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Brad's Blog

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 August 1
    A young wannabe potter in his last year of college  just "friended" me on Facebook and started asking me how it  hard it was to be a professional potter.  I told him essentially there are two hard parts--making thousands of pots every year, and then selling thousands of pots every year.   I know when I was in college, I probably made less than two hundred pots in the four years, and only tried selling them a couple times.  I'm not sure what convinced me I could be a professional potter.  I guess it helped that I was content to live on $5000 per year or less for quite a long time...
    Through staying in the same sales location for 30 years, our sales have gone well beyond the $5000 mark...  Right now I'm still gearing up for the art fair at the end of the week--firing two kilns per day and throwing pots which will hopefully replace those sold at the fair...  Currently, with balmy days and nights and shelves getting emptied regularly, it's easy to feel good about being a potter.  When the same pots are frozen to the shelves in the winter wonderland, it's harder to be motivated...

August 3
Along with the stress of getting ready for the big fair this weekend, the garden is yielding serious amounts of raspberries, peas, green beans, and broccoli.  Today I froze 11 sandwich bags worth of broccoli from some heads that were almost as big as my head.  And we're selling more raspberries than we've ever had before, as well as freezing and giving some away.
    In the pottery, I thought I was going to slow down production since I have to pack pots tomorrow for the fair, but I ended up making around 70 mugs and creamers anyway.

August 4
I spent nearly all day getting ready for the art fair this weekend.  Beforehand I doubt if the stress and trouble are worth it...   We have to have the booth ready to go by noon tomorrow, starting around 8 a.m.   At least this year the weather is hot but not stifling, and no change in the forecast for the next week, which is good because rain/windstorms can be bad for displays as well as business.

August 5
It's been 3 years since I last did Art on the Green, and it doesn't get any easier with age.  We spent all morning unpacking and setting up, and were still getting the prices up when the noon startup arrived.  The first day's sales only covered the fees up front we payed to be in the fair--the other two days are profit (minus the cost of the pottery, of course)...  Also this time I changed the prices on the pottery upward to help cover the cost of the fair.  Our prices are still very competitive even when raised 25%.  When we got home it turned out my son had sold more from our Spirit Lake shop--which I partly attribute to Art on the Green, since a lot of people come in the area for this biggest festival of summer.  
    I've been waking up early, so I'm also doing gardening before the fair...  The last two days are a lot easier, since the booth is already set up--I plan to bring my banjo today to help while away the hours.

August 7
    The fair went very well over all.  The weather was such that I could be comfortable in shorts and short sleeve shirt from 9 to 7, with a pleasant breeze mostly.  On Sunday our shop once again beat the Art on the Green sales, but it's still nice to be able to add the two  together...  I did think if I spent the $400 entry fee on local advertising, such as the sign we've been renting at the corner of the highway and Maine St., we might be well able to do without this rather exhausting fair.  But we'll see, down the road.  Next week I'm doing a similar 3 day event at the Bluewaters Bluegrass Festival.  At least there I'll be able to hear the music, whereas here it was mostly the bass notes...   That did allow me to play banjo for several hours  a  day, very good practice for jamming next weekend.

August 9
    After a day to recover from the fair, mostly spent putting the pots back out and repricing them, today it was back to unloading two kilns and firing two kilns, and throwing pots all afternoon.  When I just finished, I counted, and made exactly 100 today.  The way pots are selling currently (apparently obliviously of the current roller coaster economy) I feel like I can spin straw into gold,  so I'm working as hard as I ever do...   I do take a few moments to take my new camera out around the garden or go for a swim in the evening, but otherwise I feel like the farmers trying to get the harvest in.

August 11
  In spite of the roller coaster stock market,  customers here seem oblivious, which (in my case) is all good...  I have noticed a lot more Canadian customers recently, enjoying that their dollar is worth considerably more than it used to be against the US Dollar.  It's a weird world.  The tsunami in Japan helped restart the timber industry here in the West, from all the lumber they need for rebuilding... Some American companies are investing in robot manufacturing, figuring our robots can compete with Chinese robots...  And a John Henry potter thinks he can compete with Big Ceramic Industries...

