Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Posts Tagged ‘garden’

December 27, and I was mowing my lawn?!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/27

And now, a little diversion from art into practical issues of life.

Six weeks ago, I thought I’d put my lawn mower away for the winter. The last leaf pick-up the city offered was on November 10, which is later than it’s been in other recent years. By then, I’d gradually trimmed the grass down for its last mowing, cleaned up the mower for the winter, and tucked it away.

I knew, however, that I wasn’t done. My trees still had leaves! I’d cleaned up those that had fallen from the apple tree and other shrubs along the sides and in the back, and I was willing to let any remaining ones that fell just be for a while. I leave stray apples down in the back yard too: deer from the park can come and find them during the winter! Then I do the final clean-up there in the spring. But I try to keep the front tidier.

By Thanksgiving weekend, the sweetgum tree in front had dropped no more than 100 leaves: the many, many thousands it bears usually fall over the course of that whole month. At the end of November this year, I just shoveled up those first few and dumped them in the compost. And then the busy-season started: shows and events and last minute requests plus gatherings and baking and decorating and visitors and whatnot. The first week of December, only a few more leaves dropped. Then, suddenly, a week before Christmas (during my last Trunk Show of the season), there was the first real deep-freeze, followed by a quick warm-up with heavy rain, and they all dumped straight down in a day or two, piled up in a soggy mess. I guess that’s better than dry and blowing all over the neighborhood! But these were clumped together inches deep on the eastern-third of my front yard under the tree. Every now and then I’d find a few spare daylight hours when I’d think I could try to work on that, but those just never happened on dry-enough days.

Still, despite a lot of rain, it rarely went below freezing. The grass kept growing. And with short days, it seemed to do the thing plants do during their “growing season” when there’s not enough light: it shot up another six inches or more!

I thought maybe I’d try to deal with all this yesterday, with temperatures in the 60s (SW Pennsylvania the last week of December, and temps in the 60s?!!). But it rained all day. I did, at least, take down the “window boxes” full of flowers that I hang from the porch railings. I could, of course, do that from the shelter of the porch.

Today it only reached into the 40s, but it was clear. I didn’t have as much free time today, but I did manage almost four hours out there! I raked up about 80% of the leaves and sucked those through my mulching leaf vacuum. (I wouldn’t have had to rake if they’d been dry. But wet, they stick together and clog up the machine’s nozzle unless I “fluff” them up.) The rest just got mulched in with the grass when I mowed the lawn.

Since we’re just past the solstice, the days are short: so my last hour out there was after sunset! A few days shy of the new moon, there was no helpful light from that, but streetlights and holiday lights did offer some aid. By the time I’d finished collecting leaves and mowing, however, the mower, leaf vacuum, rake and shovel all went straight back into the garage. And the thing I’m debating tonight is whether to take time in the morning to clean them up again for winter storage, especially the mower, or just figure I may need it again in a few weeks.

I can’t believe I’m having that thought! I also can’t believe that it wasn’t until well after dark before I said to myself, “I really should have thought to take a photo while there was still some light!” Oh well. I hope you enjoy the story!

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This time, it’s more Intermingling than Interlude!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/10/18

In just one week, I plan to go all out on a combination of two of my major interests: metals and gardens.

“In 2014 the Penn State Master Gardener Program of Allegheny County partnered with the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation to develop a comprehensive plant survey of the lands in and around the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, PA. Eight Master Gardeners set out to learn more about the succession of native, aggressive and/or invasive plant species that are surviving, and even thriving, in these disturbed soils.

“As part of this research, the group was charged with developing an interpretive component to educate the public on best practices in environmental stewardship. For previous projects, this interpretation often materialized in the form of a booklet, poster or on-line resource, but given the nature of the Carrie Furnaces (pun intended) and its history and connection to iron, a multidisciplinary team in science, art, history and industry was created to develop a unique approach.

“Their decision was to create ten interpretive plaques, cast at a live iron pour event and designed to lead participants through the fields and structures of the site, providing a narrative of the wild gardens taking over the former industrial landscape of the Carrie Furnaces. Designed to allow the visitor to take rubbings, these plaques will include botanical illustrations of the local plant community. The illustrations, provided by the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, will highlight features such as bark, fruit and leaf form for easy identification. The images are paired with narratives written by Penn State Master Gardeners on plant succession inclusive of soil conditions, environmental factors and the potential for future plant communities.

