Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rain, Snow, Repeat

Old Man Winter is not ready to give up on us here in Wisconsin this year.  Many people feel he's definitely outstayed his welcome, there's a lot of griping and gnashing of teeth going on, but it won't do any good.   Might as well grin and bear it.  
Hosta bed
On Tuesday night we had a doozy of a thunderstorm with lots of wind, rain and pelting sleet followed by about 2" of snow.   I was really surprised to see how much snow had accumulated this morning.

I wasn't the only one surprised, either. 

The Girls were astounded and there was much gnashing of beaks as they surveyed the situation outside the coop.  They'd been having such a good time for the last week or so, working the hosta bed mulch over and scratching and hunting to their heart's content all over the two acres wherever the snow had melted.  But now they were back to Square One.  Snow everywhere.

Normally when I open the coop in the morning, the Girls beat me back to the house, they are very industrious workers and are always on a mission.   They have Things To Do and Places To Be.  This morning they were confused.  
"What?  Snow AGAIN?"

Aw, Poop on it, we're going back to bed. 
It's hard to be a chicken in Wisconsin.

And speaking of being chicken, I am really being one this year as far as planting seeds goes.  On Sunday, Carl, Joel, Ann and I put the greenhouse up.  We had to get the snowblower out to blaze a trail through four foot tall drifts just to get to the shed last week but we were glad we did it before the frost came out of the ground or the trailer would be up to its axles in mud.  The components of the greenhouse sat in the driveway until Sunday when the rain stopped.
Joel on the tractor and Carl getting ready to move a greenhouse end
 We had to wait until the driveway snow melted enough so we could put the greenhouse up, but even by last weekend, we'd had no luck.  So, we took the tractor and shoved the snow around and chopped and hacked our way back down to the gravel. 
Greenhouse 'ribs' piled up against Willie the Willow
With the four of us working on the greenhouse construction we had it done in about five hours.  This isn't my favorite job by any means, and I know we could leave it up year round, but where to place the hoop-house opens up a whole 'nother kettle of fish, so we won't go there.  (Carl wants to move the garage......yes, you read that right, he wants to move the garage, and put the greenhouse where the garage is now.)   Capital Idea, dear Carl, but since we still have Castle Aaargh waiting in the wings, I think we have more than enough projects for right now.  Maybe in the future.  (Or maybe not, shhhh, you didn't hear that.)

There she be, in all her glory, April 10.
So, the greenhouse is up and I have about half of the flats filled with soil and on the heated tables waiting for seeds.      The seeds are sitting in the house waiting for me to make up my mind.  It's not really too late to plant my annuals yet, but for some of the trailing petunias and other things, the time is getting short.  We're less than seven weeks away from planting time, which for me, is June 1.  Many folks plant their annual flowers out in their gardens a bit earlier than that, but a late spring frost is not unheard of and even in June, our temperatures are usually far from balmy.  I hate to take a chance on planting out only to have a nasty frost kill off a few thousand annual plants, so Cautious Karen waits for June.

I had all good intentions of planting at least the petunias today, though.  But with Tuesday's thunderstorms in the afternoon and then the bedlam last night, I wasn't so sure.  For one thing, the greenhouse sits fairly smack dab under Willie.
Willie, 34 years old and getting bigger every year.  And we should have pruned him properly back in the day.
 And Willie was encrusted with ice this morning, along with every other tree in the yard.  Weeping willows are notorious for losing branches, it's what they do.  Why did we plant a weeping willow?  Carl's late uncle Jack gave us a rooted whip from his tree (which he shortly thereafter cut down as he was living on a small city lot) and we were youngsters and green as grass when it came to knowing what to plant where, so we stuck the little whip in our alfalfa field turned lawn-to-be and hoped for the best.  We never thought Willie would grow.  But we were wrong.
All the trees were covered in ice.

I went into the greenhouse this morning and was filling flats with seed starter, but the ice falling from Willie's branches as the temperatures rose and the wind blew was deafening.  (And kinda scary.)  I was really getting worried that the next noise I heard would be a branch coming to visit, so I got outta there.  Despite being leery of Willie's branch tossing antics, we really do like the tree.  Yes, willows are messy and brittle and kind of a nuisance, but as you can see, Willie is already starting to show color and is the first tree to leaf out and the last one to drop leaves in the fall.  Watching a breeze ruffle the leaves is mesmerizing on a hot day, the movement is peaceful and fluid.  And Willie is a major shade provider.   We'd miss him if he was blown down.  But we'd be sure to take some branches, root them in water, and start another one.  (And make sure we prune it correctly this time.)

