30 June 2011

Los Caballeros

Doc, Lazarus, and Dad riding the range
I went riding again today for the third time in two weeks and am really starting to feel comfortable in the saddle again. Lazarus went with me and Dad this time; he's been on a horse before but is still getting comfortable with it, so he rode Goliath the mule and Doc led him for the first half of the ride. Then he felt comfortable enough holding the reins and rode the rest of the way on his own, and said he really enjoyed it. I guess I did, too, because Doc said I was smiling big the whole time. I still am.

29 June 2011

BTW: Wings

Love Has Wings necklace of Gaea ceramic focal and beads, riverstone, red ceramics, and copper

Love Has Wings bracelet
I'm finishing a good number of projects these days -- maybe even more than I'm starting! Now there's a shift.... I was going to show these pieces off anyway, but in the context of my semi-organized bead tray that shows what else is coming out of this color combination. However, I left my camera, with this week's Bead Table Wednesday pictures, up in the mountains, where I've had the pleasure of housesitting for the past 10 days. I ported my little lap tray and several boxes up there with my tools, and have sat down to work on projects for all of two hours, so there isn't much to show there anyway! I did finish off the wonderful "Confetti" bracelet I showed here last week, and I'm 90% sure I'm keeping that one.... I also made some pretty earrings that match the necklace above and the bracelet at right; the necklace focal is one of my favorite Gaea creations, and I added in creamy riverstone, awesome red ceramic beads from a great vendor I'll have to look up, and copper -- I had started with brass but it seemed dull, and sterling was just too "cold," so I decided to heat things up with the warm copper and just love this combination! Now I'm off to see what's on everyone else's table this week -- happy creating!

28 June 2011

First Sunflowers

Sunflower bud, Magdalena, NM, June 2011
Volunteer sunflower from last year's stand, Magdalena, NM, June 2011
Sunflowers are the happiest flowers in the garden, and every year I try to plant some both for their beauty and to hang the dried heads in the backyard so birds can feast over the winter. This year they planted themselves for me -- a good thing because I was so busy expanding the veggie garden to feed a family of 47 or so. These beauties bloomed yesterday, which was also the first day we got any rain for over 6 weeks. It was literally just a sprinkle, but it's heartening to see the clouds start building up as our essential monsoons (rainy season) approach. Quite a few wildfires have sparked in just the last few days, including the Las Conchas Fire near Los Alamos that grew from a few acres to 43,000 acres in less than one day. The Cerro Grande Fire of 2000 grew to 48,000 acres total and devastated the town, but even with the new fire pushing 60,000 acres and still uncontained, crews have so far managed to protect the town and Los Alamos National Lab. So far.

The downside to the building storms is that lightning can easily spark fires in our bone-dry forests; three started nearby, about 20 miles southwest of town, during lightning strikes yesterday afternoon. So we're holding our breath as storms continue to develop but bring little rain. And I continue to tend my little oasis, which teems with birds and good bugs seeking refuge from the drought.
Black-seeded sunflower near birdfeeder, Magdalena, NM, June 2011

26 June 2011

I Heart Macro: Purple Coneflower

Detail of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Magdalena, NM, June 2011
This week's I Heart Macro post is short because my Maggie is sitting right at my elbow waiting for me to finish so she can use the way-cooler version of MS Paint that's on this computer. Creative little thing that she is, I can't say no, especially when she's being so patient.... I got some nice close-ups this week with my macro filter and hope to post more tomorrow. Thanks as always to Lori at Studio Waterstone for hosting this wonderful weekly event!

25 June 2011

Fire It Up

Necklace of heat-treated carnelian, pearls, copper, and fiber (in progress)
It's been way past 90 degrees (F) here in Magdalena most of the week and near or over 100 in Albuquerque and other Rio Grande valley areas, and I'm totally okay with that. Heat makes me lazy and sleepy in mid-afternoon, like it does most creatures, but I seem to get a special energy boost late in the evening once it cools down. That makes summer nights a great time for me to get stuff done, including jewelry making. I'll also admit that I decided a few summers ago not to ever, ever complain about the heat here (back east, with the humidity, is a different matter) because I spend most of the winter complaining of being cold, and really I can't spend the entire year bitching about the weather. I hope you're enjoying this summer weekend (or winter, if you're down under)!

