It does seem a bit odd that most of us who live where winter
happens, live their lives looking forward to 2-3 months of
summer, parts of which are too hot to enjoy. I'm not complaining,
mind you, but it does seem odd... Although with the library job,
the first 1/3 of summer went way too fast... I
took a trip into Spokane today for supplies, which reduced my pottery
day to about one hour, during which I unloaded a glaze kiln and trimmed
a half dozen large bowls. With the current hot weather, pots dry
quickly, and these bowls had gotten white at the rim, although the clay
at the foot was less exposed and still trimmed in ribbons (as opposed
to little scrapings, at which point it's best to recycle the clay).
To prevent the rims from cracking when set upside down to trim
(which happens all too easily when the pot is very dry, and slightly
out of round (as most pots are)), I trimmed them on an ice cream bucket
set on the wheel, with dabs of clay on the lid to secure the bucket to
the bowl. The ice cream bucket was actually full of kiln wash,
which helped hold it in place by its weight.
Every Thursday is another hurdle towards my last day at the library.
Today I combined vocations and took my potter's wheel to the
library, where I set it up outside. After some warm-up songs and
stories, I showed them how I make pots. One of the pre-schoolers
said, "It's magic! Do some more." It does indeed look like
magic when anyone who's done something for many years demonstrates
their facility. My son's ski tricks look that way, except that
I've seen enough of the falls along the way to know there was no magic
but desire and discipline. Back to the
library--then I showed them how they could roll out clay and make a
little plate, or make a coil pot, or a pinch pot, or a sculpture, and
let them loose for 20 minutes. Most kids love the sticky nature
of clay, and most of them had something figured out by the end. I
let the older helpers try the wheel after the session was over.
Tip for potters if you work with kids, cut squares of cardboard for
them to work on--it doesn't stick, and they can sign their name on the
cardboard so you can transfer it legibly to their pots--I did it with
about 45 pots today. I did manage to break a
piece off the plastic splash pan when unloading the wheel from my car
(it's being reglued overnight)--otherwise it all went well. The
temperature was in the high 80's, so it was very warm out there, but
there was a lot of shade... I felt that June's
sales were very good, but compared to last year they're off by 30 %,
which is no surprise, considering the economy. Lately sales have
gone up with the temperature, as people flood into the area for the
lake and the 4th of July weekend. I made salt and peppers,
tumblers, and mugs today, filling low spots in the inventory.
It crept right up to hot--high 80's today. I went swimming after
supper--the lake is still cool but endurable as long as you're putting
out a bit of effort--you'd get cold in 15 minutes otherwise. The
water is about 6 inches below the top of the culvert we like to swim
from (I put this in for future year comparisons). This is an
inbetween day--lots will be happening on the 4th...
The 4th is always a bit too much. I made 3 quiches last night for
a brunch today following the parade. In the parade I rode with a
friend from Post Falls in his 1947 Ford, holding a banner that said
"Summer Reading" and playing the harmonica. With the weather hot
and sunny there was a good turn out. After the parade I returned
the banner to the library, and saw that the stage was being emptied at
the park celebration. It turned out the committee this year
didn't know how to find the local musicians, so they only had one hour
of music scheduled, which makes for a very quiet festival with the 20
or so booths and all. So I got my new sound system and played for
about two hours without a break. Afterwards I got invited to play
for another event in the park for drug free youth in August. I
know there's also a Heritage Days thing the end of the month, and Labor
Day celebration is there as well, so I may spend a lot of time playing
there this summer, which is fine if the weather is accommodating...
The evening is scheduled to include a barbecue at a neighbor's,
and city fireworks followed by backyard fireworks...
played guitar to accompany hymns in church today. I can play a
lot of hymns--most of them are based on C or G as the root chord.
There are some I can play in both positions, but generally one or
the other will contain the melody notes without going up the neck too
much. With the busy weekend, my practice for church consisted of
figuring out where to put the capo so the song will be easy to sing.
For one of the hymns, I only played enough to check the pitch.
So when it came to the last hymn today, I found myself heading up
to unknown territory on the neck to play a tune that should have
been easy. I sort of had to drop out for the high part of the
song. So I figured out I was in the wrong chord group, but
couldn't adjust during the hymn... Nobody minded much, but I was
certainly humbled. Practice makes perfect, and the reverse is
The church was up near Priest Lake, so we had a picnic lunch
afterwards, on the beach on a lovely day. (The photo is from a
couple years ago).
