Sunday, February 28, 2010

pixies perhaps?

Oddities abound. Who does these things?

A pile of little pinkish stones:

A pile (it was tidier looking, but it got scattered around before I remembered to take a photo) of mimosa seeds:

Empty chicken egg shells from the compost, stuffed into a mockingbird nest in a rock rose plant:

These things just show up. Weird.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27 work in progress: Cheetah Knife

I have the opportunity to do another collaboration! This is going to be a great piece. I've been asked to keep this somewhat under wraps while I'm working on it. So, I will show you some work in progress stuff but won't unveil the finished piece until it's been professionally photographed.

This is the knife I get to work on. As you can see, it's pretty small, and gorgeous!. It was made by Kirby Bletcher and engraved by Christopher Malouf. I will be scrimming a cheetah on the handle, which is pre-ban elephant ivory.

First step was to get the first line of the border on there, which was SO grueling because this knife has curved edges, so measuring was quite a challenge, and I needed to match my border with the one that's engraved onto the bolster. My border will mirror the engraved one... two thin black lines with gold in the center. I think the cheetah is going to be the easy part. ;-) I know, you're looking at this and you're not impressed. That's okay. Just wait. And ignore those little ink smudges.

sunshine, rain, rainbows, and big earthworms

One of my absolute favorite things is the time in the early evening on a rainy day when the sun drops below the clouds and shines in sideways. The sky is dark, the land is bright, the rain is coming down, and there's a rainbow in the east. LOVE IT. It feels magical to me.

I went nuts taking photos in and of the rain yesterday evening. Brace yourself...

scrimshaw pendant: Cairn Terrier "Murphy"

Finished about a week ago and in the hands of a happy new owner! :-)

Cairn Terrier
multicolor scrimshaw on pre-ban elephant ivory cabochon
set in sterling silver

bird nerd alert!

This is so exciting I have to post it before the umpteen other posts that I have in mind for today. Oh yeah, serious bird nerd here.

I was just in the kitchen watching a pair of White Tailed Kites doing some nifty aerobatics over the pasture, and it was like oh yeah DUH I just happen to have The Beast camera with the super mondo telephoto lens sitting on the couch. So I dashed outside to shoot some photos, but in that time they psychically knew I was coming, and high-tailed it (okay, birds don't really high-tail it I guess) behind the neighbor's house and away. Sigh.

Dejected, I turned the camera off and walked back around the house. And I happened to look up into the mulberry tree on the far side of the yard and think "I don't recognize that bird." Almost a kestrel, but something in that split second told me it was different. In the same moment, it flew and I turned the camera on and hefted The Beast up to my eyeball. All I got was a crappy photo as it rocketed off across the field in the distance, behind a tree where I was standing. But it was enough to tell me (thanks to the Sibley bird book that I keep on the desk and never put away) that it was indeed not a Kestrel, but instead a Merlin! An adult female Merlin, to be specific. Woot! That's the second Merlin I've ever seen.

Here's the whole photo:

And then if I zoom in... sorry it's all grainy and stuff. It's pretty dark and gray out today anyway:

Friday, February 26, 2010

what would I have done in public?

I'm not exactly crazy about bugs. There are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part they kinda give me the creeps. Some people hate snakes, some people hate mice... for me, it's bugs.

I'd been out to feed the critters this morning, came in, had breakfast, and was sitting here at the computer when I felt a little tickle on my leg, a few inches above my knee. I froze, put my hand on my leg, and felt a tiny lump under my jeans. EEEEEK! In a fraction of a second I was on my feet, pants off, wildly flapping around to dislodge this evil beast that had crawled up the inside of my jeans. I mean, I didn't even think about it, I just reacted! And it was one of those harmless little beetles, but cripes I can't even imagine what I would have done if that happened in a public place! That reaction was just so... immediate!


And just when you thought it was getting dull around here... ;-)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

random crap

I see this rooster every time I go to the post office:

So I have this stupid cold and feel like crap. I've been having trouble sleeping. The trouble is that I wake up about 9784359873457 times per night because I'm all stuffed up and can't breathe. It's inconvenient. I'm loaded up on benadryl right now to try to alleviate that situation, and I'm starting to feel veeerrryyyy slleeeeepyyyyyyy so I have to write fast. Not that there's much to say.

