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Oct. 3, 2006
     I'm back from a visit to family in Minnesota.  The only reader to email as to my doings wondered if I might be canning, which was a good guess for today, since I canned 34 quarts of pears (35 less one that cracked).
    So here are my favorite photos from the trip...
My mother has lots of fine birds in her yard, due to her feeding them safflower and sunflower seeds.  This is, of course, a male cardinal at her feeder.   This particular bird feeder is a squirrel excluding feeder.  If a squirrel alights on the bar the cardinal is on, it will swing down away from the food.  My mother also said that squirrels won't eat the safflower seed.  There were loads of squirrels around, many more than we have locally...
    I went on a number of fine walks to enjoy the environment and fall colors.  At this lake on the Carleton College campus, the colors look better in reflection than otherwise...

    Here is Susa's young princess cat, Gabby, peering through my mother's prolific houseplants...

Lastly one of this blog's ardent fans is also my mother's best companion Bill, and he requested to see the
size of the fish caught by the osprey described at Clark Fork, Idaho last month...  So this one's for Bill...
Oct. 4
The pottery shelves continue to grow bare, so I've got to get making pots again seriously.  By September I'm ready for a break, but it's more like November before sales slow down.  I did glazing today.
However, the best part of the day was playing old-time music in Spokane with some talented musicians.  It's rare for me to find someone who shares an interest in the Southeastern musicians of the first 3 decades of the 1900's, so we spent a fair amount of time singing along on each other's choruses.  It's looking to become a new group...

Oct. 5

The lake was still today, and so was this turtle, who posed like that for a number of nice photos.  A little further down the beach were four more turtles on two exposed logs, but they were warier than this one, and slipped in the water at my approach.

Oct. 6
I woke up in the night feeling dizzy, and although most of the time I get along fine, I'm still a bit dizzy when moving too suddenly.  From research on the internet and experience with friends and family, I know it has to do with my inner ear, and that it will probably go away on its own with time.
The other event of the day worth noting is that a gospel group which I sometimes sing with in the local church was recruited to play for two hours at an Alzheimer's fundraiser in Farragut Park tomorrow, so we practiced for about an hour tonight.  We haven't played much together for a year, but fit together in a natural fashion both vocally and instrumentally, so I expect it to go well...

Oct 7
The music fundraiser went well.  There were about 100 people on a pledge walk for Alzheimer's.
Overnight we had the largest rain in 3 months- 4/10's inch.  One of the people I sang with had a stump catch fire a week ago down where they were working on their fence.  It smoldered into the ground, eventually turning to flame.  They put about 40 gallons of water on it, and dug around it with heavy equipment.  A week later it started burning again.  I'm told that, like coal mines, these old stumps can burn underground, even spreading along the old roots.
My dizziness is better today, but not totally gone...  It's not unusual that I fall asleep watching football on a Saturday afternoon (as I did today), but I slept over an hour, instead of a short cat nap--to which I attribute my malaise...

Oct. 8
Today we moved a lot more lumber, cabinets,  and old windows and doors that someone gave us.  They sorted out into: firewood, new work bench, lumber, and windows and doors.  We're considering a moratorium on accepting stuff, since we're getting pretty full.  Most of the stuff we get we either think of a use for, or pass on to someone else who can use it.
Also the day was cold enough to wear a coat outside (high in the upper 40's).  Suddenly outside projects don't look as fun...

Oct. 9
Ha! It finally froze hard last night.  The dahlias are totally decimated.  No one (including you readers) really cares when the frost hits Spirit Lake, but it's by far the latest we've ever seen here in 25 years.  It's interesting the flowers that survive 28 degrees--snapdragons, petunias, and even cosmos are still in the running, as well as the predictable mums.
My dizzy spell has past, and I was full of vim and vigor today, making large lamps and chip and dips in the pottery, which require more work than most pots...  The pottery was warm from allowing the cooling kiln to heat it by choosing which doors to open and shut, since the kiln room is adjacent to the pottery.  During the firing some gases are given off that are not good to breathe, but as it cools below red heat the waste heat appears to me to be benign...
By the way, I started with "Ha!" because, as a northerner, you expect cold with fall, and now it's back to "normal."  Still highs in the 60's predicted later this week...

