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Monday
Sep242018

In My Garden: Jalapeño Peppers

Have I ever said Laura and I like it hot? Well, I'm speaking of food here! Over the years we have become accustomed to a little heat and spice in our food so I purchased jalapeño seeds from johnnyseeds.com and planted three seeds in 4" x 4" pots which I kept in my greenhouse. When the plants were about 6" tall I planted them in the raised beds in the greenhouse. All three plants grew very well there and when they were about 18" tall they started flowering and producing fruit (peppers are considered a fruit even when they aren't sweet). 

When the fruit was mature Laura started picking the peppers and using them in her cooking. To our surprise some of the peppers were very hot and others had almost no heat, so we started separating them and making note of the different fruit from each plant to see if the plants were different or if some fruit on each plant was hot while others weren't, or some other reason.

What we found was one plant produces very hot peppers and the other two very mild peppers. So I removed the two mild jalapeño plants and kept the hot one and after three years it is still going strong and producing wonderful, hot and spicy jalapeño peppers. Laura uses them in everything from rice and bean dishes to pesto, soup, red sauces, enchiladas, and tofu stir-fries. You name it, she cooks with it. She even dries them in our dehydrator, since our small plant has grown into a small tree and produces more than we can use when they are fresh. Once dried, they are ground in our coffee grinder and saved in spice jars. The morning after she makes the jalapeño powder our coffee is spicy hot from grinding the coffee beans in the same grinder. Delicious! 

Below are a few photo's of drying the jalapeños. Remember to wear gloves when handling them.


Wednesday
Aug292018

Southwest Native American Entertainment Centers

For most of my commissions, the people involved in hiring me agree on the style they want in their home. But once in a while I meet a couple who have very differing opinions on what they want in the way of design and style.

I met one such couple who had recently moved to Rancho Santa Fe, California, and were remodeling the home they had just purchased. He is French, recently moved here from the Czech Republic, and he imported computer technology for a living. She is from England, and was a fashion model. Here comes the design problem: He loved very contemporary styles and she was fascinated by Native American Indian and Southwestern styles. My solution was to design contemporary furniture and built-ins with carvings of Native Americans and Southwest motifs. I started with one piece and went on to make six pieces of furniture along with their entryway.

The first piece, pictured above, is a TV stereo cabinet in the master bedroom The border is solid macassar ebony, the doors are solid birdseye maple, and the Native American woman is in solid maple. I used concealed hinges and a touch latch so no hardware would disrupt the feeling of the woman walking away to some unknown place. The contrast in the ebony and birdseye is stunning. 

The second piece, pictured below, is the entertainment center in the living room, made of solid Australian lacewood and Honduras rosewood. The Native American woman, sitting deep in thought in the lower right corner, is carved in Honduras mahogany. Also note the inlayed arrowhead design in the doors just below the top. The tambour doors in the middle cabinet allow the TV to be viewed from any part of the room since the doors don't block the TV. And the very top section was designed for artwork, in which my clients placed a beautiful Native American pot.

It can be challenging to accomodate more than one design style in a single piece of furniture, but I am always up for a challenge, it's what makes my job and my life interesting!


Monday
Aug202018

A Mantle with Deer in the Forest in Utah

Recently I wrote several blogs about a family lodge in the remote mountains near Park City, Utah. One was about a hand-carved guest house entryway designed with a fox, and the other was the main house entryway designed with Sand Hill cranes. This blog is about the mantle I designed and built for the same home. 

It's made of solid walnut, with three deer (two doe and a fawn) standing on a hill at the edge of the forest looking out below them. The deer are mule deer, native to the surrounding mountains. In the design I created a strong contrast between the flat surface and the heavy relief on the right side. The contrast gives a dynamic that I like, and the surface that is free of carving gives a place to imagine the vast forest below and to wonder what it is that the deer are listening to. 

I shipped the mantle to Utah, and since I wasn't there to install it myself I only have photos of it taken from inside my shop.


Wednesday
Aug012018

In My Garden: Cherries!

Above: Minnie Royal cherry tree

Many people don't believe me when I say I have productive cherry trees in my yard. Their response is always "Cherry trees only grow in cold climates, not on the coast in Southern California." But the fact is we have two very good varieties of delicious dark red cherries with a very low chill requirement (hours per year under 45 degrees). They are the Minnie Royal and the Royal Lee. These two varieties should be planted close together, as they pollinate each other.

When the cherries start to darken I put up bird netting with 3/4" hole spacing, or smaller, to keep the birds away. This size spacing also prevents the birds from getting caught in the netting, as can happen with larger spaced netting. I tie the netting around the trunk of the tree so no one gets in from underneath and possibly trapped inside the net. I leave several overlapping folds in the netting so I can reach in to pick fruit without having to untie the net every time. 

I also want to say that I have several fruit trees on my property from which the birds can eat the fruit to their hearts content. Maybe when my cherry trees mature and I am harvesting lots of cherries I will share with the birds who nest and live in my yard. But my trees are still young and while I got a significant amount of cherries this year, the nets stay on and the cherries are off limits to the birds until I the trees are producing enough to share. 

Above: Minnie Royal cherry tree, 2014

Above:  Four years later, 2018, the same Minnie Royal cherry tree as in above photo. Unfortunately, I had picked all the cherries off before taking the photo. 

Above: Ripe cherries!

Tuesday
Jul242018

A Tropical Master Bath

Above:  Filigree hand carving of tropical leaf design on master bathroom entry door

This project stemmed from the homeowner's love of palms. He is fascinated by palms and has been collecting and planting them for years. I believe the property this home is located on has one of the largest collection of palms in San Diego.  Each palm has an identification marker, and lines the trails on his hilltop home. He is a contractor who has many interests besides palms, including hiking, playing the piano and the harp, and a keen interest in history. But palms are his main interest and much of the inside design of his home reflects that. I designed and built his front entryway, incorporating a tropical theme, and so when he asked me to design his master bathroom I planned to stay with the same tropical style. 

The master bathroom vanity is made of solid Granadillo, a beautiful wood that compares to Brazilian Rosewood. At the time, I had a great wood supplier who only bought permitted trees at a local saw mill in Mexico. To say this wood is beautiful is an understatement. It is also a very hard wood, requiring special joinery. 

I went with a contemporary design, keeping with the tropical details so as to fit with the surrounding property and my client's passion with his palms. The door going into the bathroom is very unique. It is made in solid Jatoba with a hand-carved filigree pattern of tropical leaves. The homeowners wanted some privacy but also air circulation, and I immediately thought of doing a filigreed panel. It was the perfect design, able to be viewed and enjoyed from the inside as well as the outside of the bathroom. The mirrors are also hand-carved, using the leaf pattern once again.

Getting away from the usual and standard home styles is something I really enjoy, and on this project I was able to use my creative imagination and abilities, along with my client's desires, to come up with something out of the ordinary, a master bathroom like no other.