I am supposed to be doing scrimshaw on a knife. But since I'm a little foggy in the head the last two days, I'm delaying that until I'm fully functional again, and instead driving myself crazy practicing metal engraving. This shouldn't be so difficult. But it is. I sharpened a bunch of different graver points recently (oh I need to talk about me new grinder, will do later) and have been experimenting with those and basically getting frustrated by the whole adventure, again. Must get through this stage! I decided to go ahead and engrave a keychain thingy instead of mindlessly poking at practice plates. It is a practice plate essentially, but I'm putting an image on it and it's a chance to try a few techniques in the hopes that it turns out at least halfway decent, I mean at least a key chain thingy is a useful item. I've already made lots of mistakes. I keep hoping for some sort of engraving epiphany, like one day I'll just magically be really good at it.

Uhhhhh time for sleep......

Sunday, February 21, 2010

the last shows of the season

I've been a little lax with the blogging, I know! I've been even more lax about taking photographs lately. I was up in Eureka last weekend at a poultry show, and in Fresno this weekend at a show. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed both, and had so much fun hanging out with friends. None of the people which whom I am uncomfortable attended either show, so they were both fun and relaxing for me, and I had a great time catching up with people I really care about.

The birds did well. In Eureka I got Best of Breed with a Splash Rosecomb pullet and Reserve of Breed with a Black Rosecomb pullet. I only took one bird down to Fresno, a Black Rosecomb pullet, and she took Best of Breed in a pretty respectable class! Congratulations goes to Dan for having a Sebright on Champion Row two weekends in a row! :-)

My chicken plans feel pretty solid these days, and different from what I had thought a few weeks ago. I was pretty down on the whole experience and wanted to get away from it, but a little flame of competitiveness has been rekindled somehow. I'm still selling about 2/3 of my breeding flock (this is underway, the ball is rolling, I've already sold half my Blacks, still working on the others), but I'll be keeping 20-25 birds and still raising everything I have now, just in different quantities, with the emphasis very much on the BBReds.

I'm going to set up breeding pens next week, and though I don't plan to hatch my own birds til probably June (though this kinda depends on whether I get into Blade Show, which I won't know til mid March), I'll be selling eggs again this spring. No presale, they'll all be on ebay. It takes too much of my time to deal with orders of specific quantities and specific dates, so this puts it on my terms, and that makes me sigh with relief.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

tell me something good

Today I have a request for you. Leave me a comment and tell me something good. I need some good news. About anything. So many people I know are going through horrible situations right now, and I just learned that a friend and mentor is dying after a long battle with cancer and I'm so saddened by this news.

If you have something great going on in your world, please share it. I need to hear it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

my favorite mule needs help

In the summer of 2008, I spent ten days with a dear friend in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. We went to Yellowstone, I fell in love with Jackson Hole, and I also had the ride of a lifetime in Teton Canyon on a big mule named Sara. I rode Sara a couple times while I was there, and she instantly found a place in my heart and I knew I could never forget her. Sara and I really clicked, and she's pretty darn special to me.

Like so many other people, Sara's owner has fallen on the hardest of hard times, and facing his own uncertain future has to sell Sara.

I would buy her in a heartbeat if I could. I'm totally bawling writing this, this breaks my heart. I can't take on another big 4-legged animal now, it's impossible for me. It just kills me that Sara faces an uncertain future too, and I want to see her go to a good home. I wish that could be with me, or with someone I know. I would trade incredibly large amounts of art to make that happen.

If anyone out there can provide a home for Sara please contact me. Please please please. I love that mule. This hurts me. I'll do just about anything to help her get a new home, but I don't have money to spare.

She's about 18 years old I think, in excellent health, 16 hands tall, is 100% awesome, and very reasonably priced. And she has a full set of tack. She lives near Jackson, WY.

Waahhhh! :-(

Sunday, February 14, 2010

how to comment on the blog

Happy Valentines Day! Or bah humbug. I'm a little of both. :-) I spent the weekend at a poultry show with good friends, and really truly had a great time this weekend. I heart my peeps, my true friends. I'll blog more about the show later.

I hope there's a farmboy out there somewhere that I get to spend a Valentines Day with some year, sigh, dreamy, sigh.

Okay, on to serious business. How to leave a comment on the blog:

At the bottom of each post it'll say how many comments there are. Click on that. Type your comment in the box that says "leave your comment" in big letters.

If you have a google account, sign in with that account (if you want)
I'm not sure what an OpenID is but I seem to see an LJ icon and a wordpress icon, so probably if you have any of these things you already know more about Open ID than I do.


If you don't have an account or don't want to log in, you can click on "name/URL" and leave your name, just as it says.
Or you can be all stealth mode and click on anonymous. If you want me to know who you are, just sign your name or initials or something in the comment itself. Otherwise yeah, stealth mode, it always makes me wonder...