23 June 2011

What a Difference a Month Makes

The southwest tomato-pepper bed, on May 23 (left) and June 23 (right)
Well, this took one month, 16 Walls-O-Water and tomato cages, a few yards of black landscaping plastic, and twice-daily drip irrigation with organic liquid fertilizer.... And I deem this a highly successful garden experiment so far: every tomato plant in this bed is over 2 feet high and already bearing blossoms, and the peppers are well over a foot high and also bearing blossoms. Even last week's dessicating hot winds didn't slow these guys down; aside from a few "burned" leaves above the WOWs, everything looks great. Fingers crossed, I'll be harvesting AND selling tomatoes in another month or two, maybe alongside peppers and tomatillos for perfect homemade salsa!

Here's another interesting comparison: the photo at left shows plants in another tomato bed where some have WOWs and others don't (I ran out of money and had to space them out). What an incredible difference! These are the same tomato variety, in the same soil, on the same watering and food soup schedule, and the protected plants are more than three times the size of the unprotected ones. The unprotected ones look like most of the tomato plants I've had here in past years, stunted by chilly nights (even when it's 95 degrees at noon it could be 45 at 3 a.m.) and our brutal spring winds. The plants in the WOWs look like tomato plants I've had elsewhere, under much friendlier conditions. Again, fingers crossed that these actually bear fruit....

22 June 2011

BTW: Confetti!

Confetti bracelet (in progress) in faceted millefiore glass and antiqued brass
One good thing (and there really is only one, that I can think of anyway) that comes out of a windy, smoky weekend is time spent indoors beading. I made lots of earrings last weekend, finished two necklaces (the faceted gemstone ones I had laid out last week), and started this colorful bracelet that I just love and may have to keep for myself. I found the faceted millefiore glass beads at Michaels about two months ago and snapped up the last two strands, knowing I would find some use for them eventually. For a while I was trying out a bead here and there, just to accent various designs, but they never quite worked and that's when I realized they all wanted to stay together in one fabulously sparkly piece. Now, of course, I want more; if Michaels was less than 100 miles away I'd have run over there several times by now, but I have to wait for a more substantial reason to make the trip to Albuquerque, and hope Michaels still has these in stock.... So, what's on your bead table this week?

21 June 2011

Summer Solstice

Bee on blanket flower, Magdalena, NM, June 2011
What better way to celebrate the summer solstice than in the garden? The bees agree and are buzzing around madly; late in the day I see many plunged head-first deep in the flowers, seemingly asleep or maybe just drunk on the nectar. It is a lovely summer day, sunny and fairly calm, no smoke... bring on some rain and we'll really be in heaven. I bid you all (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway) a beautiful solstice and a wonderful summer.

19 June 2011

I Heart Macro: First Fruits

Interior of pattypan squash blossom, Magdalena, NM, June 2011

Baby pattypan squash and bud

Back to the garden for this week's I Heart Macro post -- it is windy YET again today, so I couldn't stay out there for very long without getting totally aggravated. I did, however, manage to get some close-ups of the first fruits of this year's garden labors: baby pattypan squash! I used my 18-55mm Nikkor kit lens with a Zeikos macro filter to pull out some super-closeup details, and although the wind made shooting difficult the sun was bright enough that I could use a high shutter speed. The wind did do me one favor: it tossed about the blossom shown above and below such that it opened up and freed a bee that was pollinating it, giving me perfect light for an interior shot. I love shooting plant closeups because so much surprising detail emerges, in this case the tiny hairs and water sacs on all parts of the plant, even the seemingly smooth baby squash. And morning light is perfect for backlighting, which brings out veining and other details that get lost in simple direct light. So that's it for today; I'll be staying inside, yet again, waiting for rain....

Pattypan squash blossom, post-pollination, Magdalena, NM, June 2011

18 June 2011

Just Another Smoky Sunset

Sunset over Magdalena through the Wallow Fire smoke plume, June 2011
Out here in western New Mexico it is still hot, windy, dusty, smoky... Last night I kept looking outside at the deep red sunset and thinking, gee, I should get my tripod, but I was too lazy. So tonight I was prepared, and I'm glad I made the effort (which really was minimal) because the wind and smoke pretty much kept me inside today. The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona is up to half a million acres but is now almost 40% contained, even with moderately high winds this weekend, thanks to the absolutely heroic efforts of the 4000 firefighters and others working to tame this beast. It's still raging, for sure; people in the western New Mexico town of Luna have just been ordered to evacuate because the Wallow Fire jumped a hard-won containment line in that area. Several fires have cropped up within New Mexico, too, including a fast-growing wildfire northeast of Santa Fe (downwind of that beautiful city, thankfully, but nonetheless nerve-rattling), which is leading to restrictions and closures of National Forest areas such as the Sandia Mountain Wilderness in and east of Albuquerque.