As I was fleeing the greenhouse, the snowplow went by.  There were power outages all over the area today, though we were lucky, but tonight we're forecast to have even colder temperatures and more snow/sleet/bedlam so who knows how long our power will stay on?  And if the power goes out, there goes the heated pans in the greenhouse and I'd have to scramble to find room for about 40 flats in our teensy, stained glass-congested house (yes, I'm still whittling away on the big Wisteria).  The forecast for tomorrow is 100% snow and temps dipping down to 25.   And the extended forecast calls for more of the same, up til the middle of next week. 

I think I'll take a wait and see attitude.  I detest planting seeds on my kitchen table.  It's more fun to make a mess out in the greenhouse.  This weather won't last forever.  Actually, I'd be more heartbroken if the spring flowers were blooming already because the snow and sleet would have devastated the show.  When Spring finally does arrive, it's gonna be glorious!

Oh well, what's a girl to do when she can't plant her petunias? 

 I went skiing.

Keep Smilin'!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Daffodils, At Last!

Fresh off the form and in need of a bath.
By the time I get done writing this post, it will be April 1.  Oh, boy.  April is one of those months that absolutely speeds by for me.  We have snow on the ground yet, oodles of it.   In eight weeks I should be planting my annual flowers in the ground. Oh boy, yet again!  I am getting a bit nervous, and I think this week we will have to get a tractor out and plow a trail through the 4' deep drifts to the shed where the greenhouse is stored.  I really should have some of my seeds started by now.

The snow is melting, but it's rather drab out there. 
March 30.  Yep, lots of snow and NO I didn't get the Christmas deer put away yet, either.

And since we still have so much snow, there are definitely no daffodils in sight, either, though there are a few popping up next to the house foundation on the south side. 

So, since there's no daffodils outside to talk about yet we'll have to be satisfied with indoor daffodils, as in the Tiffany reproduction 'Daffodil' lampshade we just finished this weekend.

Carl labeling the repeats in early February.  We use old house windows to hold the copies.
The Daffodil shade has six repeats, meaning there is one pattern which is cut out of glass six times to go all the way around the 20" shade.  Joel had six copies made of Mylar at a blueprint shop and I used a hot knife to cut the lines around each of the 684 pieces.   With six repeats, it is important to keep each individual one labelled so we can tell them all apart after the glass is cut and ground and the patterns are removed.  For this lamp we used dots dashes and finally, numbers (I'm not sure why we didn't use numbers in the first place) to keep all the pieces straight. 
Window pattern for petals
As usual, I used the 'window system' and made paper copies of the pattern, cutting out each of the flowers making a template to lay over the stained glass so I could locate the best shading for each part of the design.  I lay the pattern on the glass and after I find the area I want to use, I take the Mylar pattern piece, and glue it to the glass for cutting.  Then I move on to the next piece.  The idea is to make the flowers look as real as possible.  (If I'm lucky.)
Petals, we have petals, we have lots and lots of petals.
I had precious little glass to work with for this shade and was worried it wouldn't all come out of this one sheet of glass, but I was lucky.  This is gorgeous mottled Uroboros glass in two shades of yellow and white.
Paper template of the leaves and stems.
I dawdle around for what seems like days before I decide on what colors to use for a new lamp.  We don't have an unlimited glass supply, so in the end, I have to work with what we have.  For those of you who sew, I'm sure you can relate to the feeling.......I have a few pieces of fabric I just adore in my stash, but I'm afraid to make anything out of it for fear the pattern won't be worthy of the fabric, so the fabric sits on the shelf, waiting for the Right Project. 

Our stained glass stash is far dearer to me than any of my fabric so this makes glass selection even more fraught with anxiety.  Good stained glass is hard for us to get and very expensive, not to mention the time involved in the labor of actually making the shade. If my color choices aren't good, the end result is an ugly lamp.  And, not to cast blame, but it would be All My Fault.  No pressure. 

The section I colored is one repeat.  I always do this with every pattern and use it like a road map and to help envision the look we're trying for. 
I hunt and peck around on the glass, looking for nice green stems in varying shades of green mottles.  There are a lot of leaves in this design.
Uroboros glass in two shades of green with yellow.

 I have to remember to leave enough room to cut the glass shapes out, too.  Sometimes I'm very guilty of putting pieces too close together which makes for nerve-wracking glass cutting.  Luckily, Joel is very good at what he does. 
Nothing left to lay out here but background and borders.
As the glass is laid out with the Mylar pieces, the pattern templates get emptier and emptier. 

