Brad's Blog

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  August 1, 2009
    Our guests are into geocaching, which is using GPS to locate a small cache of stuff, which usually includes a guest book and some little prizes.   So we set one up here at the pottery, just for fun.  There are only a couple other sites around Spirit Lake.  Some of them can be as small as a tiny vial.  Some are as large as ammo boxes.  I learned from them there is a cache where I often walk over on the ridge.  They can exist unnoticed by all but geocachers.
Sometimes people take what's in the cache and leave other things.  I'll check the one I left and see what happens.  I put a minipot and some Folk Festival buttons in it to start.
    The green beans are getting ripe, along with the cherries and raspberries, and the tomatoes are starting finally as well.  
    It was over 90 today--a neighbor spent most of the day cutting firewood in the woods.  That's Idaho--summer is illusory--the long winters are what's real...  It's a pretty good illusion when it's 90 though--swimming in the evening is great...

August 3, 2009   
    The weather continues hot.  
    Since quitting at the library, I've thrown myself into doing more pottery work, and also hosting several sets of visitors.  Today was slower, but my son just left for Argentina (summer ski break), so I'm selling the pots as well as making them, and more tied down than when my son is helping.  It's been the kind of afternoon where a nap would be nice, but the phone would ring or some customers come in whenever I'd drift off.
    Now that I have more time, I'd like to get photos of the birds at our feeder.  Last week there were black headed grosbeaks, and we're getting lots of pine siskins, little brown birds with bits of yellow on them.  Across the street a couple days ago I saw a western tanager, one of our lovelier birds--black and yellow with a red head.  I hadn't thought I'd be feeding birds in the summer, or even at all, since we just had one sparrow last winter, but they've been coming steadily lately, and lots of varieties.  I'll include some photos if and when I get some.
    I picked about two gallons of raspberries this morning, but the end is near for them.  I'm also picking the cherries that have been protected from pest with the nylon nets.  The cherries outside the net are dried and shriveled, but inside they're very good.   I hope to make more nets this winter, to save more of them...
    Lately our one loose hen has been entering the cage to join the others to roost.  In the morning she makes loud noises when she wants to leave, since they're a lot more more pugnacious in the morning, and we open the door and help her out.

August 4, 2009
    The raspberries are finishing up.  I picked a gallon this morning, then switched to green beans.  We have two rows of green beans, about 30 feet long.  This was the first major picking other than a few for eating.  I picked over four gallons of them from the first row, then decided to save the rest for tomorrow and give them to the food bank.  The beans I grow are called Provider, and they really provide...  So I parboiled and froze them into 12 pints this evening...
    This was a great day for sales, after Sunday being one of the slower days in the last month.  I did check our sales for July, and they were off 25 % from last year, as is to be expected.  I listen to NPR as much as I can, but so much of it is on the bad economy that I sometimes switch back to my 1000 Grateful Dead concerts on CD (I'm about 1/4 through, after 5 years of listening...).

August 5
    The weather continues unabated, although the forecast is for a high of 70 by Friday, so change is predicted, but invisible so far. 
I made double and triple condiment holders, mugs, platters, and large bowls today.  I also sold more pots than I made, which is often the case by this time in the summer.  The curious thing was that the customers almost all came in between 12 and 2 pm.  Since my son is gone, I'm doing most of the sales, so it was nice that I was taking a break during those two hours from the studio.
    Speaking of my son, we've gotten a couple emails, and he should be skiing Argentine mountains by Friday, after a 20 hour bus ride from Buenas Aires.

