Friday, March 19, 2010

If You Plant It--They Will Come

Eagle Rock Farmer's Market is under way!

Last year I tried to get  a 20 x 30 foot raised bed vegetable garden planted.  I planned to use the back corner of our acre.  It had a water hookup, full sun exposure, and tons of rocks on top of ground cloth.  What do I mean by tons? 6-8" of rock over contractor's landscape cloth.  I hired a former neighbor with his landscaping crew.  Their job was to remove the rocks, cloth, and cement about 15 posts in the ground to attach 6' horse fence and a custom gate that Bob and I would build. 

They arrived in mass one Saturday morning, and before I knew it -- they left one guy with a shovel, my wheelbarrow, and a jug of water.  To this man's credit, he worked like a mule moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow load of rock.   By noon, he had cleared it all.  I helped him cut the cloth, which I reused in other places.  He was a native New Mexican, and had lived a pretty colorful life. When I first met him he looked pretty hung over, and it was a hot and sunny day.  But this guy was made of steel and got the job done.  It would be months, instead of days before the crew would return with the posts and cement.

One bright sunny Saturday morning they arrived with posts, cement, and the made of steel man.  I wasn't expecting them...ever.  If one has never lived in a third world country like New Mexico, you can't imagine what "manana" means.  We had missed the deadline to plant out there.  So I skipped the Blade Show and put in 2 beds behind the guest house.  I needed to grow something!  I had to leave that morning as they were unloading bags of cement and posts.  When I came home the crew was gone, and the posts were in.  I took a double take, as half of the posts were severely bent and crooked.  When Alex and Ethan saw the posts both of them agreed that "crack heads put those in."  And so it became my "crack head garden."   Sweet for a Grandma, eh?  :-)

 The two beds from 2009

When John Paul had come over and seen them he said: "I could dig those out in no time, and put straight ones in for you."  At the time I thought he was just being polite.  However he did mention the crack head look of it.  In reality we couldn't hang gates on  the posts, as they would never swing right. I've lived through poorly engineered gates in my farm life.  My inner Martha Stewart was not having any of this, and so for 9 months the crack head posts stayed.  John Paul offered every time he was here.  So spring weather finally came.  And I had a window to right the "crack heads" crooked wrongs  with John Paul's help.  Ami kept offering her help too.

3 8' x 8' raised beds JP built.

I could only carry about 8 8'boards in the Yukon.  They would stretch between the two front seats ALL the way to the back.  I used Jimmy Hodges, my Spiritual Guide's words to guide me: "We're going to move this building across the street. One board, one nail, one brick at a time."  8 boards were 2 beds...and that's how it went.  I had gotten the cement and posts with Bob first.  In hindsight we should have put the posts in last.  And filled all the beds with dirt from a truck (more to come on that) first.  Now, we have to work between the posts...that will be tricky.  John Paul replaced every crack head post with a straight one and a level. Imagine?

My first trip to get my 8 boards was to Lowes, it's the closest to home.  Oh boy that took forever, and the young man who was trying to cut the 16's down to 8's was surly and couldn't operate the saw or a tape measurer.  But I was at his mercy because they didn't have 8's.  He cut the first 3 in just under an hour.  Quick as maple syrup, that was 20 minutes per cut (3).  Then he announced:"the rest of the 16 footers are all warped and cracked, so this is it."  He had no idea who he was dealing with.  "Cut a 12' and I'll eat the 4' difference."  I told him.  He wasn't getting off that easily.   He wasn't going to help me either.  So I shimmied up to the 12'ers and pulled a nice one down.  With chipper bouncy steps I carried the 12' to the saw and placed it in the saw.  Took out the tape measurer and marked 8'.  I backed away pointing to the saw: "Now cut it."  The surly Lowes man did so.  I put it in that goofy open cart with the other pieces.  "Have a lovely evening" I told him.  I heard him growling as I pushed toward the checkout.

 Chicken wire, ground cloth and then raised beds.

