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Brad's Blog



Since blogging is riding a crest of popularity, and I have time to waste, I'm introducing this as a new feature.  I've always viewed my whole webpage as a blog with actual content, but now will try adding comments to this page on a regular basis for the more ephemeral thoughts.

April 14, 2005
Today I plan to get 6 chicks, scheduled to become laying hens.  From past experience, I think most people who get chickens get a bunch, which become both a hassle to clean up after, and a sizable expense to feed.  In my estimation, each chicken can eat about as much as a person (albeit lower on the food chain).  Chickens have a nice manner when they aren't too peckish, and serve as part of a household waste system, for eating food scraps which if put in the compost would attract scavengers such as rodents and dogs. I'll post some pictures of the new chicken coop I built last week and the chicks as they come available.

On the domestic front, yesterday I tilled our large garden with a homemade wheel hoe, which I'm also thinking I should photograph and show how to build for those interested.   I guess both these topics are teasers for more to come.


Today I have a local Potter's Guild meeting in Coeur D'Alene , which  has just left its infancy as the brain child of one potter, in that he found himself too busy to continue his creation, so it's now a struggling adolescent, working on identity.  It's got all the institutional stuff figured out--even registered as a nonprofit-- the challenge is to keep it interesting enough for the members to remain members.


Our local grocery store has plans to quadruple its size.  The area is the fastest growing in Idaho (4% last year, I read this morning), so it makes sense.  The high price of gas may start to make life more difficult for us on the fringes (30 miles from a hospital for instance).  One reason we think people aren't getting too worked up about gas prices (besides the fact that there's little anyone can do), is that most gas is sold with credit cards now, so you don't have to fish out the bills to see the money going in your tank.





April 15, 2005

Chicken pie!  This pieplate was supposed to be their feed bowl, but it looked nesty to them...

2 Rhode Island Reds  2 Buff Orpingtons , and 2 Barred Rocks

So the chicks are in their enclosure, which will progress from being their nursery to their roost and nest box.  You can see some straw in the nesting area to the left.  I mentioned living on the fringe.  To get these chicks, I drove 30 miles to a farm supply that didn't have any yesterday (when I was there on other business) but assured me I needed to come this morning to get the new shipment due in.  When I got there this morning, a different clerk told me they come in the mail, and wouldn't be in till after noon.  Rather than drive back home, I took a 15 mile detour to another farm supply, and am happy with the result, but spent about as much on gas getting them as the chicks cost (they were about $1.75 each).  This isn't Walden, so I won't tell you what I spent to build their coop, but so far it was mostly free stuff from a burn pile next door at the Baptist church.  We spend a lot of time bringing home wood from burn piles, some of which goes into projects, the rest into the woodstoves...
April 16, 2005
Here's some  views of the chicken coop:

The chickens are inside this. Both the large window and small windows open--the smaller one to access the nesting boxes. The floor is a removable plywood tray--removable for cleaning--it slides out when the front window is opened...
We added a porch roof over the front of the coop, with currently a chute to let the chicks go in and out,  that is, when they get bigger, the weather gets warmer, and the coop fence is completed.


Since I'm rather stiff from trying to remove a large section of grass overgrown strawberries from the garden yesterday, I may work on making an inflatable pot today (for display).  Inflatable ads are growing fast as a worldwide phenomenon--I got some spam from a Chinese firm that makes lots of different shapes as inflatables.  My concept is different in that I'm using fabric instead of plastic, so I hope it will look nicer than the average giant gorilla and things like that which one sees at car dealerships.
Anyway, the topic of inflatables reminds me that when I was an art major in college, inflatos as they were called, were all the rage, since the local manufactory that hired students manufactured blimps for the Shah of Iran, and they got lots of defective materials and assembly experience, and teamed up with mathemeticians, dancers, and artists to make shapes like a Klein bottle (sort of a 3 dimensional representation of a Mobius Strip)



April 17, 2005
I guess I'd better not elaborate too much on daily plans, as I got sidetracked by mundane housekeeping stuff yesterday and never got started on the inflatable pot.  However, today, barring rainstorms, which are frequent and welcome at this time of year in this potentially barren land, we plan to visit Riverside State Park in Spokane, which may yield a new webpage for my Spokane collection, which has proved popular.  Here's the picture page.