We got a brief shower this morning, enough to settle the dust and fill
some of the barrels we collect rainwater in for watering.
We had the first broccoli and Chinese peapods for supper tonight.
The strawberries are still there whenever we want some--the
raspberries are all very green. The cherry trees are loaded with
slowly ripening cherries, and with the little flies that lay an egg in
each one. Life is complicated. In the
library work, I had the daycare kids cut out paper dolls today.
The one innovation was to allow them the choice of cutting out
little people or little jet planes. You can imagine how the
gender split went on that one... My son has an
internal clock that's always saying "Time to ski." So he
may go to Mt. Hood on Wednesday for a few days... Some local
friends will be there at that time as well... (It's kind of an
Even with the cooler weather, the spinach is bolting (starting to
flower), so I cut a lot of it and parboiled it and froze 9 sandwich
bags full of it for next winter. I could easily have done twice
as much, but frozen spinach isn't a favorite. It's good with a
cheese or cream sauce, and in quiche, but mostly we've had none spinach
eaters in the winter, although this winter will be different, so I
froze some, and plan to take a lot to the food bank on Wednesday.
After getting two glaze kilns glazed and loaded, I made pie plates,
berry bowls, and some tumblers today.
I read an interesting article my mother sent on Warren MacKenzie,
Minnesota potter. He has a problem most other potters would like
to have--his work is so sought after that people were buying his pots
and immediately reselling them on Ebay. That bothered Warren,
because philosophically he's always wanted to be a folk potter.
(He now insists on an agreement where the owner will keep the pot
for at least one year, and can only buy one of his pots per month) His
problem is, he never was a folk potter--having been a professor
with the U of Minnesota for many years and gaining a national
following. Real folk potters like me hear from patrons finding my
pots at garage sales, or stolen from a car then ditched when they
realized it was just pottery (both stories have been related to me over
the years). Still, Warren is trying, even
harder than I, to be a potter, working 6 hours a day 7 days a week in
his 80's. He uses a Leach treadle wheel, which is one of the
slowest ways to make a pot, so I expect I'm quite a bit faster, if less
authentic. As I've said previously about wheels, you can use any
wheel to make a pot, just as a carpenter can use any saw, but in both
cases the electric tool is the choice of most professionals...
Pottery as a profession is fraught with habits or choices
masquerading as conviction, at least in the upper echelon, or so I
surmise, with minimal experience. Anyway don't mind me--articles
on potters usually make my blood pressure rise... I just checked and neither of us has anything made by us for sale on Ebay currently...
We went down to the lake at sunset this evening. Fairly large
bugs were flitting on the mostly still water. Sometimes when I'm
watching a snow or rainstorm, I start tracking a group of individuals
with my eyes, so I can see the way the wind is blowing, or just to
amuse myself. So I started watching a group of bugs, and I
realized they were mostly going one way, at about the same speed.
Then I'd see a group whizzing past them, and track them, and a
similar group was flying the other direction, like a freeway with no
separate lanes or dividing lines. I can't guess what they were
doing out there, unless it was eating tinier bugs... But it was
interesting to discern a pattern in their meandering...
July 9 The
wayward chicken, the one who doesn't fit in with the other three, was
being barked at by a small dog this morning. While the dog was
chased away, she headed into the house, where she settled into a
closet. Now she's safe in the tool shed.
The program for today at the library was dance, and we were lucky to
have a dance instructor who's been attending with her kids, so she did
the program today, with my part just a couple of songs at the beginning
and leading them in the Hokey Pokey (that's what it's all about).
The most excitement for me about the program was the rain shower
with a quarter inch of water just two hours before it was to be held on
the lawn. Fortunately things dried out quickly and the program
could proceed as planned.
Our toilet was getting the wood wet at the base, so it was time to
replace the wax seal which is how toilets are seated to avoid such
leaks. Things were going well until I removed the old wax seal...
