Jam Session

This spring the “May Gray” and the “June Gloom” dominated the weather.  There was not much time when the morning fog burned off and it started to roll back in again.  The veggies in the garden for the most part did not like that situation.  Germination was poor and what did sprout as well as most of the transplanted seedlings which had been started on the windowsill just sat there and sulked.  So it will be a late, and perhaps sparse harvest this year.

One of the exceptions is the berries.  The plants were moved from their original location a couple years ago and finally seem to have settled into the new spot.  While the berries are a bit on the small size, they are making up for it in quantity.  Ollalie berry, boysen berry, logan berry and a few other trailing varieties all became productive together.  And since blackberries have a short shelf life, it was time to turn the bounty into jam, jelly and pie.  The result was about three dozen jars of sweet stuff in the pantry and several pies in the freezer.

It remains to be seen if the upright varieties will be as productive.  In the past they seemed to be just about ripe at the same time we would get the one week of actual hot weather and the berries got cooked.  So far, the forecast is looking better for the berries than for the heat loving veggies.



Welcome Spring

Normally by the time of the vernal equinox, I have the garden beds prepped and ready to start planting.  Our climate is mild enough that frost is unlikely even in December or January, so late March is generally a good time to start the new growing season.  However, this year, the ongoing rains have made the soil too wet to work.  The first day of spring came bringing yet another wet storm.   Instead of being ready for seeds and seedlings, the raised beds are full of weeds that have enjoyed the protection of the soggy weather.

We have had several years of severe drought and this season’s rains have brought that to an end.  Our local reservoirs are just about full.  A couple of them will soon be spilling over for the first time in a quarter century.

The ten day forecast shows more rain this time next week so gardening will have to wait at  least another couple weeks.


Between the Storms

The latest series of storms finally cleared and so I was able to go out and pick some of the citrus that was on the trees lining our driveway.  The harvest included the remaining Moro Blood oranges, a basket of Valencia oranges and another of Dancy Tangerines, plus some Bearss limes and a lot of Meyer lemons. There is still a lot of fruit left on the trees.  In fact, it is hard to tell that I picked much at all.

The trees were put in the ground ten years ago and this is probably the most fruit they have produces in a season.  A couple of the tangerines which are smaller than the others fell victim to heavy “pruning” by our local deer a couple summers ago.  As it is, they still are able to munch on some of the lower branches of the larger trees, but there the impact is not as significant. Since we have had so much rain, they probably won’t be after the trees again until late summer.

The oranges, tangerines and lemons have been juiced.  A pitcher of the Moro Blood orange juice is in the fridge for my morning OJ over the coming days.  The other juice is in the freezer for the future days when the fresh citrus is out of season.


Tucson 2023 — Part 4


I had intended to attend several seminars and demonstrations offered by the AGTA and USFG.  But I pretty much failed.  It seemed I was always at the wrong place immersed in something else when it came time for the interesting seminars.  I did make it over to the USFG a couple times, but did not stay long in either case.  I wish the location used by the USFG for its symposium (OPLC) was not so far away from everything else since it runs the same days at the AGTA and GJX shows.

People and Places

One of this year’s highlights was the GO dinner meet up at the El Charro. The group was smaller than the past few times I attended so we were placed in a small room by ourselves.  The situation was perfect — everyone could hear about the finds that had been made in the course of the shows as well as listening to some tall tales of other gem adventures.

Part of the magic of Tucson is that it brings together so  many people with common interests.  Folks who had been only names in an online forum or mentioned as experts in various articles are there and most often share their expertise.  Business relationships develop with dealers and new friends are made.  It is also fun to unexpectedly meet up with others from home while wandering through the shows.  I’ve almost come to expect meeting up with one of our local jewelers at AGTA — only this time it was at GJX.  Another surprise this year was to hear someone saying hello to me in one of the Pueblo dealer rooms — another SLO area person that I had not seen in years.

It took several days before I finally got to the point of doing an early morning hike around the paved  loop at Sentinel Peak (“A” mountain).  The first was a day where I needed to scrape the frost off the car windows to see where I was going.  I was glad that I had gloves and appropriate clothing for the chill. From the highest part, one gets a terrific view of Tucson.  The scale and number of the freeway show tents is impressive.  I tried to take a lot of photos of the city and show area as well as the sunrise (unlike previous years where I seemed to be focused on the cactus).

The other two mornings I managed to do the walk were warmer — but still more than cool enough for me to appreciate gloves. Only a few others were out walking that early.



