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Sept. 1, 2006
A friend gave us some dahlia tubers this spring, and this variety is now about as tall as I am.
We have a lot of Vitamin A in the garden still--some corn, lots of carrots, and squash ripening, as well as tomatoes.
Today I finished the alien sculpture, called "Tasted like Chicken."  There was no great impetus to finish it from (say for instance) a customer, but I wanted to mount it on my riding lawn mower to be in the Labor Day parade Monday.  So now we all have something to look forward to, if anyone gets a good picture.

Sept 3
For today's blog, I point you to the latest video I've uploaded, of Spirit Lake photos. Like most natural parts of the world, the part I like to photograph is threatened, in this case with development.  So I photograph it often, as it may eventually look like a row of lake cabins.

Sept. 4
Labor Day
Well, on the 1st I said I'd be riding a lawnmower in the Labor Day parade with an alien head sculpture mounted on the front.   All was well until I tried to put the mower into gear, at which point it would die whenever my foot was taken off the brake.  So I walked in the parade, waving a mostly unreadable banner that said "Spirit Lake" on one side, and "Sondahl Pottery" on the other.  I also played harmonica to keep my mind occupied...
So instead of the parade, I'm posting the new look of the Spirit Lake water tower.  It was being refurbished, and a local woman donated the funds to have it converted into a teapot.  They forgot to put the Sondahl Pottery logo on it, but then, I've forgotten to make a Sondahl Pottery logo, so that's reasonable...

This is the view from across the street from our pottery shop, with a new banner and flag from Maine St. visible.

Sept. 5
I got the lumber for a new screen porch project today.  I'm no better at making plans then I am at reading music, so there's quite a bit of figuring out as I go along, particularly how two roofs meet.  It's hopefully a bit like an Amish barn building, no plans, just people that know what they're doing.  (That's always the trick, and the question...)  The goal of this project is to add a space where you could have lunch without the yellowjacketss, or sit in the evening without mosquitoes (not that there are any now, with the extended dry spell). It may also be firewood storage in the winter.

Sept. 6
In a few more days, I'm terminating my daily cartoon.  I've figured out I can't really draw reliable cartoons.  But I still enjoy the challenge of daily creativity.  So it will morph into an experiment in serial fiction writing.
One of my favorite science fiction authors, A.E. Van Vogt, was said to write without an outline, just jamming from what he'd written previously.  Sometimes his work clearly suffered from this approach.  But sometimes he wandered into brave new worlds from it.  So that's the starting premise, but I may develop a plot as I go along.
My favorite comedy writers, including P.G. Wodehouse, Daniel Pinkwater, and Patrick McManus, get along pretty well with fairly insipid plots.  It's almost guaranteed in a Wodehouse Bertie Wooster story that he will have to steal something with the noblest of motives, usually to keep the wrong girl from marrying him (they were all wrong), and Jeeves will soothe all ills in the last two pages.  But what all these writers do have is a keen love of language, and the ability to turn a phrase to best effect.
I'll announce it here again when it's ready to begin.  The current and final series of the cartoon is based on a news article I read on some research at Tufts University, and starts today.

Sept. 7
    I don't recall ranting here about customers wanting to design their own pottery, but since some of the blog readers are customers, I'll temper my comments.   Actually some of the more popular items I make were suggested by patrons.  The other day one of my sons pointed out how an early French butter dish I'd made was for sale on Ebay (for 2.5 times what I sell them for). I know it was early, because the top was quite dome shaped, whereas over time I've refined the design somewhat.  I started making them because a patron wanted one....
    So if someone wants a left eared flapgangle, I can dutifully try to make one, but whatever it is will be a first attempt of a prototype.  Even that is better than someone telling me what size and shape to make the thing when they have no design experience.
    I mention this partly because I've got a set of large mixing bowls ready to ship that someone thought they'd like to eat salads in with guests.  I have nothing against large salads (except that onld saying, never eat anything bigger than your head).  But as a designer I'd say the sides are too high--you have to come at the salad from on top, whereas in a lower bowl, shaped more like a pie plate, the sides wouldn't be in your way so much.   It could be that the patron agrees with me on some level, as she hasn't paid for them yet, and hope is dimming on that front.  At least they're sellable as mixing bowls.
    But the reason I got on this rant is really the porch I'm working on.  The roof is the real trick, but we were agreed going into it that the floor would have to be on the level with the house.  I nearly have the floor done level now, so I'm looking to the roof line and see that as I had designed it on paper, there will be a pretty low ceiling.  So I'm an amateur architect...
At least I noticed it before finishing it...