One half of it dropped right down the sewer hole. This wax
is permanently soft and sticky, and will never wash away. The PVC
pipe went down about 2 feet, then made a turn towards the city sewer
system. I could see it at the bottom, so I grabbed a metal rod,
and poked it, and had it just to the top when it slipped off and went
back down the hole, now disappearing completely. I was weighing
options including crawling in the crawlspace and cutting a section of
the pipe out. Fortunately we were able to fish it out with a coat
hanger wire, which saved a lot of work. I chose today to work on
the plumbing because it never works to start a project when the local
hardware store might be closed... Plumbing is my least favorite
home maintenance tasks...
is the pottery garden as it currently stands. The lush greens to
the left are broccoli. Poppies come up all over. There are
daisies in a clump, near the middle. The cosmos is growing fast
but not blooming yet. There are a lot of roses obscured by the
rest of the flowers, and peas on the lattice on the left.
Currently we're eating broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and pea pods
from the garden, along with the last strawberries and the first
raspberries. The cherries are getting ripe, and the trees are
It rained a third of an inch last night, and drizzled through the day
today, which is very nice at this time of year for reducing fire
danger, as well as watering the garden. I was mostly inside
working today, so I didn't mind... It did cut down on the pottery
customers. It also made for a busier than average day at the
library, as it was a good day to curl up with a computer or a book.
I mention "computer" because it seems like about half of our
patrons come to use the 8 internet stations we provide (plus WiFi)...
The users are generally a very quiet bunch except when a cell
phone goes off...
Before going off the library health plan, I got my eyes checked today
for the first time in 30 years or so. I'd read on the Internet
that a person with a parent with glaucoma has a much likelier
chance of getting it, and my mother has it, so I thought once in 30
years isn't too often. Turns out most people get it about 10
years older than me, and my eyes are just fine, aside from needing
reading glasses. And those I'm happy to buy at the dollar store,
and set anywhere I might need a pair.
I've been too busy to blog lately, lots of pots to make and raspberries
to pick and lawns to mow. It's over 90 today, so it's average
midsummer. The lake is very comfortable when we swim, mostly in
the evening... The penultimate (does that mean
next to last--that's what I mean by it, anyway) Summer reading program
included sunprints on blueprint paper, tempera painting, puppets,
music, and stories. Sounds similar to what's planned for the
final one next Thursday...
It was my last Saturday to work in the library--very slow, mostly
computer users. As soon as I closed the library, I went to
Rathdrum for their town celebration and played music for an hour or so
with Jonathan Hawkins. It was good to make music, the 90 degree
heat not withstanding. There were quite a few people sitting in
the shade in front of us--but it was hard to tell how many of them were
actually listening. We tried two or three songs there we'd never
played together before.... We were followed by a watermelon eating
contest and karoake. I forewent (possible past tense of forego?)
them in favor of supper at home and a swim across the Mill Pond. These are the busiest days of summer...
of the busyness of summer is getting out on a Sunday. So after church
at Priest Lake, we took our canoe and went from the upper end of Lower
Priest Lake to the lower end of Upper Priest Lake, about 3 miles each
way. There's a 2 mile long riverlike still water connection
between the two lakes, and the upper lake is totally wild (including
grizzly bears, which we saw none of). The picture above is of the
view up the lake. The water is cloudy from some clay exposed to
wave action-- otherwise the water was clear to six feet or deeper.
I made a little pot from some of the clay, which I'll fire
tomorrow on a scrap of waste clay just to see what happens.
Native clays often melt at stoneware temperatures--some even make
a nice glaze.
I had about a week of unpaid vacation saved up at the library, and
things have been really slow there, so I arranged to take off most of
the last 3 days I have there, except for Thursday, which is the last
program. This is great, because the raspberries were calling to
be picked. We picked 4.5 gallons today, and didn't get all the
way through the patch. We're also harvesting cherries from the
worm infested trees to make cherry juice with, which is very nice to
have on the hot days predicted to lie ahead, even if "worm infested"
doesn't sound appetizing.. There's a lot of broccoli and peas in
the garden now, and the green beans are looking ready to go to work.