August 6
female black headed grosbeak
    This bird is a female black headed grosbeak.  It frequents our feeder, and it even perched on our window and seemed to look inside for a couple minutes.   Grosbeak means big beak, which it has, for a bird of its size, suited to breaking open seed cases.  I've seen the male in the area a couple times, but not at the feeder.  Also last week I saw a western tanager just across the street. a lovely bird with black and yellow body and red head.
        One more comment on the photo.  To capture bird photos, you must rely on the automatic focus and light settings of the camera, due to their rapid movements.  In this case the bright daylight behind the bird made the bird almost as dark as a silhouette.  But by increasing the brightness in a photoshop type program, a lot of the color details are actually there.  It does make the background sort of whited out, but makes the bird photo far improved...  The yellowish background becomes a cheery highlight.
    Sales continued briskly today, as did my pottery production.  Mostly I took care of pots from yesterday and kilns, but I managed to throw some plates and berry bowls at the end of the day.

August 7
    It was cooler (70's) today, but the promised rains never happened, leaving us coolly dessicated.  The first tomatoes are getting ripe from the garden, as the last raspberries are picked.
    A while ago I started thinking about how many industries have been radically affected by the Internet. The music, news, tv, publishing, and movie industries spring to mind, as well as general marketing... Someone on NPR was saying that it is a real revolution, one that even NPR may not survive.  Certainly the current world financial troubles are rooted in corporate greed, but the back story includes many layoffs caused by shifting economics resulting from the web.  My father, if he still lived, as a journalism professor, would be mourning the impending death of the print media.  Even the advertising industry can't figure out how to get people to watch their spiels, with all the ad blockers and such.
    Although I sell some pots on the web, and was an early adapter, I never figured out myself how to reach a large customer base, so I'm still mostly a "brick and mortar" seller.  I've noticed more people this summer asking about having my pots on the web, so it's always possible that my web business will expand.  Since I use it for shipping, the post office would like that--another victim of the digital revolution...

August 8
    I played and explained a history of American popular music for an hour in the Spirit Lake City park today, to a small crowd of kids and vendors .   Then I headed into Spokane for the Bluewaters Bluegrass Festival.   I may make a webpage of photos from it later this week.  It's always a mixture of good old fashioned bluegrass and edgy modern stuff, which from my description you can guess which I prefer.  For myself, I figure as soon as the improvisations bear no resemblance to the original tune, it's jazz...  So some of the edgy modern jazz was based on old time tunes, which was a good start, and played with incredible virtuosity (i.e. lacks soul).  I occasionally wonder where my music fits in the continuum.  I know I'm not just a re-creator of old music, but I don't want to take the music off into the deep end either.

August 9
Silver Valley Idaho
    Today we biked in the Silver Valley, where scenes like this were common along the Coeur D'Alene river.  This used to be called Lead Creek, and it was so acidic that an old time friend of ours hung a hammer in it and the head was eaten off in a week.  So it's currently part of a superfund cleanup from mining wastes, but very lovely none the less.  We bicycled from Pinehurst to Cataldo, where we had lunch at the only place in town, then returned, about 8 miles in all, on an asphalt bike trail.  There were quite a few bicyclists, but often we'd go 5 minutes or more before someone passed us going one way or the other.
    We also talked to a friend who told us there's enough silver ore in the area to last another hundred years.  There's also a group  that currently ran out of money digging a mile long tunnel, which stopped a ways short of the ore body which had been located with test drilling.  Mining is a chancy business.  We'd also been told of a major vein of ore that ended abruptly in a fault line, and they couldn't tell which way the ore vein had shifted, so that was the end of that rich vein.   We've heard a lot of mining tales from the Silver Valley...

August 10
    It was another one of those summer work days.  I picked 6 gallons of green beans before moving on to the pottery.  I unloaded two kilns and loaded and fired two more.  The mugs I made this morning needed handles by afternoon.  And this evening I turned 5 gallons of green beans into 21 pints for freezing.
    The story of the little lone hen keeps evolving. She's been coming into the pen at night, slipping under the fence, to roost with the other hens.  And now she's laying eggs in the nest box with the other hens.  She can get back out the same way she goes in, but prefers to wait to be let out the door, probably to avoid being pecked.  None of the other hens try to slip out the fence hole.  She likes to follow me around the garden when I'm picking...

