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Brad's Blog

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June 1
    One of the more pleasant duties of a children's librarian is to introduce to the kindergarden and 1st grade students the glories of our children's offerings.  So with a bit of Old MacDonald had a Zoo, Bill Grogan's Goat, and a story or two, I entertained two classes today, and two are scheduled for tomorrow.
    The weather was very nice today.  With no rain for several weeks now, we're watering the orchard and garden quite seriously.

June 2
    Emil is in his final week here, reveling in the unseasonably warm weather, tanning better than a Dane should have an ability to tan.  Although the lake is too cold for me to contemplate swimming in, he's been jumping off the bridge with other teens for a week or more.   When he first came, he said he preferred to just take some carrots for lunch, and we've been supplying him from our garden all winter.  The last carrots dug this spring will run out about the same time he's scheduled to fly out--next week.
    The bassist Jonathan Hawkins came over today for another recording session.  We're trying to get enough songs for 2 CD's, one of old time, and one of blues.   I bought a portable sound system on Sunday, so we can expand the places where we might  play.  Now to find the time to edit the tracks and schedule the performances...

June 3
I planted the last corn and a couple hills of pumpkins today.  It's late for the pumpkins, hopefully the corn will make  a good second planting due early September.
In the pottery I made goblets, and then one of the more nonutilitarian forms that I make--disc vases, which resemble throat lozenges with appendages, made from two pieplate shapes cemented together with clay slip.  There's a fairly high failure rate with them, and slow selling rate, but I'm down to one so it was time...

June 4
 I've been going through a tough process at the library, culminating in my resigning today.  I don't want to air the issues involved, so I was thinking of what one usually reads when someone steps down in the news.  So, due to creative differences,  I'm stepping down to spend more time with my family and do some gardening.  Unfortunately, because of the soon to start summer reading program which I've overseen, my last day won't be until nearly the end of July, so a lot of this summer will pass mostly unnoticed, as the whole last year largely did.   I'm sure long time blog readers will have, as I have, noted a decrease in quality of reflection and observation in the last year.  I look forward to reconnecting with nature and my own life.

June 5

So here is Emil getting his certificate of completion at the graduation ceremony tonight in Spirit Lake.  The guy to the left is the principal waiting for the next hand to shake (and photo op).  The lady to the right was on the school board.  Emil partied most of last night, and another school sanctioned all night party starts in a couple hours.  I think this will help him adjust to Danish time after the flight he will take on Monday (assuming we learn the flight details, since the ticket we were supposed to receive in the mail hasn't arrived).  Life is pretty intense right now.

June 7  This weekend has been very full.  My wife's family gathered in the area for a memorial service for her brother who died several months ago.  Several relatives will still be here or in Spokane for a couple days.  Meanwhile Emil leaves Monday morning, so he mostly seems sad and is parting with his friends here.  There was some last minute concern about his plane tickets, which were thought to be paper tickets that hadn't arrived, but have been resolved to be etickets,  for which you only need your identity.  E tickets make so much sense (except for the accompanying erosion of privacy of travel, a civil liberty rapidly disappearing).  (I guess if I were overly concerned with privacy I wouldn't blog...)
    I'm still adjusting myself to the end of my library career (and I have no illusions it is anything else).  When I went to the national and state children's librarian conventions, I was nearly the only man there--which did give me pause at the time.  Although I had many gifts that worked with the job, such as knowledge of children's literature, story telling ability, music, and craft skills, I really didn't have any training to deal with the various young ages that were in the programs.  It often felt like I was a running a preschool, cub scout program, and a few other programs with no experience and few ideas.  That, coupled with trying to maintain the pottery full time,  created a lot of stress.  I was well liked by the children in the program and their parents, but some of  my style didn't work with my boss.  Being self employed for so long makes it hard to be a "team player."   But in the last year, I've imagined the many things I could be doing without two jobs, so I look forward to doing some of them in about a month, when my job ends.

June 8
Emil is winging back to Denmark.  I never even learned to pronounce "med" (with) properly (sounded like "mil" when he said it--he said I couldn't hear or say a soft D).
Meanwhile some much needed rain fell, keeping the garden and lawn green for another few days.  It was cool enough that most people were heating today--at least we were...
I glazed and loaded two kilns in the pottery this morning, working before and after my stint at the library.  There are still a couple relatives for another night, then things should congeal to normal.