Then click on "publish your comment."

It's super easy. Like the ad says, just do it. Makes me all warm and fuzzy and stuff to get comments.

Speaking of warm and fuzzy I think I'll go to bed.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

if it ain't one thing it's another

Okay, really, could I have any more mechanical problems? Come on cosmos, throw it all on me now.

I won't bore you with the details, but a fluke thing happened with some of my engraving equipment (not a grinder!) and that sets me back a bit while I wait for the new part to arrive on Friday.

I started a new piece today (as best I could, just did the transfer), and yes I'm still working on my own cat pendant. I'm not sure yet if I can show WIPs for the new one, I'll ask. Of course I could for mine if I ever got around to posting pics. Huh!

The good news is I have plenty of other stuff I can work on tomorrow, including washing chickens!

It was a pretty uneventful birthday, which is totally okay. It was a regular work day, and then I went out for a nice steak dinner with my mom and Jan, and sat around and talked afterwards. Got a couple phone calls and lots of emails. I don't care what the numbers say, it was a fine 29th birthday. ;-)

And the new graver sharpener thingy should arrive tomorrow. Woo hoo!!! I am so excited to try it out, and I have ten little blank gravers sitting here waiting to be sharpened! (Into ten different points for different uses).

Monday, February 08, 2010

chickening part 2: rethinking the rethinking

I knew this would be hard. That's why I've been avoiding it for the last few years. I've had this email all typed up ready to send out to the Rosecomb list for about a week and a half now, but I am incapable of hitting the send button. Because I still don't really know what I want to do the birds.

Let's look at the facts:

1) I cannot hatch birds until summer. That's not ideal, but that's how it has to be with my schedule. It means I have no birds to show in the fall, and can't raise many birds (because I have to keep the hatching season short, otherwise they are too young even to show in the winter, and then what's the point)
2) I don't show/raise/sell enough to justify keeping the number of birds that I currently have.
3) I don't plan on showing more than 3 times per year.


1) I do want to keep raising and showing birds, just in a small quantity. All this thinking about cutting back to nearly nothing really makes me feel soooo sad, I don't want to be sad.

I have even been dreaming about this stuff lately. I dreamed I was selling my last two birds, Pablo and Diego (BBRed roosters). It was awful, I was heartbroken, I would have done anything to bring them back home. Now, in real life I've thus far parted with nothing, and those two old boys will never leave, they are keepers. But there seems to be this pretty overwhelming feeling of NOT wanting to do this, and potentially regretting the heck out of it.

Months ago, I had actually more or less decided to keep 10-20 totally random assorted birds, house them all together (no "breeding pens" of specific colors) and hatch whatever. But part of the appeal of this plan was that I actually wanted to free-range them, and have several roosters in the group. Due to not wanting to feed the local hawk population any more of my valuable birds, I can't do that. They have to be kept in, and if I'm going to do that I may as well keep them purebred.

See, two things that friends have said to me lately have really stuck. One is that if I've accomplished what I wanted out of my years of raising chickens, then it's okay to move on. But I haven't accomplished that. Oh sure, I've won shows, but I have not gotten the BBRed Rosecombs to the level of quality that I want them to be. Granted, all bird breeding programs are always a work in progress, always striving to be better, but I feel only half done (okay maybe 3/4) with the BBReds. And perhaps this is selfish, but if I sell them they will eventually cease to be my line. They become someone else's, as someone else fine tunes them toward their own ideal, which may not be my ideal. So I can hardly send them out into the world and expect someone else to do what *I* want done with them. Only I can do that, and that color in particular, well, it's kind of my baby.

The other comment was how weird it is not to see BBRed Rosecombs at the shows anymore. Yes it is! I didn't hatch any last year (because I had to outcross them to Black again) so it's NEXT generation (this year's hatch) that would produce showable BBReds again. It's really hitting me hard that I still want to do that. I want to keep working with this color. I'm not finished.

I think that despite the potential fun aspect of hatching a bunch of mixed-variety chicks, I would probably end up frustrated and trying to breed for specific colors anyway, so why not just stick with purebreds anyway, ya know.

So here's the start of a new plan:

Keep about 2/3 of the existing BBRed flock. They become the focus of my chicken efforts.
Keep about 1/3 of the existing Brassy and Blue Brassy flock, because I love Blue Brassy Backs.
Keep about 1/4 to 1/3 of the current Black flock. Genetically they are the basis for everything, therefore important, but if winning is not a priority then I don't need to be raising large quantities of them.