August 11
    It was a slower pace of day today--no vegetable or fruit picking...  

August 12
    This morning I looked out and noticed the lone hen had gotten out of the coop by herself.   Then later I went to get the eggs out, and dump in some leftovers, and I left a pancake outside the door for the lone hen, who'd wandered off somewhere.  When I went in the coop, I noticed the matching yellow hen was on the roost, the way the lone hen stays when in the coop to avoid being pecked on.  Then when I was leaving the coop, the hen flew out the door and began eating the pancake.  I put it back in, and it was immediately pecked by the two remaining hens.  So I figured out it was the lone hen, and the other yellow hen had found its way out this morning (after I'd just recently said they don't leave the pen...)   Anyway, we can't tell the two hens apart, but the other hens sure can.    But one way we can tell the two hens apart, is that the other hen isn't as easy to catch...
    We've had about a half inch of rain today, mostly drizzle, but one brief extremely local thunderstorm.    I could count to two between the flash and the thunder, making it less than a half mile away...  I heard that in a storm last month, a local resident had a tree in his yard hit, which broke off against his house, and the house received a big enough jolt to fry all his electronics.  The rain made it so I couldn't pick green beans for the food bank.

August 13
I posted my photos of the bluegrass festival last weekend at this link.
    It rained a lot last evening, so that this morning there was 1.6 inches in our rain gage.  We can put away the hoses for a while.

    After the rain this morning it seemed there were birds everywhere.  At the feeder which only hosted one sparrow all winter, I could see 10 species in a couple minutes.  This is an old crossbill photo--there was a female at the feeder this morning.

August 14
    Quite a few news sources noted the passing this week of Les Paul, who was a great guitarist, but gained fame for lending his name to the first solid body electric guitar put out by Gibson.  Some accounts credited him with inventing the electric guitar,  but although he did invent his own solid body guitar, it was another design that bore his name.  Mostly I remember him for playing on tunes like Mockingbird Hill with his wife on vocals.
    But I mention it because Mike Seeger also died in the last week, who may have  had as large an influence on the music community as Les Paul, but received little notice.  The only time I saw Mike Seeger was around 1970, when I went to my first folk festival at St. Olaf College.  I'd heard of Pete Seeger, who was his half brother, but didn't know what to expect with Mike.  He sang with a pleasant high tenor obscure mountain songs accompanied by autoharp, fiddle, harmonica, and guitar.  I was hooked on folk music, thanks to him.     
    At the time I saw him the folk period was already in deep decline.  He'd made his name in 1958 by forming the New Lost City Ramblers, which recreated the music of the Southeastern US previously known only to a few collectors of 78 rpm records.  He also helped bridge the gap between the Northeastern US music scene and the roots music of Appalachia, promoting bluegrass to a wider audience.   The New Lost City Ramblers inspired a second generation of folkies, including the Grateful Dead, whose popular "Uncle John's Band" song was a reference to the Ramblers, another member of which was John Cohen.  The Ramblers recorded on Folkways, a New York company better known to musicians than the general audience.
     A few years ago I requested a quote from Mike for my Sam McGee page, since he had recorded and produced Sam's best album.  He graciously consented (it's on the Sam McGee page).
    On the more mundane daily front, it got cold starting around noon, so that we had  a fire going through the afternoon and evening....

August 15
    It was another cold day, ending in sprinkles, but the pottery shop was humming with customers all day.  I only unloaded and loaded a kiln today and mixed a batch of glaze.  The rest of the day was spent getting ready for company.
    My son got back from Argentina yesterday--it rained one or more of the days he was skiing, enough to close the mountain temporarily (he hiked to ski on that day).  He enjoyed the trip overall.  He's been learning Spanish on the Internet, including listening to Spanish TV programs and movies.   My other son and his wife arrive this evening at 11 for a week or so, from the Chicago area.  I'm glad the weather is expected to improve.