August 14
    It wasn't a brilliant career move, selling pottery at a bluegrass festival, but the music was good.   Most of the other vendors had small cheap items and festival type foods...   Still I did clear a couple hundred dollars, so it wasn't a total loss...
I enjoyed bicycling around in the mornings (twice around the lake daily , then later this morning visiting and walking along West Medical Lake which is much less developed.  I plan to post some photos later...  On the way home I did see a hawk fly over in front of me with a squirming snake in its clutches--very cool...

August 17
Osprey in tree
I got asked to fill an empty slot for our local blues festival Friday at 1, which is nice because blues was my first real musical interest, and I do play a lot of them, mixed in with the folk and old time, so hopefully there will be a few people in the hot afternoon sun to enjoy them.  Bassist Jonathan signed on for the project as well.  Maria Muldaur is the Saturday headliner, who originally sang with Jim Kweskin's Jug Band and had one hit on her own, Midnight on the Oasis.  Our pay for playing is 2 free tickets to the rest of the festival...
    I finished editing the photos from Bluewaters, available at this link:
http://www.sondahl.com/BW2011/bw.html
It's all band photos except at the beginning and end, so I've brought those photos into the blog for non musicians to enthuse over:
fawns
August 18
 This is probably the nicest August on record here--not too hot or cold, low fire danger, and the burning of bluegrass that usually casts a pall over our area for weeks  was limited to one day this year.   Our orchard is packed with apples, just needing a couple months to size up and ripen.  Pottery sales seem better than the general economy would suggest...  Unfortunately this means I'm still working hard on orders and refilling the shelves, making hay while the sun shines.   But it's pleasant while I'm doing it...
    It will be a busy weekend musically--besides the blues concert on Friday, I agreed to play for a pig roast on Saturday, provide kids music for a day care associated with the blues festival, and I'm playing for church on Sunday.  I still have to pick the hymns...

August 20
The last two days were packed with music.  The kickoff for the Bluzfest was a fizzle, as was the entire first day.  We had about 4 people sitting in the shade off to the side listening, not counting the 4 bar maids standing around await the masses that never proliferated.  I went back to the concert last evening and the music was very good, but the crowd wasn't more than 50.  Some local promoter is missing a shirt...  We had a fine professional stage to play on, and a later group quoted the famous line, "Build it and they will come," but I'm afraid that's only true in the movies...  Every spare lot in the town had been roped off to charge $5 for parking, and I don't think any of them had any cars in it.  This was  an attempt to turn a 3 bar blues festival into a larger park based venue, and sadly the time was wrong...
    However, getting back on topic, we enjoyed playing on the big stage for the 4 people...  Later I played an hour in the little park for a related kids carnival, and invited some of our neighbor kids up to sing into the mic, songs like Erie Canal, and Jesus Loves Me, and It's a Grand Old Flag.  That was more fun than entertaining 4 people in the big park...
    Today I did another hour at the carnival, teaming up with local yodeler and musician Rod Erickson (I can never think of yodeling without fondly remembering the movie "Mars Attacks," but I digress)  Then Jonathan and I played two sets at a local pig roast, and I'll soon be off to hear Maria Muldaur...  As comic hero Calvin says, the days are just packed.

August 22
The steady heat in the 80's is drying everything up that's not watered.  Today, after glazing two bisque loads of pottery, I threw some large bowls and platters, and they were ready to foot 4 hours later from the dryness.   I'll have to cover them tonight to keep the foot ring from cracking...  Still, this weather is the kind that one keeps fantasizing about in February...  Unless you are my skier son...

August 23
    A faint low pressure cell came through, lowering temperatures by 5 degrees, but the cloudy night made the night warmer, so it still felt hot at 83 degrees today.   We had an old college friend over for supper, with his ex mother in law, who's two years older than my own mother.  It would take too long to explain the connections, but it was a nice time reconnecting, which only happens now with us every couple years, even though we only live 30 miles from each other.  