Rain, please.

15 June 2011

BTW: Treasures Unearthed

This week on the bead table: Flowery dangly sparkly earrings!
I love Bead Table Wednesday for many reasons: I get to see what other people are working on and how they organize their workspaces, it allows me to really think and learn about the creative process, and it compels me to take a hard look at and maybe organize my beading area a bit because, really, who wants to show off a big mess? A funny thing happens when I clean up my beading area: I find stuff I forgot I had, or vaguely remembered having, or absolutely knew was somewhere in the mess.... When I cleaned up my bead table last week I unearthed a treasure trove of sterling silver findings and beads that I had set out into trays and cups for specific projects, then lost track of as I shifted to other projects and let things pile up. I thought I remembered stocking up on sterling earwires, headpins, spacer beads, and clasps last fall when silver was surging past $15 per ounce, but given how busy my life is my memory of such things isn't always reliable... So when I got an order for some sterling earrings a while back, I couldn't find a dang thing and figured, well, maybe I thought about stocking up and didn't get around to it because, sheesh, $15 an ounce??....
Project on the table: Hill Tribes silver trumpet
flower pendant with faceted amethyst, pearls

Also on the table: Hill Tribes silver rose
pendant with faceted garnet, pearls
Now that sterling silver is hovering around $35 to $40 an ounce (Thunderbird Supply shows the daily market price), I am over the moon to find the 50 pairs of sterling French hook earwires, 20 pairs of sterling leverback earwires, 200 sterling headpins, and 200 assorted sterling spacers I bought last fall -- holy cow, what a find! And so I have been making lots and lots of earrings this week, and will make lots and lots more, along with some necklaces featuring Hill Tribes silver flower pendants and faceted gemstones I bought in Tucson two years ago. I do love working with copper and brass, but sometimes a design really calls for sterling silver. You can bet I'll be keeping my bead table a bit cleaner from now on; if nothing else, I should refrain from laying out stones and findings and such until I actually have the time to execute a design, and just sketch out my jewelry ideas instead when time is short.
(It's a good goal to aim for, anyway...)

13 June 2011

Forest Sentinels: Working with Art Beads

Forest Sentinel, featuring owl pendant by Spirited Earth and ceramic button by Beadfreaky

Woodland song, featuring Summers Studio ceramic bird

I'm finally working my way through my art bead stash -- I guess I can't hoard them forever, right? I seem to be leaning toward cool forest tones lately, probably because the ongoing drought and wildfires throughout the southwest make me crave rain and cool green woodlands. We have one more month to endure till our summer rains come... so expect more cool offerings in the coming weeks. The necklace above, shown in progress in last week's BTW post, features an amazing owl pendant by Spirited Earth (I have another one in adobe pink tones that will show up in an entirely different piece soon) and a ceramic button by Beadfreaky, along with Czech pressed glass leaves that I can't seem to get enough of (had to order more yesterday because I'm putting them in everything lately). I added the brass chain and wirewrapped leaves after spending some time contemplating the pendant on just the leather cord with the ceramic and wood beads for some time; that was a nice simple look, but I wanted to fill in the space above the owl, which I think the leaves do very nicely.

The necklace below is simpler, using the same ceramic and wood beads along with a little brass bird to frame a Beadfreaky button that I darkened and sparkled up a bit with gold acrylic paint and Renaissance Wax. Both necklaces coordinate with the bracelet above, featuring a ceramic bird by Summers Studio and yet another ceramic button by Beadfreaky (obviously one of my favorite suppliers). So that's my walk through the cool green forest for today; more cool-toned offerings will appear later this week, I'm sure, as I continue to seek mental refuge from the heat.

Creekside, featuring Beadfreaky ceramic button embellished with gold paint and used as a pendant

12 June 2011

I Heart Macro: New Friends

Weathered, Magdalena, NM, June 2011
Didn't get to pick up the camera until this evening, but it was worth the wait to get these shots for the week's I Heart Macro post. The kids and I went out to the property to visit our friends' mule and horses, who are grazing out there for a while... a long while, I hope. They're warming up to us, and we'll start riding them soon -- a fair trade for the forage and running room, don't you think? We'll all start on Goliath the mule (a gentle giant) and switch to the horses as we get more comfortable. I can't wait -- I haven't ridden in a few years and haven't ridden regularly since I was a teenager. Just being around horses again, close up and personal... oh yes, it's heavenly.

