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
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
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
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
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."
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 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
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
The tool shed lost out on the
priority list to gardening today...
April 26, 2005
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
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