John Paul went with me for the second run.  This time we went to Home Depot ("Casa Desperado" I fondly call it).  We were met by a friendly, helpful young man.  Unfortunately he couldn't figure out why when he marked the 16'ers, the cut was in a different place than he had marked.  An inch didn't matter to JP , and he said he'd match 'em up-"nooo problem."  They needed to fit in the car.  It was so nice to have someone with a sense of humor with me.  It made all the difference.  That was half of them.  2 more trips, and a new shipment of 8 footers to Home Depot made the last 16 boards a snap.  If there's ever a next time...they are delivering them.  Duh.

Ami and John Paul: the "American Gothic pose."

All beds built, we shot for a Saturday to put down the rest of the chicken wire and ground cloth.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  Carm surprised us and came by with lunch for "the crew."  She made green chili chicken pasta casserole.  Mmmmmm...we all ate together, and had a great time.  

Columbus begging from Bob.

Now for the dirt...that is turning into a palava.  55 square yards should about do it.  Dirt is my luxury of the year.  It's a good thing tenacity is in my nature.  Because, the guys with trucks and dirt aren't ringing my door bell.  Black dirt is an imported commodity in these parts.  But I have time on my side this year.  There will be dirt...I can see it.  I can also see a beautiful wooden gate and a hand carved bird on each post top. I see Alex designing the drip irrigation.  I see netting over the top to keep the real birds from robbing me as they did last year.  And most of all, I see a bumper crop of every planting.  My vision was to grow enough food for the whole block.  To Jimmy Hodges a debt of gratitude for the mind set a project like this takes.  John Paul, you saw my vision and it is coming to be.  The 'crack heads" made it 20' x 40' , which is bigger than planned, and better to me. 

 Ta flipping Da!

Tomorrow I pick out the fruit trees that will line our front yard (25% off one day only at Osuna). This time they are delivering and planting.  I will line those holes dug with chicken wire also to keep the varmints out.  "They" don't know who they are dealing with.  :-)  I'll keep you posted (haha!) on the progress. Spring is now doing what it does so well.  I have peas planted in the old beds.  It's the first day of spring!

Thanks for reading.  I'm still amazed that you do!



***I woke up early to go pick out trees and there is 1" of snow on the ground and more coming down.
Happy 1st day of Spring!
✭✭As New Mexico would have it...the sun came out, melted all the snow, and I went out and bought 3 apple trees! Yay!

Bob's cape buffalo horns just arrived...hand me my camera.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Search of an EDM Cutter

 SunWest Silver Field Trip

SunWest Silver in Albuquerque was our "Field Trip" of the week.  Danny Kronberg, or "Dr. Kronberg" (as I fondly call him )led us there.  He has made charms and models for "Brother" since he moved to Albuquerque 30 years ago.  We went behind the scenes in search of an EDM cutter for my personalized items.  I have been told it's the way to go instead of stamping...and maybe at some point the tool and die masters at SunWest will make those.  I had no idea what we were about to see.  All photos were taken with my iPhone.

Bob, and I would have an adventure lead by Dr. Kronberg.  We met the owner, a warm and friendly man named "Brother."  Dr. K. has talked so much about Brother, I felt as if I already knew him.  He took us to his stash of turquoise, stones, and findings.  It was like our own personal Tuscon Gem and Mineral Show. But we never left the state. 

I've done a lot of canning in my life, and I've seen lots of screws and nails in mason jars.   Brother's root cellar of mason jars were not filled with tomatoes and jelly.  Turquoise, lapis, and other raw minerals and stones filled the jars. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands.   I saw turquoise in colors that blew my blue mind.  It would be a great assignment for a color theory class to mix what I saw on the shelves.   They would learn a lot. 

rock too big for a jar, a hand I want, and the tip of the turquoise iceberg!

After our own Gem and Mineral Show, we went to one of his machine shops.  This is where I'd find the EDM cutter I had been told about.  This shop is the machine shop Mahal! It had everything from Optical Comparator,  CNC Machines (yes, I still want one), industrial stamping machines, lathes, and jewelry making factory machines.  Bob, DK and myself were soooo excited.  We were at our kind of playground.
 the "Shop Mahal"
Below: A blue stamping press that requires two hands on the
red knobs to run...this means more fingers for the machinist!  

