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April 1
I spent the morning trimming and glazing pots, and the afternoon editing videos:
Here are the newest videos:
Sondahl and Hawkins play Hold the Woodpile Down
Sondahl and Hawkins play I'm so lonesome I could cry
Sondahl and Hawkins play I still Miss Someone
Sondahl and Hawkins play Lay Down Sally
Sondahl and Hawkins play Up on the Blueridge Mountains
Sondahl and Hawkins play Don't think twice

April 4
Speaking of videos: I've started a set of Lenten and Easter Hymns:
Were you there when they crucified my Lord ? (Hymn, instrumental)
Go to Dark Gethsemane (Hymn--instrumental guitar)
Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded (hymn, instrumental)
In the Cross of Christ I glory (hymn, instrumental)
Christ thelord is risen today (instrumental hymn)
All glory laud and honor (hymn, instrumental)
Beneath the cross of Jesus (hymn instrumental)
Alas and did my savior bleed (hymn)

Today I filled in at our little church at Priest Lake, doing both music and the sermon.  This would be the second sermon I've done in my life.  This sermon was very musical--I ended up talking about the Rev. Gary Davis, who in the 60's brought gospel music to groups as diverse as Peter, Paul, and Mary and the Grateful Dead.  The Gospel text today referred to Jesus as the Light of the World, and Gary Davis wrote a song on that theme.  He also most famously wrote Samson and Delilah, or If I Had my Way, (which earned both Peter, Paul, and Mary and him a bunch of money, even though he didn't actually write it).   After the sermon we also sang another of his songs, Jesus met the Woman at the Well.  On the way home I was listening to an old Ian and Sylvia recording and they did a version of that song as well.  The Grateful Dead frequently played, in their early days, Death Don't Have No Mercy, also sourced to Gary Davis.
    It didn't rain or snow all day long, so I walked around the Mill Pond and up on the ridge to enjoy it.

April 5
    I attended a jam last weekend, and one of the guys there had made a video of the last INBA showcase, and he gave me a copy of it.  So here are a few more new videos:
Streamlined Cannonball played by Sondahl and Hawkins
Last thing on my Mind played by Sondahl and Hawkins
Deep River Blues played by Sondahl and Hawkins
The strife is oer (hymn, instrumental)
Good Christian Friends Rejoice and Sing
    It was another day with unexpected sunshine, so I walked around the Mill Pond again, wandering off on a few deer trails to make it interesting.  The wind was strong--I could see whitecaps on the main part of the lake, so I'm quite sure all the ice is finally gone.
   

April 7
When I was a kid I really liked rowing in the small green rowboat/sailboat that my father built from a kit.  I remember trying to race a canoe one time, and the canoe won, being better designed for sliding through the water.
    Last year a friend of ours got a new canoe for her cabin on Sullivan Lake, and she added a rowing kit to it, which I got to try last summer.   Half of the work one does when paddling a canoe is holding the fulcrum point steady with one arm while levering with the other.  So it was no surprise that when the fulcrum is secured at the oarlock, rowing is twice as easy as paddling.
    Thus began my idea to add a rowing rig to our aluminum canoe.  I mention the aluminum, because it has a flange (gunwale) along the edge that plastic and fiberglass canoes usually don't, that made it easy to lock an X shaped set of two by fours in place to hold the oarlocks outside of the boat (canoes are too narrow by themselves for good rowing).   Using 2 four foot boards, I was able to make the distance between the oarlocks 5 feet, which would accommodate 7 feet or longer oars.  (Another comparison between paddling and rowing--a paddle can only dig in as far forward as you can reach, whereas an oar can swing 5 feet or more as it travels in the water, pulling the whole way).
    This weekend I plan to buy the oars and oarlocks--a bit extravagant for me as I've priced them at around $100, but I think it will be worth it.  I've found I can load the canoe upright in our van with the back door open, so it can be used for personal nature trips, as well as giving rides to others who can either paddle or be lazy.
    The main drawback to rowing is that you're always facing away from where you're going, which means lakes are better than rivers, having fewer obstacles.  But we have a lot of lakes around here (well, not Minnesota lots, but a lot for the West).
    I'll try to put up a photo of the finished rig, including the extra seat I built out of plywood, and the plywood piece I put on top of the X shaped piece that can be a seat as well, or a table to set a camera or pack on.