June 9
I got in a walk to the ridge today.  The spring flowers are mostly faded or fading.  I mostly missed the heartleaf arnica blooming, but the summer flowers are coming on strong, such as honeysuckle, ninebark, stone penstemon, and mariposa lilies.  The exposed areas are drying out already, even though there was a light shower as I was walking.   I did see a bald eagle in the distance, which is nice, since we tend to have more ospreys than eagles.
    When I walk with a camera, it changes the way I view everything.  It's rather like hunting with a gun, which I did for a few years growing up.  Of course, nothing dies in the case of photography, but it's still a sort of hungry looking.   I saw it in a couple young men fishing today.  It was beautiful at the lake, but they only had eyes for the fish they weren't catching.  So it might be best to walk empty handed.  But, in the case of cameras, it inspires one to look more carefully than might have happened otherwise.  But there's also that sense of disappointment when the eagle is too far away...

June 10
    The weather was back to short sleeves again--perfect, in fact.  Our irises are at their height.  The apples and pears are thick on the trees, needing thinning.  I was too busy with pottery and library today to deal with them, but they're on my mind. I've about a month to go to the end of the summer reading program and the library job...

June 11.  
I got one kilnload glazed today, and two pear trees thinned before the mosquitoes were out too much this evening.  Lovely June weather.
I'm also working on the two new CD's, trying to get them assembled within one week...

June 12
I got another kiln loaded today, and made a lot of mugs, chicken pots, and berry bowls, all popular sellers in the summer.    Yesterday was a great sales day, due to a large dinnerset order getting picked up.  Particularly, since I've given notice on the library job, I wonder how sales will compare this summer to previous years--they seem fairly similar so far.  I'm thankful to have a lot of long term customers who show up regularly and keep the business going.  

June 13
  I was surprised to pick the first strawberries today--I've been so busy I hadn't even looked at them for over a week.  I also thinned one apple tree, and the carrots and spinach.
    I was also surprised when unloading two kiln loads today to discover the two batches of glaze I'd just mixed up were both too dry in appearance.  Since it was two different glazes, I have to suspect a glaze ingredient problem over my own weighing mistake  (I know I can misweigh pretty easily with the system of hanging weights on the triple beam balance, but it's not likely I'd misweigh on two batches in a row).  I had this problem sometime in the last year with a suspect batch of whiting.  It's possible the rest of the bag was waiting to get dumped into the 5 gallon buckets that I keep my glaze supplies in, although I thought I'd disposed of it.  I'm going to try adding some lower fire clear glaze to it to see if it makes them worth saving...  Forturnately only a dozen or so pots were glazed with them, so the losses were minimal.
    Meanwhile sales were strong today, with the nice weather continuing till evening, when we had a couple thunder showers.  An inch of rain would be nice--but there was only a dust settling amount so far...
    I also got the old time CD finished.  It  may be called "Good Old Time" since we had a good old time playing for it, it's good old time music on it, and we hope anyone who listens to it will have a ...

June 14
great blue heron on Upper Twin Lake in Idaho
We went canoeing on Upper Twin Lake today.  It was beautiful, but not particularly interesting, until when we got near the upper end of the lake, we heard water flowing, and saw where a stream entered the lake over a small log.  So we portaged the canoe and started up the stream that feeds the lake.  It was barely canoeable, but fun to be in, and we saw black terns and some other birds we'd not seen before.  The Great Blue Heron above was on a post along the stream...  On the way back, we'd seen a stream exit toward the lake into the marsh, and decided to see if we could make it back to the lake through the marsh.  So we repeated the scene from African Queen of pulling the canoe through muck and weeds, with sometimes my foot sinking in to my knee, and marsh gases bubbling around us.  It was pretty fun.
Then this evening we got nearly an inch of rain in a downpour which made watering superfluous for this week.  It was a day to catch up on cooking---made chili, homemade turkey noodle soup, and chocolate chip cookies...

