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!


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. 



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.