April 8
    It's sort of like winning the Publisher's Clearance Lottery--I won a spot in the biggest art festival in the area--Art on the Green in August--which means I have to shell out $400 for the privilege.  I've done this fair many times over the years--mostly it's so hot you want to jump in the nearby lake with clothes on, but it can also be cold and rainy.   Either way, people come there because it's the focal point for the summer for a lot of people in and out of our area.  Sales are generally good, and the PR values are an added bonus, exposing thousands of people to our pottery.
    Before that exciting news, I spent most of the morning mixing 5 batches of glaze, or 50 KG total.  Saturday morning our pottery group has a bowl making project, so I couldn't throw pots today, and I knew all the buckets of glaze were down to the "refill" mark.
    It was a rare sunny day, so I spaded a portion of our small garden at the pottery and planted spinach, carrots, and peas.   There's already some volunteer spinach coming up, or left from last fall... It's very frost hardy.  Last night it got down to 25, so my tomato seedlings in the greenhouse may have been killed before sprouting--I've got to go now and move them in the house before a repeat of last night's freeze.

April 9
    Our bowl making workshop went well, with about 6 of us participating.  Two of us threw bowls on 2 potter's wheels, and the rest made them from slabs or coils of clay.  We made over 40 bowls in two hours.
    Then I went and got the oars and oarlocks.  I would have installed them immediately, but driving around on a sunny day with a van full of wet pots resulted in needing to trim them all when I got back to Spirit Lake.  But after that, I installed the oars and loaded the canoe in the back of the van, upright, ready to back up to the water and off load it all by myself...rowing set up for canoe
In this photo the oars are tucked on board leaning on the seat I added for rowing, which is slightly astern of the center of the canoe.  This view is towards the back of the boat...  The oars fit in the shiny steel oarlocks on the ends of the 2 X 4s.

The two 4 foot pieces of 2 X4  form an X over one of the rear support struts on the canoe.  I had to dado out the area where they went over the strut, as well as where they crossed each other.  The result was so weak that I figured I should add a piece of plywood to strengthen them.  This turned out to be a great idea, because it becomes an alternate rowing position, facing forward rather than backward, which is very good for approaching something like a dock accurately.   The whole rig is not attached to the canoe, but uses the tapered shape of the canoe, plus two blocks of wood added at the strut to keep the rig from slipping towards the bow which would loosen it.
    So on the shake down cruise I rowed to the dam at the end of the Mill Pond and back.  I got to take this (my first)  picture of a pair of common mergansers:
common mergansers



April 10

wood ducks

I walked around the Mill Pond again today--across the pond I saw a Canada goose with some ducks so I snapped a long range photo.  When I got it blown up I saw it was wood ducks, one of the prettiest species.  When I added the photo to my blog folder, I saw the second photo, apparently taken in 2009.  You can tell it was a nicer day then--the gray skies in the first photo made for a murkier experience.  I also heard a small chirping bird along the edge of the pond, and was surprised to see it was a wren--we don't have many of them around here.  The photos were all blurry, but from the book I'd say it was a winter wren.
    I did want to try out the row canoe again, but it was sprinkling and breezy, so I walked instead. The buttercups are becoming widespread now...  There are still small patches of snow in the shadier areas, and on the ridges.

April 11
    Customers are still pretty hit or miss this time of year. But I had one today, who said his wife is a regular reader of this blog.  
So, Hi Deb, your husband was very pleasant... I told him she was  a member of a pretty select bunch, since I can tally how many people read the blog in a month, and the number is not great.  I persevere at it mostly to keep in  touch with my Minnesota family and a few other stalwart friends.  
    The weather was fierce Spring style--sun, gusty wind, and hailstorms in equal measures.  The broccolis are coming up in the greenhouse.