Oct. 10
Since Google and Youtube just combined, it's fitting that their combined views of my homemade videos just topped 100,000.  Considering all the viewers, the only concrete result I've had was one CD sale.  If they had only let me charge a penny a look, I'd have a thousand dollars...  Meanwhile, the founders of Youtube did finally figure out how to make money from their free video service ($1.6 billion), which may go down as one of the great Emperor's New Clothes stories of our era.  If it doesn't make any money, have a plan to make money, then how much money can it really be worth?
Back on planet earth, I bought a gallon of roof patch and applied it liberally to the new porch leak area, figuring it was less work and less expense than tearing the roof apart.  It will be a while before the next rain, according to forecasts...

Oct 11
Potters wear a lot of hats--artist, laborer, shipping room, clerk, salesperson, janitor, public relations.  But the one even I forget pretty often is dishwasher.  So I spent a couple hours washing pots today in the display.  I'm not sure how many hundred pots are out on display, but they're all too dusty to just dust, so we wash them.  Like Hercule's task of cleaning the Aegean stables, by the time the task is done they're getting dusty again.  Good thing I'm not a perfectionist.

Oct 12
I'm still washing pots, plus I spent an hour or so retyping the September Blog, which would be totally gone except for my mother keeping a paper backup copy...  Then this evening I'm working on music--since I'm doing both a solo performance and assembling a new group effort for the upcoming Fall Folk Festival--this is the time I'm considering changing songs as I question my original sanity in choosing what I had.  This is, of course, a no win situation...
Meanwhile, I changed the "sondahl.com" to a cheaper provider, and the webpage has been in a bit of limbo.  Sorry.  I'm counting on my computer scientist son to help, but for some reason he wasn't sitting waiting by the phone...

Oct. 13
Today was consumed with putting in a new door into an old wall.  Pretty much nothing was plumb and true on the old wall, and it was a really tight squeeze, but I think it will work out.  Since it's an exterior door, and there's no handle on it yet, it has a wad of insulation  in the knob hole to hold it till tomorrow.
So I wrote yesterday I was waiting for my son to rescue the website.  Actually, he'd already given me some advice, which I'd done, which hadn't fixed it.  So later, my page was back, and I rushed to thank him.  He said he hadn't done anything, it just takes a while for the new location to make  its way around the web.  In the binary yes or no age, it's funny to think that some things on the internet actually take time to "propagate.".
When he told me I'd already fixed it, I felt a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she was told she could have gone home anytime, since she just had to tap her heels together and wish...
Later I got to thinking about how Dorothy really would have felt when told that.   "You mean I got subjected to dangerous opium poppies, had to put up with the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys, when you could have told me how to get home right at first?  You'll be hearing from my lawyer about the mental suffering you've caused me..."

Oct. 14
Events over which you have no control can evoke strong superstitious behaviors as results. Consider the many pro sports players who follow arcane rituals to avoid bad luck.
For the first time in months there were two days here without pottery sales.  Rationally, this is the time of year sales slow down, so it wasn't too surprising. But I wished I'd done some arcane ritual (like petting the lucky cat currently in my lap), because today people showed up all day, and sales were outstanding.  So then I could pet the lucky cat to try to induce such a sales day again.  It might not do the sales any good, but at least the cat would like it...
There was another forecast for rain tomorrow, which might have been a factor--people out taking in one of the nicest days left of fall...

Oct. 15

After church today we took a scenic fall drive through western Montana.  These are larches turning yellow, getting ready to shed their needles, on top of Thompson Pass.  The day was drizzly, so the colors were muted...
Along the way, we saw the Cabinet Gorge reservoir on the Clark Fork river.  Dams make it so that a lot of river place names (like Big Eddy, or some rapids, or Thompson Falls) are all just historical relics, as the dams have made their actual features disappear.  Close to Spirit Lake is the Albeni Falls Dam, where Albeni Falls used to be.  In Spokane, the Spokane Falls are "turned on" by the power company only for tourism's sake, although it's also used for spilling excess water in the spring.  I can't gripe too much, though, since I like the relatively cheap power that hydro produces...

