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Brad's Blog

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August 1
    Since I had to work in the library today, my wife took the first day of sales at the art fair.  So I  processed green beans and raspberries--12 pints of raspberry freezer jam, and 9 pints of green beans.  The deer have gotten into the garden enough that the usually prolific beans are only marginally productive...  I've started fantasizing about using the old paneling we removed from our cabin to build a wall around the garden during the summer...
    The rest of the weekend will be serious art fair time for me...

August 2
    Excellent weather and steady sales made this day go well.  A lot of things can (and do) go wrong at art fairs--wind storms, rain, heat waves, lightning.  I've had my display collapse--the neighbor next door said it was the first outdoor sale he'd tried in 25 years, since a whole slew of displays including his blew over in a windstorm.  Today the wind was so light that I could leave little slips lying on the table without them blowing away.  
    I also managed to read the book Resolution  interlaced with the sales...

    
August 3

    This is how my booth looked this year.  Although I was alone at the booth, a potter friend showed up and offered to watch it, so I walked around and saw how art fair displays have evolved.  People with small stuff like jewelry mostly just have a display blocking the whole front, like a jewelry counter.  Most other serious displays have sidewalls like the one on the right, and create a whole environment inside (which could be pretty hot on a hot day, which these days weren't...).  The sidewalls become vertical display spaces, broken up with small shelves at different levels.
    On the other hand, I have these pine board shelves, and the overflow underneath.  A last minute inspiration was taking some of the old paneling I keep talking about so they'd sit flat.  This year I went and bought a "10 X 10" foot canopy, which turned out to be 10 by 10 at the base, and only 8 X 8 at the top, so my display stuck out a bit.  At night we'd wrap a few old tarps around it, but it didn't even give an illusion of security.  The only casualty was knocking off a mug when taking the tarps off.  In the old days I'd just walk off and leave the pots, no canopy, no tarps.  That worked too...
    When I got home this evening, while eating supper I got a call from a customer at our Spirit Lake studio who'd left their checkbook on the counter outside.  I went out and saw a purple wallet thing and started describing it to the person on the phone.  Turns out another person left that, with driver's license and credit cards inside.  So I went out to look again for the checkbook, and found a note from someone saying they'd found the checkbook and would call the owner.  They didn't leave a name, so I'm hoping the twain shall meet...

  August 4 I did get a call about the purse late this afternoon, so all's well that ends well.
    We had fresh green beans and the first carrots of the season for supper tonight, along with locally made potato-sausage.  The weather was on the verge of hot, expected to get too hot in a few days.  I got a swim in, and only unloaded a couple glaze kilns today in the pottery.
    I'm thinking the clay I switched to, Sea-mix, doesn't like hot dry weather, since I've been getting a lot of pots developing cracks when drying.  I've also gotten some bloating, which resembles small pox in pottery, bumps all over the clay.  Bloating is usually caused by gases given off at the top temperature of the kiln.  Sometimes the gases can be burned off with a hotter bisque firing.  It can also result from overfiring.  I've stepped down a half a cone to see if that will help.  It's interesting that it seems to happen more on the inside of pots than the outside.  No clay or process is a panacea...

August 5
    The clay problems of yesterday may have been solved with a bit of sleuthing.  First I noticed the kiln yesterday took too long to bisque.  I've been so busy I hadn't been paying attention.  Both bottom elements weren't working.  This kiln was due for new elements, so I decided to do the whole overhaul.  The problem lay in the plugins between the rings that make up the kiln.  The kilns are designed in rings so you can transport them in pieces, and to hook up the electrical components each one has a plug and receptacle to join them together.  These invariably fail with age--this is the last one I've had to replace with conventional plastic twist connectors.  (These aren't an ideal solution--I noticed the plastic had melted off some of the old ones when I was overhauling the kiln).
    The kiln failure could mean that the bottom of the kiln wasn't getting fired hot enough in the bisque, leading to having gases that would cause the bloating at glaze temperature.  I know the pots I took out from the bottom section were underfired for the bisque, as each of them broke in the glazing process...  So in a week or two I'll know if this is what was causing the phantom bloating.
    I was under pressure reassembling the kiln before I had to go work at the library, but I hooked it up and pushed the button and sparks flew inside it, so I've still got to find a short tomorrow...