August 17
    The weather is at "pleasant" heading towards "torrid" later in the week.  I spent most of the morning dealing with loading and unloading kilns, glazing, and packing pots for shipment.  I finally got to throwing in the middle of the afternoon.  I had three kids come asking for work so I set them up cleaning the pots.   They did a fair job, and didn't break any, so it worked out.  I've no doubt cited advice about children working from a 90 year old lady which stuck with us--"one boy is one boy, two boys is half a boy, and 3 boys is no boy at all."  
     I didn't get a photo, but yesterday we had Evening Grosbeaks at the feeder.  They're more colorful in their winter plumage, but I'll try to get a  picture if they stop by again.  The feeder has been emptying in about 3 days, as the bird party continues.  In the winter, when a flock of 25-50 Evening Grosbeaks stops by, they can empty a feeder in a couple hours. We started calling them seed pigs.
    There's a patch of hawthorns half way between the pottery and our house, and I saw an unfamiliar bird eating in it.
immature cedar waxwing
    We finally decided it was an immature cedar waxwing, with no crest yet...  In the photo you can see the haws, and the thorns

August 18
    We went canoeing at the end of the lake looking for moose, but saw none.  That's the problem with moose looking--if we weren't looking for moose it would have been an acceptable experience.  We did see a bald eagle and a heron.
    Last night I played the preshow at the Rockin B Ranch. It was to be with the bass player I work with, but he left for the month.  As it was, I played reasonably well, while people ate, talked, and some of them listened.  The  rest of the evening were bluegrass groups I've heard for years, but I was impressed how good they all sounded.  There must be some advantages to regular practices and performances...

August 19
    We went to Farragut Park today, at the north end of Lake Pend Oreille.  While our progeny canoed across and along the lake, we hiked to a swimming area (about a mle along the side of the lake).   Our arrangements to remeet were a little hazy, so we walked a half mile up to a road, thinking we might meet them, then realized they might have chosen the option to pick us up in the canoe.  So we walked rapidly down again, and located them in the canoe.  We made it back just as dusk was falling, in time to still see the corn ears well enough to pick them.  
    The photo is from the day before on Spirit Lake.  With near record temperatures predicted today, another lake is not out of the question for tomorrow.
    We finished off the green beans today, taking some to the food bank.  This year we planted some scarlet runner beans on the other side of the fence we use to support our peas, so we'll have a late supply as well.  It was also the joyful first day of sweet corn from the garden.

August 20
    I don't think it got over 90 today, but we evaded it by going to the middle part of Lake Pend Oreille, Green Bay.   On the way there we passed through dark woods where it was only 70 degrees.  The final descent was a rough road, with a parking area for the pebble beach and primitive camping area only having room for about a dozen cars.  So it was relatively isolated and lovely.  The haze from forest fires made the distant views pretty hazy, but the lake itself was excellent.   This lake is the largest natural lake in Idaho, about 30 miles long and over a mile across over most of its domain.  In the last two days along its shores, we saw a rubber boa snake, and a tiny blue tailed skink (lizard).  The skink was in the pebbles on the beach.

August 22
    I've been home catching up on pottery work for the last two days.  Sales are slowing down, which is not surprising, as friends and relatives are back at or getting ready to return to school.
    The hens have settled into a pattern where the wrong hen is out every morning.  Also they seem to all be getting along better, which might make it so we can house them together this winter.

August 24
    We had more visitors--a couple nieces and their mates.  That turned our visiting son and his wife into part of the host team.  I can imagine getting another set of visitors and our kids could take over and we could step out, something like a chain letter (hmm, sounds a bit like life).  Anyway we're getting our share of visitors.   
    We went to the high school to play some tennis tonight, and one would think school was already in session. There were kids practicing football, cross country track, and there was a volleyball tourney going on that had filled the parking lot.  It's all reminiscent of a little over a year ago when our exchange student arrived.