Shane runs this shop and he's an incredible machinist.  He and Bob went head to head about the frame that will be used to hold my pieces.  It was fun.  DK saw one of his South West style sunbursts in production.  Spools of silver bigger than a hula hoop  spin like shimmering ribbons into the multi tooled stamping press.  They are great recyclers.  Barrels next to each machine are filled with the silver scrap.  They will melt this down for the next spools of silver rolls that I saw ALL over this shop.

Below Danny holds the stamped piece, a 4 part tooled stamp die, and spools of silver.

The unsung heros were standing in front of me.  The man,  Daniel Kronberg who is one of the finest life sculptors I have ever known makes the original piece.  And Shane uses his machines to make dies and molds to turn raw metals into these beautiful pieces by the thousands.

Impressive. We left knowing how to prepare the sheets of copper and silver for my first cut.  My goal is to expand my business in this area and be able to produce more of the pieces that I personalize.   I don't want to go where Brother is.  But I want a living for me and my family.  I am grateful Brother extended his hand to help me.

Below HUGE stamping press, cuts and recycling bins, tunnel furnace that is soldiering in the graphite holders below and a precision lathe.

I am indebted to Dr. Kronberg for his help in finding me my local businesses to build my business.  His endless years of experience and Bob's have helped me go where I know I could not be without their help. As a thank you to DK, I'm going to set up his Etsy shop.  The world is waiting for his miniature sculptures, and he's going to be a huge hit on Etsy!

  You may know his "Rose Dagger" collaboration with Owen Wood on a knife.  He has just finished a shark handle collaboration for Owen. He did the lettering and engraving in Bob's thumb discs, the sterling dragon bead on Bob's lanyards, and the sterling dragon medallions on Bob's knife handles.  So Bob's collectors are going to finally meet Daniel Kronberg.

Now it's time for DK to shine, and I'm going to do my utmost to "make it so."  Below is my Raven that he gave me.  It's one of my prized possessions.  That says a lot for someone who likes "things."  We have many of his miniatures.  When the owl, wolf, horse, dolphin, shark, and eagle lovers see his work...they are going to flip for it.  Now the world through the internet can see him in his global gallery.

The Raven is 1 1/2 inches tall from the head to the bottom of the base!

So here we go! I will have my first pieces cut by an EDM (electro discharge machine).  You will see DPK Miniature Sculpture on Etsy.  All of this brought to you by the two kids who met each other at NYU's Industrial Arts Education Progam 45 years ago.

 EDM Machine

Below Danny Kronberg and Bob Terzuola
I hope you enjoyed our Field Trip...we sure did! 
Thanks for reading. I'm still amazed that you do.


Sunwest Silver

Monday, March 15, 2010

Magdalena Ranch

A visit to Richard and Sally Rogers Ranch in Magdelena New Mexico

We left a cloudy drizzle in Albuquerque. Headed south on I25 towards Socorro.  We were going to visit a knifemaker, Richard Rogers and his wife Sally at their ranch in Magdelena.  The moment we crossed the Albuquerque city limits, the sun came out.  Shining on our 2 hour drive.   I was so excited to see their herd, and Bob to see Richard's shop.  I had a hard time falling asleep the night before our trip.

As we got into Magdelena it clouded over.  The temperature dropped 10 degrees in one minute.   On Route 107 we turned into their drive.  I got out and walked across the cattle guard and opened the gate for Bob to drive through.  It is over  a mile on a dirt drive to their house.  Dogs greeted us, and I could see horses in the paddock and hear mooing in the distance. For me that's the sound of Heaven.

Richard and I went out to feed the cattle.  Bob, not really interested in this stayed behind and drank his coffee with Sally.  We took the truck and drove down their drive to a red 2 story hopper that holds feed pellets.  The pellets look like REALLY large dog food.  In the back of the truck is a container with a conveyor belt that spreads the feed behind the truck.  We drove into one of the pastures, well in NM it's brush, cacti and pinon.  In cold weather they would need other high protein supplement to keep warm.  The herd started walking toward us.  There were Black Angus, and brown Brangus.