August 6
    It looks like we're getting a Danish high school exchange student for this Fall.  He plays classical piano.  Good thing we have two pianos--although one of them needs tuning...
    By taking apart the kiln slightly, peering around briefly, and reassembling it, the short I mentioned yesterday disappeared.  I used the same method at the library for fixing a computer that had gotten disconnected from the internet.  I think it's also called dumb luck.  Frequently luck runs the other way, smarter but more insidious.

August 7
    This was the next to last summer reading program day, and it actually consisted of all the items I selected back in May.  With the assistance of my coworker, we put on a puppet play of Anansi the Spider and the Mossy Rock, which was well received.  I read a similar folktale from Cuba of Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.  The children then made some insect crafts such as caterpillars out of beads and pipe cleaners, and grasshoppers from plastic spoons covered with green felt.  Then I spent the rest of the day researching ideas for the fall program.
    Partially due to the kiln problem, I've made few pots so far this week--two teapots, to be precise.  Tomorrow I hope to get producing again, because the sales continue to be as hot as the weather...

August 8
    I made casseroles, garlic pots, plates, and cereal bowls today.  It was hot and dry enough that I spent several hours this evening trimming them.  A mostly dry electrical storm is passing through--with ominous amounts of lightning...  Fire season...

August 9
    No new local fires today, and the rain chance appears to be disappearing.  I made condiment servers, minipots, and canisters today, and sold as many pots as a good art fair day.  Most customers were buying $60 or more.  I also prepared 10 pints of green beans for freezing.

August 10
    Took the day off and went to Bluewaters Bluegrass festival, took photos, posted them here..

August 11,
    I squeezed in an hour of throwing, some large bowls.  At this point in the summer,  the stuff I'm not out of is interesting.  When I started, over 30 years ago, candleholders and pitchers sold rapidly.  Lately neither has sold much at all.   Because I thought I'd sell a lot of berry bowls at Art on the Green, I made a lot of them, but I didn't sell many there, probably partially because of marketing--not having a big photo showing how cool they are full of berries...  Usually by this time in the summer I'm out of them, and they're still popular here, so that's a good thing.
   
In this odd, undulating summer, it was cool enough this morning to want a small fire in the stove, but by the weekend they're predicting nearly 100 (38C) again.  The sweet corn is only tasseling currently, which means it may be the end of August before we have any to eat...  But the first tomatoes are ripe, and the early carrots are good...

August 12-3
    My son and daughter in law are visiting, so we are doing stuff like playing Scrabble, which we used to do online in Facebook until the copyright infringement issues caught up with it.  Tomorrow is the picnic concluding the summer reading program--a small attempt at a carnival.   Raspberries are finishing in the garden.

August 14
rubber boa in Idaho
    A neighbor brought in a small snake his wife had found in their young children's bed this morning...  He knew of my interest in nature and hoped I could identify it...  It was a rubber boa, like the one pictured above, not much larger than a night crawler worm.  I assured him they were harmless and a native species (the only boa in N. America, I think).  They live off insects and baby mice.  He was happy for us to return it from nature farther away from his home...  He thought some nearby road work may have led it to wander in the house.
    My Australian webfriend  Linda often has much more exciting stories of the local venomous snakes she encounters there.  I'm happy to say I've never heard of a rattlesnake in our area, so that just leaves black widows, hobo spiders, and brown recluses to fret about, usually when I'm doing something in a crawlspace.
    The final picnic went off alright today.  The temperature was high 80's, which may have kept some away, but about 50 people attended.  We had face painting and tatoos, stories, brief music,  a couple games, and hot dogs, chips, juice and cookies.   Bugs  (--the summer theme--) can now rejoin other invertebrates in the juvenile nonfiction section, and it's time to regear for fall...

