Adventures in lapidary – tile saw for rock cutting

My wife and I decided to branch out our skills for our small business and learn some lapidary skills. Both of us have alway loved to wander around and collect agates and then just run them through a rock tumbler to polish. Normally these tumbled rocks just end up in the bottom of the big fish tank or scattered around shrubs outside. But lately we realized that we have been finding some larger rocks then we can fit in the tumbler. Which brings us to the tile saw

If you look around there are tons of reviews and DIY options people have done all over the internet and forums. Depending on your budget you can get a nice oil cooled lapidary saw that can do some very large slabs on the high end or you can get a small tile saw for the smaller pieces on the low end. Since this is our first rock saw of any kind we decided to go with a 7 inch tile saw that can be used to cut rock, tile or ceramics up to two inches thick. Our local Harbor freight had one in stock that we picked up along with a continuous diamond edge saw blade to fit it.

Both of these two below are nearly identical to what we picked up and at nearly the same size: aka the cheaper route

If your budget allows there are some great reviewed rock saws out there. But they are not what I would call cheap. Or really I am cheap.

For the tile saw we picked up it has the same case, water cooling system, and tile fence on the one from Amazon as the one at harbor freight. So many of these kinds of things are made in the exact same factory and all they do is change a color and stick a different label on it.

These saws are very simple to set up and get going. Ours did not come with a blade installed but all it takes is removing 4 screws from the water guard below and then install the blade and tighten with the included two wrenches and then screw the water guard back on. Push the water tray back on and you are good to start up. From all the videos that I could find on it the preferred way to cut a rock is to turn the saw around and then pull the rock towards you as it cuts. This keeps the water from spraying all over you and if you do get a rock bound up in the blade it will toss it away from you. Also with using a continuous blade there is no chance of it cutting you like a wood blade with teeth would do. Using a continuous blade you might get a little skin rubbed off but nothing bad. I used a fresh pair of garden gloves to increase the grip on the rock and if it did slip and I hit the blade it would just rub off a bit of the rubber coating.

slow and steady. Always let the blade do the work and don’t try to push it through harder then it can grind.
Seam agate cut across into a long slender section
I am actually not sure what kind of rock this is but it may polish up nice
out of all we cut on the first time use this red jasper I found while fishing is my favorite. It is a little larger then the blade can do in a single pass so I had to spin it a bit to get it cut.

As a first try at cutting rocks we had fun seeing what was inside. Our next step is to run them through the rock tumbler with some other jasper and agates and see how that does to make them into suitable pieces to create jewelry out of. Once we get some out in a month of tumbling I will get some more pictures of the results.

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First attempt at grafting an apple tree

When we first moved into our house we had several small fruit trees already planted in our yard. of those two are apples, but only one of the apple trees had a tag on what it was. The second one was unlabeled and for the first couple years never put out a bloom which after some research led me to believe that it is a seedling. Possibly something the kids planted as an experiment from a store bought apple. Now sadly apple trees do not breed true. that means that any seed grown will not be the same variety as the apple it came from. The first year that we had some apples on it we tasted them and it was sorta like a red delicious but with less flavor. Yes I know that is hard to believe. So instead of cutting it down I am going to attempt to graft several varieties of apples to it.

Since I have never grafted anything before I searched the internet and a couple books to see what the basics are for doing a graft. From everything I could see it is really a fairly simple process. Cut a small branch from the tree you want and put a V cut in the bottom. Then find the same size branch on the tree you want it and cut another V fork in it for the graft to fit in. According to my uncle the more bark that touches the better the graft takes. Since I prefer not to cut myself and I know I would I went to amazon and found this handy grafting kit. https://amzn.to/3HsddLA

first cut your two pieces that you want to fit together
push your ends together and wrap it many times with the wrap that came with the kit. You want enough of it wrapped that it wont come apart.
to add some stability and support I also took a small branch and wrapped it also around the graft.
Since I had a cut off branch I also tried a different method where you peel back part of the bark and then insert a small piece into it.

I made a total of three grafts using the existing Fuji I have. Nice and sweet and crisp but not my favorite. I plan on getting some cuts from several old homestead apples to see if I can get them grafted to the seedling and maybe a couple others onto the existing Fuji. In a couple months I will see if the grafts took and write up another blog.

