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August 1, 2006
I'd been eagerly awaiting the shipment of clay and glaze materials yesterday, because I ran out of dolomite a couple weeks ago, and had been stretching my bucket of black glaze till the shipment came in.  (The way to stretch a bucket of glaze is to pour it into a smaller bucket so pots can still be dipped in it.)  I was dismayed to find that the clay supplier had put a 50 lb. bag of whiting in the order instead of the dolomite.  It was an interesting mistake, since they both provide calcium in the glaze, but the dolomite also supplies magnesium.  There's little recourse when dealing with a dealer 200 miles away, and since I use whiting regularly, I'll just blow off the mistake, although it means an extra trip (85 miles) to Spokane to get some there...

August 2
It's been a roller coaster year.  Just as sales are at their peak, and my one big art fair of the year approaches this weekend, my back got sprained this morning.  Although I do a set of back exercises daily, which I think has greatly reduced the incidence of back pain, I strained my back picking green beans to give to the local food bank (there is no justice...).   Fortunately my family is stepping up to the plate, since mighty Casey has struck out...

August 3-4
Unless I re-strain it, my back goes out the same way everytime, and recovers in about a week. In the meantime I list to the right a bit...  I've enlisted my son to help pack pots and haul and set up for the art fair, so things are looking manageable.  And, compared to nearly everywhere else in the US, the weather is great, with highs in the 80's and lows in the 40's.  There are times when I've done a fair this weekend where I'd repeatedly dunk in the lake with my clothes on to keep moderately cool.

August 5-6


(Our booth)
Besides the overwhelming nature of a 3 day art fair, the first night (at home) our living room lost its power, so it's taken me till now to get an extension cord to my computer to get back online...  Hopefully I'll get the power restored today.
The curious thing about the power going out is that most of us experience that sometimes, with locating the short and flipping the circuit breaker as the cure. This time there was no circuit blown, so there's just an incomplete circuit somewhere, that affects the whole living room...  My guess is it's in the electrical box.

The good thing about this art fair was sharing responsibilities with 3 other local potters.  Also the weather, though leaning towards hot (90), was tolerable all three days.  I had most of the sales, particularly in number, as the others had more expensive and decorative pottery.  So I should feel good, as the "winner," but I've never been comfortable in the role.  Cooperation is a more comfortable model for me to live with than competition (yes, I wrote an article about this years ago).

I also got to see a national touring bluegrass band, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, which was very enjoyable. The fiddler (Greg Spatz) is from nearby in Cheney, Washington (teaches writing at Eastern Washington University)  and just published a book called Fiddler's Dream that was reviewed on NPR last week.

August 7
An art fair takes 2 more days than the event itself--one day before to pack, and one after to unpack and recover.  I did glaze a kiln load of pots, but also took a nap in the afternoon.
The electrical problem referred to yesterday was not an absence of electricity in the circuit (the black wire), but a disconnect in the way it would return to the ground (the white wire).

August 8
The wind is blowing tonight, dispelling the heat of a couple of 90 degree days.  We've got a bunch of relatives visiting, so it's good the sweet corn is ready and plentiful.
Today I received orders from 2 individuals for 16 chicken cookers.  They're a pot I was hoping to discontinue--basically a wide bowl with a tube sticking up in the middle, into which beer or other liquid is added, which humidifies a chicken from the inside while it bakes.  I don't like them because they're difficult to make the two parts stick together in a way that they don't crack apart in drying or pop apart in the kiln.  I'm guessing about 30-40 % of them fail on the way to completion, so it's little wonder I'm not enthused about making them.
But they wouldn't be the first pot I've made that I'm not personally crazy about.

August 9
We heard a wise old saying from a 90 year old woman years ago.  "One boy working is one boy, two boys is half a boy, and 3 boys is no boys at all."
I thought of it because of guests-- one set of guests is something special, two sets is a major occasion, and three sets is a family reunion and constitutes a major logistical challenge.
There's coordinating meals, airport trips,  sleeping arrangements, and activities.  Meanwhile sales and orders are keeping the pottery business jumping.  Some years I've charted my sales, and the 4th of July and the first week in August are the two peaks of the summer.  Everyone seems to vacation now, partially because of the big local craft fair last weekend, and another one this weekend in another nearby vacation mecca town.  In fact this family reunion on my wife's side happened for the most part serendipitously, as various members contacted us with this time as the best to visit.  About a month ago I scheduled my own personal vacation for this weekend--a bluegrass festival an hour away.  I'm glad I bought the ticket early.  If I waited till now I'd probably decide I was too busy to go.