Goliath Yawned, Magdalena, NM, June 2011

09 June 2011

Serious Beauty

Sunset into the smoke plume from Wallow (AZ) fire, shot from Kelly Church near Magdalena, NM, June 2011
The past few evenings, the smoke plume from the Wallow wildfire in eastern Arizona has streamed across our northwest sky, and today shifting winds have brought it and associated health hazards over Magdalena (we're 120 or so miles away) and other areas of New Mexico. This human-caused fire has burned 600+ square miles so far and just continues to grow, threatening not only once-pristine wilderness but area communities as well, and even power transmission to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Last night the people of Eagar and Springerville were ordered to evacuate their homes because the fire is just a few miles away and shows no signs of abating, nor does the weather show any signs of becoming anything other than hot, bone-dry, and windy. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it must be to have to pack up and leave your home? Yes, possessions can "be replaced," as I keep hearing people say (usually news commentators hundreds of miles away in their air-conditioned studios), but... not really, not when your whole home and the memories and lives lived within those walls could be gone when you go back.

So, although I would have to call myself "spiritual but not religious" these days, I'm kind of praying for everyone who has had to or will have to evacuate as this wildfire rages on. More tangible help is also on the scene: the Red Cross is accepting donations for shelter and other relief, and the United Food Bank has asked for monetary donations so they can send truckloads of food to evacuees as well as people in remote communities who have not (yet) been evacuated but no longer can go to Springerville for groceries. As with most natural disasters, though, the fallout from this fire will extend far into the future as people return home and try to rebuild their lives, perhaps from nothing more than ashes.

ABS June Challenge Entry: Ophelia's Pond

"Ophelia's Pond" necklace of mixed jaspers, cultured pearls, green kyanite sticks,
glass seed beads, brass, and ceramic pendant from Summers Studio
The June Art Bead Scene challenge theme completely grabbed me with a beautiful inspiration image and color palette. I've had this wonderful Summers Studio lotus pendant for several months now, and picked up the mixed jasper strand a while back at Thunderbird Supply in Albuquerque; those were slated for a different necklace but thanks to the challenge palette it occurred to me that they might work well with this pendant. And so they do... I had three jasper barrels left over, enough for a coordinating bracelet that also uses the cool green kyanite sticks in the necklace and continues the nature theme with a ceramic bird charm from BeadFreaky. One thing I didn't get to before photographing the necklace was oxidizing the brass bail that I made; that won't happen till I dig out my liver of sulfur from... somewhere.... Earrings will follow, as always, surely using more kyanite sticks and perhaps some yellow and/or blue glass flower beads. This was a great challenge project for me, and I'm feeling another set in this palette coming together in my head!

08 June 2011

BTW: The Cleanup Crew Finally Came By!

My *clean* bead table! Love that morning light.

Top tray: work in progress (owl pendant by Spirited Earth; tree button
by BeadFreaky). Bottom tray: finished necklaces with flying heart
pendant by Gaea and lotus pendant by SummersStudio.

I can finally show my bead table for Bead Table Wednesday!  ;-)  Last week, feeling the urge to create again, I realized I had to clean up my beading area if I wanted to work without frustration, which is a real creativity-killer. So I spent a windy, smoky afternoon inside watching USA's House marathon and systematically sorting through and organizing my beading trays, holding cups, and storage bins. The result: a clean, well-organized area that in the following days yielded five finished projects and three more well in progress after a month of being stalled out. Yesterday I was able to photograph and list some new pieces, and today I hope to finish a set for the June Art Bead Scene challenge -- I *love* this month's inspiration image! As you can see in the photo above, I love colorful images; with the exception of the top one, a painting from Haiti, all of these came from various Etsy artists whose renditions of birds I find both inspiring and peaceful.

So, what's on your work table today?