Rivers of Steel is hosting the iron pour event on Saturday, October 25th from 2PM to 7PM at the Carrie Furnaces site. Under the direction of Joshua Reiman, Visiting Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, Casey Westbrook of Carbon Arts, and local iron-caster and fabricator Ed Parrish, Master Gardener volunteers and CMU students will pour over 1600 lbs of iron. This collaborative iron pour will provide a first-hand look at the process and skills of casting molten iron into pattern molds. This same process produced the iron that built our nation and many of the world’s largest structures during Pittsburgh’s legacy era as “Workshop of the World.”

“Historical/garden tours of the site and other activities are planned for this unique event.”

(The above description was taken directly from the Master Gardeners announcement. Tickets ($10) are available in advance or at the site that day.)

Though I was not directly involved in the development of this project (I was busy with the Edible Teaching Garden instead), I am delighted to be able to volunteer at the Casting the Iron Garden event itself! No clue what I’ll be doing: besides taking photos on behalf of the Master Gardeners, I’ll probably just be taking tickets or escorting visitors to the various presentations that will be offered (starting at 2 pm) before the furnace is tapped and the pour begins (scheduled for 4 pm). To find me just know that, along with all the other volunteers, I should be wearing a t-shirt with the same logo as is on the poster. One major difference is that I may be the only one also wearing one of my own “Rivers of Steel” pendants. (That particular piece, Our Three Rivers Weave Us Together, is probably not the best, style-wise, to go with that shirt, but I think I have to wear that one for the sentiment of the day! I may just have to remember to use a bit of chain as an extender, to get it to land in a good location….)

Do let me know if I should be on the look-out for you that afternoon! It’d be great to see some familiar faces: garden-friends, metal-friends, and more!

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One More Garden Interlude: Field Day at the Edible Teaching Garden. Plus Fall Open House Dates.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/12

Yes, I do have art + jewelry topics in the queue to write about, but my spare-moments-brain is still focused on garden events. Our “Field Day” Celebration at the Edible Teaching Garden is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, September 13, from 12 Noon to 2 pm. It’s free, open to the public, and we’re hoping we’ll have a great turn-out. If you’re in the area and able, please do stop by.

The Edible Teaching Garden, maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, is located in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, at the corner of Thomas and Lexington. Folks around here seem to go by landmarks a lot, so the other way to describe it is this: just one long-block down and around the corner from the East End Food Co-op, sort of across the street from Construction Junction and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReUse. (It’s directly across from the Allegheny County Police Headquarters: on our volunteer “work nights” we often see the local TV news folks shooting their “live” reports on “our” sidewalk, with that building behind them. But Construction Junction and PCCR are “more art-related” ways to describe where it is: see, I really am trying here!) The first photo, above / right, just taken on Wednesday, shows our branching sunflowers (they were a donation, and we don’t know the exact variety), our amaranth (that one is called Love Lies Bleeding), and hints of more, along with a few of our volunteers who were finishing up a discussion about some plans for Saturday.

We’ll be working in the garden for a month or two more (the timing will depend, in part, on the weather), but I’ll be shifting back to spending a lot more time on my Art Jewelry and Other Small Adornments, in preparation for the upcoming holiday-sales season. In fact, I just finished the first steps in making a few more dohgu oki (tool rests), my variation on hashi oki (chopstick rests) that I use as holders for small tools (though they would also work for chopsticks if you wanted). I tried a new approach for shaping them that worked really well, so I’m happy about that! I hope to get those finished and fired this weekend too! This particular batch, mostly Friendly Bronze, has a butterfly theme, in honor of the “parsley worm” (the caterpillar form of a Swallowtail Butterfly) that Eric found in our parsley bed. I’m really glad he rushed over to get me so I could capture a quick photograph:

Last fall, I sold a number of dohgu oki in the Open House I held in my studio the day that Indie Knit and Spin was happening in the same building. I’ll be holding another open house to coincide with that again this year (the date is November 15). Even before that, I’ll be having an open house to coincide with Eco Fest (that date is October 11), so I figured I should get a head start in stocking up on those. Lots of good dates in this post: I hope many of you will be able to join me for any or all of those!

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Another Garden Interlude: North Park Demonstration Garden

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/08/29

North Park Demonstration Garden I spent this afternoon up at the North Park (Allegheny County, PA) Demonstration Garden, another of the wonderful teaching-gardens maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

I took a couple panoramic series of photos of the garden and, later on, explored a couple of options for “stitching” the various images together. I still have not figured out how to get WordPress and GigaPan to talk nicely to each other, however, so I’m not embedding the full panorama here. Instead, I include a tiny “snapshot” from it: just click on the image to the right here and you’ll be taken to a different site so you can see one of them. (Alternatively, here are links to: a full 360 image, from near the war memorial cannon, and a little less than a half-circle, facing the other direction.) At the GigaPan site, be sure to play with some of the options for zooming in and exploring the images! I wish I had more time to “play around” with more of that kind of photography. (And, of course, money for a much better camera…)

I’m still hoping to get down to South Park Demonstration Garden, to GigaPan that one. I’m just not sure if/when I’ll manage that though, at least not this season. If I think I’m only going to get one shot at a garden in a season, I do like to wait until it’s in full glory, and that seems to be when my schedule starts getting crunched again.