August 15
    I spent over an hour packing 3 boxes of pots to ship this morning.  I charge a modest fee for packing, which doesn't really cover my time.  Currently, when I can't keep up with sales, every minute is valuable.  On the other hand, even though I can throw about 60 mugs per hour, I can never sell that many per hour, so the real time investment is in selling the pots.  This is why it sometimes seems reasonable to give a shop half of your asking price for selling your pots, even though doing that a lot is clearly going to make you have to work twice as hard for your money.
  I don't enjoy packing pots to ship, but it's part of the job...

August 16
    The really hot weather is here for at least the weekend--95 (35C) here today.  So we headed with the canoe for Lake Pend Oreille, an annual pilgrimage to Idaho's largest natural lake (8 miles away from us).  It always has a timeless quality, as the landscape is nearly identical from year to year.  We always hope to see the resident mountain goats or other interesting wildlife, but that happens rarely (not today).  The most interesting bird was a gallinule, a white beaked coot-like bird with widened pads on its feet instead of webbed feet, which allowed us to approach closely without spooking.  I first identified them in Europe last fall--hadn't seen them locally before.

August 17
moose on  Spirit Lake
We'd heard there were moose hanging out at the west end of Spirit Lake, so we canoed there this evening and I got this picture.  It was getting too dark for good photos--I'm hoping to lead a morning moose photo expedition on Tuesday morning, when they'll be better lit, instead of backlit.  The reddish color in the water is partly sunset color, and partly chromatic aberration, which happens at certain angles of lighting.  There were 3 moose over a several block area--this cow, a young calf, and a bull just getting his antlers.  There were quite a few power boats in the area--they were mostly oblivious.  We got out and swam a bit (though the water's full of water weeds, which is what the moose were mostly eating), and got a bit nervous when  the moose headed our way...

August 18
    I replaced the photo from yesterday with one from today's expedition, made today instead of as planned on Tuesday since Weather is coming in (wind, storms tonight, and cold within two days).  Although the lighting was good, it was hard to get a great photo of an animal that only sticks its head above water to breathe and chew...   It would look more moosey with its ears up, but it seldom did that--mostly draining them... The one now pictured had little bumps for antlers--perhaps it's a yearling.   Of course to get the classic photo, it would have to be a bull with big antlers, best if bashing in another bull...
    The glaze kiln I unloaded this morning looked slightly overfired, and indeed one shelf had those nasty bloating bumps.  It could be the new clay I'm using is more sensitive to slight overfiring...   You'd think after 35 years I'd have it all under control, but there are a lot of variables, as clay varies from batch to batch, and even the firings, mostly automated, vary a bit for unknown reasons.   I'm stepping the kilns back a half a cone, but that affects the blue crystalline glaze adversely.  Life is compromise...

August 19

    After I finished blogging last night the storm hit--lots of wind, a little rain, a little lightning.  A hundred miles to the west  thousands of acres caught fire in the windstorm.  We had a very large cottonwood blow over, just missing part of our pottery display (and our best car).  It was rotten inside--we heard a loud snap during one of the wind gusts, and there it was.  Years ago we encouraged an understory of maple trees against the day this might happen...  Anyway we spent half of the morning cutting and hauling, and there's still a large section leaning down to the front fence.  
    We've heard from exchange student Emil's family in Denmark--he should be arriving Labor Day Weekend.  

    August 20
    A half inch of rain today to end mostly 6 months of a dry season.  The farmers around here would probably have preferred it to wait a couple weeks--rain interferes with harvest and can make the wheat sprout prematurely in the heads.
    But the fire danger is reduced.  We haven't had to heat yet, which seems an odd statement from the record heat we had several days ago.   A high of 63 (17) predicted for tomorrow--a hint of Fall...  Suddenly pots are taking twice as long to dry, which is mostly a good thing...