April 18, 2005
Today I got a CD by a high school classmate of mine (whom I don't remember, but emailed me after seeing we're both into old time music.)  He's with a group called Stewed Mulligan  and he sent the CD at my request (a trade, actually).  He's sold nearly 3000 with his group, including on QVC.  I've sold a handful, and given away more than sold, so I guess I got the better end of the deal... Anyway, I've never gone back to a high school reunion, under the impression I wouldn't see anyone there I'd remember or want to see, so it's interesting being in contact with someone like that, yet who has more in common with me than most of my former friends from the era.  I've sent him an email with a few names and events to see what past we might actually share...
Although I'm self deprecating about my CD, I did sell one to my dentist today.  This is in lieu of conversing, which is hard when they're always doing something in your mouth.  He played it over the office system, so we were both captive audiences, in our own ways...  Afterwards the receptionist was being so nice about all my talents and abilities that I just did the subtraction in my checkbook and forgot to write the check...  Being a good receptionist she called me to enquire about this a couple hours later.

April 19, 2005
I suppose it's not too amazing that I should share some friends and memories with someone from my high school class whom I can't remember.  There were 2-300 of us in the class, so it was easy to miss a few.  But we both remembered the Winter Formal dance (which was as close to a Prom as I ever got) where the band was a heavy metal group called Enoch Smoky (you didn't have to worry about making small talk--talk was impossible).  Besides being ridiculously loud, one of their featured numbers was a reworking of Ghost Riders in the Sky, a Sons of the Pioneers tune.  Imagine a C and W song played by Led Zeppelin, and there you have it.  I was also reminded of a music assembly which in 1971 was just a few years behind the Who and Hendrix, but featured two high school bands in a row that had smashing a guitar as part of their performance.  So there's the whole school seated in the Gym, watching these bands trying to blow our minds.  It was very amusing.  One of my few pictures in the high school yearbook was a group shot of such an assembly, as I happened to look up to see the Yearbook adviser taking pictures and mugged happily for the shot.  In front of me one of the teachers was holding his head in his hands.  I don't know if this was the music assembly or not...



April 20, 2005
    One facet of the history of American folk music in the 20th Century (which I've been doing as a study of bluegrass for an upcoming lecture) is as a sort of technological sound battle.  At the beginning of the 20th Century, fiddle and banjo dominated stringbands, because they're naturally the loudest instruments. But the guitar snuck in, first as a bass instrument, later as a lead instrument.  The technology part comes in from trying to get heard in a band situation.   The small bodied parlor guitars (I've got a small 00-18 Martin) get lost in the crowd.  One guitar answer was the Dreadnought (which I think is also a battleship), a large guitar with a louder sound.  Another response was doubling the strings, as in 12-string guitars (also mandolins), although 12 strings never seemed to make it into old time and bluegrass for some reason.  The steel bodied and resonator guitars also were built for volume.  Meanwhile the banjo went from openbacked to adding its own resonator.  Many of these instruments were also incorporated into jazz bands, where they lost out in the competition with horns and reeds. So the electric pickup was added to guitars to bring it to parity, and the electric steel guitar was invented roughly concurrently.  Meanwhile sound amplification systems were getting developed to help the voice compete, and eventually the acoustic bands learned to weave in and out from the microphone to do instant mixing.
    All this leads up to an ongoing debate in  jamming circles as to the fairness of using amplifiers.  On the surface, the easiest dividing line between folk and other musics is amplification, and that should be that. (Dylan certainly crossed that Rubicon playing electric at the Newport folk festival in the 60's) But while performing on stage different instrument volumes can be accounted for, playing acoustically leaves the tech war raging, with the fiddles and banjos still winning.
I quit bringing my little Martin to jams, since  I could hear it, mostly, but no one else could.  My own contribution to the sound wars was to switch to 6 string banjo, which I can play as softly or loudly as I want, without using picks (which were another volume contribution in the sound wars).  But there are still a few instruments that never caught up in the sound war, such as dulcimer and autoharp.  They weren't ever designed for projecting sound, and often get lost in the shuffle.  So the autoharpist I play with bought a nice little battery powered amp, with a very natural sound, and although generally accepted at jams, occasionally gets asked not to use it as it's an "acoustic jam."
    Another delineator is the use of drums.  Nashville made a distinct turn in the 40's at first resisting both electric music and drums, then by the 50's becoming generally electric and percussion oriented.  Bluegrass in its pure form resists both, but there are plenty of newgrass and fusion groups that have recorded with both, so while it might be a good delineator for purists, it's not for the whole genre any longer...