Among other things, I’ve got the Public Reception at The Confluence in New Castle next Friday, September 5 (5-7 pm), and the Public Field Day at the Edible Teaching Garden on Saturday, September 13 (12N – 2 pm). It sure would be great to see some local readers of this blog at one or both of those events!

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This Month: Way More Gardening than Jewelry-blogging

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/07/31

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth! I’ve been busy, making art jewelry and other small adornments, teaching others to do so, exploring some new ideas, trying to trouble-shoot some earlier problems, and visiting several summer art shows. But … I’ve also been spending a lot of time gardening, and that is what has really eaten into my blogging time. Sigh!

Now, if you were to look at my yard at home, you might not think I’ve been gardening all that much. Because that’s not where I’ve been doing it….. I volunteer with the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, and I’ve been busy working at, photographing, and helping with some planning and communications with several of their “Demonstration Gardens” including (but not limited to):

The Edible Teaching Garden, my most-regular activity, in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA:

The Garden Table, another garden containing (but not limited to) edibles, supplemented by little artistic touches, in Wilkinsburg, PA:

At the Carrie Furnace site, a historic treasure containing elements of public art, though gardeners also notice the ways in which nature is recapturing this former industrial site, in Rankin, PA:

And, just for the fun of it, during a walking tour led by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s Office of Public Art, held for the Pittsburgh Foundation, I also captured a few images of some of the urban plant-life and inspiringly-designed utilitarian features, in addition to the specific tour-items:

And that’s just my past week…. Click on any of the above photos and you’ll be taken to where you can see bigger versions of them, and where you can browse some of my other albums and galleries holding snapshots of both gardens and art.

I really am hoping to get back to blogging again relatively soon, with that “relatively” qualifier added because I do have to devote some time to that much-neglected yard and garden at home too…. Wish me luck! (Better yet, c’mon over and help…)

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It seems I’ve been rather quiet lately….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/09/29

… online, at least. I’ve done some metal clay work, but haven’t had extra time to write about it. Sigh! But, fyi, here’s but one of the many other things I have been doing, helping to turn an empty city lot into an Urban Edible Teaching Garden. Click on the links to access panoramas of the garden before and now, respectively … which I’d like to simply embed here but I’ve still have not figured out how to make GigaPans appear in WordPress. Another sigh.

One of Tony Tye's images for the P-G from the UETG Celebration.

Although there’s lots more to do in the garden—we are extending the season with cool-weather crops and exploring others that we can over-winter there—we are breathing a big sigh of relief now that we made it though our big fall “Celebration”! The weather for it, yesterday, was perfect!

It was open to the public, but we specifically invited the various groups whose support has helped fund the project, so it was a big deal for us. It was even reported in several local papers! I hope this link to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article will work!

(Third sigh. My concern about the link’s working is because the P-G has just begun limiting online access unless you have a subscription, but they say they are allowing links from “social media” so I add the link with hope! If the photo of two women in the asparagus bed (which accompanies the article) shows up here, I’m guessing the link to the story will work too. O the joys of technology! The good news is that the photo was taken by Tony Tye, and it was both a surprise and a real treat to run into him in person again.)

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Edible Flowers Food Fest: The Lucky-13th

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/07/30

I’ve been trying to find time to write this since the third Thursday of July, when it was once again time for me to take a break from metal clays and mention the Edible Flowers Food Fest. The event was begun by Denise Schreiber (Mrs. Know It All on radio and Facebook) and is sponsored by the the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Parks Department and the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. Oh, and it’s on a Thursday so that the various helpers have most of the week to prepare everything!

This year, the 13th time this event was held, the menu included:

  • Appetizer Crackers with:
    • Edible Flower Cream Cheese Spread, as well as
    • Rose Geranium Jelly, Lemon Verbena Jelly, Peach Lavender Jelly
  • Soup:
    • Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtiums
  • Entrees:
    • Beef with Cherry-Plum-Rose Chutney
    • Chicken with Lavender Honey
    • Shrimp with Orange Ginger Sauce plus Parsley Leaves and Monarda Petals
  • Salads:
    • Spring Greens Salad with Mixed Edible Flowers and Lavender Blueberry Vinegar Dressing
    • Oriental Broccoli Salad
    • Orange Rosemary Pasta Salad
    • Seasonal Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena and Lime Dressing
  • Beverages:
    • Basil Lemonade
    • Strawberry Lavender Lemonade
  • Desserts:
    • Almond Shortbread Cookies with Rose-Cinnamon Dusting
    • Dark Chocolate Bark with Lavender, Pretzels, Caramel, and Sea Salt
    • Russian Tea Cakes with Lavender and, of course, the
    • Rose Petal Ice Cream (shown) that started it all….