Short video on my grafting:

Rockhounding adventures: Lookout point Reservoir

Some days the constant fog of winter in the Willamette valley just drags you down into the gloom. Luckily though you do not have to go far to get away from it. And it leads to one of my favorite hobbies that does not involve fishing. Yes I know nearly everything I do somehow involves fishing, but on this adventure I did not even bring my fishing pole.

Oregon is a great state if you like to rock hound. Along every river that feeds into the Willamette you can find some type of rock. My favorites tend to be a variety of different agate and Jasper. Both tumble well and make great jewelry or just polish and add to the fishtank or into a jar. My fishtank is nearly all agate I have found over the years. And since they are polished usually algae cant grow on them. But I am getting sidetracked. Our adventure today was to check out the upper end of the reservoir and the exposed area from the lake being at low winter levels.

First stop of the day was way up where the river is.

For years I have drove by when the lake is at low levels and saw what I thought was an old road along the flats. Today was the first time I have ever walked down to it. Any old flooded town that gets exposed is considered an archeology site and by Oregon law cannot be disturbed. But you can still walk around and explore. What I thought was an old road is actually an old railroad bed. All the tracks and most but not all of the timber has been removed but old railroad spikes are everywhere.

Lots of these old concrete bridges along the old tracks.

On our first stop the rocks looked promising and we found several smaller agates and some green jasper. It looks like the gravel and rocks that were used to construct the railway were all brought in and the agates and jasper were from wherever that was dug up at. Climbing up the edges beyond that we did not find much of anything. After a nice walk and some complaining kids who didn’t like the lack of pretty rocks we headed back to the truck and headed down the road some more.

First agate at stop two.

The next location was much better for some agates and jasper. My oldest daughter found a nice pocket of blue agates exposed on the surface. They should tumble up nice for her. I was finding some nice larger pieces of red jasper. And found enough to run through my tumbler.

Very rough piece of jasper

Overall it made for a nice day out of the fog and into the sun with the family.

Fishing beyond the road – Central Oregon’s Crescent creek

Some places just ask to be explored.  Be it the small headwaters of a stream or a remote stretch of a creek far from any roads.  Todays adventure is the later of the two.  For years I have heard my father talk about the canyon area of crescent creek, and the fish that he would catch.  This was my day for a solo adventure of fishing and hiking.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

For every trip I take like this I always have a checklist of things to bring with me. For anyone hiking remote areas you should always have a backup plan for emergency. The main three to always focus on are shelter, water, and food. And always in that order. There is no need to buy the fancy expensive hiking ones. But even something as simple as a life straw can mean the difference of being stranded and waiting for help and waiting for help and having any type of intestinal issues from drinking unpurified water.

Crescent creek is a tributary of the little Deschutes river that flows through an assortment of meadows, canyons, and old growth pine trees.  The area I am hiking through is part of the national wild and scenic rivers system. There are three species of trout that call this section of creek home.  The native rainbow trout, and the two non-native brook and brown trout.  From what I have seen the section of river from Highway 58 down to bridge by Crescent creek campground is primarily just rainbow trout.

Such a beautiful spot. I broke out my fly pole for this section of stream. It has been a long time since I have used it and really I should do more of it.

For the first half of my hike and fishing trip all was peaceful and relaxing.  The first two mile of the stream is through a meandering stream bordered by willow and alders. After the first half mile or so all trace of people disappears and you either have to create your own trail or just walk through the water.  For walking in any stream in Central Oregon I recommend tennis shoes and not any type of water sandals.  Most of the streams have pumice and other lava rocks in them and if they get under a strap you will get blisters and cuts from them.  I know this from experience sadly.  About halfway through the meadow I was changing lures and a family of river otters came out of the grass about 10 feet from me.  Once they saw me it was constant hissing from them until they swam upstream.  Cute to see but I am glad they didn’t come out closer to me.

Near where the otters popped out of the grass. Wish I could have gotten a good picture of them before they swam off.