April 21, 2005
    Yesterday I spent an hour or so pulling nails from old lumber, in anticipation of building a garden shed.  For me, like with most menial tasks I engage in, it was made pleasant by occupying my brain listening to a book on tape as I worked.  Building sheds and chicken coops is a fun activity for me, more fun since deck screws largely have replaced nails in many places on the construction, making it easier to undo my inevitable mistakes, as well as my aged out projects...  However I got this lumber from next door off a burn pile, and it was full of genuine old nails. Removing nails is uncreative and boring, hence the book on tape...
    I got started in construction at about age 8, when my father decided to build a lake cabin in South Dakota.  Besides my father's own "can-do-anything" attitude, he called upon my barely teenaged brother and his friends for major construction help, but I was always hanging around, so it fell my lot to straighten the nails that got bent in pounding (mostly by my brother and his friends).  I would do this by pounding them on a rock with a hammer, until they were straight enough to use again.  Occasionally I'd pinch my fingers between the nail and the rock, but I got to be proficient at it.  This reusing of bent nails came about from my father's boyhood in the depression, where anything that could be reused, or no extra expense incurred, would be...  I remember helping fill our trailer (made from a Model A frame) with sand from the lake beach to mix the concrete in a Sears mixer to fill the foundation forms.  That went on for weeks, instead of just getting the Redimix truck to come and fill the form at one go.
Although I'm not averse to reusing lumber, where each board is worth a couple dollars, I no longer straighten nails, unless I'm one short at the end of a project.  This is probably a psychological breakthrough :-)  Most people don't build anything out of used lumber, but my own past included trying to live on a potter's salary (oxymoron--there is no salary for potters, just whatever's left after deducting expenses from sales), and a life where time is less valuable than cash.
    I know it's not true for all baby boomers, who grew up hearing depression stories from their parents without the boomers experiencing any personal deprivations, but for myself I wanted some solidarity with the poor, and achieved it through becoming a self employed craftsperson.  Then, having experienced poverty, I, like most poor, desired to be less so, and worked to regain a middle class lifestyle.  To the extent that I have succeeded is as much a statement on the region's growing prosperity as my own asperations.   Most of the poor of the world don't enjoy the luxury of a supportive economy...


April 22, 2005
    Our family went to the Noam Chomsky lecture at Gonzaga University in Spokane last night.  My first impression was the two block line waiting to get into the basketball arena to hear him.  Lecturers don't usually fill basketball arenas.  In fact, I think they must have had to turn away hundreds, since there was a long line after us, and we got some of the last seats at the back of the balcony. I'd heard him talk on radio, and knew him to be an articulate critic and historian of American foreign policy.  Although articulate, he is not a dynamic speaker. Dynamic speakers use short sentences with lots of emphasis and dramatic pauses (as a linguist he should know this).  Instead he speaks in paragraph length sentences, tossing in allusions to historical events and figures at a head spinning rate.  Although making strong assertions as to our country's leadership's imperialism, he delivered his speech in the quiet tones of a professor lecturing, which I believe was a factor in the steady trickle of mostly younger (college aged) people leaving through his hour or more of lecture.  An interesting facet of his appearance was his receiving a standing ovation at the start of his speech (and a less pronounced one at the end).  Applause during the speech was for ideas that resonated with the audience (along environmental or pacifist lines), but mostly the crowd listened in respectful silence.
The only similar intellect I've been lucky enough to hear in person was Buckminster Fuller, who also rambled long and hard, scattering ideas in a less organized, but still clearly brilliant fashion.  My family knew little about Chomsky (except Forrest who'd heard of some of his language theory in computer classes), but were all happy they went, and we had a good discussion for the hour drive home on related issues.


April 23, 2005
    I sold pots at a Spokane County Domestic Violence Consortium Spring Bazaar today.  I mostly don't like to go off and sell pots, because it's a lot of work for uncertain returns.  Being such a good cause (anyone against it?), and being in an historic Spokane mansion made it fun.  But being as it was a nice day, I was placed on a side porch by myself, which made it handy for playing the banjo, tin whistle and harmonica.
Here's a picture, with a few pots set on the veranda at the right...
Patsy Clark mansion, now a law office in Spokane.

April 24, 2005
    Another day, another project. I'm building a tool shed at our newer house.  It's the same size as the greenhouse I built earlier (10 X 12 feet), and same idea (basic shed design), but it's also different.  Both projects encorporate material salvaged from would-be burn piles, and the material varies.  In the new shed's case, it's largely 2 X 6's and barely enough for the project.  There's not much to see of the shed yet, so here's a picture of the greenhouse...

