Monday, April 28, 2008

Blogging as Weapon

This morning I read that a dear friend of mine, avid blogger with the job title "Digital Culture Evangelist," has officially employed her blog as a weapon. She called out in cyberspace an impassioned threat: Stop it, or I will blog about you!"

To see the full entry go to:

What began as a communication tool between those of like minds has now become not only a forum for debate but also a weapon to inflict cyber-wounds on the names and reputations of others.

Every human innovation eventually has a military use. Even blogging.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tomato Trees

Last year we lost half of our tomatoes when the vines fell and bugs got to them while they were ripening on the ground. The home and garden industry makes all sorts of contraptions that attempt to keep tomato vines from falling, and as far as we've seen, there are dozens that don't work. This past winter, however, we caught wind of a new method for saving those falling plants from the ground: take away the ground.

The method works by growing the tomato plants upside-down from hanging pots; if the plants are growing downward already, then falling is not a problem. We've heard a couple of testimonials from successful upside-down tomato growers, so we decided to try it ourselves.

Yet retail contraptions that all inverted tomato growth can cost upwards of 40$ per plant grown. Forget that! We're going to do it ourselves. The photographs that follow are from the afternoon that I spent with David (a local guy who loves to help out with projects) setting up the poles that will become our tomato trees.

Here's a shot of the garden before any tomato trees appear (that's David with the clams):

In case you ever wondered what half a hole looks like--here's one:
I finally got my own pair of post-hole diggers ("clams")--I will never dig another hole without them and a trusty digging bar.
A friend donated some leftover electrical poles to our cause. We chopped 'em into 9-foot lengths and hauled 'em out:

They get mighty heavy, even after just a hundred yards.

But we sunk 'em, tamped 'em, and put the first crossbar on. Here's David with the gorgeous product of our labours (there will be four buckets on each tree by the time the project's done):

And the obligatory Sonlight t-shirt shot ("We have skills") with yours truly:

Stay tuned for more on the prosperity of the tomato trees!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I've decided that spring is by far my favorite season. I love, loVE, LOVE!! LOVE!! spring. The green from the hay field behind our house is creeping down our hillside and the yucky muddy brown is giving way to green -not really grass, most likely random weeds, but from the house you can't tell the difference and landscaping that area isn't in the works for this summer! So green is better than mud!

My daffodils and primrose are blooming and so is my favorite tree. Literally in 48 hours it goes from looking totally dead to tiny buds and having these huge gorgeous flowers! If someone know's what kind of tree this is, feel free to chime in and help me out. I've been too busy enjoying nature waking up around me to take the time to research it :).

In the world of backyard veggies, the snow peas are coming up and the spinach and lettuce are in the ground doing their seedling thing. AND (yes there's more excitement to my week) Frog Pond opens on Friday! For those not from around here Frog Pond is the local nursery and farm stand for produce. No more paying through the nose for produce! Somehow they keep their prices super low and I love them for it! And they will have my broccoli and cauliflower plants for me (hopefully) so that they can be introduced to their "summer home" in my garden this weekend!

AND it's almost 8pm and it's still light outside - I LOVE IT!!

Hope you all are enjoying the little things about spring too!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Treehouse: Phase II

Every pastor needs a treehouse. Or at least something that gets the mind off the job--preferably something creative. I have a colleague who knits voraciously, another who is a jazz musician; I have a treehouse. Last year I completed Phase I, a platform around the trunk of a single maple tree. (I say "completed"; in fact, it still needs to be stained. But the construction proper is finished.)

Now that it's starting to feel like spring, we've begun Phase II. With the help of a kindred spirit in treehouse building, Kurt Rogler, the basic support structure of Phase II is almost complete.

Here is the support for one end. Instead of bolting this end of the joists to this trio of trees (which are cherry trees), I decided to let gravity and friction to the work. At the level of the yellow ties you can see the side of a triangular brace that will bear the weight of the platform. It is wedged between the trunks, with a little just-in-case support from a pair of 2x4 legs that sit in the crotch of the cherry trio.