June 15
Another day, another thunderstorm, this time with 1/2 inch of water.  I was hoeing the garden this morning, and even with the inch of rain yesterday the ground was dry if I went deeper than an inch deep.  So the more rain the better...
    I put a stock tank out to catch rain under  the eaves for the last storm--it's 6 feet across, and 3 feet high, so it would take a lot to fill it.  The current rain contributed one inch.  The plan is to redirect the water to our orchard.
    We're expecting company tonight--a God daughter, her husband and sister, so I made some gingerbread, and we're waiting for them to arrive...

June 16
    The  excitement for the day was mowing the lawn.  Although mundane in essence, I've got a riding lawn mower with 6 gears, and a yard full of obstacles, so if I'm running in 4th gear it's actually pretty exciting.  Add to that are rocks large enough to bend the mower blade spaced through out the yard.  Then there are the outcroppings of orange hawkweed, showing their lovely orange flowers signifying a new insidious outbreak of a terrible invasive is loose in the yard.  Lacking a light saber, or even a functioning weed wacker, I whip out my Leatherman TM and hack out the dread herb before hopping on my lawnmower and riding off into the sunset.
    This must all be gearing me up for the Big Back In Lawnmower Drag Races this weekend that happen in front of the pottery shop...  Maybe I'll even participate again this year...

June 17
    Today while trying to make some drums out of recycled materials for the summer reading program  kids to decorate I discovered the truck inner tube I was cutting up was too thick to stay on the cardboard tubes successfully.  So with other staff members we hit on using paper covered with the contact plastic film which we use to cover some of our paperback books with.  It makes a louder sound than the rubber would have, and allowed inclusion of some decorative glittery things as well.  There are also lots of scraps of the material available for use.  Tomorrow is a concert of my music and the drum decorating...
    It still sprinkled today.  Tomorrow is the first day without predicted showers this week.  It is not of idle interest, since I want to have the library program  outside on the grass, and am bringing my new sound system as well...

June 18
    There seemed to be a lot of happy kids with drums.  I sang a lot of songs I'd sung with the local kids previously, but that was okay with most of them, and new to some of them, so it all went well.  I didn't play my best--I think if I'm just playing music it's one thing, but being in charge of the craft and all made it more stressful...

June 19Mountain ladyslipper

    A few days ago when we had company we went for a walk along the lake road at dusk.  I'd been worried, because earlier this spring I'd noticed they widened the roadway slightly, dumping large gravel alongside the road.  This is in the area where the fairly rare Mountain Ladyslippers bloom.  Fortunately the gravel avoided most of them, so even in the dusk I could see the white bulbous parts of the flowers as we walked along.
    This evening I thinned two more apple trees.  In the garden the spinach and lettuce are becoming plentiful.  We have more strawberries than we can eat, a nice situation to be in.  Time to make strawberry freezer jam...

June 20
    It doesn't seem fair that strawberries should be a burden, but when you have a lot of them dealing with them is indeed a burden.  I had a gig this morning, playing for the Spokane tour of gardens, so I mostly missed out on picking strawberries, but my son picked about 3 gallons of them.  (I did pick a gallon and a half this afternoon).  Those berries I converted to 19 pints of strawberry freezer jam late this afternoon.
    The gig was a long one--2 1/2 hours.  Neither Jonathan the bassist nor I have been playing enough lately to have the hard callouses  it takes to play that long, but with a couple brief breaks we made it.   The garden we were in had an upper pond with water lilies and tadpoles, and a lower pond with koi.  Apparently the koi kept the lower pond tadpole free.  We've played in different gardens on this weekend every year for 4 years.  These gardens are invariably designed for show, but the gardener today was taking a stab at vegetable gardening with some raised beds.  He was working at putting in some tomatoes and other potted plants today, which is about a month late by my reckoning.  (Well, I guess our flower garden doesn't look as cool as his either, to be fair).

June 22
    We're in a weather see saw, with record cold high temperatures yesterday, and 88 expected as a high in two days.  It's good to see some typical N. Idaho weather for a change...  One could have gotten used to the pleasant temperatures...
    The last firing I emptied showed favorable results from one of the batches of glaze which I had adjusted.  The brown glaze may be usable, but quite different in appearance, so the pottery flounders onwards, nervously.  I'll be especially careful with the next batch I mix...
    Yesterday was the Big Back In lawnmower rally.  It draws a big crowd, which is good for our business, but I've never yet figured out why riding lawnmowers are worth watching, especially over the 4-5 hours the event goes on.  I'm not complaining, mind you, just commenting...
     I also got done thinning the apples this weekend.  