I'd still end up with about 20 birds, which is fine. That's less than half of the current flock. I would still end up selling a good number of really top notch breeder birds to really serious breeders who are active in showing and committed to raising them (yes I'm going to be REALLY picky). I could still sell eggs in the spring. And raise birds in the summer. And show a couple times in the winter. And rethink it next fall or in the early spring of 2011 if need be.

Hmmm, yes, something to think about. It doesn't solve the problem of me being rather tied down with the birds (you know, if Prince Charming rides up and says let's go to the castle, I'd be like "but wait, I need chicken coops there so I can take my birds!") but, I don't seem to be ready to do anything more drastic than sell more than half of the birds without turning into a blubbering blog of regret, so for the time being this may be a plan I can live with. And well, Prince Charming or otherwise, I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get there.

Oh, who's Pablo? This is him. He won Reserve Champion of Show at the Gold Coast Poultry Fanciers show in January 2006. Diego is his son. That was an awesome amazing win, but between you and me (don't tell the bird) I've never thought he had a very good head. See, he's not *my* ideal bird. That's why I want to keep trying. :-)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

working in the barn

I spent a lot of time in the barn this weekend. I like being in the barn. The barn on the ranch where I grew up was one of my favorite places to be. It was huge and there were all sorts of nifty old gadgets in there... some of which I wish I would have brought here, like a couple of old horse harness collars. They were not useable, but were cool. Why didn't I bring that stuff? Probably was told not to I guess, hmm.

Okay, total tangent there, sorry, that just popped into my head.

So there's been this big saga with me and bench grinders. I don't know how much of this I've blogged about (versus mentioned on facebook so I'll just recap):

I need a power tool of some sort to use for sharpening engraving tools, because it takes me HOURS of precious time and makes my arm very sore if I have to get a graver from square to super fine pointy all with hand stones. Me no like. Now, the proper thing to do of course would be to get a power hone, which is made just special for that job. But I'm a tightwad and I don't really want to fork over several hundred dollars to buy one.

But I know it's possible to use a bench grinder also, and since there was an ancient one in the barn I thought I'd give it a whirl. I knew it was wonky, it was welded to a stand and if you wanted to use it (I think I used it once in the last 12 years) you had to actually put your foot on the stand (or ideally have someone else to it, because you kinda had to lean all your weight onto the stand) otherwise it would rotate itself in circles. Inconvenient, no? I thought it was a problem with the stand. So I bolted it to the workbench, flipped the switch, and it shook the room. Stuff fell off the workbench, tools on the walls vibrated madly. Um, not good. That's a problem.

So I asked for a bench grinder for my birthday (which is this Tuesday! Now you can't say I didn't warn you!) and off I went to Harbor Freight to fetch one last week, a bit early, yes... Got that thing all bolted down to the bench, turned it on, and it hummed to life. Nothing falling off the table. Ahhh. But then I swapped out one of the wheels it came with for the diamond wheel (what I need for sharpening gravers) and suddenly it was the same problem with tools falling off the wall. Crap! I think the problem is either that the diamond wheel is soooo heavy that it's throwing the whole thing off balance, or the diamond wheel itself is out of whack (doubtful, it's brand new). Anyway, bottom line is that isn't going to work with the diamond wheel, and I've about had it with machines lately.

I will likely keep the new grinder simply to replace the old one, which had some problems to begin with long before it ever met the diamond wheel. Meanwhile, an engraver friend has a tiny grinder set up with a diamond drum, tested, confirmed to work, no shake, very small and light weight, so I'll be getting that in the mail next week and if I like it I'll buy it... or I guess it'll be my new present. Whatever. I just wanna sharpen gravers! Waahhh!

Anyway, after I threw in the towel on that I still spent a lot of time out in the barn this weekend with other sorts of power tools because I decided to build a barn owl nest box. I'd been seeing a female barn owl around sometimes, and lately there has been a pair around the barn in the morning. The downside of owls is they are super messy, and I really debated if I wanted to do this. And I suppose they could be a predator if I had chicks or ducklings running loose. But I already have such a hawk problem I really can't do that anymore anyway, so I think that's not such a concern, and I think their mess will hopefully be offset by their expertise with rodent control. When you have animals, and hay in the barn, and live along a creek, you have rodents...

Unfortunately I have not inherited any of the construction skills that some members of my family possess, and that whole "measure twice and cut once thing" will always elude me when it comes to this kind of thing, but nevertheless I whipped up the ugliest darn barn owl box EVER entirely from scraps and managed to hang it all by myself, so I'm rather proud of that. And sore. Very sore. I hope the owls use it, and I hope I don't regret inviting them to move on in...

scrap dollars
leftover dollars
hours of my own dollars
ugly but functional box.................priceless

it was a good show!