The windows were mostly from our friend Kathleen, who abandoned some project and we were happy to take them, thinking greenhouse.  The siding was some removed from the church next door.  It was built on an existing cement pad, which might have been nicer for the tool shed, but at least the cement floor doesn't get muddy with plant watering.  This picture was taken in March, 2005--the grass is almost green enough to mow now.
While  showing off projects, here's the chicken coop/aviary part, complete... See below for the nesting/roosting area...
I'm tempted to spray paint the mesh black, since it shows up so much, but on the other hand, it's for the birds...

April 25, 2005
    The weather was hot enough today that the wood ants have started their mating flights.  For nearly as long as we've lived here, this has meant an emergence of fat 3/4 inch winged females into our living space, flocking to the windows  (and a few wimpier males).   I qualified the beginning of the last statement, because a year or so ago they apparently moved on, and we no longer have to vacuum up hundreds of the critters.  However, since nature apparently abhors a vacuum, so do ants (in both meanings of the word "vacuum").  Last winter a new species of ant took up residence in the house, Lilliputians to the Giant Wood ants.  They seem to make up in numbers what they lack in size, and have made us clean up our act (related to sweet sticky stuff on counters) or else.  They are so tiny it's pretty easy to ignore them, although finding hundreds on a sticky spoon can be a little irritating.
    It was also hot enough to feel something needed planting in the garden, so in went a first planting of peas, lettuce, spinach, and green beans.  The last is risky--if we get cold wet weather, they come up and wither on the cotyledon.  I may also risk an early planting of corn, since I've got a lot of seed if it freezes out...
    Another note, the chicks spent their first day in their outside pen.  They didn't get any naps, and when I helped them return to their nursery they sacked out pretty quickly in the food pie plate..   I've added a chicken webpage to my gardening index in case there are any chicken fanciers out there.  Also some how-to pages on making garden carts and wheel hoes, off the same gardening menu...
     The tool shed lost out on the priority list to gardening today...

April 26, 2005
    Peach muffins for lunch today.  If you don't feel like a competent cook, you could take some muffin mix, chop up some canned peaches (about a cup) and bake as regular).   What I do is beat two eggs, add about 2 TBSP oil, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon,  2 1/2 cups flour (mixed whole wheat and white, to your constitutional preferences) 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups buttermilk, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 cup chopped canned peaches, and bake them at 350 for 20 25 minutes (till they pop up in the middle when pressed.  Since I don't measure amounts, if the batter seems stiff when you've mixed it, add some more liquid (probably buttermilk).
In fact, they're about ready now...



April 27, 2005
    We have relatives visiting, thinking of moving to our area.  So are a lot of other people, contributing to a fast rise in realty values, as is happening in many places at the moment.  I think it all was an inevitable consequence of lowering the Prime Interest rate to about nothing several years ago.  Or it wouldn't have been inevitable if boosting the economy had failed, but since the economy is doing well, housing costs are going up, as low interest rates propel more people into pricier digs...
    Living in a boom area has been good for my pottery business, but the cost of living (taxes and stuff), and the lowering of quality of life (used to go for walks on the beach and not see anybody, frinstance...) serve to balance the equation...
    I'm not sure if everyone moving here knows what they're in for.  We used to say, "We've got 3 seasons in Northern Idaho, and temperate isn't one of them."  It can go from cold to hot with no in between, on the same day. Yesterday it was the high seventies and shorts weather.  The north wind blew and today the high was a cold 50.  I also warn people coming here that it can frost on the 4th of July (and more often than not we burn a little fire in the woodstove around the 4th, in spite of warm weather most of May and June.)
    Facts like that mean that people who move here from the Great Plains states survive longer on average than Californians.

April 29, 2005
    Althea and I are going to a funeral today for a friend's husband who shot himself.  We never met the husband (second), but we've known others who have lost loved ones in a similar way.  Having been the friend's pastor once, Althea was asked to do the service.  Althea is often called upon to do the hard services.  Ministry, and life, aren't easy.

April 30, 2005
    To get to the funeral, we drove about 1/3 of the way down Idaho.  Even the main route, US 95, is referred to as the Goat Trail.  It's slated now for improvement. But some of the smaller roads (and there aren't that many--Idaho is rugged) yield beautiful views in Spring as well.  This picture was starting down into the Clearwater canyon...

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