April 13
    The swallows are back, and if the swallows are back, can the mosquitoes be far behind?  We have a pair that nests in a box outside our dining area.  They have peeked in a couple times, but aren't really laying the eggs yet.  Our hens, on the other hand, are doing quite well with their egg laying.
    Pottery work goes in waves, where each kiln load is a pulse of pots.  Yesterday the waves added up to two bisque firings on one day, so today I glazed and loaded two glaze kilns.  The shelves are getting full, so let the good weather arrive with the pottery patrons...  I'd settle for either separately...

April 14
The snow and rain showers continue nearly every day, but parts of the day can include a bit of sunshine, so I started on digging around some of our garden beds, to stop the encroachment of quack grass.  This yearly activity could be mostly avoided if I got a lot of that plastic border stuff, or laid down some wide boards that the root tendrils can't spread across.  But mostly we only have the time, energy, and willingness-to-expenditure to dig around them all.   And like most activities, it's nice to do when the sun is shining.

April 16
 If the weather would do something else besides sprinkle and get to around 50, I'd complain about  that, but as it is, the forecast remains on drizzle for the next week, so it's my standard complaint.  Fortunately the sun shines between showers, and I walked around the pond without getting too wet.  There are a few more wild flowers open, like Spring Beauties, but not a lot of anything, given the refrigerator like conditions.
    We're going to the Symphony tonight--a woman pianist is featured who can improvise on classical pieces besides just playing them.  I can handle the improvise part--not the notes part.  I got a Lent/Easter CD done this week, but my printer acted up, so I guess it won't fly off the shelves this year...

April 17
I saw a large flock of Clark's Nutcrackers on the ridge today while checking out the wildflowers, so I made a video of them:
Clark's Nutcrackers     It snowed several times while I was on the walk...  I was glad I'd worn my winter coat instead of a sweater I've been able to use on other days recently.
The Symphony last night featured  pianist Gabriela Montero.  The improvisation she did last night was both impressive and amusing.  She asked the audience for a tune, such as one local from Spokane (she's from Argentina).  It was amusing to think of music local to Spokane--nothing springs to mind, nor did it last night. Someone finally sang "Shine on, Shine on Harvest Moon."  It turned out, she'd never heard it before, and had a hard time discerning the melody as sung by the audience, so she asked if one of the Symphony members could play it for her.  The only one to step forward was a violinist, who played a few notes quite obviously not on target.  Any competent bluegrass musician could pick the melody for a tune like that with no trouble, but most highly sight trained classical musicians have trouble with that.  But then Montero went on to play several minutes of lovely and complex improvisations on the tune as well as she could hear it, proving she has neither trouble with ear training nor improvisation.  
Here are a couple more videos I made today:
Race Track banjo instrumental
Ching Chong played on 6 string banjo

April 18
We woke up to snow this morning, and it snowed when we went up on the ridge to see the flowers.  The new flower was yellow bells:

Here's the photo that captured today, with Grass Widows:


I heard from a new local friend on Facebook that the last time it didn't reach 60 degrees by this date was 1917...

 April 19
Today only the first half was full of snow storms (groppel) and clouds--it cleared off for the afternoon, but it's still cold...  A couple of brave tomatoes are coming up after I brought them from the greenhouse to the house to keep them from freezing at night.  The broccolis are up in the green house, but on hold with their first little cotyledons staying the same size so far.
    One of the things about making your own bread is that it gets stale quicker than store bread, since it doesn't have that list of chemicals on the label that defy old age.  So I had some 4 or 5 day old bread and some raisin bread, and decided to make croutons, but the raisin bread would be distinctly weird with garlic butter.  I got the idea to add sugar and cinnamon to the melted butter I usually use to make croutons, and it coated them nicely (I used both the regular bread and the raisin bread).  After baking at about 325 for 30 minutes, stirring regularly, I got some crunchy goodness I immediately dubbed "naughty bits."  They resemble doughnuts in flavor, as well as making one think of caramel corn.   This is all the world needs--one more sweet and fatty starchy crunchy product...