August 10
The day got more tense early on as one of our troupe was leaving today on an airplane.  It was like being in a media storm--every talk radio show on NPR was about how tough it would be to fly today, with the thwarted terrorist plot in England.  Only one of them interviewed someone who had actually flown today--and that person just said the lines were maybe a little longer, and someone near him had to toss his chapstick.
So our relative went to the airport the recommended two hours early, and had no troubles at all getting through security in a few minutes.  I'm sure the large airports, particularly in the East, were more troublesome.
Tomorrow the family reunion will be totally disippated, a family "shower" ending with the meteor shower tonight...

August 11

Requiem for a refrigerator.

This refrigerator was in our shop/house when we moved in 23 years ago.   It's probably from the 1950's, and properly belongs on "The Honeymooners" set.  Along the way the door mechanism failed, so I added a regular pull handle, and a magnet from a computer hard drive to keep it shut.  It has a "freezer" that barely kept ice cream from running into a puddle, so we added a freezer in an outbuilding (to accommodate our garden produce as well).  The functional space inside is pretty small, so we added another minifridge out by the freezer to handle an extra gallon of milk.  When we bought our additional house, it came with 2 refrigerators.  Then last week we bought a second freezer.  So the current count is 5 refrigerators (two minis) and two freezers.
For a long time we figured we could never replace the old fridge because a door next to it wouldn't open since the modern fridges are fatter.  But a breakthrough in thought made it possible to move a side-by-side fridge from the new house, and the old fridge is now consigned to the outer darkness, where it can weep and gnash its teeth.
Not being true backwoods Idahoans, we didn't put it out on the front porch...  But we'll keep it, at least for a while.  It still works as well as it ever did. (Did I mention it would get an inch of ice built up on the freezer which would take an hour to defrost?)

August 12-13

I spent two days at the Bluewaters Bluegrass festival.  Besides taking over 100 pictures (resulting in the page linked here), I volunteered to help with the sound person.  Mostly I moved microphone stands and cables around.  It gave me something worthwhile to do between acts instead of watching the sound guys move microphone stands around.
The festival was actually 3 days long, and I know people that travel to festivals nearly every weekend in the summer.  I'm not a party person, and the party got long for me after one full day, but I made it through the second as well, with the help of a walk around Medical Lake on Sunday morning.  The most interesting natural feature was a rocky island with cormorants on it.  I'd never seen cormorants so far inland before--the birds favored by Asian fisherman to catch small fish for them...

August 14
I glazed a couple kilnloads of pots today.  The day was also notable for a lack of sales.
It's almost eerie how group psychology and/or the weather can influence sales. The weather's been really accommodating (hot days, cool nights), but the sky is smoky from a large fire in central Washington State.   Usually at this time the local farmers start burning their grass fields to stimulate seed production (and produce lots of smoke as a byproduct), but it may be too dry here currently to allow burning.  Just as bees react instinctively to save the hive when they smell smoke, I think humans are affected by smoke at a subliminal level as well.  While clouds and mist on a mountain make a lovely picture, smoke makes the same scene ominous.  The sun set this evening as a red ball in a smoky sky.
Another psychological factor affecting people currently is a feeling that fall is approaching. We have cottonwood trees in our yard that start losing leaves in August since they need a lot more water than they're getting.
Also it seems most people take their vacation the first two weeks of August, which have just completed.
Finally I'd like to mention I'm not nervous about sales (they've been very good this year), but these are just observations...

August 15

Today was jam packed.  Customers started looking at 6:30 this morning.  I made pots this morning, and went with my sons on an annual canoe trip to nearby Lake Pend Oreille.  For them the best part is jumping off 30 foot cliffs into the lake. For me it's the natural stuff, like these little birds that bobbed and weaved out in the deep water.  They were about half the size of ducks.  I took a short video, linked here, if you'd like to see them in action.  There was also an osprey and bald eagle getting into a bit of aerial combat (a lot of pictures of each of them, none great).  Okay, here's an osprey one...











August 16
A consensus of two birders identified the birds in yesterday's picture as juvenile red-throated phalaropes.  Indeed as I perused my bird book, they seemed the likeliest candidates, but they only  matched the winter plumage. The summer plumage includes red throats...
All our guests are temporarily gone (another arrives tomorrow), so it was a day to pick corn (about 100 ears) and blanch and freeze it (21 pints).  The first sign of rain in weeks is happening this evening.