While I helped with several of the dishes, the assignments I enjoyed the most this year involved the shrimp and its sauce. That was such a treat because it was my favorite item on this year’s menu! (Though a very close second was the cherry and plum chutney, with fresh rose petals mixed in just before it was served with the roast beef….) Back to the shrimp. I was put in charge of the sauce: saute shallots in butter, deglaze that with white wine, then simmer it with ginger and orange juice until it becomes syrup-y. Once that was ready, Denise’s brother and I flash-fried the shrimp (enough for about 200 people this year!), keeping the cooked ones warm soaking in the syrup and, just before serving, tossing it all with fresh parsley leaves and dried monarda (bee balm) petals. (In that last step, you could use any edible flowers, herbs, or even sprouts you might like: we used parsley and monarda because that’s what we had on hand to use. The menu each year is determined by starting with recipes we’d like to make, and modifying both the final list and the details of each item by what Mother Nature happens to have made available for us to use once the actual date rolls around!)

I helped fellow Master-Gardeners with several other items too. Susan, Joan, and I assembled 50 pitchers of lemonade (two different flavors). For no obvious reason, I wasn’t involved with the fruit salad: others had that under control. But I mention it because real treat with that was the big “serving basket” that George had carved out of one of the watermelons whose flesh went into that dish. Anyone with a spare moment would go over to the table where Lyn and Gerri were cleaning and preparing donated flowers for all the different dishes and put in some time there. I took care of the violas that Martha has brought, and several varieties of roses (I’m not sure who-all had brought those). And by preparing I mean handling each flower individually, removing all the stamens and pistils plus trimming off, as needed, any of the white (bitter) part at the base of each individual flower petal.

Although I love all the food itself, one of my favorite things about helping out with the EFFF involves the number of gardening conversations is initiates. Not just at the event, but throughout the year: whenever I mention it, I can pretty much count on an interesting discussion to follow. Vegetable gardeners may talk about companion-planting flowers with their usual crops; landscape gardeners who may not be interested in expanding into vegetables will still ask about which of their current color-accents may or may not be edible; people who enjoy cooking regardless of their experience with actual gardening can still talk about the color, texture, and flavor contributions of various edible flowers.

So I’m going to have a rough time, knowing that the EFFF will not be happening in July 2014. Denise will be too busy hosting the 66th annual Garden Writer Association Symposium. But we are told that the EFFF will return again in 2015. Here’s hoping!

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Daylilies are Edible!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/07/22

Day Lilies and Water Lilies at Tomahawk CampThe mid-July pause in my blog has happened, once again, because 13th annual Edible Flowers Food Fest was offered last Thursday and I helped to make that happen. As ever, I thought it was great, and I’ll report on it shortly: I still need to find time to plow through my photos from that and pick one or two to use here (along with some interesting details about the menu and more), and I’m just too far behind on other tasks to do that. Since my thoughts are still filled with edible flowers, however, my mind keeps going back to something I did a week before that, for which I do have a delightful image. (Both events involved the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.)

The thing is (and maybe I simply missed this in my rushing around) I just don’t see a way to make WordPress and GigaPan talk to each other directly… You are just going to have to click on the tiny, blurry image of water- and day-lilies to open a new window with the image I really want you to see, a 360° panorama of a National Historic Registry property owned by Nancy Marshall. (Oh, and use the navigation buttons on that page to zoom in and move around and really explore the entire image!) We did not impose on Nancy’s hospitality (two weeks ago) to beg her for flowers to use during the Edible Flowers Food Fest (this past week), but one of my thoughts while setting up the equipment to take this 360° panorama was that, while most lilies are NOT edible, daylily buds sure are…. Yum!

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Garden Picnic

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/10/02

Which do you think is yummier: the look of that garden or the fact that it’s a cake?!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m also a member of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

One of our many projects is to maintain several Demonstration Gardens. These showcase flowering plants and herbs that perform well in our climate and soils with minimal maintenance. The gardens include display beds of over 125 varieties of annuals. At the end of each season, the plants are evaluated based on their performance in the garden: the best ones are brought back in subsequent years, while poor performers go on a watch list and will be discontinued if they continue that pattern over several cycles. A separate evaluation is performed regarding the number of pollinators that are periodically recorded in certain specific beds.