It was kind of a pioneer type day today. I got up and
converted the cooked cherry stuff into 3.5 gallons of cherry juice and
picked a gallon of raspberries, all before breakfast. Then I got
busy trying to save the pots I threw yesterday and forgot to cover last
night. Later I watched some cracks open up on the feet I had
added to them as they shrank off the pots. I tried to fix a few
of them, but probably lost a few... Then I mixed three batches of
glaze and glazed a kiln load of pots, spent part of the afternoon
packing pots to ship, and the late afternoon I made some more pots.
This evening I may unload a glaze kiln if it's cool enough.
It's the 90's sort of day where a swim in the evening is
This was my last day of library vacation, and it was a very busy
vacation. After picking the obligatory gallon of
raspberries and baking some bread, I settled in at the pottery and
threw around 100 pots, many of which I had to add handles to this
evening, due to the heat. I probably would have only made about
sixty pots today, but I got a wholesale order this afternoon which led
to making the rest. The lump of clay from Priest Lake that I
mentioned on July 19th came out of the kiln the color and consistency
of a piece of chocolate that's been melted and cooled. It might
make a nice brown glaze, but it's a long way to go to get it.
We went swimming this evening after 9 pm, and there were still 20-30
people down around the access of the lake, and there are lots of people
walking around downtown as I write this around 10 pm. I think
it's the burgeoning summer population. This is the ideal time of
year to visit Spirit Lake, or live here...
July 23 The
last day of the library was mostly a picnic for the Summer reading
program. It included light opera (not me), some music by
me, a true story about mailing a girl in Idaho to her Grandmas,
which happened back 100 years ago, and places where kids could
paint, draw with chalk, make bubbles, and get temporary tattoos and
face paint. It lasted about an hour and a half.
We had some dry electrical storms come through today, and more expected
overnight. From our house we can see the ridge on the other side
of the lake smoking from a lightning strike. Apparently it was
doused by a helicopter this afternoon...
After the usual gallon of raspberries, it was a pottery day today.
I glazed two kiln loads (the last batches of glazes have returned
to normal), and I am firing one glaze kiln now. In the afternoon
I went to Spokane to get roll ends of newsprint, which are the small
amounts left on each roll at the printer when a run is finished.
I cut them up and use them for pottery wrapping. I got
about a year's supply today, and they're very nice about giving them
away, even helped load the car... The inner brown tubes can be
burned for heat, but they have a lot of ash. The heat
continues. We have the first cauliflower from the garden tonight
July 25 A frequent blog reader and potter from Michigan asked to see some of my recent pottery. So here are some photos:
made the birdhouse and feeder because some family members were
interested, and I'd never tried it before. The lids lift off, and
have holes that the nylon cords go through so they can't blow off.
this photo from yesterday, there are 48 freshly thrown pots, mostly on
the bottom (for slower drying) and upper right. The whitish pots
at the top left are double condiment holders and creamers. To the
right of them are planters which I added holes to make them hanging
planters. The reddish platter has a red iron based brown glaze on
it, ready for final firing. Behind it are plates drying out with
added foot rings sticking up. The double row of apparent plates
are actually lids for the casseroles to the right. The knobs are
on a bat to the left. Finally at the bottom are 24 dessert bowls.
The mushy clay is recycled clay set out to dry. Today it
looks all different--the casseroles are assembled, the whitish pots are
put out above the kiln for final drying before the bisque fire.
this is a new item, an idea brought in by a patron. There are
few original ideas in functional pottery, so I'm willing to adapt
others' ideas if it makes some kind of sense. A lot of people
want something to set their sponge on by their sink, so this is what
some potter figured out. It's just like my French butter dish,
but with cuts in the side to make a place to hold the sponge.
They've been moderately popular.
I worked a full day in the pottery today, loading and unloading kilns,
glazing a kiln load, firing two kiln loads, and throwing 140 pots,
which is probably as many as I've made in one day. 90 of them
were minipots, which don't sell for much, and throw faster than one per
minute. The heat is back to the mid 80's, making the lake very
enjoyable. Sales are currently great, which inspires the full day
of effort. I'm still picking a gallon per
day of raspberries--need to spend more time at it tomorrow as lots have
ripened over the weekend. Over the weekend I
played music in the local park for a 1st annual (and possibly last)
Heritage Festival. I think there was a failure of publicity--the
only people there were the ones with the booths, which were going down
even as I started to play. After an hour, when I quit, every one
else was happy to take down as well. Our local groups have a
tendency to get grandiose--this festival was planned as a two day
affair, and looked more to be a two minute one. The same thing
happened with our local farmer's market--started out doing both days of
the weekend when all the successful ones around are Saturday morning
and a midweek evening... It's only hanging on now as a once a
month flea market. It's too bad since they're both good ideas. On Sunday I pulled knapweed for
an hour or so. This scourge of the west is scratchy, has little
purple flowers like thistles, and spreads copiously both by seed and
surviving perennially. It and hawkweed
are the main ones I battle on our properties. Hawkweed is
prettier, but more insidious, spreading by underground runners as well
as seeds, so it's always popping up in new areas.