Oct. 16
It's almost refrigerator weather, drizzly and cold, ranging from 35-50 degrees. Late fall is the season of darkness, particularly after the time change (don't panic--it's a week and a half).  Winter is, of course, darker, but the snowy ground makes up a lot for the less overhead lighting.
There was enough rain yesterday to show that the new roof still leaks.  I just have to adjust my expectations downward.
Meanwhile I just heard that the old time group I'm in, playing for the Fall Folk Festival in 2 1/2 weeks, was given an extra 15 minutes, making it a 45 minute set.  This is a bit of a challenge, since we've only played together for a couple weeks, and have only practiced about a half hour's music.  Nothing like a challenge...

Oct. 17
I sometimes wonder how many things I can juggle at once, metaphorically speaking (since I don't juggle).  The upcoming Folk Festival is my heyday.  I get an assistant to watch my pottery booth, so after setting it up, I try to go to all the 6 stages every half hour to photograph whomever's performing for use on the Folklore Society webpage.  I also am performing in two time slots.
Then today I got an email asking me to help with rounding up the musicians for the live radio performance, which lasts two hours.  The Folklore Society is mostly a small bunch of contra dancers, so I accepted, knowing how shorthanded they are for putting on this circus of a festival.
I spent most of my professional day today dealing with the 90 pots I threw yesterday.

Oct.18
Another day, another couple kilnloads glazed...
The highlight of the day again was playing old-time music in preparation for the folk festival.  It looks like we'll have played some of the songs together only about 3 times before performing, but then folk music is loosely contrived anyway... The fiddler (actually multi instrumentalist, but so far has only played fiddle) likes the old obscure ones that I do, so we're going with that, even though I also enjoy throwing in string band versions of Beatles and Dylan for variety...

Oct. 19
It drizzled most of the day, but finally let loose with hard rain and hail this evening.  It added up to an inch of rain.
Last month I mentioned how a 10 square mile forest fire was started by a woman burning her journal entries.  She got sentenced to some jail time, and a several thousand dollar fine.  They sometimes bill the person who starts the fire for the whole cost of fighting it.  In this case it was a couple million dollars.  The woman was apparently without major funds, and showed remorse, so received a light sentence.

Oct. 20
A lovely day, with cold nights predicted, so it was time to pick the apples.  This year only one apple tree really produced, but it yielded about 100 lbs. of red delicious apples.  About half of them have codling moth holes (making them mostly suitable for apple sauce), but the rest are very large and tasty.
Our aging cat started walking around in a curious manner today, that led to a trip to the vet.  Unfortunately after $200 in tests, they still don't know what was wrong with her.  But when she got home, she seemed better.
The coffee shop across the street got the idea this fall to show free movies outside in their deck area.  As I write, some tough souls are enduring 50 degree temperatures to watch some animated movie.  I imagine they got the idea from a Spokane supper club, which shows old silent movies on the wall of a building across the street.
Both events take me back to when my wife and I were first married, and living in a church community house in Portland.  Part of the mission of the house was to extend hospitality to the urban neighborhood we were in.  My own interest in old movies led me to use the church's film projector and 16 mm movies from the Portland Public Libray, and invite people in for walk in movies.  It did indeed draw in a few local residents, and it also caused me to get a Harold Lloyd film (The Freshman) on a whim, which was a marvelous movie.
But our movies were in the hot nights of summer, not the crisp nights of fall...

Oct. 21
I went to the local bluegrass concert tonight.  It mostly made me miss my musical companions, whom I'd usually sit with. After Sam died, Toody moved back to her home in New Mexico, so the Musicians Anonymous group is gone...  Some of the music tonight was nice though, and a new group played, including doing one of Sam's songs (by total coincidence).  My new group is scheduled to perform there next month, so I guess life goes on...