August 17
No rain yet.  Our lawn is looking very brown.  We used 54,000 gallons of water on our two gardens last month.  The lawn only gets water by accident...
I fired two glaze kilns today, one for a rush order for a pie plate promised for tomorrow morning.  It may be a hot pie plate when they get it...
When I unloaded my bisque kilns today, nearly every chicken cooker in it had the middle part popped free.  This is, of course, frustrating, and the main reason I wish to discontinue making these baking dishes with a cylinder sticking up in the middle. I've tried many ways of assembling them.  If they're thrown as one piece, they tend to crack in drying.  So I switched to combining the two pieces, which is similar to adding a knob on a thrown piece.  I thought the problem was using extra water to attach them, which later keeps it from drying and turns to steam in firing.  So I quit using any water at all, and just applied extra force when attaching them.  That didn't work.  When I've had similar problems with knobs, I've solved it by making a pin hole leading into the interior space, allowing gases to leak out.  So I'm trying that on the next batch.  I wouldn't be making any if I hadn't gotten that order for 16 last week...

August 18
Sometimes you just need to look at  information in a new way to make it useful.  I got this email today in response to yesterday's blog:
"My name is Sharon Warwick.  I am a potter in Washington.  I just happened to browse your site today.  I read your blog and I think that this trick might work for those chicken roasters.
 Take some of your clay and make it into a slip.  Then add about 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of soggy torn up toilet paper (clean of course:) ) to approx 1 cup of slip.  Blend it up in a blender and you now have paper clay.  I have used this method to patch many pots and handles.  It can be used on Bisque ware aslo, but the ware needs to be bisqued again before glazing."
I've known about paper clay for a couple years, and even have some mixed up, but never considered it as a joining slip, and seldom bother to fix cracks with it, as I tend to remake the pots as quickly as I could patch them, but this may be just the application to use this unusual clay mixture.   So thanks, Sharon...

August 20

Today being my "day off," besides loading and firing a kiln I worked on my bicycle.
Some of you may remember when Charlie Brown was hung up on an obscure sportsman named (I think) Joe Shlabotnik.  Charlie Brown was the only fan in the world of Joe Shlabotnik.
I like a lot of Joe Shlabotniks.  My tribute page to musicians Sam and Kirk McGee is one of the few on the web...  I'm a big Harold Lloyd fan (link is to Wikipedia--the official Harold Lloyd page is being updated).
But I mention all this because I like 3 speed bicycles.  I like the simplicity of just 3 speeds to choose from (5 including "walking" and "coasting faster than you can peddle downhill).  I like fenders on my bicycle because I use it year round, including in wet and muddy conditions.  I like handlebars that come at you like a handshake instead of the other silly ways they've figured out.  I like comfortable seats.
But since hardly anyone else likes 3 speeds, it's getting harder to find parts.  If you need new tires, Kmart still sometimes has them, but for tubes I had to go to Shopko.  But what really finished off the bike pictured at the top was spokes, that tend to break with hard bumps and my 200 pounds of fun...  I keep a few spare wheels around for spokes, but none fit this bike, and I had broken six spokes when I decided it was time to call it quits.
We'd been given this women's mountain bike (the bottom one in the picture), which bears a resemblance to the top bike pictured because today I took all the parts I liked off the old bike and mounted them on the new...  The fenders, although made for narrower tires, fit well, and even had mounting holes for them on the frame, although fenders have been out of fashion for years...  The seat, back carrier, and handlebars also moved without complaint.  The bike may have to struggle with its new sexual identity, but I'm secure enough in my own that riding a "girl's" bike shouldn't cause me undue embarassment...  At 53 I like the ability to step through a bike to get on it...  The new bike is a theoretically 12 speed, but the front derailer doesn't work, and the rear one seems limited to 5 speeds, so it's pretty much like the old 3 speed, except it shifts worse...

August 21
This was the hottest day in quite a while (into the 90's).  It's tolerable, because the overnight temps drop down into the low 50's.  This evening I rode my bike around the periphery of town, observing that even most of the nice new houses in town have not been able to keep up with the American Dream Yard (deep green bluegrass), with the hot dry temperatures we've been having.  I don't waste water on grass, but do try to keep the garden and orchard alive and functioning.
Currently in the garden we have spam spam, corn, spam, cukes, carrots, blackberries, spam and zucchini.  Sorry about the spam--I got that list mixed up with my email inbox...  The sweet corn is the 3rd planting, couldn't be better, and a current supper staple, since the season is so short...

August 22

I heard this evening that my musician friend, Sam, from our group Musicians Anonymous, ended his life.  He was suffering a lot, facing terminal cancer.  I took this picture of him at his favorite late life activity, jamming, at the Fall Folk Festival last November.  He always looked and acted full of life, although he told me later that, even at the time this photo was taken, he was having the pain which was later diagnosed as lung and pelvic cancer.  I've had a couple other good friends die by suicide through the years, and I don't recommend it, for the sake of us survivors...

