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Brad's Blog

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July 1

    Today I thinned the main crop of carrots.  With a large garden it's best to keep plugging away at something every day.  I'll have to pick strawberries tomorrow, but there are thunderstorms tonight with a fair amount of rain, so I think it will be later in the day when the picking will be enjoyable.  
    The thunderstorm is fairly rare around here, which is good since they frequently start forest fires.  At this time of year things are still so green that the fire danger is reduced.  Since the 4th is a time people around here let off large high flying fireworks, it's always best to have a good rain to make sure things are damp when that craziness gets going.
    For the Fourth I've usually done something silly for the parade, but this year I've been asked to be part of a library thing, riding my riding lawnmower with a couple girls leading with a banner, and having a banner about the summer reading program on the back of the mower, while I'm dressed as a bug.  So no more sillyness for me :-)
    Now that I'm settling in as a children's librarian, I've begun to wonder what my (and the library's) purpose really is.  It does promote literacy, but schools hopefully do that better.  I wanted to pass on the wonder of great children's literature, which is an end in itself, but I have no doubt a love of reading can be helpful in all life's endeavors.  I am seeing, and have participated in, libraries trying to keep up with the times, offering music, videos, and computer access to keep people coming in the door.   Amazon.com is pushing a new book reading screen called Kindle which makes getting the text of a book as easy as clicking a couple buttons.  If it doesn't succeed in toppling paper books, one of its successors will.  This will leave libraries for the poor and the Luddites (technology resisters).     
    Although some efforts are made to have book discussions, and other interest groups in the libraries,  reading is mostly an individual activity, and I've observed little interaction between patrons in the library.  Most people don't go there to be sociable, but to pursue whatever interest they came for.  So I'm always surprised to find strong community support for the library, such as the recent building of a new large showpiece library in Coeur D'Alene.
    I do think, for smart people, the library represents a life line, a connection to the collective wisdom of our civilization, at a price anyone can afford.
   
July 2
    It heated right up again after the storm (1/2 inch to help keep Idaho green), so I went swimming in the brief break between lunch and starting at the library.  The storm threw an identity crisis onto some new Internet computers at the library, from a power outage, so that they exchanged identities.  This wasn't too hard, since Station 1 and 2 share a central processor, but I was lucky to stumble on a way to fix them, by disconnecting the keyboards and switching them, so the keyboards matched up with their new Station 2 and Station 1 identities.  As our library leaders said a couple weeks ago, it's important to remember when dealing with computers that there is magic involved...

July 3
    Sales are heating up close to the 4th.  Usually, if you were to chart sales through the month of summer, it would resemble a big heartbeat, with the primary push at the 4th of July, and the second part of the beat peaking the first week in August.  It'll be nice to sort of have the day off tomorrow.   As usual, I plan to be in the parade, but representing the library instead of the pottery.  And I may or may not play music in the park, depending on whether the music people think it's a good idea.  And some relatives are coming for breakfast, and there are still a lot of strawberries to pick.  Could be worse...

July 4

    Turns out there was just a disc jockey at the park, playing patriotic songs and old country ones.  So I stayed with the library booth. and could often quickly locate the key they were playing in and play along with them, when I wasn't doing songs with little children or reading a story.  In the parade I had 4 young people, so someone else carried the 10 foot high banner I was going to try to carry on my bike, so I bicycled behind the children and played harmonica.  The weather today was the epitome of balminess, if you were wearing shorts...
    The photo today is how the flower garden is looking these days, with the peonies and irises just finishing, and the lilies looking good.

July 5
    Even though the temperature has moderated, it's dry enough that pots thrown in the morning must be trimmed in the evening, or covered.  Mostly I'm going ahead and trimming them, so as to maximize output.  Today I made my two styles of butter dishes.   Also a potter who'd gleaned some glazes from my website, visiting from Washington D.C. stopped by today.  
    Meanwhile the strawberries keep on coming, and I froze some broccoli today, which is a first.  All the broccolies are producing at once, so there was about 2 gallons worth to blanch and freeze.  The result will probably only be good for broccoli soup, but broccoli soup is good in the winter.
    I also spent about 3 hours today combining two 3 speed bicycles into one reasonably good one.  I seem to do this about once a year...