August 24
    Even though I'm getting tired of making lots of pots, it's nice that demand is staying ahead of supply, so I don't have to wonder too much about what to make...  With the stock market dancing the watusi last week,  one might expect sales to go down, but  I think the public is becoming a little jaded to alarmist economic news...  Another theory I came up with about the stock market stumble is that the rich elite who run the economy went on vacation, and instead of putting their usual minions in control, they put their evil henchmen in by mistake, and the evil henchmen just did what they do best...

August 26
praying mantis
    I was at the store yesterday when I saw a praying mantis perched on the newspaper rack.  I popped it in the front part of my pack and zipped it up, intending to show it to my family.  Then I forgot about it until bedtime, so I called my son and asked him to release it.  At lunch today one of us was startled when the 3 inch long bug crawled up her chair... (it turned out he couldn't get it to come out of the pack, so he left the pack open in the porch...  I carried it out to the garden, where we saw it fly off a few minutes later.  I did regret getting some new pictures of it... But I found an old one, now posted above, and it would have been hard to beat...

August 27
    On a whim, in a 90 degree afternoon, I've added my long languishing juvenile novel, Dorkelsons Tabloid Vacation, to Amazon Kindle.   There's still an excerpt on my website, here.   It will apparently take a couple days to get listed at Amazon.  I may also distribute my pottery instruction videos similarly..
    We're making a blog for our little Lutheran church:  http://lambofgodlutheran.blogspot.com/  So far it doesn't show up when Googling, but I'm hoping if I add a link here and there it will...

August 29
    The sweet corn is finally getting ready in our garden.    
    It was over 90 degrees yesterday, so we swam in both Priest and Spirit Lakes...  It looks like summer is ending this week, so I guess we have to enjoy the heat while it lasts...
     Here's the link to the Kindle version of my kids book.  Not that I have a Kindle...
And here's a link to an old time song from the recent bluzfest.    I set my new camera to record, and after about 7 minutes it shut down for unknown reasons (perhaps the ghost of Rosemary Woods).  And it is the first HD Youtube video I made, but the blue sky behind us, and the music stand in front of us, made the video a less than perfect experience.  Another month or two and I'll have some of that copious free time I keep hearing tell of...

August 30
    It was still shorts weather today, and even swimming weather.  The older kiln acted up again today--I'll have to tear it apart tomorrow and see how much it's suffering this time.  If I need parts, the timing is good, since one of us will be going to Seattle to get clay within a week.
    I'm hearing coyotes as I write this, and it seems like we've been hearing them very frequently this summer, sometimes pretty close.  Our old hen roosts about 2 feet off the ground, so if coyotes ever come through our yard, she'll be right at mouth level.
    One of the six chicks we got this spring has turned out to be a rooster.   He's first in the food bowl, and we aren't looking forward to crowing from 4 in the morning...

August 31
    We still went for a swim today, even when the high was around 60, relying on the residual lake in the warmth to make it enjoyable.  There were several sprinkles that mostly evaporated on hitting the dust.
    I worked on the kiln, but one part was too damaged to rehabilitate, so I've ordered a replacement, hoping it will come sooner than the date next week I can go there...  I've been firing one or two kilns per day, so it definitely crimps my style to only have one in service...
    I saw in one of the local papers that Canadians have been big in the local economy this year.  I've noticed quite a few shopping for pottery here as well, and I got a wholesale inquiry from a nearby Canadian company the other day also.  For many years the Canadian dollar was only worth around 95 cents, but currently it's valued slightly higher than our dollar, and their oil exports are apparently bolstering their economy.  Good for them...
    Also, I'm feeling bad for the people who suffered losses from Hurricane Irene, but I do think it will be helpful to the local economies as people rebuild, replace, etc...



Books read and other media of note
Agent of Vega by James Schmitz I love classic SF (from in this case 1949-51) that doesn't feel dated.  It anticipated the James Bond era using galactic secret agents, and had fun plots in a series of related short stories.

MidFlinx by Alan Dean Foster
 There are more human/dragon stories than you can shake a stick at, but amongst them I do like this series of Pip and Flinx...



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