Monday, July 14, 2014

The Creation of a Poppy

I have become obsessed with watching our poppy plants as they cycle through life. Seeds will germinate within 10-20 days, and then they grow, flower, fruit, and seed, offering fabulous bursts of colors in areas of your garden that have poor, stubborn soil.

As I've watched our poppies this year, I designed a sculptural piece of jewelry to ease my obsession.

Red poppies  grow upright with a single bloom on the stem. The stem is slightly hairy and can reach 3 to 4 feet in height.


Poppies produce a spectacular flower. The petals are thin and fragile and can easily be shaken off. The petals resemble crumpled tissue paper and are formed in a cup shape.



The poppy fruit is the seed pod. When the flower has finished blooming the petals drop off and the center ovary swells. It contains the seeds and will open valves on top to release the seeds when they are ripe. The fruit has a greenish skin and is shaped like a ridged pot with a little lid.

Poppy seeds are tiny and dark brown. They are the source of the edible poppy seeds used for decoration on food and for seasoning. They can also be pressed to produce poppy-seed oil. The fruit or seed capsule contains hundreds of these little seeds which escape the pod through fissures in the top. One poppy seed head can produce a beautiful, bright field of poppies. The seeds disperse a variety of ways and germinate.

Here is an interesting fact:

It's true that the flowers are very fleeting, lasting in a vase sometimes only for hours. They don't wilt, but the delicate petals begin to fall quickly. To avoid this, there is something you can do. As you cut the flowers, take only the freshest. Then use a large match or cigarette lighter, holding the cut end of the stem over the flame, and let it sear the end of the stem until it's almost black. This seals the milky juices into the stem, and usually at least doubles the life of the flower in water. Even with searing, your arrangement won't last long. But don't hesitate; if you want poppies on the table, cut them and enjoy. Everybody will love them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Natural Rock Jewelry: A Gallery of Recent Work

Some of these recent pieces are available on my website, while some were sent to galleries or purchased by customers. This is a place where I can show my hand fabricated work in one photo gallery. If there are any pieces that speak to you and you would like a custom order, let me know.

Hand fabricated sterling silver, oxidized. The stone is naturally tumbled by the Pacific ocean.

I was inspired to make this piece after spending the morning in the garden. The naturally ocean-tumbled rock symbolizes the soil.

Hand fabricated sterling silver hoops. The gemstones symbolize the freshness of an alpine lake.

I made this ring with sterling silver and a natural beach stone.

These are hand formed sterling silver links. The bead is an African trade bead that I purchased in Ghana a couple of decades ago. I finally figured out how I wanted to use it.

I made this ring with sterling silver and a recycled vintage Coke bottle. I tumbled the glass until the edges were smooth.

These necklaces were made using naturally tumbled rocks from France - a custom order. 

This was another custom order for a lovely person in Ohio. I found the rock alongside the Methow River just beneath our home. The sterling silver is hand fabricated, and the cord is adjustable.

A rock within a rock - hand drilled and strung on a delicate sterling silver chain.

This is a custom piece for a gallery in Jacksonville, OR. The natural river rocks are from the Methow River. Again, for this necklace I hand fabricated the sterling silver to make a half-sun.

These funky earrings are made with sterling silver and glass beads.

I was on a roll with the glass beads. These earrings are made with sterling silver and glass beads, and were sent to a gallery in Tacoma, WA.

This unique artisan pendant is made with a natural rock from the Methow River. I drilled and hollowed out the rock, and hand fabricated the sterling silver. It's called "Rain Showers".

Drilled rock, custom order: "Summit Cairn".

Another custom piece for a woman in France. I love the colors in the naturally tumbled beach pebble.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Serviceberry and Raspberry Syrup: Recipe

Right now we have serviceberries and raspberries up the wazoo. We're harvesting and processing as quickly as possible, trying to pick every last berry (impossible with the serviceberries, but more feasible with the raspberries).

One of my favorite uses for the nutty-flavored serviceberries is homemade syrup. This year I decided to throw in a few cups of raspberries and am delighted with the results. Following is a recipe, which I've broken down for a smaller quantity.

Serviceberry and Raspberry Syrup:

4 C. serviceberries
1 C. raspberries
2 cups sugar
You will also need:
Fine mesh strainer
1 pint-size glass jar
  1. Rinse the berries and let air dry.
  2. Place the berries in a medium saucepan.
  3. Add sugar and stir. Reduce to a medium simmer and let the berries cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. After about 20 minutes, the berries will be nearly a thick paste. The liquid will be deep a deep, gorgeous red color. Remove from heat.
  5. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean glass jar, separating the solid berries from the liquid. Note: DO NOT press down on the solids to extract more juice. Doing this will make your syrup cloudy. Instead, you can blend the remaining solids in a food processor and dehydrate them into delicious fruit roll ups. Serviceberries are seedy, but they soften when cooked.
Serve your syrup on ice cream, pancakes, or add a little to bubbling water for a Shrub.

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Love Affair With Gardening

If you ask a gardener what it is she loves about gardening you will receive a layered response. Gardening offers an intimate connection to the earth, from kneading soil, planting seeds, nurturing immature plants, watching growth, and rejoicing in a hard-earned harvest. Each new flower beckons elation.

The result of understanding where our food comes from and the effort involved in growing each plant is gratifying.

It's probably a safe bet to say that all avid gardeners love soil. They find happiness in digging their hands into the earth and inhaling its rich, musty scent.

Satisfaction arises from the ability to identify sprouts as they emerge, pulling weeds after watering, giving room to the precious plants to thrive.

Overcoming obstacles - pests, critters, dry conditions, cold temperatures, nutrient-poor soil, weeds - witnessing a suffering plant become strong, green, bright and prolific - bestows a sense of empowerment.

The deep, bold colors of home grown plants cannot be compared to any produce purchased from grocery stores.

Harvest brings contentment as well as a hint of grief. Pride. Appreciation. Affirmation.

The ultimate test for a gardener is biting into the fruit of her labor. How flavorful is it? Robust? Sweet? Spicy? Juicy? Crisp?

As I garden, I listen to our bees and chickens, soak in the warmth of sun, and cool down with generous gulps of chilly mountain water. I breath deeply, relishing in fresh scents. All of my senses are connected to the present, and I feel healthy.

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