July 6
    We're currently waiting for a church group of 9 to show up to spend the night on their way to Lopez Island.   It's some old family friends with another family and their pastor.   So a lot of time was spent today cleaning and getting beds ready.  I plan to make maple bars and doughnuts for breakfast...  And I'm hoping some of them will pick strawberries...
    Last night we went to some friends' 60th birthday celebration (with a 60's theme).  Even though I wore a Grateful Dead tee shirt, trying to get into the thing, I just can't transition to being a party person.  Of course, two of the revelers I spoke to thought "In a Gadda Da Vida" by Iron Butterfly was the height of coolness, so it was hard to find common ground...   We left early...

July 7
    They say an incipient alcoholic remembers his first drink...  I remember my first folk music, heard live.  A music teacher at my elementary school in South Dakota would spend a few minutes with each grade, and lead us in singing with an autoharp.  The first song I remember was The Whistling Gypsy Rover, a song which has many variants, such as Black Jack Davy, but a similar theme of a young woman running off with a vagrant type who may or may not prove in the end to be a prince, or "lord of these lands all over."  So today I sang the song for the preschoolers that I visit on Monday.  They mostly thought it was pretty good.  Furthering folk music is a goal of my interaction with the kids...
    Pots are flying off the shelf, and since I did some library work on the 4th, I quit early today (comp time, it's called) so I could make more pots.  Shortly after I arrived at the pottery, someone from Canada who'd bought a chicken cooker a couple months ago returned to buy 4 more, so I knew what I needed to make.

July 8
    There's things you notice that make you aware of the passage of time, beyond all those aches and pains you didn't have when you were 20.  I've got a pair of leather gloves that I only use for taking hot kiln shelves out of the kiln.  It's not as though the shelves are burning hot, just too hot to hold with bare hands.  Anyway, I've worn out this pair of gloves, just putting kiln shelves in and out of kilns.  I've worn out a few kilns as well.  But inside I, like everyone,  still retain memories and a way of being left over from childhood.  As my mother-in-law progressed in dementia, she became more childlike, favoring sweet foods, wanting her mother, and things like that.  Recent studies show that people are happiest at both ends of life, instead of the slogging bit in the middle.  Sometimes I think I'd like to turn a somersault.  It's one of those things old folks don't do, unless you're like Lewis Carroll's Father William...

July 9
Another day, another couple gallons of strawberries...  We're giving away lots to neighbors.  We've already made more jam than we'll probably use...
Today was hot enough that I enjoyed another swim--the lake's never been this high this late in the season...   Beyond that I figuratively made hay while the sun shines--trying to stay ahead in the pottery and the library...  But tomorrow will be quite different--another bug performance, and our own summer reading program will begin, with up to 100 kids crowding into the library...

July 10
    The bug show went well--by the third time I do it I should know those songs...  I only had to be the backstage for the "Creepy Crawly" program at the library later--a former National Zoo employee trotted out pet bugs from crickets, scorpions,  and tarantulas to turtles, lizards, and snakes.  It was pretty magical, as she didn't bring in a lot of boxes or anything--the snakes were kept in bags.
    This reminds me that there is a small circus passing through this weekend.  We were  entranced (or suckered) into going to one about 20 years ago.  While the human jugglers and acrobats were quite good, most of the show was various animals doing tricks, then returning to their cages.   It's a brutal enough life for a human, continually packing and unpacking, but I think it's unfair for the animals, who spend most of their lives in cages.  So I won't go, even though there's a little part of me that likes circuses.
    There was also a windstorm that blew through today.  It was strong enough to blow one pot off a shelf,  and a number of small tree branches broke.  It was a totally dry storm, not accompanied with the clouds and rain one usually expects.   I left the windows open in the pottery workshop, so when I peeked in this evening, all the pots I'd thrown this morning were turning white at the top from the wind.  So I made the thrown cylindrical "chuck" to set the bowls on so the rims wouldn't be as likely to crack, and footed them and added their footrings.  By setting them back on their freshly thrown bases to dry, I'm hoping that will slow the bottoms' drying enough that the footrings don't crack off, which happens when the pot is too dry, or dried too fast.