August 21
    We've had guests pretty continuously for the last 3 weeks, and today marks a break, until Labor Day weekend.  But visiting with two sets of guests today cut into my pottery work time, so there was little to show for the day.  We've had a few strong showers, keeping things moist, adding up to another 1/4 inch today.

August 22
    In the library today, our alarm system wanted to tell us a battery was low, over and over again, with little digital insistent chirping.  We finally called for help, and an electrician came and replaced the battery, to no avail.  At least he knew how to shut off the noise until an alarm specialist can get things fixed.  The library is recently expanded, and has a lot of new systems that need tweaking...
    Otherwise, it's supposed to get cold tonight, possibly near freezing, then hot tomorrow.  Rollercoaster weather...  We still need a couple weeks till our corn is ripe...

August 23
    Remind me never to believe myself (see yesterday).  I checked the first planting of corn this morning, and we ate some this evening (very good!).
    One of the many boring mundane parts of being a potter for me (have I ever enumerated the exciting parts? And those would be..?.) is folding up sheets of newsprint to have out in front so people can help themselves.  I'd already done this yesterday, anticipating they would be used on Sunday, when we're always closed, but some enthusiastic customers used it all up this evening, so I was folding paper after supper.  For some reason whenever I do this, my cat decides to come and lie on the paper (cats seem attracted to any new surface, since it so far lacks their hair).  So I got my son to make a short video of it, which is now temporarily immortalized on Youtube.  Cat helps folding sheets of paper

August 24
    I feel like I've been playing tackle football.  I decided to work on the deck at our lakeview cabin.  This involved ripping (with a table saw) the rotten parts off the 2 X 6's, making them closer to 2 X 4's, screwing them onto the floor joists, and grinding the sharp edges with a grinder.  Along the way I managed to fall 3 feet to the ground, stepping on some boards set in place but not screwed down, that stuck out past the end of the deck.  I think that's part of my soreness, plus a few resulting minor scrapes.  I got the basic flat part done--next I want to add a railing/seat like my father made several times, where you can sit facing out (legs dangling), or facing inwards.  It'll probably be September before that happens...

August 25
    Sondahl and Hawkins played the Rockin B Ranch tonight, warm up band for two bluegrass bands.  The Rockin B specializes in Cowboy dinner theater, so the whole stage is a western set, with a covered wagon in the background.  There was a guy taking high quality video of the concert, and with luck we'll get a copy and post some of it on Youtube in the next couple weeks.
    The weather reverted to rain again.  This time I ran a plastic pipe from one of our gutter downspouts over 6 feet to our grape arbor.  They look like they need all the water they can get, as they're just pea sized (but lots of them this year, more than ever).
    At library preschool visit, I read If I ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss, and taught them how to play London Bridges.  I see it as part of my mission to help keep alive folk traditions of all sorts with these young people...

August 26
     In a kiln I unloaded today, the white glaze looked a little underfired.  It's a new batch, so it's possible I mismeasured one ingredient or another.  It's pretty simple, but I've been known to mess it up previously.  Rather than dump $30 or more worth of glaze, I'll try adding the remnant of a good bucket to it, since it's almost good enough now.  It's often hard to pinpoint changes in glazes, because each new bag of materials you buy could have enough difference in makeup to affect the glaze...  Mostly that's not the case, but every once and a while it is...
    Meanwhile the fresh tomatoes are building up to the point of needing to give some away or start freezing them...  The weather may start freezing them in the next couple weeks if I don't do it myself...

August 27
    Another inch of rain last night, and all the vegetables and fruits are very happy.  It was cool enough to light a brief fire in the stove to warm the kitchen this noon.  Everyone feels summer leaving here the last few days.  The pottery sales have reflected it.  I think there would be a pretty good correlation between temperature and sales here throughout the year...  But I expect this weekend, when our town celebrates its centennial, will restore busyness to the business...