April 20:
Some videos from last night:
Mountain Flowers song
Cold Rain and Snow
Duncan and Brady
Corinna, Corinna
Colored Aristocracy

April 22
    It never really rained or snowed all day today, and it was nice out if you wore a coat...  I guess that's as good as it gets for Spring this year...  We went for a long walk up the ridge, wandering off on a few deer trails and coming down on a new to us  4-wheeler trail.  Some of those trails are getting eroded seriously as 4-wheelers tend to go straight up hills.  Fortunately for the ridge, there's bed rock about 2 feet under the dirt in most places, so the erosion will stop there, and if it gets much worse 4-wheelers won't be able to use it, at which point vegetation will resume its role in holding the soil.  So much for Earth Day 2011...

 April 24
    Planning for our trip to church on Easter was a strategic tour de force, except that I forgot my guitar, which I was scheduled to play for church. Also we arrived just on time for the start of the service.  So I played three hymns on the piano, which went pretty well considering I haven't played piano much for years, nor those particular hymns hardly at all.  After church we had a fine pot luck, went for a walk along the beach of Priest Lake, and later another walk up on the ridge above Spirit Lake, which, after 3 years of above average snowfall, has a bumper crop of wild flowers, with more coming on every day.   Also the weather for the last two days has been above reproach... (Thus snow is predicted for Monday night and Tuesday)...

April 26
The snow is back this morning, and the rain came back yesterday, but didn't stop us from taking a two hour walk around the Mill Pond. The newest flower is the trillium:
This is an old photo--the ones this year aren't open that far yet. We also got to watch  a pair of rednecked grebes build their nest--I hope to get some pictures on a less wet day soon...  Another fun bird sighting was a great blue heron that landed out on the pond, instead of along the shore as one usually sees them--it was able to flap right up into the air without any running on the water like ducks tend to...
  Later today we took another walk...
Buffleheads
This pair of Buffleheads were by the old boat at the Fireside.  We also saw the first Prairie Stars: which it turns out I don't yet have a good photo of...  We wandered up a new mossy covered rock ridge and saw Spruce Grouse, a turkey, and an osprey holding a fish, all happening too quickly to catch a photo of.
But here's a previous photo of an osprey with a fish...

April 28
    I've spent the last two afternoons wrestling with plumbing and electrical problems--my two least favorite sports.  A toilet started running intermittently, so I started replacing parts, and now the tank leaks when filled.  So I've put that off for another day...  Then our kitchen had a double set of florescent lights that have usually only half worked or less, in spite of changing bulbs and ballasts, so I decided to go with smaller light fixtures from the Habitat Restore and use compact florescent bulbs, which are more reliable, or at least more easily replaceable.   Since the old tubes were recessed in the ceiling, I worked on some pine boards to fill in the gap, as well as rewiring the new fixtures.  I'd rather be gardening, but the weather remains cold and showery...

April 29
    Back to the snow again today, for the first half of the day. The spinach is coming up in the little garden, and bushes are reluctantly opening their buds, so life goes on towards summer...

April 30

Here are
 the new lights for the kitchen ceiling which I finished installing today.   The pine boards cover the old 4 foot florescent tube holes.  I also added  a bunch of insulation, since there wasn't much above the previous light fixtures.  The old lights, when they worked, used 160 watts.  The new ones use 81 watts, and produce a similar amount of illumination.  
    Later we went for a walk around the Mill Pond, and got close to some rednecked grebes.

    This one was the best for colors, showing the golden glow of willow branches across the pond...
   
Books read and other media of note.
Scat by Carl Hiaasen  Stealing an extreme environmentalist character from one of his adult novels, Hiaasen delivers another clever juvenile novel, this time about endangered Florida panthers and melodramatically bad oil companies.

Jelly's Gold by David Housewright
 Based on St. Paul's history as a haven for mobsters in the 30's, this quest for ill gotten gold at times was a thinly veiled homage to The Maltese Falcon, which just made it more fun.  