August 25
With the last day of our family reunion, we played croquet and keep-away.  My son was briefly in charge of croquet for his college, including creative variations.  Our yard is peppered with bushes and garden spots, so the course had a dog leg in it.  They also added a few frisbees and a soccer ball lying about, that could earn you an extra whack.  I won in the regular part of the game, but lost in the poison section.  The keep-away game was played in the Mill Pond, throwing around a small beach ball.  It was the usual--somebody "it" in the middle, throwing the ball around.  Still it was a lot of fun, helping us to forget that the water is turning colder again, and Fall is nearly upon us.
    My son made a pepper shaker that looks like a squirrel out of clay--his wife made a candy dish with a toad and some acorns in full relief as decoration.  The day they made them, I sat with them and turned out rattlesnakes and turtles.
    August 26
    I forgot to cover the 40 goblet cups and 40 stems I made yesterday, which meant they were very dry to assemble this morning.  I still succeeded, dipping the joint areas in water and smearing liberally with slip.  But in trying to trim them, I wore out one of the last loop tools I had on hand.  So I spent some time today making more of them, from wood handles and scraps of street sweeping brush metal that I've collected over the years (I noticed recently the new brushes are made from plastic, so I'm glad I stockpiled a lot of these thin strips of metal.  So as to make the ends replaceable when they wear out,  I secured them to the handles first with many wrappings of strong fishing line, then covering that with electrical tape, both of which can be cut off later.
August 27-29
    The short version is that I've been gone for two days, and several hundred miles, to get some peaches.  These were organically grown peaches, from along the Columbia River at Kettle Falls, Washington.   The travel coincided with some of the hottest weather this year--nearly 100 F (38 C).
    The most exciting part was near Sullivan Lake, where we stayed in a friend's cabin.  As we approached the lake, a black bear dashed across the road in front of us.  This was the best way to encounter a bear, from inside a car.  I've never experienced them the other way, and in fact the last bear I saw in the wild was in the process of being euthanized after being hit by a car.  Anyway this bear was loping towards the campground at the upper end of the lake, where I was glad I wasn't camping.
    After eating supper at the cabin, I thought I saw a dark blob moving on the far shore of the lake, so we paddled over to see if it was a moose or bear, but it was only a stump (cleverly moving to fool me, no doubt).
    Yesterday we stopped in Colville for their county fair.  It had everything a fair ought to, except the rides.  This was the first time I'd seen an emu up close.  It looked pretty evil.  The big beak didn't have any sharp serrated parts to it, but it was still big, and light coming through its throat when its mouth opened glowed red.
    After the fair we stopped at Kettle Falls to get some peaches, at an organic orchard we'd known about.  Like a lot of the towns named after falls around here, the actual Kettle Falls apparently got drowned by hydro dams on the river.  There was still a lot of lovely mountains and other scenery in the area.

August 30
    This month came in and went out with geocaching.  We were up at Priest Lake again today, looking at a peat bog set up as a nature lesson with signs and stuff, and my son noticed an ammo box right there.  A month ago, we wouldn't have known what it was, but today we opened it and found a rubber ducky with a winter motif.  The rule with stuff in the boxes is if you take something, you leave something, so I emptied a little pot I carry with various allergy pills in it and we left that there.  I'll have to check my geocache to see if anyone has found it yet...
    The hot weather continues, predicted through most of this week.  It used to be we were lucky to make it to this date without a frost.

August 31
    We had a couple god-children out with their parents today.  The three year old chased after our chickens like King Kong after Godzilla.  The chickens did at least as well as Godzilla would have...
    This morning the lone chicken was lonelier than usual, shut in the cage by itself.  The others were missing, but turned up in front of our house, walking along our gravel road.  I'd had a theory the lone chicken is afraid to leave the cage by herself, because of the others, but this information blew that theory.
    I made teapots and French butter dishes today.   I'm starting to get ahead of the sales, so I'll probably slow production in September and work more on projects.