June 23
    I picked and canned 11 pints of strawberry jam today.  This is the hedonistic cooked variety, that has twice as much sugar as the freezer jam, and gets most of the vitamins cooked away.  Tastes like really good strawberry jam though...
    The weather made a brief pitstop at "just right" on the way to "too hot" tomorrow.
    I mixed a batch of white glaze today and cautiously made a test tile of it to put in the next kiln.  I used whiting right out of a known bag to  make sure that wasn't the problem.  Then I imprudently mixed the new glaze with the leftover "proven" white glaze, on the theory that, even if the new white exhibits some of the "dry" characteristics I've been getting lately, the old glaze will probably be "wet" enough to make a decent glaze.  So much for caution...   I guess I'm more of a "seat of the pants" flyer, whatever that means.   I'll know the results by Thursday.

June 24
    We had the dress rehearsal for the puppet show tomorrow.  With summer schedules, we haven't had a practice with all the kids (4) who are participating.   We've been planning to do it outside, because of the numbers (50 or more) involved, but it's predicted to be windy tomorrow.  I also have a scheduled kid's concert in the park in Rathdrum , so it should be an interesting day.  Today was otherwise an in between day, firing a second glaze in a row while the first is still too hot to unload.  ( I did peek and the top glazes looked good, though).

June 25
    Thanks to all who were aware it was my natal day today...   The funniest coincidence was receiving two birthday greetings from a current pottery customer who had placed an order recently.  They were in an envelope which I got today, and I assumed they somehow heard it was my birthday.  Then I checked my email and they asked if I got the cards they wanted included with some of the pots they'd recently ordered.
    I had the children's concert in Rathdrum this morning.  When I got there they were setting up the sound system, and unable to make it make a sound.  I'd almost put my own new system in the van when I left this morning, but refrained, knowing they were supposed to provide the sound.  So I started the concert just singing loudly, but after 10 minutes or so they got the sound system working.  Unfortunately they only had one of those large cordless mikes, with no stand, so I stuck it in my shirt pocket and it wobbled to and fro as I sang, so I had to list to one side to be heard, and then mostly only my voice.  Then the train went by across the street, which was loud enough that not much could be heard, but I led them in "I've been working on the railroad," which plenty of them knew...
    This afternoon was the performance of my version of Cinderella, acted out with four young people.  I may have mentioned we never all made it to the same practice.  The two practice runs we made before the program went pretty badly, but we managed to pull it together for the performance.   2-10 year olds are a tough audience, but they mostly paid attention to what they could hear (I supplemented the sound with my sound system, which was mostly to the good).
    The evening was spent with food and cake and stuff with my family.  My sons got me a new DVD player (the old one froze up regularly) and 5 seasons on DVD of Angel,  a hilarious vampire detective TV series which Birrion and I started watching immediately.  This will help me waste my time after the library job ends in 4 weeks...
    Speaking of video, Youtube is starting to run full TV series,  so far without ads, and I've enjoyed two of the Sci Fi series already Starhunter 2300 and the Dresden Files.   Of course I'm aware most of my blog readers don't have similar taste in adolescent fantasy, but just in case, the Youtube Shows category is worth checking out.  TV without ads isn't too bad...

June 26
    A customer
the other day asked about the little turtles I made .  It's true, when I'm really bored with throwing pots, I make little turtles, rabbits, penquins, ducks, and other little figurines, and sell them for $1.50 each.  I haven't been that bored yet, but I did squeeze in a few minutes to get some turtles started today.  It's things like that which went by the way with the library job.  4 weeks to go...