July 28 We
had a big electrical storm with about a quarter inch of rain around
midnight last night. It took out our land phone line (and
Internet). I had a pretty good experience talking to a computer
at Verizon, though it took talking to a real person to dispatch a
repair crew. Unfortunately, they got the phone working but not
the DSL, hence this delayed blog. The storm including lightning
hits so close that we could hear pops after the booms from whatever got
hit being fried (most likely trees). We were lucky there were no
fires apparent from that storm. I picked 3
gallons of raspberries in the wet canes this morning. It was a
bit uncomfortable, but not bad as it is so warm that the water doesn't
chill you. It was another busy day in the
pottery, ending up with a short term traffic jam as the shelves are
mostly full, awaiting kiln firings. That's one reason not to make
140 pots in a day...
I spent an hour in phone purgatory today, since the Internet wasn't
working. After getting referred to a higher "expert", who finally
told me to consult my computer maker since it was a driver problem
(unlikely, since it stopped working both on a Windows and Linux based
computer). It did lead us to the conclusion that the DSL modem had been
fried in the electric storm. So we bought a new one in Spokane
today, and if you're seeing this, mostly my son succeeded in
installing it. I think they make DSL modems difficult to install
on purpose, so you won't want to change ISPs... I
had to change the rolls of pricing stickers in my price marker today,
and was surprised to have gone through 1000 labels since June. It was
likely early June, but that's a lot of pots in even 2 months. I
doubt we've sold 1000 pots yet this summer, but there are a few items
we're low on.
Midwinter Nightingale by Joan Aiken.
Although she also wrote romances, Aiken had a penchant for mildly
macabre children's stories, particularly the Wolves of Willoughby Chase
series. Curiously, although the hero Simon and heroine Dido are
on the scene at the denouement, usually the villains are hoist of their
own petard rather than by the work of the heroes. This is
of necessity an anticlimax... The Yggyssey : how
Iggy wondered what happened to all the ghosts, found out where they
went, and went there / by Daniel Pinkwater This
very clever rendering of a story resembling the Odyssey deserves an
annotated edition, with all the clever literary and cultural
references. Set in mythical 1950's Los Angeles, it evokes a time
familiar to baby boomers, in a way that would seem fantasy to today's
kids. Of course it's also a fantasy with an alternate universe
and very hoky adventure plot, but that's all part of the fun...
The Alchemyst : the secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel / by Michael Scott. A
rather melodramatic modern day fantasy. On the whole, I think
fantasy is best set not in the modern world, with all the magic and
evil beings, but then I like Joss Whedon's work, so I'm not consistent.
Anyway, this one is fairly fun in a saving the world sort of way.
I finished it and immediately started The Yggyssey : how
Iggy wondered what happened to all the ghosts, found out where they
went, and went there / by Daniel Pinkwater, which is more meat and
bread for my soul... Fingerlickin' Fifteen by Stephanie Evanovich. More
of the same mystery and hijinks in the formula that refuses to die.
Since one of the bases of humor is repetition, it gets funnier
the more times Ranger says "Babe" and every time her car catches fire
and/or explodes. Nation
by Terry Pratchett. This is a mature work from the always
delightful fantasy writer. It explores the nature of God, humans,
and suffering in a Robinsoe Crusoe-esque context, in an alternate
universe of our own planet in the 1800's. I can't help but
believe that the early onset Alzheimer's that has affected his motor
functions has turned his thoughts to the mortal sphere, although Death
has frequently been a character in his Disc World novels. He
created a very thoughtful well crafted work. I heard last week it
has been adapted for theater already.