Atop this triangular brace (at left here) sit three 2x8s, which run to the other end of the platform, and will be bolted to three different hemlock trees. They will not be rigidly fixed to the triangular brace, allowing for slight sway in the trees without tearing the platform apart. (Kurt's expertise came in handy for this conceptual design point.) This is a view from the bottom:
These joists are about eleven feet off the ground; to work on them, we were reaching from the highest position we could get on our ladders:
Here's Kurt (standing about 6'3"), with Phase I above and to the left, and Phase II above and to the right:

As you can see, today was a good day. Tomorrow is garden work (tomato posts, to be specific); but for now, it was enough to spend two hours living out a childhood dream. Viva l'arborvilla!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Learning the Loom

Thanks to a gracious gift from friends of mine in the congregation, I now possess a Structo Artcraft Loom. I think it was made in the '60s or '70s (certainly before I was born), from steel. With the help of a lesson from Jim and Sandy, and a deconstructed pair of knit gloves, I had what I needed to try my hands at weaving. Here are a few pictures of the results:

Too narrow (and tight) to be a scarf, too rough to be art--what is it?
After finding a handwritten (!) instruction book on different pattern charts online, I figured out how to experiment with different patterns. You can see some of the rough spots in this photo.

~ emrys

Glassblowing Photos

Here are the pictures I promised from my first glassblowing experience in Orlando (see earlier post, 1 or 2 April).

Here is my glass coming out of the furnace, at a blazing 2600 degrees (though according to Charlie, "it's only Fahrenheit").

Here's Charlie and I smoothing out the sides of the glass (still deep red with heat). That's my hand with the watch, and my hand holding the wet (and very hot) paper under the glass. Charlie's doing the rolling of the pipe.
Here's Charlie (in the plaid with the dreds) and Charles (yes, there are two) breaking my glass off the pipe, so we can begin working on the mouth of the glass.I'm in the bright blue, using the "jacks" to open up the mouth of the glass and get it into a circular shape.

Et voila! One day later, we have the finished product. The steely blue flecks are chrome, which I'm so pleased Charlie put in there for me.

For all you inquiring minds: Yes, I can drink out of it, but it's only recommended that I put cold liquids in it. Since it's "art glass," meant for display and not for rigorous use, there is great risk in putting hot water in it or subjecting it to too much abuse. So I think I'll only use it for special occasions.

~ emrys

Monday, April 14, 2008

On The Threshold

We sit on the threshold of a new season. Surrounded by the Peeper frogs, who three nights ago were partying in the warm moisture, last night were rendered silent again by cold. Rumor has it that the Peepers have to “freeze” three times before spring is really here. A gorgeous red cardinal sits among grey, bare branches, feeling out the air. It tests its surroundings to see if it is time to be out from winter yet. Three crocuses have made their purple presence known in the chill of early spring. Daffodils and tulips with swollen buds just waiting for the right bit of sunshine before they explode color into the grey landscape of early spring.

I sit at the picture window in my kitchen surrounded by seedlings: tomatoes, green peppers, marigolds, lupine, broccoli. We wait. We rest. We enjoy the blue-skied, chilly-aired day that just feels like a spring-vault into the next season. The weather map promises warmer days and sunshine all week.

But this time of year even the rainy days bring promises of green grass and budding flowers once the skies clear. Color is starting to infiltrate the monochrome of winter, just more indicators that spring is on the way!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Big Sky

Most days in our neighbourhood are cloudy. We get a lot of that grey blanket of cloud that seems to seal the lid of the world tight above us. So often those clouds do not bring rain, but neither do they admit the sun.

Some days are crystal clear, the dome of the firmament so high and light blue that it seems not even to be there. The sky then is an ethereal film above your head; the sun dominates with her bright rays, making the earth shine and glow.

Then, ever more rare, are the Big Sky days. These are the days I miss Colorado the most, for Colorado has these days all the time. A Big Sky is a bright blue sky scattered with a patchwork of giant clouds, fluffly cumulonimbus working their way with deliberate speed across the heavens. They are luminescent and white on top, shaded on the bottom where the sun cannot penetrate the tight droplets of moisture. They have texture and depth--oh, such great depth!--so that looking up is like looking down into a sea of air. The Big Sky is close, so close you might touch those floating titanics, if only you could reach a little higher. The wind that carries the mighty air ships caresses the ground and your hair, as if to say, Yes, yes, you can reach a little higher! Try it!

And you want to watch the clouds all day, to see where they are going, to read whose names are etched on the sides of the heavenly barges, to dream of leaving this earthly port to sail around the world far above it with angels and dreamers. Perhaps your name is on one of those ships; or perhaps it is the name of your friend, your lover, your long-lost relative.