 Richard filling the feeder from the hopper.
The herd coming to us.

We got out of the truck and the cattle surrounded us. Gently brushing up against us.  The cows stood back at first because there were so many calves.  Mamas are protective, and I was unfamiliar.  Richard beeped the horn to call some that were far away.  He was looking for "Pup" a favorite of his son's.  Eventually, "Pup" and most of the others came to meet, eat, and greet.  I was surrounded by them.

 A little head butting action.

 Mama protecting her baby and giving me the eye.

I felt a sharp pain in my stomach as I was shoulder to shoulder with these huge animals.  Deep sobs started to emerge, and I could feel  tears cold on my cheeks.  The grief of losing my farm in that ugly divorce rose inside me.  I had flashes of our Nubian goats running down the driveway with their ears out like propellers. I could hear Sophie and Orson snorting and roosters crowing in the distance.  I never went back. Never had a good bye after my exit by ambulance  on that dark Halloween night.  It's a two year blur after that.  But this wasn't the time or the place.  I swallowed down hard, hoping Richard didn't notice.  I focused on the herd.

"Pup" coming in for the lick. 

They were ALL focused on me.  Safety in numbers, and all those numbers kept an eye on me.  They sniffed and licked, and nudged.  I patted, scratched and rubbed those who would let me.  Calves stood next to their Mums, young bulls butted heads.  They were treating me with the respect that was given to them by their owners.   Standing among 100 cattle could be daunting.  But I wasn't afraid, and neither were they.  Nirvana for me.  It was cold and windy, but it didn't matter.  I was kept warm by their energy.  Richard signaled it was time to go.  So we drove back toward the house.

 The horse with the cross on his back.

Some "goofy" horses checkin' me out!

"Wanna see some goofy horses?" he asked.
Absolutely, I want to see them!  So we went into the corral with about 10 horses.  Some had a donkey's cross on their back.  Again, all very tame and gentle.  Wanting to be scratched behind an ear or patted on the neck or snout.  The overwhelming feeling I had with the cattle erupted again.  I suppressed the urge to cry.  I could have stood there forever.  But in back of us we heard Sally and Bob talking outside Richard's shop.  Bob was dying to get in there.

Bob in Richard's shop

As with all knifemaker's shops...they have their own personality.   Richard's was orderly and modest. Bob looked at different jigs Richard had made.    Asking questions.  Talk turned to the machines.  I listened.  Richard gave me a few snail shell scraps for jewelry.  Sally and I talked about her setting up her looms in a new building some day.  Richard is an incredible knifemaker.  I plan to write a blog about a set of knives he made a few years ago.  He'll be at Blade this year, as usual.  No doubt there will be a feeding frenzy at his table as he and Sally try to get knives on their table.

We had lunch in Magdelena.  Of course I had a green chili cheeseburger.  While we were eating someone I knew from the movies walked in:  Cindy.  She has a ranch in Magdelena.  She is one of my favorite teamsters, and I was so happy to see her.  She and Benette drove me to set and back countless times.  Richard and Sally knew her and her family.  It's a small town.  In the picture of us you can see I am not over this virus that has been plaguing me.  I am so happy to have a photo of Cindy and me.  I never got one while working in the film industry.

Their complaint dept! 

Cindy, and paleface
I asked Bob to drive a few miles out of Magdelena.  I had a sense of deep satisfaction as I nodded in and out of my nap on the way home.  Being with animals has always had the effect on me.  I let a few tears escape.  But I never talked about it with Bob.  When he reads this it will probably be a surprise to him.  I am so grateful to Richard and Sally for sharing their ranch with me last Thursday.

The last time I opened my eyes on the drive home.

The time has passed in my life for me to keep hooved animals.  I couldn't manage them now, or the work they require. Below is a Mum and her calf with identical face markings.

 I am content with Buddy and the cats.  Oh, every now and then I long for a fat hen and fresh eggs.  But here in North Albuquerque Acres, the coyotes are too prevalent.   Some day I will get out the pictures of "Bittersweet Farm."  I'd like to put them in books for the kids.  Just not today.

Thanks for reading.  I'm still amazed that you do.