Thursday, July 26, 2007

That's for the Birds!

Yes, they've taken over again!

A few months ago, we finally released the pheasants that we had raised last spring and fed and kept safe through the winter.

Bob replaced them with a flock of bantam chickens. Well, the chickens have grown into a most interesting melange of every conceivable combination of chicken, only a small version of each.

We have Frizzles, we have Cochins, we even have Polish chickens! I was afraid we had been slipped a few miniature emu chicks (is there such a thing?), but after looking through a number of web pages dedicated to bantam chickens, I found that they will develop large pompoms on their heads, but they are definitely chickens! I think our favorite is a Cochin who seems to have a bit of Frizzle in him. He is low slung and covered with wild black feathers. We call him "The Harlequin Phoenix" and although it's hard to see, he is right in the middle of the group in the picture above.

Yesterday, the phone rang. It was the Post Office, "Come get your birds!" So, off Bob went to pick up our latest additions: 50 day old Chukar chicks.

They seemed oddly quiet in the box, but, oh boy! Once the box was opened and they were scooped out and into the cage, they became lively.

They ran from side to side, jumped straight up in the air and managed to squeeze out through some unprotected holes in the cage which we quickly closed.

They were fed and watered and knew exactly how to handle both. Then it was time to rest. Baby birds, like many baby animals, have a disconcerting habit of collapsing unceremoniously on the ground and falling fast asleep. They look dead. I was horrified to see so many of them lying carelessly about the cage, legs thrown out, some of them soaking wet from their recent drink/bath. Those who were still awake tromped heedlessly over them, on their heads, necks, stomachs - occasionally giving them a peck or two just for good measure. It didn't look good and I had one pegged as a goner for sure. I turned around and he was gone, apparently rested and back to life again.

After a night on their own, we haven't lost any but they're still doing their little collapsing routine. Gotta love those birds.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This and That

Lots of things going on. Piles of soap ready to go out. Odds and ends I've been experimenting with on the jewelry front. And a new venue for soap - the Mt. Joy Farmers' Market.

This flower is called Tithonia, the torch. I thought it was appropriate for a blog called "Torchsong" and Tina thinks I should use it for my logo. Maybe an avatar...

The flower is such a bright orange and just blazes away on its dark green foliage. Looks like the bees like it too!

I've had this turquoise donut for years. I believe we picked it up at the Boutique Show in NYC one time when we were there shopping for our shop, so that's at least 7 years ago.

The donut is actually more matrix than turquoise, but it was always interesting and for some reason, called to me. Over that time, I've found beads that match up with it and finally put something together.

I really like how it's turned out, but the kids say it looks like Cthulhu.

Here's what Wikipedia says about him: "Cthulhu is a fictional being created by horror author H. P. Lovecraft, and is one of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. It is often cited for the extreme descriptions given of its appearance, size, and the abject terror that it invokes. Because of this reputation, Cthulhu is often referred to in science fiction and fantasy circles as a tongue-in-cheek shorthand for extreme horror or evil."

I don't think it looks evil, but....

Along with that, I signed up for a charm exchange on a jewelry forum I frequent. These are my first experiments with some resin charms I'm thinking about using for my contribution.

They are still pretty rough as they need a lot of clean up. I made the bezel with copper wire and used seed beads as "mosaic tiles" to form a wave design. Then, I poured a two-part resin over it all. I'll be getting out the Dremel and polishing up the bezel.

We'll see how it looks finished - maybe with a few dangles added. To get both sides smooth, I may have to do three pours and each pour involves waiting for it to cure. I have to make a total of 25 of these though, so this is only the start. If it's too involved, I may have to come up with another idea.

The Farm Market on Saturday was so much fun! I've always loved retail, just not on a regular basis where it takes over my life. This is a 4 hour, once a week deal. Very close to home, so it's super easy to do.

We chatted away with the people who came - a very interesting cross section of the area. There are a lot of people moving into new housing here and our population has become much more diverse over the years than it was when we first moved to the area 20 years ago.

To introduce ourselves, we handed out soap samples to customers and also to the other vendors. At the end of the day, the guys across from us came over with bouquets of sunflowers to thank us for their soap (and also because they just didn't want to haul them home.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fresh Goodies & Recipes

I don't have pictures today, because the subject of this post is already devoured!

Last evening, most of the family gathered for dinner. Since the gardens are producing, I decided to use some of the things growing here and in Tina's garden. She keeps bringing Zucchini to me, so that was where I started.