July 11
After about 12 hours of working today, I expended a little extra effort and threw 7 large (6 lb) bowls, since I'd sold a few of them yesterday.  I used to make them from 12 pounds of clay, and they were a little larger, more likely to crack in process, but very sturdy if they made it to completion.  So over the years I've refined my throwing, and they're now a lot lighter, almost as big, and less likely to fail on the way to completion.  The old ones didn't wiggle when you kneaded bread in them, so they were in some ways better.  Everything is a trade off.
    I got to work on computers at the library today, reassembling a couple, and learning how to change  the default minutes left on the user's time (from 1/2 to 1 hour, since we've added two more stations, making a total of 8.  It's interesting to see the library evolving into digital media.  The latest idea arrived today in the form of digital books, stored in a larger plastic display case, one book narrated on a small battery powered Ipod like player.   It seems a bit silly to have an inherently flexible system (digital storage) limited to being only one book.  It's like having a computer with only one program on it.  It's a trial balloon--we'll see who's willing to try it.

July 12
    Frank Delaney and Maddy came out today, to practice for next weekend's performance in nearby Rathdrum.  We've got a lot of Mississippi John Hurt songs in common, and he has some true-to-life songs based on events in North Idaho.  Since we'll have to set up our (his) sound system, it will be a short hour set. We've only played together a couple times, but because of doing music we're both familiar with, we sounded pretty good together today...
    Meanwhile the pottery work continues, mixing a batch of glaze and glazing this morning,  and firing through the weekend.
    The weather today was totally pleasant, but headed back towards hot again.  In the garden I'm harvesting all the broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, since it's going fast...  The cherries and raspberries are still holding off...

July 13
    I feel like I took the day, off, which only included loading and unloading kilns, and swimming across the Millpond.  The water temperature and level are about perfect--you don't get cold staying in as long as you like...

July 14
    As large financial entities like Fannie May get the jitters, it's comforting that my sales this month are up significantly from last year at this time.  Perhaps I'm a kind of Walmart potter...
    These being the halcyon days of summer, it would be nice if they weren't breezing by so quickly, but I'm still managing to fit in a swim and some relaxation while firing two kilns per day (it helps to make larger pots--they fill kilns faster).

July 15
    The whole day was busy throughout, which brings up the philosophical question of whether it's better to be busy all the time, and have time go swiftly, or not busy, and be bored.  I suspect there's a happy medium I'm currently missing.  I made 30 mugs and creamers this morning, and 5 platters,  and both of them were so dry 6 hours later that I had to finish them this evening.  This may bode ill for both of them, so I covered the mugs to let the moisture even out, and I'm hoping the platters don't crack from drying too rapidly.   Besides covering with thin plastic, I also use the level of storage as a way to control drying--the lower in the room, the slower the pots dry, due to heat rising towards the ceiling.  I've sometimes considered air conditioning for the pottery, but I enjoy the challenge and opportunity each season brings.

July 17
    We were busy with guests, so I didn't get an entry yesterday.  The day was mostly uneventful, but included a night swim with some of the guests...
The lake was warm, the night cool...
    Today was the first reading program of my own devise for 65 kids and some parents.  It went pretty well, although with a few glitches.  I made a 5 minute video with pictures of some local bugs, but the video machine I used has no little red light to let you know when it's on, and shuts itself off if you don't use it for a while. So I had to push the power and play buttons for  a while to get it to work.  Years ago, the expression was, "Feets, don't fail me now."  Now it's "Technology, don't fail me now..."  The kids all seemed to enjoy getting newspaper hats and searching for the photos of bugs that were hidden around...

July 19
    Frank Delaney and I had the performance in Rathdrum tonight.  We've only played together a couple times, but we have a body of Mississippi John Hurt songs in common, and Frank had some bluesy songs about Idaho he'd been wanting to perform, and it all went well, considering...  We were near the tail end of a two day town festival, so our audience only included a couple dozen active listeners.
    This is the only time of year where I can mint money by putting in extra hours in the pottery.  Most of the year I just work to rebuild stock--but now if I put in a couple extra hours at the pottery, it can mean a couple hundred dollars more pots available for sale.   So I worked a couple hours extra on pottery today and made 5 platters and 26 berry bowls...
    It's unfortunate that this is also among the busiest times in the garden.  Strawberries are finishing up, peas, blueberries and raspberries are coming on, and the cherries need picking.  This is a nice kind of busy-ness, but also time consuming...