And now for the canyon part of the hike.  Looking in from the edge of the meadow area looked nice and peaceful with a few rapids in view.  Oh, this was so deceptive and so not peaceful.  For the first 100 yards I caught a dozen fish or more and thought it was great.  And then the rocks got bigger and were nearly impossible to go from one to another safely.  No big deal I can just walk the edge around to each fishing hole.  Nope that was not a good idea.  The sides of the canyon are nearly strait up and the entire hillside has soft sandy dirt.  On the positive side it is beautiful with old growth ponderosa pines growing.  With the steep sides and no cell service my first thought was that if I fell and broke something that it would take days to find me.  And then as I was going over a fallen tree, I saw what looked like dried blood on branches and across the log.  What kind of hell did I get myself into?  About 50 feet after seeing the blood I found a pile of fairly fresh black bear droppings.  At least that gave me an idea of where the blood was from.  Possibly a deer that was wounded by the bear.

I loved the beauty of this area, but with all the swift water, Rocks and heavy brush this area is extremely difficult to fish. The areas I could get to the water had plenty of small fish at least.

Finishing up the canyon and getting to an old road was such a great feeling.  I don’t think I have been that tired in a long time.  This was a beautiful hike but really it is a hike for the young.  I am glad I did it once in my life.  But this is the one and only time I will ever hike through the canyon. 

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Fishing beyond the road – Salt creek

Oregon has so many rivers, creeks, and lakes that are just off any road or path and just waiting to be explored. This is the first in a series of hiking off the road, and into wild to find fish and adventures. Maybe this series will even include a float or two using the kayak’s and fishing major rivers.

Video journey through the wilds

The first stop on my journey is to Salt creek. Salt creek is one of many tributaries to the Willamette river. Salt creek can really be divided into two different sections that can be fished. the first section is below Oregon’s third highest waterfall. This steep canyon area has little to no access until the creek comes out miles below and borders the highway. The lower section contains mainly native rainbow trout. For this fishing trip I focused on the area above the waterfall which is mainly meandering meadow areas. I say meadow area but really it is brushy, horribly brushy. The headwaters of Salt creek is Gold lake. The creek outflows the lake, and meanders several miles until it flows under the highway and enters a meadow area that is extremely brushy and difficult to get through. This is the target I picked for the day. yes I know it is a bit crazy, but all the small Brook trout are fun to catch

After several scratch’s I was able to push my way through the brush and mosquitos to a nice tranquil creek. Now the fishing can begin. Salt creek is currently open for the use of bait, with no restriction on size or quantity of brook trout kept. Brook trout preproduce in such high numbers here that they really overwhelm the available food. There are also native rainbows in the stream, but I have rarely caught any due to the large quantity of Brook trout that inhabit this stretch of creek.

Nearly the entire section of stream has heavy Alder and Willow brush. Be prepared to get scratched walking through it.
This section of stream has some deeper holes with lot of fallen logs creating hiding places for the fish.
All the fish I have ever caught in this section are small brook trout.

Over the years that I have fished in this area I have never caught a fish over 10 inches in length. There may be some in there, but they are few and far between to catch. The best way to catch them is to use small spinners or a fly pole. Whichever method you use though the brush along the stream can cause a lot of trouble placing the lure/fly where you want. You can use worms or other bait in this section, but with brook trout they tend to just swallow any food and the mortality rate on release is very high.

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Are Salal berries edible? Why yes they are!

As summer hits it’s midpoint it is time to get ready for late summer berries. One of my favorites to forage for locally is salal berries.  This native plant to the Pacific Northwest is usually seen in flower arrangements as decorating leaves. The leaves are thick and waxy and make a great color addition to flower arrangements everywhere.  This plant is also a relative of the blueberry and produces a delicious berry.  I eat it fresh and have used it to make wine and jam. The high pectin content of the berries does require some extra help to make a wine.  Otherwise it will almost gel like a jam.

If you are interested in Foraging in the pacifc northwest please check out these books:

Its dark blue “berries” (actually swollen sepals like a blueberry) and young leaves are both edible, and are an effective appetite suppressant. Salal berries were a significant food resource for native people, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes. They were also used as a sweetener, and the Haida used them to thicken salmon eggs. The leaves of the plant were also sometimes used to flavor fish soup. More recently, Salal berries are used locally in jams, preserves and pies.  They are often combined with Oregon-grape because the tartness of the latter is partially masked by the mild sweetness of Salal.  There is so much naturally occurring pectin in the berry that when you make jam you do not need to add any to make it jell up.  The jam is so dark that it is almost black in color.  

The berries grow in rows along a main stem.
The berries grow in rows along a main stem.