For people interested in joining the program, there is an initial interview to ensure that candidates understand their role in utilizing research-based information to educate the public on best practices in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship, followed by a terrific (and intense!) year-long training program. Since this is sponsored by Penn State, our calendar follows their academic year: interviews happen in August, the training starts in September, and the training year concludes the following August. Then, in September each year we have a harvest-time picnic in or near one of our demo gardens (we rotate around the different sites) to acknowledge our newly graduated members as well as the ongoing efforts of all our long-time participants.

This year the picnic was held at the South Park Demo Garden. The cake shown above is not a replica of the garden itself, but I thought I’d share it because I think it represents the delight of the gardens! And that delight is why floral themes so often appear in my artwork, one way or another….

I wonder if/how that may change next year: we just got approval to open up a new demo garden — on an urban lot! — that will feature edible plants and flowers? I’m really looking forward to working on that project, since those are the kinds of things I most love to grow myself. And I am definitely an urban gardener these days!

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Edible Flowers: the twelfth Fest, in 2012

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/20

This week included the third Thursday of July which, to me, meant it was once again time for the twelfth annual Edible Flowers Food Festival. Again, it was sponsored by the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Parks Department and the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

I try to contribute both edible flowers and time to help make this wonderful event a success. In past years, I’ve crawled around on the ground harvesting violets to save until mid-July. This year, the winter was so mild and early spring so warm that they came out several weeks early. I had thousands of buds just ready to open when a more-typical mid-spring freeze struck. The plants themselves came through that just fine, in the long run, but the flowers for this year did not.

Now, my garden was not the only one to suffer from that early-bloom killer-frost phenomenon. All the contributors to this event faced that, followed by severe heat and drought conditions this summer. So there was a good bit of menu-shuffling needed to make the dinner a success this year…. Luckily, my Rose of Sharon (shown) was in full bloom a bit early. Actually, it was already a bit past its bloom-peak: the photo shows how it looked on Thursday morning as I went out to harvest. Earlier in the week, there were probably three times as many blooms on it! Still, I managed to get around 200 good flowers which, at five petals per flower, meant that (after separating, cleaning, and selecting) I chipped in about a thousand petals for the salad dish. The second photo with this post shows a colander filled with well over 50 fresh blooms.

Just to be clear here: some flowers are edible, but many are not. Do check out any that you consider using! In fact, Rose of Sharon can be a tricky one, because that “common name” is actually used to identify several entirely different plants. What I have is the one most often referred to as Rose of Sharon in the USA: hibiscus syriacus. It is a member of the Genus Hibiscus, although it is misnamed in that it apparently does not come from Syria. Go figure. (Hibiscus is part of the Mallow (Malva) Family, which also contains plants as diverse as cacao, cotton, kola nuts, and okra.)

Though I’ve been interested in edible flowers for a long time, it’s only relatively recently that I found out my Rose of Sharon had petals that are edible. Apparently, various forms of hibiscus syriacus come in a range of both colors and mild flavors: I would not say mine have much flavor at all; but they are gorgeous and offer a satisfying bit of crunch, so they’re great when mixed, in small quantities, with other greens and flowers. The last photo with this post shows our vinegar-makers in the process of filling the small dressing-containers and adding them to the colorful salad bowls.

Before I sign off on this post, I thought you might be interested in the entire menu for the evening:

  • Lavender Lemonade
  • Rosey Zinger Iced Tea
  • Elder Flower Presse
  • Snack crackers with:
    • Edible Flowers Cream Cheese Spread
    • Tofu Spread with Nasturtiums
    • Lemon Verbena Jelly, Peach-Lavender Jam, and Rose Geranium Jelly
  • Green Gazpacho with Garlic Scapes, Roasted Red Pepper Puree, and Herbed Croutons
  • Spring Greens with Mixed Edible Flowers and Strawberry Rosemary Vinegar Dressing
  • Rice Paper Rolls of Nasturtiums & Vegetables with an Asian Dipping Sauce
  • Egg Salad with Redbud Flowers on Herbes de Provence Bread
  • Potato Salad with Dill Leaves and Flowers
  • Anise Hyssop Pizza with Mushrooms, Roasted Yellow Peppers, and Cheeses
  • Baked Fish with Lemon Thyme and Monarda Sauce
  • Roast Beef with Roses et Poivre
  • Chicken Mole with Rose Hips
  • Oven Roasted Green Beans with Onion Buds
  • Seasonal Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena Lime Dressing
  • Chocolate Bark with Lavender, Pretzels, Caramel, and Sea Salt
  • Pound Cake with Monarda Glaze
  • And, of course, the Rose Petal Ice Cream that led to the Fest in the first place!!!

