the true ripeness and farm-to-store travel time). We also ate foods that we probably wouldn't have purchased at the store -- turnips, (which are new to us this year), chard, and more cucumbers and beets than we would have bought on a regular basis.

It was an interesting experience, though trying at times. I certainly learned quite a bit about organization in a growing field, and what I would alter in next year's garden plan. E.g.: Forty tomato plants is probably too many for two people to eat from... (though it works well for sharing with good friends!), and eating cucumbers three times a day due to overproduction can be a singular experience..., and green onions are so fresh and vibrant picked from the garden we should plant TONS more next year..., and Bright Lights (Swiss) chard is the most loyal, productive plant I've ever seen!

A work-intensive, but very productive summer journey!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shop Tour

Greeting everyone!
Yesterday I was so busy getting ready for my shop tour that I didn't get to post the crochet hooks I promised! (But they'll be up tonight on eBay, and some tomorrow as well!)

This morning, beginning at 11:00 I hosted a shop tour at my home. Even though the weather was a bit misty and cool about 11 people came from as far away as Denver, Estes Park, Fort Collins, and Nebraska! I showed off my lathes, (of course!), all five of them, including my two production minis and my new Stubby.

I began right away with my presentation on using a platform to grind and sharpen woodturning tools, talking about the various angles used on tools, and reasons for them, as well as powdered metal tools and the grinding wheels I use to sharpen them. I showed sharpening techniques for bowl, spindle, and detail gouges, scrapers, as well as how to add a negative rake to any scraper.

Of course, first up I was presented with a challenge! Our turning colleague from Nebraska brought me a old Rude Osolnik tool, which I can only describe as a skew with a flute. The bottom of the tool was square stock, like a skew, yet the top-side had a flute, requiring a curved cutting edge. It was something of a challenge to sharpen, requiring some freehand work, as well as the balance a grinder platform provided.

Everyone got a chance to sharpen tools if they desired, and I think we all had a great time! As an encore performance, by request, I demonstrated making a crochet hook from Canarywood with a right-hand twist! (Thank you Stuart Mortimer for your inspiration!)

By afternoon, the sun came out and warmed up the shop a bit; everyone was having such a lovely time that we went long past my estimated finish time of 1:00, ending at about ten 'til two.

Thank you everyone for coming!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium

Well, Turning Season is over for the year...

What's "Turning Season?" It's a term I use to describe the period of the year that encompasses some of the most special events in woodturning. Turning Season begins in May with the incredible Utah Woodturning Symposium. (I must admit to this event being my favorite of all -- the camaraderie and family atmosphere is truly unique and makes it such a lovely gathering).

June brings the annual AAW National Symposium, a huge gathering of turners from around the world, a veritable cornucopia of color and delight! We are given a bit of time to "relax," (meaning "make more work and prepare new presentations"), and then comes the Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium (RMWT), which is just up the street -- our local event that draws a wide variety of both local and world-renowned turners.

This year, September was a veritable odyssey of loveliness! The journey began in the first week when the wonderful Stuart Mortimer came to demonstrate for our turning club. Wow! He's an absolute dynamo! He's an incredibly fast turner, and creates the most gorgeous twist-work, (and is a master of the skew)! Stuart also gave an all-day demonstration + evening presentation at our Denver club the next Tuesday, (and was a major demonstrator at the Symposium).

I had the distinct and glorious pleasure of being able to take his class on Friday, the 10th. I have to say that Stuart is an absolutely incredible teacher! He is simply amazing! The photo to the left is of the goblet I created in Stuart's class: Osage Orange, unsanded, unfinished.

Stuart demonstrated all manner of twist-work, including twisted hollow forms, goblets, and boxes, twisted finials, pigtail and pig's-ear finials, open and laminated twists, and also creating hollow forms with light as the "calipers."

I am in awe of Stuart Mortimer -- his quick turning technique, the ease in which he makes cuts and his friendly and sharing demeanor! (If you are ever have an opportunity to take his class -- DO NOT hesitate -- sign up right away!)

The RMWT Symposium was just wonderful! There is something special about a smaller symposium -- you can meet people that you never thought you would. On occasion, at the larger events, I've wanted to talk to presenters but there were so many people around and so little time between rotations that I often wasn't able to introduce myself. No so with a smaller event -- not only was there plenty of time, the smaller venue allowed me to "run into" folks everywhere I went!

The photo on the right is of AAW President Tom Wirsing. He was one of two representatives of the AAW this year to visit our symposium, and spoke briefly at our Opening Ceremonies on Saturday morning. I was thrilled to be able to meet all of our wonderful demonstrators: Jimmy Clewes, David Nittmann, David Marks, James McClure, Sam Angelo, and Larry Fox, and of course, the inimitable Stuart Mortimer.

I was "on stage" first thing Saturday morning, and presented "Skew-less Spindlework," a demonstration in which I showed how to make nearly-identical skew cuts with use of a gouge instead. (I know how fearful most people are of that dreaded four-letter word -- "skew!") That's me in the picture.

In the afternoon I gave a hands-on demonstration to help turners "tune-up" their spindlework. This is one of the neat and unique features of the Rocky Mountain Woodturning Symposium -- we have a classroom in which a professional demonstrator/teacher does a mini-class (90 minutes) and each participant has a lathe, tools, and wood to learn with. At our new venue this year, we had a large room with lots of space, and everyone who participated was able to get a tool in their hands an immediately try the new techniques that the presenters were showing.

The Saturday-night auction was a great success -- the demonstrators & vendors in the community were very generous with their donations, and we raised a large sum for our club's Educational Opportunity Grant Fund. (And the trade show was fantastic!)

I can't tell you what a wonderful time I've had meeting people at all of the symposia this year... it's like a family reunion, and discovering new relatives all the time! Thank you demonstrators and everyone else in the community for sharing your knowledge... and the love... of woodturning.