August 23

Megacyllene robiniae (Locust borer--yes we have locust trees in our yard)

This beetle was out in my pottery display.  It's apparently mimicking a yellow jacket bee.  Of course it could also fall into the group of brightly colored insects advertising their poisonous/bad taste, such as the Monarch butterfly, but I think it's probably a tasty one that gets avoided since it resembles the yellow jacket.  I did finally let it crawl on me, and nothing bad happened.  I didn't taste it, though...

August 24
The summer is slowing down, cooling down.  I spent some time raking leaves out of the pottery display and washing the dust off pots today.  The leaves usually start falling now, from lack of water, and it's been dry for a couple months so they're more than ready.  Any time there's dry lightning or a tossed cigarette butt, there's a new forest fire in the region, and if there wasn't enough smoke from that, the local bluegrass farmers torch their fields at this time to stimulate seed production.  So the last couple weeks of August often seem a bit blighted around here.
Anyway it's nice to slow down a bit.  I'm still working on restocking pots and filling a few orders.  The chicken cookers continue to be a challenge.  I've tried using paper clay slip to join the pieces, but I'm feeling like the thin layer of slip can't really work wonders, so I switched to making the pots all in one piece.  That eliminates the joint problem, but makes them more likely to crack in drying.  The cooler weather may help with that, as slower drying helps cut down on cracking...  The next couple of bisques should show which system works better...

August 25

There's a row of hanging planters on our front fence that I usually put petunias in.  By this time in the summer there have been enough days that I've forgotten to water them, so that although they still were blooming, it seemed best to put them out of their misery.  But included with the petunias was this orb spider, and I like it well enough to transplant it to our rose bush in the garden.  So this picture has some faded petunia blossoms, a rose bud, and a big hairy spider.  Hours after I moved it it was still clinging to the petunia.  A true creature of habit...

August 26
So the beetle of a couple days ago turned out to be a Locust Borer (thanks to an insect newsgroup I follow).  And I just checked on the orb spider and it's building a new orb right in the rosebush where I left it.  My relatives in Northfield, Minnesota reported baseball sized hail there a couple days ago, that naturally did a lot of damage.  Things aren't that interesting here currently.  A favorite author of mine, Terry Pratchett, named one of his books "Interesting Times."   He said it was a sort of curse--"may you live in interesting times..."  It's true that boring sameness usually includes relative security, while exacting its own price (boredom)....

August 27
I've been adding more videos--accessible from my video page.  "Send me not away" I wrote about 30 years ago, and just recorded it now.  The "Friendly Crosses" combines a lot of my nature photographs, which were kaleidoscopically transformed into decorative crosses, with "What a Friend we have in Jesus." Currently my videos have been clicked on about 48,000 times total, with an average rating of about  3 and 1/2 stars (out of 5 possible, i.e. above average).  It's sort of a curious, pointless kind of fame, but some of the comments have been encouraging.

August 28
The spider, mentioned a couple days ago, now has a nice orb higher up in the grapevine that grows above the rose bush.  It's a curious thing about spiders. I routinely kill them when they make messy webs inside the house, but outside I generally figure it's their environment and leave them alone.  But when they get big, like this orb spider, they enter into the realm of potential pets (like tarantulas).  I don't get too attached to orb spiders, though, since they die with the frost (as Charlotte's Web points out).
Another bit of the wild that's been intruding lately are the coyotes, which are easy to hear several times a night, and probably are within a half mile.  Since it's not me they're hunting, I enjoy listening to them, as a unique natural sound in a class of its own.

August 29
Not to get fixated on spiders, but it seemed to be gone today, including its orb.  (Late August is always a slow news time... )
The winds blew today, a mixture of smoke and dust to recoat our recently cleaned pottery display.  The warmth and winds made local fire wardens fear a repeat of the 1910 fires, when strong winds caused a lot of fire blowups across the region.  There were a couple sprinkles today, and a slightly greater chance of rain tomorrow with highs in the mid 60's, which is the coolest it's been predicted for a long time.

August 30
We maybe got a quarter inch of rain today, enough to settle the dust for a day or so. Possible frost tonight.  90's predicted again in a couple days.  Roller coaster weather...   The largest fire in Washington State went from 100,000 acres last week to 140,000 this week.  The cooler weather hit with the winds that blew all night, apparently reducing the fire danger temporarily rather than triggering a firestorm.

August 31
The spider was back--I think the wind had temporarily destroyed its web.
I made some sculptures this spring which I dubbed lawn sculptures, as I thought of them as yard accoutrements.  They weren't a big success, so I'll point my artistic urges in other directions.  But someone did like one of them well enough to ask me to make two copies in other colors, which I started today.  My rather foolish policy of not taking payment in advance may catch me up on this one again, like the two boxes of bowls I have sitting waiting to ship against the (fading)  hope that the person will send the money to pay for them.


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