Sept. 8
The roofline has ben worked out so taller people walk farther to the north when traversing the room.  The roof is two or three sections, of which the clear Lexan part went up today.  We were also given a domed translucent skylight, which may fit into the final roof format.
When building a roof, the mantra I use is: "4 feet of snow, 4 feet of snow."  Some winters we get 4 feet of snow.  It's been a while, but not all that long...

Tonight I made gingerbread cookies.  From my cooking page, here's the basic cookies recipe:
Most kind of cookies take the following roughly.  The dough should be kind of sticky, but not too (add flour if necessary).  The extra possible ingredients are to make other kinds of cookies.
1 stick butter or margarine.
1 1/2 to two cups sugar  (use up to half brown sugar)
1-2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda or powder.

To make gingerbread cookies, add some molasses (1/2 to 1 cup), and enough flour to make a rollable dough.  The molasses adds quite a lot of liquid, so it can take a lot of flour to make the dough rollable.   I don't generally make them gingerbread boy shaped, as it wastes a lot of dough with the large cookie cutters.  If they don't come out sweet enough on their own, make some frosting from margarine and powdered sugar and milk, and coat them.  Add raisins and decorate if that's your thing--I prefer eating my cookies over looking at them.  Lately I've tried integrating soft margarine into my cooking, as it has less hydrogenated oils.  It really changes the nature of cookies.  I don't like the results of pure soft margarine with cookes, but if you use it half with margarine, the cookies seem to stay soft longer after they cool.

Sept. 9
I tried to watch some college football gaimes and work on the new porch.  The trouble with college football games is they're often unevenly matched, so the outcome is pretty clear by the start of the second half.  On the other hand, the porch roof's outcome won't be clear until it rains. A friend gave us a couple nifty translucent skylights, that look like they were designed to be used on flat roofs, since they are sort of a rectangular dome shape and tend to shed the water in all directions.  SO I won't really know how they work on a shed type roof till it rains.   I've heard that the architect Frank Lloyd Wright's houses often leaked, to which he replied something like, "Of course--they're the first of their kind..."  So I'm not worried about a few leaks.  I'm in good company.

Sept. 10.
My new daily fiction blog starts today.  Although it's highly improvisational in nature, the first story actually reaches a satisfactory conclusion, like a short story, only I'm conceptualizing this as serial adventure, which by nature is episodic.  I think it's geared for the modern attention span (under two minutes).  To access it use the link (new fiction blog) in the menu at the top and bottom of all my webpages.

Also I went to church in Clark Fork, Idaho today, where my wife was preaching.  Since we got there early, I took a walk and saw this heron perching on a branch.  I also got some pictures of an osprey with a large fish, but I think I like this one better.  It's lovely scenery around Clark Fork...

Sept. 11

Sept. 12
    I worked all day on the screen porch, trying to get the roof watertight before possible rains tomorrow.
When I was a kid, one of the nasty things you could call another kid was a yellow bellied sapsucker, implying he was yellow, which meant, for some reason, chicken, or not courageous.  I think I knew it was a bird, but not one I'd seen until I've seen a couple here, the last year or two.  The bird book shows them summering in most of North America, but they're easy to overlook.  They perforate the bark of trees, then drink the sap.  So while I was working today, I heard a woodpecker type bird, and grabbed my camera, and got my first good photo of one:

Sept.13

I finished the roof today, still hoping it will rain tomorrow, and that there won't be any leaks.  I kept having natural moments today as I worked.  The sapsucker was back in the same elm tree, mining the sap from the holes made previously.  One of the branches that shades our porch area had cracked many years ago, and at the time I saved it by wrapping it with vinyl electrical tape.   Since I was working in the area, I cut off the tape, which had continued to stretch as the limp grew.  Inside the tape was a sow bug and one large ant, apparently gleaning a bit of moisture from where the tree oozed a bit.  Later when I went to our other house for some supplies, I stopped at the front porch to see a cosmos plant with one flower stem covered with small black ants.  The stem was fairly dry, or I'd think they were harvesting moisture as well--everything is shockingly dry.
    We used to live on Lake Chelan in Washington--currently a forest fire threatens the community of Stehekin at the end of the lake.  The commuity is only accessible by boat, and due to the fire, they've canceled scheduled daily boat trips to keep people out of the area.  The fire was started when a hiker burned some pages from a journal, which then caught the area around it on fire.  Today's report listed it at 7700 acres.

Sept. 14
No rain, but a lot cooler--may frost tonight.  Because it's cold but hasn't rained, I don't want to burn wood yet, so I got the electric oven going and baked regular part-wheat bread, raisin bread, and peach pie this evening.
I built a wheelchair ramp for the screen porch this evening.  We don't need it currently, but you never know...
An older friend got her leg tangled in her dog's chain this afternoon and broke her femur.  At the beginning of the day I was considering working in the pottery after doing some carpentry.  But in a dark cubby space I was working in I put my hand down onto a shingle with a nails sticking up, so my right hand is fairly sore.  You just never know...

Sept. 15
    It was pear and tomato picking time today.  The tomato crop was pretty much a failure--one box, due to planting in a new area of the garden that wasn't fertile enough, plus the hot dry weather.   I picked them today because it may frost tonight for the first time. The pears were pretty good--about 100 lbs, or 2/3 of last year's crop.  Pears have to ripen off the tree, or they're woody, so we'll see if the timing for picking them was good in a week or two.  We also plan to buy some pears to can, as they're one of our favorite canned fruits.  I also built a screen door for our porch.  There's one door into the house we're thinking of replacing--it will cost nearly as much as the materials for the whole porch project. We're hoping by buying a door with frame we will get a better seal than I can manage on my own with old used doors, which I've used previously.   The porch door I built cost nothing--some scrap lumber and a leftover piece of screening.
    As I was thinking about the statistics I've cited about pears and lumber, I'm reminded of Thoreau's Walden, which I read in high school.  I remember being a bit underwhelmed by it at the time--lots of lists of how cheaply he built his cabin, etc.  Because of the 100+ year time lag, the figures were very small, but, even in his time, that was the point.   I expected some much heavier philosophy, but some ideas can be conveyed simply.
    When it comes to simple living, I was inspired by my own father's do-it-yourself attitude.  He built at least 3 porches in his life.  Porches have become an anachronism, since most peoples lives center on tv and computers.  A while ago I heard some urban planners trying to reinstate the front porch, as it helps build (and police) the community if people sit out front and are aware of their neighbors and environment.  The planner sad it was in teh 50's the porch moved from the front of the house to the back, which increased the suburban isolation.  Ahh, well, our new porch is in back...

Sept. 16
Still no frost, no rain.  Cloud predicted but sunshine all day.  I may be reiterating, but it used to be that the frost free period here was mostly between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Now it's nearly a month longer, making corn a safe bet to plant (even multiple plantings).
I read how in Spokane some South American rodents called Patagonian cavies escaped from their enclosure.   They have "heads like rabbits, and brown furry bodies with spindly legs resembling fawns."  The article mentioned that wildlife officials don't worry about feral cavies becoming a problem: "Coyotes and a lack of food containing vitamin C in the wild pose a threat to escaped cavies."
Curiously, wild roses are common in the area, and rose hips, although not commonly thought of as food by humans, are sometimes sold in health stores as a natural source packed with vitamin C.
    We had a chinchilla for a while as a pet.  Regardless of the species, no rodents really like humans (except perhaps if extremely hungry), and I'm coming to the conclusion that this human really doesn't like rodents, no matter how soft their fur...  The chinchilla in question escaped out a window, and I found myself wondering how long it survived.  Since there was no mate, I didn't fear creating an infestation...
    Feral species of plants and animals are one of the great challenges of our environment (after our own poisoning of it)--the world community that allows fis and plants to rapidly colonize new areas makes "survival of the fittest" a fast game...

