Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bees and blossoms

Apple blossoms awaiting the bees..
We have a small apple orchard in the backyard. I mean tiny really. It is comprised of two red delicious and two mystery trees that produce amazing, sweet, red streaked golden fruits.
They have only ever been pruned in a furtive way, as I was always afraid of really having a go at it and wrecking them.

I finally sucked it up and pruned the heck out of them this year, after consulting a friend who knows how to do such things properly. He walked me through it, and shared his knowledge of pruning, which Iam grateful for!
So, I waited, and the buds unfurled, the old , shiny cd's hung in the branches kept the bud eating birds away. Soft pink petals opened and smelled so sweet...on all but one tree.
One of the mystery apples decided to just give blossoms a miss this year: only one flower on a usually heavy bearing tree.
What gives?
Iam not sure why it's not fruiting.
Didn't like the wassailing year? Pissed that I pruned it after 4 years of not pruning it...we left plenty of growth that should have produced blossoms...the green buds were already formed and about to open when I finally pruned the tall, whip like branches from it's top..
Is it a variety that skips seasons? It never has before..Iam vexed.
Iam just starting to take this apple growing thing seriously, so more research is needed..

Little Miss Bee
Yesterday I went out to admire the garden and see if the bees were out fertilising my apple blossoms yet. It was 70 degrees, sun shining gloriously, birds singing from above... and only one valiant little honey bee flying from flower to flower. ONE.
This is a bummer because while it had been a bit cool, this was warm day, and there should have been many bees, including the Mason kind buzzing around the trees..We have plenty of resident Mason bees, they have nesting holes in the shop, fence posts, little wooden blocks we set out for them..but they were still snoozing apparently.
Iam not sure if it's colony collapse, or just the lack of local hives to explain my solitary honey bee, but there she was. All alone, systematically hitting every flower. Better than nothing I thought. Thank you little Miss Bee!
So I thought I would do my best to snap a few pics of her in action.

She was so intent on her job that she never gave me a second thought. I waited for more to arrive but it was only her all afternoon.. I hope she went home and waggled out some directions for her hive mates, and that the next warm day we have (not today, it's 50 out and raining) will find plenty of honey bees all over my fruit trees.
Or as I l like to say, "Happy bees having sex with my trees!"
Ironically as I sat hunting and pecking this out on the computer, Wolf Woman called to share with me her news, That she is now the proud owner of two bee colonies, and has started her beekeeping in earnest!
Pretty cool.
Here's to the bees!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Work! Thistle hinges...

Drawing of hinges ...
Well as I have stated before things around here have been..well ...slow. Dan still has his historical/living history empire , axes, fire strikers etc... that always trickles in, but big ornamental jobs not so much. This of course has caused us much grief, since we have bills to pay.
Student loans, start up debt. etc... Like so many we have debt that grinds on us, and unlike some, I do not have a spouse who has a decent paying job outside of this work to lean on.
It's both of us in the same boat...
Being a sensitive and moody arteest it all started to get to me...bad. Winter did not help.
The Hubby had taken to calling me Denethor...brrrr.. not good!

So I have been making a concerted effort at being more optimistic, reaching out to freinds, and trying my damndest to not get mired down in fear.
As Churchill said "If you are going through Hell, keep going!"

That said with the warm spring weather and fragrant blooms of the green, growing things I feel more hopeful ...AND we have some new jobs. That helps , alot!

One is for a historical site here in Portlandia;
The Lone Fir Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Portland. We were contacted by the Friends of the Lone Fir to build some gothic hinges for an old utility building belonging to the Mclay family..
seeing as how they are a Scottish family, I proposed a thistle theme..Sometimes my job is so cool...this kind of project is why I don't just run off and become a hermit...:)

More of the drawings and the template...
I started with the smaller drawing for the clients aproval, and then blow it up to actual size on the steel. I used tracing paper to transfer over the other half of the hinge.

Drawing on 1/4 inch thick plate

First hinge plate cut out with plasma torch.
Now I have to clean up the slag on the edges, give the thistle flower some detail work with a chisel, and hammer texture the entire piece. We are cheating and not making the actual hinge part, but welding on some pre- made ones...I know,...I know.... not very traditional, but niether ws using an electric torch to cut it out... To be pure and true I should have forge welded the arms onto the body, or split and the pulled them out, using a hammer and chisel...However this is not even pretending to be a piece made with only 19th century methods, I didn't charge enough for that..
Can't wait to show you what they loo like all finished!

Also, as Mayday is fast approaching, and being a huge folky nutball, I wanted to remind everyone to go on and get up before dawn on May 1st. to celebrate the coming in of Summer with your local Morris men and women!
The above hot link will take you to a great site to check out Mayday/Beltane events in your area, ours is with the Renegade Rose and Bridgetown Morris, at the Rose test Gardens..
It's great pre-dawn fun.
Check out this article allabout our local event, a certain fruit growing lady blacksmith is interviewed in it...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The Twins=Finn(on top) and Ulrich Aka Oolie
Last summer, in early July, we rescued two brothers from a life of crime on the streets. They are now officially one year old, and while not big cats, packed full of rambunctious energy . Their odd little ways, and different personalities bring me hours of entertainment...
Oolie likes broccoli and will go to what ever ends he must to procure it...Finn fetches toy mice and brings them back to you, He will continue to bring them back when thrown until you get sick of playing the game. Somewhere I recall reading that the Egyptians trained cats to hunt game birds, so I suppose he is just presenting a latent skill, that if I were clever , would exploit in the feild..alas...Iam not that ambitious to go duck hunting with my Finn.

Alice, Queen of All
The twins share the digs with Alice, who is seen here looking gorgeous, and Ludwig,

Luwig, named after the Bavarian King..with Finn looking on..
Viggy is the best damn cat. He is rides around on Dan's shoulders, talks loudly, likes to complain about the food, the service, and the other guests, but is always happy to see YOU.
Why am I spending time posting my cats pics and bios?

Well things have been so grim here and slow I have nothing to report really blacksmithing wise.

There are not enough jobs coming in at all. Last week a client canceled their remaining project, and so we are staring down the real fact that we might lose our home, shop and all.
I wish I could be all" stiff upper lip" and brave about this but Iam being worn away like rock on the shore..