June 27
    The library was so slow today that I read some from a Terry Pratchett novel, Nation  .  It proved to be good advertising, as two patrons asked about it and tried other Terry Pratchett books.  Then after library work I was listening to public radio while glazing and heard that the British National Theater is starting to simulcast its performances to movie theaters.  They mentioned an upcoming production was a dramatic version of Pratchett's Nation.   I've read nearly all of Pratchett's work--this one falls in the social commentary section with works such as Djingo Django which is about war mongering between nations.  While most of his works are set in a mythical flat earth, this one, on the one hand, has Darwin in Britain, and a mythical Polynesian island that is decimated by a tidal wave as the setting.  The result leaves a single native boy missing his whole nation,  and a young English girl, who may be in line to be Queen..  I'm still less than half way through, but the point seems to be about the differing world views from whence they come.
     I went swimming in the lake for the first time this year.  It was okay after I got over the hyperventilating.   But I prefer it a little warmer...

June 29

    I hoed the garden in about 10 minutes tonight using the wheelhoe pictured above.  That didn't count  the twenty minutes or so I spent reattaching the handlebar at the top.  I hate car mechanics, feeling woefully inadequate, but I like to think I can handle simple machines like the wheelhoe, which I built a few years ago.  Tonight I finally added a couple more screws to keep it in place.  The picture above is from my webpage dedicated to this "appropriate technology."  Often when I look at my web page's statistics,  "wheel hoe" is in the top 10 search items that lead people to my webpage.   When I use a conventional hoe, it's hard on my back, and a lot slower.  The wheel hoe is only good for row crops, but serious gardeners tend to plant in rows...  I used to spend my teen years pushing one of these up and down the fields in the summer, weeding experimental grain crop fields at Iowa State.   I remember my grandfather had something similar with curved teeth for cultivating, but that would be a lot more work than a simple blade sliding through the earth, cutting or pulling the weeds.
    Before hoeing, I picked a gallon of strawberries for tomorrow.  We're mostly giving them away at this point, but can still eat a quart or two per day.
The spinach is all growing big at once, and previously I've frozen some, but never use more than a package or two, so I think I'll donate a bunch to the food bank this week.  We should still have plenty to eat for several weeks.   There's also lettuce ready, and the green beans are growing fast.  
    I made about 60 penguins, ducks, and snakes in the pottery today.  I didn't have much time, after unloading and pricing two kiln loads of glazed pots...  Tomorrow should be more productive...

June 30
      Productive...  Hmm.  Well due to some family suggestions, I made bird houses today.  Also a bird feeder, and a bunch of little pots that are designed to hold a little sponge by the sink.  They'are all really prototypes--I'm not sure how well they'll work yet.  Then a few large bowls were added to fill the kiln with.
    In the afternoon I did my final kids concert in Athol, during my library time.  By the third time I had a pretty firm grasp of the material, and they were a very attentive audience, considering two trains went by a block away during the performance (two hearty renditions of "I've been working on the railroad" to see us through them).   When I  got back to the library, the server had crashed with the whole system database, so when it came on at 5 pm, we had to work hard to get all the books from the courier checked in and sorted and cleaned.   This made it a good day at the library, because a slow day is really boring...
Books read and other media of note:

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum I'd enjoyed seeing the movies, so decided to read the book. Both the movie and book begin with a man with no memory being fished out of the ocean.  After that the plots diverge.    The book is all about trying to catch a master assassin named Carlos. Ludlum's writing is a bit confusing, but that aids in the continuing sense of off balance created so that you never really know what is "the Bourne identity."

Hit and Run by Lawrence Block.  
My favorite of his writings are the Bernie Rhodenbarr thief mysteries, and the Tanner spy novels.  He also has the hardnosed recovering alcoholic Matthew Scudder novels, and this series on a hit man called Keller.  His writing always draws you in, sometimes to where you're rooting for the professional hit man, even as he mentions people he's killed by mistake.  All of Block's writings are marked by a curious amorality--even though you're comfortable with how things work out in the end, it raises questions as to why this should be so.

Attica by Garry Kilworth  
The name evokes a prison uprising in the 60's, but the book is a fantasy where children enter a different universe through the attic of an old house, rather like the wardrobe in the Narnia Chronicles.  Mostly the book seems nightmarish, with sinister attacks by all nature of beings being commonplace.  It wasn't the best bedside reading, but was fairly worthwhile over all.  At my age, a book I remember in two weeks is a good one.  Ask me in two weeks...
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