Uroboros blue and green mottle for background.
Here I've got the window template for the background laid out on the glass as I try to figure out where I want the colors to be in the finished shade.  I wanted the green areas in the background glass to 'color bleed' into the stem and leaf areas and then turn to the darker cobalt blue nearest to the daffodil flowers and the border.  The idea was to give the impression of more foliage and sky in the distance.
The daffodil flower centers were a fun challenge.  I wanted to make each daffodil appear to have a cup in the middle instead of just an orange blob.  Luckily I had a wonderful piece of Oceana glass which was heavily mottled and just enough to get some very nice centers.
One center down, twenty-three more to find.
Cutting table.  
We all take turns cutting; but on this lamp Joel was able to handle almost all of it as he had the time.  I did cut a few pieces, though.  (Like five or so.)
After the pieces are cut, they are taken to the glass grinder and each one has the rough edges removed.  I ground every one of them on this job.

I got a kick out of stacking them all up like cookies.  (Yeah, I'm a bit obsessed with cookies yet, can you tell?)

 After each piece is ground, the Mylar pattern piece is peeled off and the glue is washed off.  Then I dry them and label with a permanent marker by pattern piece and repeat number.

All labeled and ready for foiling.

Look it's a crude daffodil!  Can you see the dots on each piece denoting the repeat number?
Applying copper foil to each piece.
I love to foil, and this lamp was a joy.  The pieces were so much bigger than the last two shades we've built; the Laburnum had 1,986 teensy pieces and the Pony Wisteria had almost 900, some no bigger than my pinkie fingernail, so this job with it's big, beefy leaves and petals was a hoot.
Once I had the foiling done it was time to lay out each piece of glass on the light table and see if what I'd selected worked or not.  I always foil first which is not the way most stained glass artists prefer to do it.   Most artists prefer to check their color selections first, then place the glass on the lamp form for fit and then take each one back off the form one at a time and foil.   I admit to doing things Bass Ackwards, but hey, to each his own.  By foiling whenever I have the time, I have been known to take it with me to doctor's appointments and when I go visiting friends and we're chatting, like knitting.  I love to watch TV and foil, it's very relaxing.  I'll usually lay out glass for a few hours, then cut and when I get tired of that, grind for awhile.  I do most of my foiling at night while watching TV. 

A big glass jigsaw puzzle.  Find the right repeat.
We bought a glass-top table at Goodwill for $12 and it works great for laying out the finished repeats.

 The design keeps filling in as I get more foiling done.
Just a few left to do.  

Then comes the moment of truth.  Let's turn on the lights and take the paper pattern off the back of the glass table. 
Whoa, this is one LOUD lamp.
We stare at it from all angles. and decided we had a few pieces to recut, but only a few. 

The center mottles on the daffodils worked out pretty well.

Time to transfer the pattern to the form.
I didn't take any photos of the lamp on the form before soldering.  Carl handles that job by himself, and my hat is off to him, he's good at it.  Keeping the borders nice and straight and everything even would drive me batty.  By the time he was soldering this shade, I was hard at work on the Big Wisteria which we started in mid-March.  Carl had to wait until the snow melted enough so he could get his shop door open since he once again opted to solder out there, in the cold.  He said it wasn't so bad this time as it was in January when he soldered the Pony Wisteria, but he still came in shivering uncontrollably after three or four hours of sitting on an upside down five gallon pail despite having a heater running.
Please Release Me, Let Me Go
After hours of soldering, Carl was finally done with the outside of the shade this past week.  Joel was home and helped with taking the glass off the form.  Carl was using a heat gun and spinning the lamp around rapidly, trying to heat the glass enough to melt the beeswax securing it to the form.  Joel was mopping up the wax as it started to melt and the five gallon pail was there to catch the lamp in case it released from the mold without anyone catching it.  
Around and around we go, and when it releases, nobody knows.  These lamps are built using the 'Odyssey' system; the forms are fiberglass and can stand up to the heat of a soldering iron with no damage.  But you have to be careful not to overheat the glass, which can crack.  Sometimes you have to take a mental health break, turn off the heat gun and just breathe during this process. 
After about ten minutes, the wax melted and there you have it, a brand new, gooey and sticky shade, which now has to have reinforcing wires applied and be completely soldered on the inside.  Carl will have to adjourn to his solitary shop a few more times for at least another twelve hours total.  

But first we have to take some preliminary photos of the not-clean lamp:
Don't worry, the numbers will wash off.  
Carl, surveying where the reinforcing wires will go on the inside.
Carl finished soldering the shade on Saturday night.  It's still in need of a complete cleaning, which entails dental picks and scrubbing and more scrubbing and finally a patina will be applied to the solder to darken it.  

  I will admit, my color choices are a bit bright, maybe way too bright for some folk's tastes, but Joel says he likes this one the most so far.  That's good, because they are heirlooms.

Good thing we have long winters.  Both of these were built in 2012-13.
 Our temperatures are predicted to be a bit below normal for the coming week, but the snow is melting gradually.  Mother Nature is taking her good, sweet time delivering daffodils this year, but that's fine with me.  We can wait. 

They'll be here real soon.