Salal occurs in such high numbers that the chance of seeing plants on a hike anywhere west of the Cascades in Oregon is almost guarantied. This year I intend to pick enough that I can try to make at least a gallon of wine out of them.  But even if I don’t they are a good addition to yogurt throughout the year if you freeze them.  Or a dark jam to add to yogurt.  Have I ever mentioned I love yogurt?  

The plants can be found from Northern California up into southeast Alaska.  If it is in the that area there is some around.  The flavor of the berry changes depending on the soil conditions.  If you find a spot where they taste great remember to go back year after year for them.  

Flowers and unripe berries
Flowers and a mix of ripe and unripe berries

The plant itself also has been used for medicinal purposes. Salal leaf has a long history as a medicine for wounds, coughs, colds and digestive problems.  The Klallam, Bella Coola and Quileute People have chewed salal leaves, and spit them on burns and sores.  The Samish and Swinomish People have used the leaves for coughs and tuberculosis, while the Quinault People have used them for diarrhea and flu-like symptoms.  Herbalist, Michael Moore mirrors Northwest Native People’s uses of salal in Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West when he says that, “The tea is astringent and anti-inflammatory, both locally to the throat and upper intestinal mucosa, and through the bloodstream, to the urinary tract, sinuses and lungs.” 

If you are ever in the mood to try a unique flavored berry I highly recommend salal as a delicious one.  As my normal word of warning if you are not 100% sure of what you are eating do not eat it!  

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Yellow Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)

One of the first mushrooms of the fall is the delicious Yellow Chanterelle. A week or two after the first heavy fall rain small little yellow buttons will start appearing throughout the forest. Since this time of year coincides with hunting season in Oregon it is best for anyone out in the forest picking mushrooms to be wearing bright colors so they are not mistaken for a deer. This has always been one of my personal favorite mushrooms to look for, and is one of the easiest to find. But with every mushroom unless you are 100% certain of what you are picking DO NOT EAT IT! Now for a little about this treasure of the forest.

Since I love using Wikipedia for info here is a little bit of history and uses for this tasty treat:

“Though records of chanterelles being eaten date back to the 1500’s, they first gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy with the spreading influence of French cuisine in the 1700’s, where they began appearing in palace kitchens. For many years, they remained notable for being served at the tables of nobility. Nowadays, the usage of chanterelles in the kitchen is common throughout Europe and North America. In 1836, the Swedish mycologist Elias Fries considered the chanterelle “as one of the most important and best edible mushrooms.”

Chanterelles as a group are generally described as being rich in flavor, with a distinctive taste and aroma difficult to characterize. Some species have a fruity odor, others a more woody, earthy fragrance, and others still can even be considered spicy. The golden chanterelle is perhaps the most sought-after and flavorful chanterelle, and many chefs consider it on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles and morels. It therefore tends to command a high price in both restaurants and specialty store.”

Over the years I have dried, canned, pickled, and sautéed chanterelles in as many recipes as I can. Other mushrooms might be stronger flavored or different tasting, but this one is the easiest to find in large quantities. There are always several small stands of mushroom buyers around that will pay by the pound for these if you want to put in the time to find large amounts. The only thing about selling them that I never liked is that there is a subspecies of chanterelle that are white that the buyers will never take. I can’t tell any difference in taste between the two so that means more for me to enjoy. On a successful day I have found 20+ lbs of yellow chanterelles with only a few hours of searching.

When picking a patch of chanterelles it is best to cut them off at the base with a sharp knife. Pulling them out of the ground can damage the fungal matt that is under the ground. By cutting them you can get several crops out of the same location until the first hard frost hits under the forest canopy. Also alway remember to leave a few mushrooms in a patch so that they can continue to reproduce and produce even more in the years ahead.

For more detailed information please check out this link to the full Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chanterelle

Some of my favorite recipes:

Some great reference books:

All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora (smaller pocket guide that is excellent to use)

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides) (all inclusive but fairly large)

There are also several E-books that can be found on Kindle unlimited

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A winter day fishing on Tahkenitch lake

Early morning gloomy day  to start out the day.  It never cleared up on us.
Early morning gloomy day to start out the day. It never cleared up on us.