July 20
    My son and I picked cherries this morning (about 40 lbs), then I canned 28 quarts this afternoon.  The day started early, so I also made some pots early in the morning.  I added a video, using the audio of Frank's and my performance of his version of what happened on Ruby Ridge in North Idaho back in the 90's
Frank Delaney's Up on Ruby Ridge.
    This afternoon, my son and I succumbed to the Dark Knight (Batman) hysteria, and went to Coeur D'Alene to swim and see the movie.  It is a dark tale, not for the faint of heart, loaded with post 911 issues and references, and enough ethical dilemmas to fuel a college ethics course for a session or two.  A lot of the hysteria is coincidental to actor Heath Ledger's dying after the movie was made, but it was still a good film, especially to see in a theater, due to the special effects.

July 21.  Ack--it's a week and a half to Art on the Green, the largest local art fair that I signed up for before taking the library job!  Today I glazed a kilnload before starting my early day at the library.  Visiting the preschoolers, I sang C-H-I-C-K-E-N, a song I learned from John Hurt's playing, and read them a Curious George alphabet book.  They're still tolerating my reading a Little Brown Bear story every week as well.

July 22
    So what do I imagine will sell best at an art fair?  Small and light items, because it's a long way to the parking lots...  Gimmicky items, because people are always looking for the next big thing.  These items for me include French butter dishes (new and different for over 20 years now), berry bowls, and the chicken cookers.  But the real standby is mugs--many times I've heard people say they go to this fair to get a mug they'll use for the next year.  So I made 100 mugs, and 20 lotion pumps today.
    I picked 6 pints of raspberries this morning--then it rained most of the afternoon.  Fortunately raspberries can go two to three days between picking, because wet berry plants aren't conducive to picking...
    We were contacted today about taking in a foreign exchange high school student for the upcoming year.  That's an interesting thought...  We considered it years ago but didn't have a spare bedroom.  That's not an issue now...

July 23
    One of the things the young readers did last week was get a bug journal and a magnifying box to look at bugs.  One of the kids (about 4 years old) came up and showed me a drawing he'd made of a round blob with some legs sticking out, and asked me what it was.  I replied that it was hard to tell, but if he counted the legs he could tell if it was an insect (6) or a spider (8).  So he counted the legs he'd drawn on his journal, and said, "Seven."  I said "Then it's hard to tell..."  Life is sometimes like that...

July 24
    Nothing exceptional happened today, but since I'm working as hard as I've ever done before, here's the daily schedule.  I woke up at 6, and hoed the garden, then picked enough raspberries for fresh eating, all in all taking 1 1/2 hours.  Then I spent about a half hour checking in on the computer and eating breakfast.  More often than not lately, I'm getting asked to play music, sell pots or DVD's, or something else that takes time... Then I worked 4 hours in the pottery making berry bowls and small cups and spoonsetters, loaded a kiln, had lunch, and packed some pottery for shipping.  Then I worked 5 hours in the library, including the Summer Reading Program, which was mostly provided by our head county office today.  After supper I worked trimming the pots I'd made in the morning for about two hours.  That makes about 11 hours of work... Then I goofed off watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my son for an hour, and now I'm doing this, looking forward to bed, and repeating the process tomorrow.  I plan to continue this manic process at least until after the Big Art Fair next weekend.

July 25
    In the last couple days I've met a couple regular blog readers--there aren't all that many, so it's worth noting.  These are people that come here in the summer, and have enjoyed reading my blog partially as a connection to this place when they're away.  Today after the usual pottery and library work,  the bassist Jonathan Hawkins and I went to play music to celebrate the centennial of the Tsemini Club, an association of lake cabins. It's about the same age as the town of Spirit Lake.  It was a fun celebration of a celebration place.  Many of those attending had relatives that got married there, and most of them have bought my pottery through the years...  I was surprised at how many faces and names I knew of those attending.

July 26
paint brush and dragonfly
    I went on a ramble on my bicycle today, and swam in the Mill Pond.  Since it was sealed for leaks several years ago, the bottom is a very pleasant firm clay, making it nicer to stand in than the oozy sediment in the main part of the lake...  The lake level is also as high at the current time as I can remember for this time of year, probably a result of the big snowfall last winter.   Some Julys the Millpond is so shallow that you can hardly swim in it.
    The photo is of red Paintbrush, which is a pretty parasitic plant (living off some nutrients of other plant roots).  The yellow flowers are invasive St. John's Wort, now common in the area, and popular as an antidepressant.  The dragonfly is a 12 spotted skimmer, also common in this area, and hopefully indigenous.  The logged over woods where I took this picture is a vibrant plant community, with native species and invasives duking it out for supremacy.  Some of the invasives, like Knapweed, use chemical warfare to poison
(for other plants) the ground they're growing in ...  So every picture tells a story, but not the whole story on its own...