Oct. 22
We drove across the hills to visit our relatives in Spokane for a birthday. There were deer hunters parked near the most mountainous area.  We got to the more agricultural area, and, as is almost always the case, there were a dozen or more deer grazing in two alfalfa fields. As the native environment gets trashed with inedible exotic weeds, the deer naturally go where the food is.  The only curious thing is why the hunters didn't just go where the deer were.  There was at least one fairly large doe, but it could be most hunters don't have doe tags.  Not having hunted, I'm not clear on all the rules, but being immersed in the culture (hunting is big in Idaho), you can't help but get involved in it.  For example, in church this morning the pastor mentioned in the announcements that the little old lady who sits in front of us got her first elk this year, in her second year of hunting.   It's pretty incongruous to pair up this frail appearing person with killing an elk that probably weighs 6 times her size...  I can't imagine how she and her equally elderly husband got the elk home...
Farmers generally don't like deer for the damage they do to their crops or orchards.
But I like the deer that aren't eating my garden...  I don't even mind the ones who raid my garden much, since we had a lot of surplus anyway, though I feel a bit bad at being part of the system that lures them into town...

Oct. 23
Whenever I get involved in selling pots elsewhere than from my Spirit Lake showroom, it's enough of a mixed bag that I have misgivings about it later.  Craftspeople who sell from booths every weekend have to be extremely organized and dedicated.  If you only do a couple fairs a year, it means a lot of packing before, and unpacking and packing again and unpacking, and hopefully somewhere in between the sales will be good enough to justify the bother.
I'm reflecting on this because the potter's group I'm in met again today to plan their Christmas sale.  Last year it proved to be both fun and profitable (except for the selfless group treasurer who had to do the sales and accounting...)  So this year we hope it will be more so, but we are doing lots of planning to encourage those possibilities.
Meetings are not my idea of fun, so my feelings are running more to the negative.  In fact, mostly I like doing pottery sales where I get to play music, so I think I enjoy playing music more than selling pots.  Of course it's harder to make a living from music than pottery, so I have to stick to my day job, regardless of what's more fun...

Oct. 24
    My pots are currently in migration.  Customers frequently wonder if I take all the pots in at night, or whether I take them in for winter.  The answer is no, and no.  The reason is historical.
When we moved here, there were 3 rooms plus a bathroom.  We set up one room as the pottery workshop, one room for sales (which we slept in at night), and the remaining room was kitchen/living room.  All this with two young children (and a third born here).  After the first year it was clear that to gain customers, we'd have to put the pots out where they could be seen. So I built the first kiosk, added a sleeping loft, and then added pottery workshop space in back.  There was no other place to store the pots, so out front they stayed.
    Large houses and large cars are all the fashion, but our model was more the midwestern farm, with a small modest farmhouse and bigger barn, as well as other outbuildings.
    Back to the migration.  The pots don't actually migrate, but where the pots are destined from the kiln does.  In summer as many pots as possible are outside, as that's where the customers mostly shop.  By September the inside was nearly empty, but now with colder weather the shoppers we get seem happier inside, and so do the pots...  So the shelves are filling again inside.

Oct. 25
    I spent the afternoon rooting out a wild blackberry patch that Brer Rabbit would have been proud of.  I liked the blackberries, but it was so overgrown and mixed with wild oregano that very few berries could be found.  And being wild, it had thorns upon thorns, making any picking hazardous.  It took a couple hours to clear it with a loppers, then finish up with a heavy duty weed wacker (mostly to get the oregano).  The task is only half over though--they have put out underground pathways that rival the Viet Cong's, so there will be lots of root digging for the next year.
    These blackberries weren't native to this area--it's too dry around here.  This helps me feel less guilty at rooting them out.  We'll probably replace them with raspberries when the roots are all gone.

Oct. 26
    One of my glazes went bad a while ago.  It's the yellow crystalline--the whole batch acted underfired at cone 10, and at $40-50 per batch, I can't afford to just mix up another.  Most glaze ingredients are dug out of the ground and pulverized, and their composition changes from batch to batch.  I'm assuming that's what's happened, or that I made a mistake in weighing the ingredients.
    Anyway, rather than waste the whole batch, I've been adding cheap ingredients in hope of lowering the melting point and getting some interesting (if unrepeatable) result.  For a couple times, I added Copper Carbonate, as it melts at a low temperature and adds a greenish hue.  Every firing I'd stick in a sample of the new mixture, with only slightly better results.  The current firing I've gone to adding some Calcium Carbonate (pulverized seashells), as it's another ingredient to lower the melting point of a glaze.  In the end I may just have to discard the results, but the process is sort of interesting.
    Meanwhile, in the garden, I cut out the old raspberry canes today.  Next to each of the old canes were equal sized or better new canes--assurance of berries for next year.  Most raspberries grow the first year as a single stem, which branches the second year into the fruiting sprays.  I noticed some plants that forked in their first year of growth.  As I removed the ones from this year, I noted that the same plants that forked last year forked this year--showing a genetic disposition for an undesirable trait (the branching ones don't bear as well, I think).