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Unless you have nothing of the child left within you, you can enjoy reading this book. A familiar reference would be Huckleberry Finn-- both  regional juvenile books with humor, pathos, social injustice, and mystery.  It also reminded me of Louis Sachar's Holes, which had both a current and historical story. In this case there are two historical stories--1930's and 1918 in the same small Kansas town.  A girl is sent by her father to live with an ambiguous man who seems both speakeasy operator and Baptist preacher.  As she explores the small community, she learns about her own family connections and mysteries connected to WWI.  The book won the Newberry Award--the highest juvenile honor--deservedly.  More astonishing was that it was the author's first novel--hopefully not her last...

The Grateful Dead Movie
  I "gathered" with about 30 other old fogies to watch this 1974 film which might have been the group's swan song--they quit for two years after this.. I'd seen the group twice before their "hiatus" and once after, so there was definitely nostalgia value to the experience.  But it was a disconnect to sit in a theater and maybe tap my feet or whisper the lyrics along with the jubilant dancing of the thousands of fans on the screen.  I've now listened to about a quarter of their 1500 plus concerts, so the music wasn't surprising--perhaps a bit better, knowing they were being filmed--but even the Dead at their average was way above everyone else.  The film covered every aspect of a Dead concert--waiting in line for tickets, Deadheads begging tickets or trying to sneak in, stage setup, backstage, even buying hot dogs for 60 cents at the concession stand, while swaying to the beat... I think most fans would have been happy just watching Jerry play for the whole two hours, at least as a guitarist that was my interest.  But the close up of his fingers reveal nothing to me--he's not playing from chords much, the way I do-just from scales and heart...

Chronicles Vol 1 by Bob Dylan
You don't get many insights into Bob Dylan's life--not even the name of his wife, but his musical memories resonated with me strongly--many of his influences were mine as well. It did make me realize the value of a biographer as opposed to autobiography for writing about the things people might be most interested to learn...  On the other hand, the Wikipedia article on him covers most other details. But I've always wondered, what did he do to end up in Red Wing Reformatory?  At least that was the rumor I heard years ago, that he  wrote Walls of Red Wing and I shall be released based on personal experience.  I don't find any Google evidence...
I always felt that as a performer he was always putting on personas--Woodie Guthrie first, then establishing his own mythical being, smashing that icon with country music (Nashville Skyline)  and other less popular musical slants,  later the evangelical Christian identity...

Pretty Girl Gone by David Housewright.
  He weaves a good detective yarn, and I enjoy the Minnesota ambience.  In spite of saying early on that murders were rare in a little Minnesota town, villainy was hopping by the end of the book...

The Wizard of Karres  
by
Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Dave Freer.  It was a fun discovery to learn that one of my favorite classic SF novels, The Witches of Karres, was admired enough by a new generation of writers to write a passable sequel.  It lacked some of the crazy joy of the original...


Telzey Amberdon by James H. Schmitz.
Long before Princess Leia wielded a blaster, James Schmitz wrote great SF yarns with strong female characters.  This is a collected work of short stories about a young girl with psychic powers able to overcome a variety of evil schemes.  Schmitz's best work was the Witches of Karres, but this one was worth the read as well...

Inside Job by Connie Willis
This delightfully clever short novel pits a professional skeptic against a channeling psychic who appears to be reluctantly channeling a famous historical skeptic--H L Mencken.  Willis knows her historical context and uses it for critical plot points.  It's hard to categorize this novel, since it is not Sci Fi nor fantasy per se, but neither is it limited to the 5 senses of our usual world...

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
This is a murder mystery where no can can even decide if it's a murder--a robot got stuck in an endless loop ( this is before Windows operating systems) and his maker is perceived to be the only person capable of causing his demise (this is before rebooting).  Almost all the action happens before Detective Baley arrives and tediously works through all the logical possibilities.  This was a great book for the wee hours--put me to sleep several times.  In spite of that, it has a good ending, and we could only wish the robots of the future were bound by the 3 laws of robotics...



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