But now I guess I should get back to making (and writing about) small metal adornments….

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Another Holiday Butterfly

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/12/21

Unlike last year, when I wrote about my appreciation for working with silver metal clay in the sense that one could design, build, fire, and polish up a little butterfly pendant fairly quickly, this year I found myself playing with bronze and copper for my own little one-of-a-kind pollinator-extravaganza.

Because of added time involved in each of several steps with the bronze and copper clays — mixing, firing, and polishing — those pieces require planning ahead if one is to complete them prior to a specific deadline.

This little critter has a copper “body” on the other side, but I’m displaying this one to show the shading that remained after some polishing. I thought that the little green and orange unakite bead complemented that nicely, so that’s what I attached to its little bronze hanging wire.

This piece was my contribution to the “Gift Exchange” at the “Holiday Gala” of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. What I got from the exchange was a pair of gardening gloves and a great little tool sharpener. There were a number of beautiful amaryllis plants involved in the exchange as well. While I enjoy having one or two around at the holidays — because it sure is great to have something in full bloom in the middle of a cold northern winter — looking at amaryllises also makes me nostalgic for the years I spent living along the Central California coast … where I had multiple huge clusters of lovely amaryllis plants just growing away all year in my yard! (To rescue myself from such nostalgia, of course, I can do something like remember how much time I also spent digging out all the fennel that grew like very invasive weeds and kept trying to take over some of those beds. Every location has its strengths but also its weaknesses!)

I added a new tag to my list–“polish”–with this post. I’m hoping to explain that in a few days, in a post with a few comments specifically on polishing. (I say I’m hoping because I’m out of town and, again, having trouble finding a good ‘net connection, at least without taking up time away from the folks that are the reason for this visit….)

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Where I Spent Last Weekend.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/09/03

Three Metal Clay guild groups–in Pittsburgh / Western Pennsylvania, Cleveland / NorthEast Ohio, and Columbus Ohio–got together (with the help of a small grant from the PMC Guild) to sponsor four days of workshops, held at the Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls, OH, over the last full weekend in August this year. (Sorry, but I don’t have links for websites of those Ohio groups. If anyone reading this can provide them, I’ll be happy to add the links here! In the meantime, if you’re trying to find either one, you might try checking the guilds listing at Metal Clay Today.)

One of the features involved a series of workshops by Hawaii-based metal clay artist, Gordon K. Uyehara:

  • “Fabulous Bail Link Bracelet” (two days: Thursday and Friday);
  • “Cosmic Honu” (stencilled turtle) pendant (Saturday); and
  • “Pearl Box Ring” (Sunday).

All the photos with this post show Gordon’s delightful pieces, samples for the various workshops. Two bracelets, above. One turtle is with the bracelets, and a second one is visible on Gordon himself during one of his demos in the ring class. (Click to see a larger version of either of those snapshots, which I took.) And, shown further down this post is one of Gordon’s own photos of an example of his ring project. (Beyond those, if you’re not already familiar with his work, do check his website to get a better clue of his style and range. I remain in awe of the work I know goes into making most of his pieces.)

There were a number of other sessions too, for which I have no photos (sigh…). The other major hands-on workshop, led by Ohio-based artist Catherine Davies Paetz, covered making a series of carved, seamless rings (stackable, if you wanted to wear them that way) using PMC Pro. Other scheduled sessions involved topics like design, photography, and flexshaft maintenance. And there was a big pot-luck dinner on Saturday night.

Now, it just so happens that all this got scheduled over days when I had tons of stuff already going on. And, in fact, I wasn’t the only one! So, while a few people stayed for the entire four days, there were lots of others who did their best to find an opening somewhere in their schedule when they could participate in at least some part of the weekend. Though that posed a bit of a challenge (would all the costs be covered by the registration fees that had been set?!) in another way it was OK: because there were a few openings, it was possible to accommodate requests from others to join the fun, which ended up including folks from Colorado, Maryland, Florida (and those are just the ones I caught; there may have been others).

So, on Saturday I drove up to Franklin, PA, to meet with Alice Walkowski, and we headed over to Chagrin Falls together. On my way to Alice’s, however, I hit a major traffic jam. I knew there was construction and, based on previous trips through that area, I’d factored in a 40 minute delay; online sites I checked en route then told me it would set me back 45 minutes; there is an alternate route, but it normally takes 45-50 minutes longer than the other route and due to lots of traffic lights, so I figured I’d risk the interstate construction for an easy drive the rest of the way. Wrong decision! In reality, that single three-mile stretch added well over two hours to my trip!!!