August 28
    It's been pleasant weather (with long sleeves) today.  I had to pick another couple gallons of tomatoes to keep even with them.  The grapes are starting to turn color.  The lake has never been so full for this time of year...
    I glazed and fired another couple kilnloads today, and since some glazes have been coming out in a surprising and disappointing fashion, there's a bit more anxiety than usual about their outcome. But not too much--been there before...

August 29
    The kiln referred to yesterday came out alright, so I'm safe on the white glaze till I mix the next batch.  
    I pureed 14 pints of tomato sauce tonight, and the big innovation was not boiling it before freezing.  I found a reputable source (an Extension bulletin) that said you could quarter and freeze tomatoes, so I extended that to the sauce.   I always cook it on thawing anyway...
    The town centennial party has started, with music in the park for 4 days,  mountain man reenactors, old gasoline engines, and stuff.  Our American penchant for reenacting, whether the last robbery of Jesse James, the Civil War, or whatever, led me to wonder if it's popular in Europe, such as Denmark where our student is coming from.  Perhaps the Danes 
with pointy hats hop in small open boats  and do a bit of pillaging for old times sake...

August 30
quail
These quail were perched on our clothesline the other day.  The quail haven't become obvious much until lately, when the new brood has become big enough to wander more...  This appears to be one family...
    The town celebration yielded a steady stream of customers into the evening.  The weather was perfect for shorts or long clothing.  We did some yard work, clearing branches broken off in the last windstorm, and defining a pathway that will be bricked...  Then there was college football, which can be watched simultaneously on the internet and broadcast tv.   Sounds like Fall...


Books read and media of note:
Lie down with the Devil by Linda Barnes. Barnes has a taut series of detective novels set in Boston, which initially drew me because the woman detective plays blues guitar, and drives a taxi.  Barnes' writing is quite straightforward and readable.  This one represents a turning point in several of her protagonist's relationships.

The Amulet of Samarkand
by Jonathan Stroud.  Harry Potter made fantasy fashionable, and thousands of writers would kill to be the next JK Rowling...  This one does pretty well, judging by the first of this Bartimaeus Trilogy.  A smattering of lore about genies and magicians leads into to this juvenile adventure novel--dark like the Harry Potter novels-- set in an alternate modern day London where magicians have taken over Parliament.

Film: The Last Samarai  
My son is a military history major, and we've watched a lot of war movies together, and a lot of samarai movies as well.  There's usually a lot of blood and guts, and battlefield hoorah, and this movie is no exception.  This one blended the US and Japan at the time of their opening door, 1876.   It was poignant, even if, like me, you're not a big Tom Cruise fan.

Film: Princess Caraboo
A delightful English period film made in 1992, based on a bit of history from 1817.  A young woman appears, speaking no English, but her royal bearing and behavior convince many of her royal if exotic lineage.  An engaging story, well told, featuring many fine British actors.

Film: You were never lovelier
Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth.  I usually think of Ginger Rogers with Astaire, but Rita Hayworth was very good in this fluffy romantic comedy that emerged in 1942 as some warfree fantasy, set in a South America seemingly lacking in real hispanics.  Jerome Kern's music was not his best, but the whole thing worked in a convoluted way.

Over Tumbled Graves  by Jess Walter.  
This reads like a true crime novel, not too surprising since the author has written some.  Towards the end it becomes more a whodunit and suspense novel.  But what makes it worthwhile for locals is the totally local realistic Spokane setting, familiar ground for many of us who've lived here for a long time...

Resolution by Robert Parker.  Another take on the classic western tale by the best selling author of the Boston detective Spenser series.  It resembles The Dark Knight in its reflections on the role of the vigilante in society.  It playfully alludes to 19th Century philosophers, as unlikely as these same gunslingers would be to have read any of them.  It is more coarse in language and action than the archetypal forebears of Zane Grey and Louis Lamour.  I'm still not sure why these modern best selling authors are writing for a mostly moribund genre, but they've got the clout to get them published.  And I enjoyed it... 

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