Today was the day to test out the old Aluminium boat that I had donated to me.  This should make the lakes more easily fished.  I don’t mind fishing from shore, but the big fish just seem to be out reach of my cast.  With all of the reservoirs drawn down for winter the only open lakes I could think of that might have some fish biting was the lakes on the mid-coast. So off we went to Takenitch lake.  The lake was a bit on the murky side when we got there.  The two inches of rain that fell Saturday probably had something to do with that.  We trolled from the boat launch up one of the arms of the lake and only had one bite the entire way.  Thinking that the murk in the water was making trout fishing a bit of a wash out we anchored off in a cove and did a bit of casting.  And once more not a bite.  So to kill some time and maybe catch a catfish we finally opted to use worms on the bottom.  After another 15 minutes of only a single bite we were getting ready to call it a day and I finally got a bite and reeled in a 13 inch cutthroat trout.  After 5 hours of fishing we got one fish!  It may have been a long slow day on the lake but it was a good check of the boat and motors.  No leaks on the boat which is good considering that it had been sitting in the woods for 7 years.  It will need a paint job soon since a lot of paint is flaking.  The electric trolling motor worked great.  It had a lot more power than we thought it would.  The little 2hp gas motor worked well even though it doesn’t go very fast.  A little bit of a stutter to it every 30 seconds or so after it warmed up.  Going to have to check the oil mix ratio.  Might need to add a little more oil to the recommended mix to stop it from doing it.  It was more annoying then anything else.  I now have one fish in the freezer for 2014.  Just need to catch a few more and it will be fish fry time. The boat opens up a lot more fishing areas for us now.  And I can teach Katy to fish a bit easier.

Jeremy and his day glow rain gear.
Jeremy and his day glow rain gear.

The pole that wasn't catching anything most of the day.
The pole that wasn’t catching anything most of the day.

Both of decided to do a panorama at the same time.
Both of us decided to do a panorama at the same time.

the weird world of Coral mushrooms

Every year when I walk through the woods I see these odd shapes that remind me of a coral reef.  Oregon is home to several different species of coral mushrooms and are well worth a minute to stop and look at them. So far on my journeys I have seen white, yellow, red, and purple corals growing in the coast range.  There are several edible species of coral, but I have never picked or eaten any. Supposedly they are great to eat and some species are sold in markets. But with most mushrooms there are also some poisonous species.  I don’t know anyone that has eaten them so I am most likely not going to try them.  They are very common anywhere in the coast range so if you step off the road into the trees you are likely to find them.  I snapped a couple pictures when I was looking for chanterelles.

yellow coral
A whitish-yellow coral. It was fairly large

A peach colored coral mushroom
A peach colored coral mushroom

Some great reference books:

All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora (smaller pocket guide that is excellent to use)

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides) (all inclusive but fairly large)

There are also several E-books that can be found on Kindle unlimited

 

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Lobster mushrooms

Strange looking mushroom but very tasty.
Strange looking mushroom but very tasty.

While wandering around the woods for chanterelles we came across several Lobster mushrooms.  Why is it called a lobster mushroom you ask?  It is because it is the color of a cooked lobster with the faint taste of seafood when you eat it.  A lobster mushroom is not truly a mushroom, but is a parasitic ascomycete that grows on mushrooms, turning them a reddish-orange color that resembles the outer shell of a cooked lobster. It colonizes members of the genera Lactarius (Milk-caps) and Russula, such as Russula brevipes and Lactarius piperatus in North America. At maturity,it completely covers its host mushroom, rendering it unidentifiable. Lobster mushrooms are widely eaten and enjoyed; they are commercially marketed and are commonly found in some large grocery stores ( I have never seen them sold anywhere around here though). They have a seafood-like flavor and a firm, dense texture. According to some, they may taste somewhat spicy if the host mushroom is an acrid Lactarius.  Even though the outer part is red the interior is a dense hard white color.  unfortunately the ones that I found were too old to eat and had already started to have bugs eat them.  But it is nice to find them so I can go back to the same location and look for them again.

Lobster mushrooms have a velvety texture when sautéed, not unlike cooked lobster, and their succulent meat hints pleasantly at seafood. Processing one can be a chore: Lobster mushrooms collect more than their share of dirt on a cap riddled with nooks and crannies. Don’t be afraid to scrub them hard, and then dice them up and saute with a little butter, cream and cognac to make a colorful duxelles.

Lobster mushroom just breaking the surface of the forest floor
Lobster mushroom just breaking the surface of the forest floor