Well, the reception for my "Among Animals" art show was Friday evening. I'd set up the work on Tuesday, and then hauled in a bunch more little stuff for the reception on Friday. The weather was decent, the turnout looked pretty good to me! Huge thank you to those of you who came to visit, it means a lot to me. :-) It was great to see some familiar faces (some of whom I had not seen since high school, OMG! The wonders of Facebook!) and I got to talk to a lot of new people. People seemed to enjoy the art (and all the desserts I brought!), and I heard people commenting about the variation of work all from one artist; I had drawings, paintings, hand-pulled prints, and scrimshaw on display.

I had to explain what hand-pulled prints are: artwork that is printed by hand, not with a machine, from an "original" created on linoleum, wood, metal, limestone, etc. And I had to explain about ivory a few times. There's a common misconception that ivory is illegal. Ivory that has been in the US since before the ban in the early 70s is legal to buy and sell within the US, but there can be no import or export, and I buy from a reputable dealer who can verify their sources.

Anyway. The setup looked really nice. The gallery space is a dance studio, and is where I take bellydance lessons every Thursday evening, so I'm quite familiar with the space and get to see my work every Thursday this month, ha ha.

I took these pics before anyone showed up:

And here are some that CS took when people were around:

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

another scrimshaw Sheltie dog!

Heeeeere's Trevor! :-)

scrimshaw on pre-ban elephant ivory
22mm by 30mm

I couldn't do work in progress stuff while I was working on this one, had to keep it secret. So I ended up being pretty lax about taking photos while working on it... I think I took one... I think.

I wish you could all see this stuff in person. The pics are darn good, but they are soooo much cooler in person!

I think I might have to change the business name to "Scrimshaw Shelties by Katherine Plumer." Or maybe just scrimshaw dogs... ha ha. (I'm kidding). However, the next project after my cat is yet another dog! And a cheetah. Not together, that's two separate projects.

I've been busy getting ready for Friday's art show opening. I set up everything on Tuesday and it looks great. I will have small items down there for the reception on Friday, plus I'm responsible for bringing dessert (YAY!) so I need to do a bunch of baking.

Oh and I got a new bench grinder today! It's an early birthday present. It replaces the OLD one that shook so hard it rattled the tools off the wall of the workshop (yes, really, it did). Sweet. I'm not quite done setting it up yet, because I need my brilliant neighbor to help me with something, but soon I will be able to sharpen gravers, woo hoo! I ordered another pack of blanks and one more template, so I'm excited about being able to try out different graver geometries. So far I've been abusing practice plates with a, uh... I think it's a 126° graver. I'm getting a teensy bit better, but definitely want to try some other things to see what different tools produce.

Monday, February 01, 2010

dragon scrimshaw pendant redone

Remember how I said I picked up my Chinese dragon pendant and looked at it under the microscope a couple weeks ago? And how surprised I was by what I saw? The dragon was originally done when I was working in my neighbor's barn, hoofing it across the field every day with a bag full of supplies. I knew that people were using colored drawings inks for color scrim, but I wanted to blaze my own trail and was determined to use etching ink. I'm stubborn like that. It didn't work out as planned. Mind you, it had turned out cool even then, but I didn't have the technique down like I do now, so I didn't get the real saturated color, plus trying to "layer" the etching ink was #$%& hard and I lost a lot of detail in the process.

I've come a long way, baby. ;-)

This is how it looked upon completion in the fall of 2007:

It was kind of a dilemma, figuring out what to do, but unlike some of the early B/W stuff (which is fine) this color piece wasn't up to snuff. If I'd felt anything was unsatisfactory about the composition or design, I would have simply kept it, but that wasn't the problem. So even though it represented my first color piece, I decided to rework it and bring it up to my current standards, therefore keeping it on the market. You know how sometimes you watch old movies that have been "restored to the artist's original vision?" Well that's how this is. This is what I meant for it to look like when I originally scrimmed it, I just didn't know how to do it back then. ;-) Since the original was done with a different type of ink, I ended up really scrimming it quite deeply to remove all the old ink. You'll see...

First I redid all the black areas. Of course this made everything very very dark! That's okay.

Because then I really dug into it and removed all the old red etching ink.

And re-inked it with liquid drawing ink, sealed with microcrystalline wax.

And then I finished up the belly and face and here it is all finished!