July 28
    The weather is so nice this week that you can leave your windows open day and night, wear shorts or long pants, and be comfortable.  The swimming is still great also...  And the raspberries are totally prolific.  This is the best time of summer, when there are flowers, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, zucchini, green beans, peas, lettuce, and chard available in the garden, and lots more vegies still to come.   The grape vines are looking to produce a great crop as well.  Today also was the day when I knew I couldn't make any more pots to get done in time for the big art fair, so the pressure can ease a bit (although the shelves will be pretty bare in general after next weekend).  
    If you haven't enjoyed summer yet (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere), time to get to it!

 July 29
    More pots, raspberries, library work.  Plus sprinkles and cooler weather.  Then there are a couple relatives visiting.  The pace continues quite busy.
   
I had to make some more sets of pottery DVD's today.  To make them consists of popping disks in and out of drives and printers, a job somewhat like George Jetson seemed to have at Spacely Sprockets.  It's pretty easy, but consumes time.   It took most of my "spare" time today...

July 30
    Fishing, gambling, and retail all have one thing in common--and I wish I could remember the term for it.  It's something like variable reward--meaning sometimes the fishing's good, and sometimes it isn't.  If the fishing (or gambling) were always the same, it would lose interest as being monotonous.  Or with gambling, because sometimes you can win big, you ignore all the intermediate losses.
    So today's weather was pretty much like yesterday's, only today sales were 15 times as high as yesterday.  This causes the retailer to go "Whoopee!"  Of course it helps that sales were well below normal yesterday, making the bounce bigger.   For some reason everyone bought chicken cookers today.  Maybe it's because it's cool enough to use your oven.  More likely it's just a confluence of random chance.  But we like to ascribe meaning to things that happen, like commentators explaining why they think the Dow Jones Average tanked again today (no, it didn't, but...)

July 31
    Last bug hootenanny at the library today--I was very busy before and after getting ready for Art on the Green...  Too busy to write complete sentences...


Books read and media of note:

Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert Parker.  Sherlock Holmes was among the first serialized detectives, which has become the norm for successful writers.  The characters gain life through their accumulated history.   None do this moreso than Robert Parker's Spenser series about a tough guy detective with a heart of gold.  He manages to suspend the disbelief that a detective might, working pro bono for a madam, fly around the country and fly in thuggy friends to help with the case without thought of remuneration.  That's talented writing.  Parker is also good with terse humorous dialog between the principals...

The Bounty Hunters by Elmore Leonard.  Although primarily a smart hip crime author, he also has explored the western genre, which at the library is tending towards Large Print titles for the mostly elderly readers.   In this book the bounty hunters (who are paid to kill Apaches) are the bad guys, although each other group--soldiers, Mexicans, have their weaknesses.  It represents a modern trend towards desimplifying the archetypes, which have had long currency in our culture, and are echoed in others, such as the Ninja and Samarai movies, and Spaghetti westerns from Italy.  This book is a minor work of a good writer.

Dragon and Herdsman by Timothy Zahn.  The Dragon series is intended for young adult readers, and lacks the more intricate plotting of some of Zahn's best writing.  This one was particularly slow paced, being a sort of cattle drive with marauding corporate executives in place of fearsome Indians.   One has to wonder if he read any of the Pip and Flinx books by Alan Dean Foster, which use the same idea (a boy and his dragon), or Andre Norton (a boy and his sentient symbiotic whatever).  Still all three of these authors are fun reads, if you like dragons.

 CD Stay a While  Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin.   My favorite voices in Old Time music, with enchanting instrumental work as well.  Stecher's best work was probably Going up on the Mountain,  but all of his CD's are enjoyable.

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter  This is a about a small time criminal in the Witness Protection Program, probably of a sort I wouldn't usually read, but I saw it was set in Spokane in the 1980's, on the eve of the Carter/Reagan election.  The local color (clearly the author lived there sometime) made it  a worthwhile read, although the overall tone was pretty bleak.
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