A number of years ago, we were vendors at Landis Valley Farm Museum's annual Herb and Garden Faire. This dish was served there and we found it delicious. In mid summer, when there is a windfall of zucchini and basil, I think of this salad:

4 Med. Zucchini, coarsely grated
1# Orzo
2 T. Salt
8 C. chicken broth
2 C. (packed) fresh basil
3 med. garlic cloves
½ C. Olive Oil
¼ C. fresh lemon juice
ground black pepper
1 C. imported Kalamata olives
Basil sprigs

Drain Zucchini in colander. Sprinkle with 1 T. salt. Let drain 30 min. Stir or shake twice. Squeeze dry. Transfer to large bowl. Fluff with hands to separate.
Basil & olive oil in processor 1 minute, drop garlic in and blend.
Add Zucchini to basil mix.
Bring chicken broth to boil in medium saucepan. Stir in 1 T. salt and orzo, return to boil. Simmer 10-15 min. 'til orzo is tender. Drain.
Stir all together and cool to room temp.
Just before serving, stir in lemon juice and zest (if desired) Season with pepper. Garnish with olives and basil sprigs.

So, there I was with this beautiful pasta dish, wondering what to do to round out the meal. I had some frozen chicken and since the tarragon is looking full and lovely, I remembered another favorite - actually a recipe from a diet I once followed successfully, but it was so delicious that I cook it often.

8 ounces boned, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 t. dried Tarragon or 1 t. fresh Tarragon
1/4 C. dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Spray a medium skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook 3 minutes; turn breasts and cook 2 minutes more. Remove and set aside. Add tarragon, white wine and mustard to skillet and cook over high heat until juices are syrupy, about 2 minutes. Pour juices over chicken.
Just increase the recipe for larger quantity. It's not bad cold the next day, either!

If the tomatoes were another week or so along, I would have just sliced up a bunch and served a platter salted and peppered. The only ripe ones we have so far are a few small ones from Tina's garden. She brought them along with a cucumber, so I just added them to some lettuce and onions from our garden and served a nice garden salad.

So, a great, low-fat, family-friendly dinner with a lot of input from our communal gardens!

Coming up soon - sweet corn and tomato sandwiches..... oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Sets

I put a couple of new sets up on my web page:

The first one is Lilac Ice and I love the softness of it. It is an icy pale lavender transparent with creamy lavender swirls, simple, but nice.

The second, I call Ancient Bamboo. The ivory base is crackled in some places and discolored just like a piece of ancient pottery found in a Chinese archaeological site.

The vines and leaves look like bamboo growing around the beads.

While I was working with the colors of the second set, I made a big hole bead, something like a star type bead, but this one looks like it has big old green eyes all around the outside.

They are on my beads page if you want to get another look.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Making a Vessel

I am often asked if I "blow" glass. What I do is properly called "lampworking" and I don't actually blow the air into my hollow beads and vessels. I have always intended to make a page on my website to show how the vessels are made because the questions are asked so frequently.

Some time ago, I got someone to take a series of pictures over my shoulder as I made a vessel. This is a brief tutorial on how the basic vessel is made.

I make my vessels on the end of a "mandrel". The mandrel is a stainless steel rod. It is coated with a ceramic substance called bead release. This keeps the glass from sticking to the mandrel and when the bead is finished, the bead release dissolves in water and the bead "slips" off the mandrel.

First, a footprint is laid down on the mandrel for two discs. It looks as though there are two beads being made on the mandrel at the same time.

These discs will be the top and bottom of the vessel.

The disc at the end will be the bottom and extra glass is added to seal the hole

The discs are built up by adding glass until they are large enough to meet over the mandrel.


Sometimes, I gently coax them together with a tweezers or a "marver" which is a graphite paddle mounted on a wooden handle. The heat of the glass doesn't melt the graphite and it can be used to manipulate the glass as you will see later.

When the discs have been coaxed together, one more wrap of glass right around the middle makes sure the seal is complete.

Now there is air trapped inside the bubble of glass and I begin to heat the glass until the glass is molten and the air, now heated, expands. You can see it happening in the picture to the right.

This is a magical thing to me. When I first started making beads, my instructor told me I'd have to make at least 40 beads before I'd finally get a decent hollow. She was right!

So often, the seal isn't complete somewhere - either on the "belly" of the bead or something has happened to the bead release so that it isn't complete there. If the seal isn't complete, the bead will deflate into a sad glob of glass... sometimes with a big bubble somewhere, but not where it was intended.

When it works, which is most of the time now (!), I always get a big kick out of it.

Now, the finishing begins. Glass is often added to the bottom of the vessel to give it weight at the bottom so it will hang gracefully or just because it makes the design work.

The vessel is "marvered" to shape it and make the glass move together properly. Often, various types of decoration are added with tiny glass rods called stringer or by dipping the vessel in frit which is crushed glass, often a reactive combination of deep colors.

I'm not showing it here, but the neck is added - like adding another bead right at the end and it is built up and shaped however I envision it.

Finally a handle or handles are added.

And voila! The finished vessel, with a cork and hung on a chain, ready to grace your neck and hold your favorite perfume, essential oil or other tiny treasure.

I've just updated my vessels page and you can see the latest creations I have made with this technique.