Sandhill Cranes in Utah

I was commissioned to create three projects for a family retreat in the mountains in Utah. I was told it is a very remote area and not accessible during the winter months when snow is on the ground. From the photos I saw and the description of the area it is absolutely beautiful. I have been lucky to have done several projects in Park City and Deer Valley, Utah and Sun Valley, Idaho, and was very glad to be doing more work in such gorgeous country.

All three of these projects allowed me to use my skills in woodworking, woodcarving and glass arts. The first project was the Fox entry I wrote about in my last blog (February, 2018), which was the entryway to the guest lodge. The second project was the entryway for the main lodge, with hand-carved Sandhill cranes and an olive tree. The third project, a hand-carved mantel, I will write about in my next blog.

The pair of doors with the Sandhill cranes, made of solid black walnut, was especially challenging because the design crosses from door to door in heavy relief on both sides of the doors, with my heavily carved and fused glass as well. The perspective turned out great. The photos I am including in this blog are good, but never do justice to the doors in real life, as I am unable to capture the degree of detail with a photograph. To see it in person, to be able to touch the work, is a much different experience than simply seeing it in print. 


Fox Entryway in Utah

I was commissioned to design and build the main house entry, the guest house entry and a carved mantel, all out of solid walnut, for a fantastic mountain retreat being built in Utah. This blog is about the guest house front entryway.

The owner saw a photo of the fox door on my website that I had carved many years ago and wanted something similar. I never repeat my designs exactly, rather I take a design and change it to reflect each client and their surroundings where the home is. In this case the mountains of Utah and the foxes and trees that would be seen in that area. I also incorporated 1/2" thick carved and fused glass techniques, something I didn't use in the other fox entry door.

Walnut is one of several woods I love carving because it's hard, firm grain allows great detail, and it's a stable and beautiful wood. 

Before drawing the full-scale of a carved entryway with specific characteristics, I study the components of the design using photos taken from the area and other reference books that I have in my library. In this case, I used those studies for the fox, trees, and landscape to be able to carve and express the feeling of the fox and the trees that I am putting in my work. I do this with every project no matter how detailed or simple it is. The challenge of carving the fox is to express the feeling or expression of the fox, giving "life" to my sculpture, and not just carving the shapes.

For the glass art, I fire a pallet of all the colors I plan on using in the design in my kiln to make sure they will turn out exactly right for the project. Sound complicated? Yes, but that's what I love!


Winter Tomatoes


Everyone knows tomatoes like long warm days to flourish. I usually plant a crop in the spring and then again, if possible, in mid-summer. The mid-summer tomatoes in Encinitas, which is close to the ocean, are usually better because we have Santa Ana's, which are hot, dry winds blowing in from the East instead of cool winds from the ocean in the West. This brings very hot weather to us in October and November, sometimes stretching into December. Early summer here oftentimes can be cool and overcast, so I really count on that late tomato crop's bounty.

This past fall and winter is extraordinary. Besides a couple weeks of cool weather (only Southern Californians would call our weather this time of year cool) we have had a very warm season and apparently the tomatoes agree. We use tomatoes mostly for salsa fresca so I mostly grow Romas, with a few heirloom tomato plants thrown in the mix for salads and avocado sandwiches. It's February and my outdoor tomatoes show no sign of slowing down. 


French Pear Bathroom, His and Hers


This home is in the Rancho Santa Fe/Fairbanks Ranch area. It is a Country Ranch Traditional style that the family wanted to change to have more of a Country French feeling. The first project was a French china cabinet in walnut that I designed and built. After delivering the china cabinet they loved it so much and asked if I would help design their master bedroom. 

For the master bathroom they wanted a "His and Hers" sink, a surround for the bathtub area and a linen cabinet. For the vanities I chose French pear, which comes from the French Alps, from old pear orchards that were dying and being taken out. It is beautiful wood; dense, live edge pieces of solid wood. I purchased plenty of slabs so everything was a match. With live-edge lumber it is difficult to determine the amount needed because the slabs vary so much in thickness and width, unlike conventional lumber where there isn't much variance. 

Each piece in the bathroom was designed with different details and finishes. The vanities, as I said, are pear wood, natural color with a light glaze to highlight the details. The tub surround is curly maple with a light aniline dye, distressed, with a hint of paint on the edges and glazed, with a hand-carved floral design. The linen cabinet is made of big-leaf maple, with a light aniline dye, a distressed, painted and crackle finish, with a hand-carved basket of wildflowers.

It's hard to explain the amount of pleasure I get in coming up with a design, finding the right materials, building, finishing, and installing the projects. It's difficult work but I really enjoy it. I feel very fortunate to work with so many really nice people, and these clients made me feel like a part of their family when I was there. 

Above: Tub Surround

Above:  Linen Closet


In My Garden: Fall is upon us


Fall is upon us but it's not the time to put your garden tools away. In fact, fall, winter and spring are really great times for vegetable gardens.

First prep the garden bed with plenty of compost, worm castings and mix a few shovels of cottonseed meal and alfalfa meal into the soil to boost the nitrogen, potassium and potash. Try to prep your bed(s)s one or two weeks before planting and water the bed(s) twice a week to help the soil balance itself out, because digging always upsets the natural balance of bacteria necessary for plants to assimilate the nutrients in the soil. Prepping a week or so ahead of your planting schedule will give the soil time to recover from the intrusiveness of your dig. 

I usually start almost everything in flats that I keep in my greenhouse until the plants are three to four inches high. They should have a good root system by then. You can use your patio, garage, or window inside the house in a similar way, anyplace with good natural light. When you finally take them outside be sure to let the plants get used to full sunlight by placing them somewhere outside that gets only a couple hours of sun at first, and then over the next week slowly increase the exposure to full sun.

Now is the time to plant lettuce, arugula, kale, cabbage, garlic, onions, scallions, broccoli, cilantro, parsley, peas, fava beans, and broccoli raab, just to name a few of the fall vegetables.

Above: Lettuce "starts"

Above: My new cucumber plants in my greenhouse.

Above and below: Broccoli raab plants just starting to peek through the soil.

Above: Young celery plants

Above: Young cilantro plants

Above: Protecting my Snow Pea's young sprouts from the crows, who love to pull the little sprouts up for fun!