Sept. 17
It's Sunday, and Darla Calhoun spoke at our church today of a mission she founded in Kenya called Agape Boys Home, for street children.  She started in Kenya as a public health nurse, but got drawn to the "least of these," homeless street children.  From her own modest start of providing a house for a few children, it has grown to accommodate over 100 kids, and the early members are growing up to become community leaders.  She said it has changed the way people view the street kids in Kisumu.
It also put me to mind of the news this week that the lowest life expectancy in the U.S. is on Indian reservations in South Dakota.
Years ago I decided my own Alma Mater was doing well enough without my donations, so I adopted Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota, which serves the Pine Ridge Reservation.  If you visit their website, you'll find courses that help their students escape the high unemployment of the reservation, but also many which are designed for them to preserve their culture and heritage.
I posted a new guitar insturmental, Hesitation Waltz, today...

Sept. 18
I started out taking our newest car, which has mostly been trouble, in for the 3 month checkup on its transmission.  The car celebrated by going into "limp mode," on the way into Spokane, where it won't shipt into overdrive. When it did this the last time (3 months ago), they put in a new transmission computer for a couple hundred bucks. They'd also previously had to replace the transmission they'd rebuilt for us, as it died a month after we got it.   All this puts the car into the "bad car" category.
    But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I brough my bicycle along today, so when I left the car, I bicycled for two hours up the Spokane River, and to Gonzaga Univ., whre there was a nice art show in their art gallery.  At the end of the bike ride, I came back to the shp to see that the car hadn't moved yet.  But I was told he'd look at it soon.
    So I spent an hour chatting with the 70 year old head mechanic, as he tried various things to diagnose and fix it.  His best guess was the main computer needs replacing, at a cost of a couple thousand dollars.   He did get it sort of working, so I drove back home.  I'm not confident enough in his guessing to not get a second opinion somewhere else.  The car only has 130,000 miles on it, but has now had 3 transmissions. The last time we had to bring it in, the mechanic muttered about "lemons," and some cars just having problems, and how there's hundreds of ways things can go wrong. We may have to junk it just to cut our losses.

Sept. 19
A quarter inch of rain today was sufficient to wet the trees, reducing fire danger, and making it so we could burn our woodstove for the first time in months... IT also was sufficient to show the leaks in the screen porch.  About a week ago I said I wasn't worried about leaks.  Unfortunately, when they're here, I'm the one who not only has to worry, but fix or otherwise deal with them.  On balance, though, the rain (and forecast for more) seems like a bit of rebirth, although not much new besides grass will grow at this time of year...

Sept. 20
When I was in college, as part of the student entertainment, a rabbi named Schlomo Carlebach came and played his 12-string guitar and got us students to dance in a circle, while talking about the wheel of life, how it goes in cycles, and sometimes you're up, and sometimes you're down.  I thought of it because pundits were talking about the bursting of the oil and housing bubbles.  I'd say they're more a cycle with up and down parts.  But I'd also say that both were artificially manipulated by greed of those who stood to benefit by their rising.  I think the housing bubble  was an inevitable result of when the Fed held interest rates to historic lows for so long.  But then, what do I know? I'm just a potter...
    But while we're on the subject, cycles are not only inevitable, but help make life interesting.  If it rained every day for 15 minutes, if every day was a feast without fast days, if there were no seasons, life would more resemble a prison.  Of course there's lots of people in California and Arizona and Florida that might argue differently, but because of my northern heritage I like the changing of the seasons.  Tomorrow, if I remember to check (and barring clouds) the sun will come up  in the middle of Maine St. for one of the two times per year when it's properly aligned, to remind me that summer's over and winter's cookin.'  (In the future archaeologists may mistakenly think downtown Spirit Lake was an astronomical observatory... Of course most towns are laid on north-south orientation ;'))
    Bringing this topic around full circle, in high school some of the nerdy-cool kids would do folk dancing at the Y.  I've never been able to repeat a dance step the same way twice, so although I hung out with some of those people, I didn't dance much.  And it's still the same today--I'm going to the Spokane Folklore Society Jam Dance, but plan to play music and take pictures instead of dance.

(Editor's note--the rest of the month was lost due to my clerical error...)
 


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