Oct. 26
    The glaze test I mentioned yesterday worked, in that the glaze is now glossy.  It's also yellow crystals on a green background, which isn't a combination that jumps at one.  I'll try it on some larger pots and if they come out I'll include a photo.  But today is A Tale of Two Butterdishes:

These are French butter dishes, where the top part has a tapering column attached which has butter squeezed into it for serving, while the base can have a little water to seal it and help keep it cool.
An aspiring potter and blog reader suggested a while ago that I try making my French butter dishes in the style on the left--with a little pedestal on the top which can be a knob to remove the butter dish as well as a pedestal in serving.  It appealed to me in that, like most of the craft potters that I know of, we have an Achilles heel in glazing--we must leave part of the pot unglazed so it doesn't stick to the kiln shelf.  (In lower fire work, there are wire pedestals that can be used, but they aren't reliable at the high temperature I fire at.)  So the French butter dishes I make have an unglazed spot in the middle of the part where the butter goes, and are then fired on a pedestal shaped rather like a goblet bottom. The pot shown on the left gets around this by adding the ring so the butter dish is fired on the ring, leaving the rest of the butter dish glazed.  It's an improvement in utility, and eliminates the pedestal in firing,  but probably somewhat detracts from the pot's aesthetics.
So I made a dozen or so to try it, and it may be a couple years before I really know what the outcome will be in terms of consumer preference.  The one on the right is pretty much the same butter dish I've made for 20 years, and many of my customers are repeat customers, so they may prefer the familiar one.  So now the question is whether to add it to my lines (making 4 styles of butterdish that I stock), or write it off as an experiment.  As I said, it will be a couple years before I really decide, as I'll allow the market make the decision.

Oct. 28
Although today was lovely and in the upper 50's, a winter storm is due tomorrow, with lows below 20 by Monday night, so it's time to batten the hatches.
I spent part of the afternoon digging about 200 lbs of carrots.  There's still 200 lbs or so in the ground, that may with luck withstand the winter and be good in the Spring.  About half of the carrots I dug will go to the local food bank.  The rest will go into our root cellar.
I posted a fairly recently composed guitar rag today at Youtube: G and C Rag .  Its name derives from the two keys it modulates between. It's only had a few views, but one comment was added saying it "sounds like something van ronk would play."  This was amusing because I got another comment several months ago implying that I was no Van Ronk.  I also use Dave Van Ronk in one of my literary blog stories.  He was one of the leading folk musicians from New York City in the late 50's, and a fine fingerstyle guitarist.  One of the first records I bought was his, along with several of Lightnin Hopkins, for 33 cents in a deeply discounted record pile at Kmart.  I should have realized then this was the fate for folk musicians.

Oct. 29
Along with some sleet which fell today, and more snow predicted, my son and I are hit with sore throats, making life more to be endured than enjoyed.  The storm was sufficient to close the major freeway to Seattle at the pass, but just dusted the hills around us so far.
This storm is like training wheels for winter.  It's a perfect storm to stay off the roads, since every year there's a new crop of Californians that move up here with negligible winter driving skills.  Fortunately I don't have to go anywhere until Thursday...

Oct. 30
Although it's possible to continue working when sick, since I work by myself, throwing pots with a runny nose is not a fun activity.  So I didn't do that, but I did glaze a kiln load of pots, and fire two kilns today.  This sore throat/cold seems settled in for the long haul...
 

Happy Halloween! The cat has its mouth open, in a yawn rather than a fierce roar.  It looks like 2 trick or treaters may be all we get tonight--it's cold and we're off the beaten treat path.  That's okay because my son and I can use all the pampering (candy) we can get, as this is one of those colds that just seems to move to find new areas of the Upper Respiratory Tract to consume rather than leaving quickly like good germs...
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