And I sigh into the wind, feeling the warmth of the sun, then the cool of a cloud-shadow, then the warmth of the sun again. And I take Sara's hand, and we walk on across the high field, savouring the promise of spring under the gift of a Big Sky.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Blowing Glass

Before we came to Orlando, I had to come up with something to do on my birthday. (This is part of the deal for Birthday Week--no matter where we are, the three birthday kids, David, myself, and Sara, have to set the agenda for the day of our anniversary.) Having discounted the central Florida usuals (D-World, S-World, and golf), I searched the internet for what artsy stuff was going on in the city of Orlando.

"Keila Glassworks." That sounds interesting.

I clicked on the link (you can, too, at the bottom of this entry), hoping to find a cool hand-blown glass gallery to peruse and enjoy.

I found what I was looking for--and so much more.

On the Keila Glassworks website I saw a link to "Classes." Classes? You mean, I might actually be able to try my hand at this ancient craft? Yes! I clicked a couple more times, the heavens opened, I heard an angelic choir, and I found my birthday activity: getting a lesson in glass blowing and creating my very own piece. Awesome!

Charlie, one of the head honchos at Keila, met us at the gallery with a smile, a firm handshake, and lots of jokes about his long dredlocks ("this bear on my back"). He led us behind the studio to the work shop, where he gave me a tour of the process by which glass pieces (in this case, a drinking tumbler) are created. Then, with Sara and the in-laws looking on, he sat me down to do some of the hand work of shaping molten glass into a gorgeous, usable piece. Charlie's generous demeanour and genuine hospitality made our time there a joy.

Now, to be honest, I only did a little bit of the work. But, as Charlie told me early on, glass blowing is not something one can learn in one lesson. He said, "If I do 80% of the work and you do 20% of it, and you come out with a basic knowledge of how glass is made, then we've been successful." And that's about the ratio of effort: 80% Charlie, 20% Emrys (hm, maybe 85/15). But in that one-fifth of the process I got to feel how gentle and soft is molten glass; I got to test my hand-eye coordination by trying to shape a blob of glass on a rolling steel pipe; I got to feel how hot the glass really is coming out of the furnace. (I got a mild sunburn on my right forearm from being within ten inches of the glass while working it. The glass really is like lava.)

There will be pictures in future posts, since the peanut gallery watched and documented the whole show. (And they kept their heckling to a minimum.) But more important than the pictures--and even than the glass I now have as a souvenir--was the chance to set my hands to this ancient art, to feel the heat, to try the skills, and to learn first-hand about something that until Sunday was just a mysterious curiosity.

To Charlie, Meg, and Charles (The Second) at Keila Glassworks, great thanks. I raise my glass to you!

To y'all who are reading this post, I ask you for a favour. Even if you have a persistent distaste for glass (who on earth would have that?), help me in promoting the enriching experience of Keila Glassworks by clicking on their link below.

~ emrys

Orlando Face Lift

Four days ago our plane landed in Florida. We boarded the monorail that runs between the terminal and pick-up areas of the Orlando airport. As the doors closed, I noticed a group of men standing together joking and laughing. Their faces were lit with the joy of Florida sun, the promise of golf courses for their Titleist ball caps, and the hope of attractions at Epcot Center. They joked with a stranger and his son about how much things would cost, and how this five-year-old would tap his father for money on this vacation; all in the kind-hearted banter that grows on trees in the Sunshine State.

I thought about what these guys did on the weeks they weren’t on vacation. One was likely someone in the high-powered world of finances, where no one jokes about how much things cost. Another likely did some form of valuable labour—an auto mechanic, maybe?—whose boss is always passing on crap from the customers. A third is probably just making ends meet, who comes home and tells his own children that they can’t have all the money they want, because the stuff doesn’t grow on trees. They may all work in the world of hard labour and disappointment: the grind and the rat race for the ever-shrinking cheese at the end of the maze.

But today—this week—they step off the plane and step out of the maze. They come to a place where the grimace of hard work can give way to the smile of rest; where the furrowed brow of hoarding can surrender to the belly-laugh of spending. They have come to Orlando for their Sabbath rest. They have come to Orlando for a face lift.

And though I can see the scars, Lordy doesn’t that new look make a world of difference?
~ emrys