But we still managed to arrive in Chagrin Falls just in time to make a quick stop at the delightful Village Herb Shop. I wanted to get there because it’s a great source for edible flowers (which you should know by now that I love to cook with). But I mention it here specifically because they also carry the lavender oil that many metal clay artists use in joining pieces of metal! In fact, they carry both the essential oil (alone) and a tincture (with alcohol), in several sizes. I already have a bottle of that, but this time I picked up some organic edible flowers, both in the Village Herb Shop’s special mix (where I may have gotten the last jar of this season!), and some separate, individual varieties (including some delightful little button roses whose petals can go into my next few batches of rose petal ice cream!) Alice is not quite the edible flower fan that I am but, while I shopped, she explored the yarn shop upstairs and the garden outside. So we were both happy with that stop.

After we were done there, we headed over to meet up with all the various guild members for that delicious pot-luck dinner. We spent the night in a near-by hotel, and were thus able to arrive promptly for a 9 am start for Gordon’s “Box Ring with Pearl” workshop. More about that in my next post.

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Edible Flowers, once again!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/07/22

OK, I spoke too soon with my previous post: There was one other major event to consider!

Last night, once again, was the ever-wonderful, 11th annual, Edible Flowers Food Fest, sponsored by the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Parks Department and the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

The speaker’s topic this year was how to establish an Edible Flower Container Garden. While the plants discussed and demonstrated could be use in either large or small spaces, the use of a container garden is one way to encourage others to get started with growing flowers to use in meals themselves, not only as decorations on the table.

My own major edible-flower contribution was having spent several days last May collecting violet blossoms from my (somewhat disastrous but healthily organic) yard and freezing them into several flower-dense ice rings (for the serving bowls) plus hundreds upon hundreds of individual ice cubes (for the drink glasses). Luckily, my friend Susan agreed to take several bags of my ice cubes to store in her freezer until the day of the event, thus lessening the amount of space I had to devote to them in the interim.

I was also one of several dozen Master Gardeners who, in addition to contributing flowers and other edibles, helped to prepare the food on one or more of the four days in advance of the event, served the goodies, and helped to clean everything up afterwards. A long but rewarding week!

A special highlight of this year’s event was the release of Denise Scheiber’s lovely new book, Eat Your Roses … Pansies, Lavender, and 49 other Delicious Edible Flowers. (It’s published by St. Lynns Press in Pittsburgh, PA.)

Of course, we call it “Eat Your Roses” for short. Denise is a horticulturist and greenhouse manager with the Allegheny County Parks, and is the person who initiated and continues to organize “our” great Edible Flowers event into a delightful fund-raiser. If you know anything about the history of the Edible Flowers Food Fest (or, if you don’t but buy the book), you’ll know why Denise chose roses to lead her parade of edible flowers! In short, her Rose Petal Ice Cream (which led to the whole EFFF event) is superb!

Along with some basic information on which flowers are and are not edible, on gathering flowers and saving or preparing them for use, plus some basic sources and resources (including the central number for the Poison Control Center just in case someone doesn’t heed all the appropriate advice), the book has one basic page for each of the 52 edible flower types Denise has selected. She doesn’t provide detailed information on growing them (that information is available plenty of other places for any plants that interest you), but she does include a photo, some important aspects of each plant’s nature and general appeal, information on their sensory impact, and a number of suggested uses. All of those give great clues as to which ones are likely be of most interest to you. She also provides about 30 pages of detailed recipes, some with extra variations, to get you started with ways to incorporate edible flowers into your cooking. Once you’ve tried those, you can go on to experiment with adding them to your own favorite recipes. Bon appetit!

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Trying to catch up.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/13

I’ve been trying to finish up a small collections of “Valentine Special” pieces. I’d like to get them photographed (with likely a few shots posted here) and off to be put up for sale.

But, once again today, I’m running behind. I just didn’t look out the front windows in the morning. I did look out back, saw snow on the ground, but there’s nothing new in that.

I didn’t hear any of my neighbors out shoveling or snow-blowing. I didn’t hear and plows or salt trucks go past.

I didn’t have to be anywhere particularly early, so I wasn’t listening to any morning news (i.e., no need for the morning commute-delay news). I just went about my morning routine, getting ready to face the day. I opened the door to leave. And I was shocked at the amount of new snow to be shoveled out.

I mean, had I known, I could have dawdled a tiny bit less, sped up the routine, and headed out a bit earlier. I just hadn’t thought there’d be reason to do so.