This time I noticed more how the gem and mineral shows seemed to overwhelm the resources in Tucson.  Along the freeway area, there was a definite shortage of places to eat (other than food trucks at the shows.)  A google map search for restaurants had nearly all its suggestions greater than 4 miles away.  The hotels hosting the shows were showing their age and at least two in that area seemed to be closed.

As I drove around town, I found myself amused by some of the traffic engineering decisions.  Or annoyed by them as in the case where I was heading for the freeway needing to go in a direction to my right only to discover too late that the freeway entrance on that side of the road was going the other way and I should have been in the left lane for the direction I wanted.  (Not sure if it was north and south or east and west.)  Another one was the traffic “circles” that were created by digging up the middle of an intersection.  These were typically combined with speed bumps halfway between intersections.

The freeway entrance and exit ramps tended to be very long.  That should have made things a lot easier for drivers — except that the distance provided to merge into traffic was way short.  This also applied to merging on to the appropriate lanes of the frontage roads when exiting the freeway.  If you needed to make a right turn at the next intersection, you might need to cross two or three lanes very quickly.

Instead of a sign at an interesting with a one way street saying “right turn only”, I noticed that they had “Do Not Enter” signs placed where they would only be seen after the driver turned heading the wrong way into the street.

My favorite oddity were the intersections of two major streets where instead of a normal left turn lane and signal, the drivers had to go past the intersection to a U-Turn spot and then cross two lanes of traffic to make a right turn.  And I thought New Jersey’ jug handle approach to left turns was odd.

And finally, the car hurdles (speed bumps) at the Tucson airport were some of the biggest I have encountered.  Slow down all you want, but it will still be a big bounce as you drive over them.

The ratio of chairs to tables at the 22nd street show food court continues to puzzle me.  This is not a new situation.  In 2018, when my lunch was finally ready at the food truck, there was lots of table space, but no free chairs. Why so few chairs?


Tucson 2023 — Part 3

More Freeway shows

Monday morning, I set off with two companions planning to start with one wholesale venue, but due to a wrong turn getting off the freeway, decided to go to Kino first, instead.  At that point, I was starting to look for items to purchase for the local club’s use in grab bags for sale during the club show.  It was still terribly cold there, especially in tents.  After a while, two of us were ready to move on leaving our other companion to take a shuttle back to the freeway area when she was done.

We refreshed at our hotel and then headed to the other side of the freeway to explore the 22nd street show.  It was not as busy as it had been on the weekend, so I had a chance to visit with Elke and Bill Vance, hear what they have been doing sis 2020 and get lots of advice from Bill on faceting.

I was still at their booth when my phone alerted me about the meet and greet sponsored by the WJA, Ethical Gem Suppliers and Ethical Metalsmiths which was about a mile and a quarter away and would be starting in less than 30 minutes.  I appreciated the continuation of the walking path that was created since I was last in Tucson since it was a much nicer route than the freeway frontage road for getting half of the way there.  Most of the people showing there were finished gems only, but I got to talk with one who also has rough from Tanzania and Nigeria.


The next morning was another cold one.  We reached the AGTA show  being held in the convention center shortly after opening time.  The lines to get badges were somewhat long, but they moved along.  By the time we were through, they were a lot longer, so glad we arrived when we did.

The Spectrum and Cutting Edge winners were on display in the ballroom.  For some reason, AGTA uses a white carpet for that area which always makes me feel guilty for walking on it.  Unlike the last time I was there, they had most of the winners on display, not just a small sample.   I wish that they would post all of the entries on their website as I am sure that there were many other interesting entries.

The show floor in the main hall seemed better filled out than I had seen in previous years as well.  But for some reason, it did not seem as crowded as it had on the opening day in past years.

I was disappointed that Stuller was a no-show as well as well as those who provided software for jewelry design.  We did find one company who would take the digital files and do the 3d printing as well as casting. And there was also a company with a sphere instead of a box  for taking photos of small objects such as jewelry and gems.   It also included software to adjust the resulting photos or videos to make an attractive image for use online or print.  While not inexpensive, it seemed like it would greatly reduce the space and time required for small object photo shoots.

After lunch from the food trucks parked outside the back of the hall, we went across the street to the GJX show.  It was much as I remembered it.  Big, crowded and running the electrical conduits on the floor so if one wanted to follow the numbering of the booths, you had to keep remembering to step carefully at every row.  Thus, we explored the show along the other direction since it seemed a lot safer and avoided most of the obstacles along the floor.

As we wandered through the show, I recognized several dealers from previous years.  Again, there seemed to be fewer suppliers of equipment than I remembered.  With as much walking as I did that day, it was nice to take a break part way though in the food court area of the GJX space.  They had ample tables and chairs for folks  and since it was inside, not subject to the weather.