07 June 2011

Lipstick Sunset

Smoky Sunset, Magdalena, NM, June 2011
Our sunsets have been dark since last week because of the heavy smoke streaming northwest from the Wallow Fire, now Arizona's second-largest wildfire ever, having burned 390,000+ acres so far and remaining completely uncontained. Several mountain towns including Alpine and Greer have been evacuated, and as the fire burns northward about half of the people in the larger community of Eagar (pop. 4000) are now under evacuation orders, with those in Springerville (pop. 6500 or so) likely next. Just over the border into New Mexico, people in and around the small town of Luna will also likely have to head out soon. Much of western and north-central New Mexico, including Magdalena, has been intermittently choked with the fire's heavy smoke -- even in Albuquerque, more than 200 miles away from the fire, smoke has dropped visibility below 2 miles at times and is causing serious health problems for some people. The image below, from NASA's Earth Observatory page, shows part of the massive smoke plume, which will not abate until the fire is contained or the summer rains begin. Neither appears likely to happen anytime soon.

06 June 2011

The Creative Exchange: Garden Sentinels

One-eyed frog watching over the front garden
I'm trying to get back to a regular blogging routine, a task made easier and much more pleasant by collectives such as The Creative Exchange. Getting in this year's veggie garden interrupted my routine, and photography of flowers and leaves and my usual close-up subjects has been out of the question lately because of the winds, incessant and harassing, which should be long gone by now. Then I remembered that I do have some fixed objects out there: my garden ornaments! It's a rag-tag collection of things I've picked up or been given over the years, some of which, like the frog above, have seen some wear and tear over the years. (I just found a blue glass marble that will fit that empty eye socket perfectly, so he'll soon be two-eyed again.) Every so often I see lizards or other creatures inspecting the ornaments, or perhaps just posing as one of them so the cats and puppy will leave them alone. This lizard has found a comfortable home in an old stump that anchors the "Mothers Day Garden," a perennial garden I planted for my mom last year and is maturing nicely into a haven for birds, insects, and, yes, lizards.

Lizard on a stump, May 2011, Magdalena, NM

Copper mantis from Mom's garden
Terracotta mouse cachepot given to Mom in 1983 or so

My collection also now includes some treasures I brought home from Mom's Philadelphia garden after she passed away last summer. Even after Dad decided not to sell their house (my brother and his wife live there with a friend now, and Dad lives out here with me and the kids), I just had to take a few of her pretties home with me. They look much different in my casual Southwestern gardens than in Mom's formal, lush, cool townhouse garden, but they still fit, and they remind me of Mom's endless creative energy and great aesthetic talents.

05 June 2011

I Heart Macro: Busy

Bee on red Papaver (?) variety, Magdalena, NM, June 2011
Small wasp on Gaillardia bud
If you plant it, they will come.... My gardens are full of life these days, both flora and fauna. I've seen several different kinds of bees, which bodes well for the veggie garden, along with black swallowtail caterpillars (who love fennel), various butterflies, ladybugs, some kind of winged aphid-eater, and even a dragonfly hovering around my fountain. Just about all of my perennials survived the winter thanks to a thick bed of straw, monthly deep watering, and an early spring dose of Yum-Yum Mix (an organic fertilizer); many of them also dropped seeds that are now sprouting, which will make the perennial beds that much more lush. Since everything is on the drip system, they get just the water they need, and I've noticed the birds and bugs also enjoying a drink while it's on.  I think I've gotten a pretty cool little ecosystem going here, kind of an oasis given how dry this year has been.

Moth on Salvia nemorosa "May Night"
So that's today's I Heart Macro post; I couldn't play along last week because the endless winds (which should have been gone weeks ago) made any photography impossible, particularly macro. Yesterday and today have been much calmer, thank goodness; constant wind makes me edgy....

Fuzzy-legged honeybee (Melissodes) on Gaillardia

01 June 2011

BTW: Desert Oasis

Desert Oasis: Necklace in faceted glass, shell, pearls, and brass

I haven't participated in Bead Table Wednesday lately because my beading area is just a disheveled, unmanageable disaster lately thanks to lots of work in the garden and puppy training. My works in progress are so messy I can't even see what I was thinking when I started laying them out, and even though I know BTW isn't about showing how neat and tidy our workspaces are (because they usually aren't when we're in the midst of creating), mine is kind of hideous right now. Miraculously, though, the necklace above emerged from the chaos over the past few days. It's mostly glass -- Michaels has had some gorgeous faceted glass on their racks lately, and I got the glass leaves and flowers from Etsy seller yashmacreations -- along with dyed shell chips, a few wirewrapped pearls, and a brass dragonfly and swallow on antiqued brass chain. I had started laying this piece out in sterling silver (I was going to use a blue lampwork focal) but didn't have enough chain and was appalled to find that silver has risen past $40 per ounce; actually, though, I much prefer the warmth that brass brings to this piece. So, what's on your table today?