So then I spent close to an hour clearing my walkways, sidewalk, driveway, and while talking with one neighbor clearing about half on another neightbor’s sidewalk.

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Merry Christmas!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/25

I’m taking a few days “off” from the making of adornments, so I can spend more time with a collection of friends and relatives.

But I thought I’d share this snapshot of one of my Christmas cactus plants … both this and the pale pink one are actually ablaze with flowers at Christmas this year, which is wonderful!

Here’s hoping you find a great collection of wonderful reasons to celebrate this holiday season, whatever holidays you may choose to celebrate.

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A Holiday Butterfly

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/04

One of the things I love about metal clay is that (once you become comfortable with it) you can quickly create something simple but special, as well as far more elaborate designs.

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County had their annual Holiday Gala last night (Friday). Part of that is a “gift grab bag and exchange” (with an extended set of rules I need not explain here … but it’s fun).

The gift is to cost no more than $10. Every year, some gift-givers clearly adhere to that limit; others either exceed it or show some savvy bargain-shopping. I’ve taken to making a small silver piece that would retail for more than $10 but has no more than that amount of silver in it. (So the pieces are getting smaller as the price of silver rises, but let me not digress…) I’m donating my time to it, but everything I do for the PSMGs involves donating time, so…

… there I was, Thursday night, thinking, “Yikes! I meant to make something for the PSMG Gala this year. Luckily, I still have just enough time to do so!” What to make: for that audience, something that included both blooming and pollination would be perfect.

I had an opened packet of PMC3 with just a little more than the appropriate amount of silver left in it. I rolled it out between two versions of a “cherry blossom” texture, cut out a butterfly shape (saving the excess for yet another project), and draped it over a large plastic “jelly bean” shape to dry (thinking that would give it, if you allow a bit of artistic license, sort of an “in flight” shape).

Of course, there were more steps: smoothing the edges, making the hole for hanging it, etc. Plus the firing and polishing. I do admit I didn’t take the time, or silver, to add a little butterfly “body” nor to add antennae or other embellishments — I often do that for pieces I plan to sell but, with that “$10” limit, I was sticking to the basics.

This little butterfly did seem to be a hit. The rules for this gift exchange include a mechanism that permits participants to “steal” opened gifts from each other (with some limits). And this piece was one of the ones grabbed the maximum number of times. It ended up with Lyn, and I know she’ll give it a good home.

Now, all I need is to find a few spare moments to start on some more basic curved shapes, to have as samples for my next round of workshops involving “domed” pieces. I’m never sure how much to schedule for the depths of winter: will the weather be cooperative on some random date six or eight weeks ahead? But I’m happy to set up extra ones on short notice: just get a few friends together and let’s make some pretty and shiny adornments, domed or otherwise!

(Sorry to readers on RSS feed: I seem to have hit publish when I meant to be still saving drafts.)

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Edible Flowers

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/07/29

OK, since I went off-topic a bit with the pollinator info and the Penn State Extension programs, I can’t resist adding a note about another great event last week. The reason I couldn’t stay any longer at Alice’s is that I wanted to get back in time to help out with the 10th Annual Edible Flowers Food Fest. Yummm!

It’s organized by Denise Schreiber, horticulturist with Allegheny County Parks in (well, surrounding and including) Pittsburgh, PA, and staffed by Denise’s family, friends, and members of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

The photo is of me holding a tray of Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtium Leaves and Blossoms. I’m wearing an apron of mostly-edible flowers and a silver butterfly-pollinator pendant (made from metal clay, of course!).

Note: not all flowers are edible. Make sure you know they are safe before trying any particular ones. Also, please use only flowers that have been grown organically: even edible species grown for flower shops are often treated with chemicals that render them inedible. The link above, to the Food Fest, has some more information on this issue.

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Pollinator Gardens

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/07/26

When I stopped at Alice’s on Wednesday (see my last post), I followed her directions for parking in a different (and less expensive) parking lot than I’d used on previous visits.

She has commented that, although it’s a bit farther from her studio, the walk between car and studio involves a nice path next to the river. So, I was happily strolling along, noting the Gingko Tree that she’d also mentioned on her blog, past a couple buildings, and then, suddenly, I found myself looking at the next batch of landscaping and thinking, “This looks like it could be a Pollinator Garden.”

And when I reached the end of the walk, there were signs that this was a Pollinator Garden maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Venango County!

If you are at all curious about Pollinator Gardens, here are a couple links:

The photo used above, of a key pollinator of Pepper, Strawberry, Tomato, Watermelon, is from Identification of Native Bees from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

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