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Brad's Blog

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Jan. 1
    The lake is frozen over now, and where our footsteps were in the slush 2 days ago, hoarfrost is growing delicate feathers, since it's staying 10 degrees below freezing.  There  has been no wind to shake the trees free of snow, so many are bent over, but the sunlight has been enough to make a few green boughs shed their snow from solar heat
ing.
    I started the new year working in the pottery as usual, but also spent time with some of the closer bowl games, like the Rose Bowl today.
    With the sustained cold, we're feeding our stoves a lot, which makes them hot enough to cook on.  I made Swedish meatballs on the wood stove today, plus rice pudding in the regular oven.  I also made lefsa for breakfast--a holiday food, but one we make from leftover mashed potatoes throughout the year...

Jan. 2 
    We walked on the lake ice for about two miles each way today, past the middle island, hoping to catch a view of Mt. Spokane at sunset, but it was clouded in. Hopefully I'll be detailing quite a few walks on the blog, since walking is an attempt to improve fitness and reduce weight...  It was puzzling how the foot of snow we got last week seemed to dwindle to nothing by the middle part of the lake.  Perhaps flooding swallowed a lot of it, as it did in the Mill Pond last week.  I do know that part of the lake was the last to freeze over, which gave us a sense of caution as we reached that part of the lake...

Jan. 4
    I had to trim some globe shaped vases today, and while one can secure them with pads of clay, a chuck works better to hold them in place.  If I have a lot of bowls or narrow things to trim, I'll make a thrown chuck--a thick walled flaring cylinder of freshly thrown clay.  Thrown chucks hold the pot very securely, since the clay is still sticky (downside--may stick to the pot you're trimming, and have to be thick to not collapse).  Today I used a 5 quart ice cream bucket, which I got recently after having lost one I'd used for many years (I can't stand that cheap ice cream that comes in the buckets, or I would have bought one just for the bucket.)  To use it to hold the globe vase in place, I centered the bucket on a batt on the wheel head, and secured it with pats of clay.  Some of the vases fit snugly in the bucket, which just meant they needed to be leveled to be centered...  Others were too narrow, so I added two pats of clay at once, one on each side, which would push between the vase and the bucket wall, making a springy connection, then adding two more at right angles to secure it.  Obviously if the vases are too narrow the bucket won't work--in that case it's back to the thrown chuck.
    The same bucket can be used as a chuck for footing bowls, by turning it upside down on the wheel and securing it with pats of clay, then setting the bowl upside down on top of the bucket, where friction will generally hold it in place while trimming, or a coil or pats of clay set on the bottom (now the top) of the bucket...

Jan. 5
    Time for the annual business report.  Sales were up 10 % for 2010, not quite up to pre-recession levels, but given that Sondahl Pottery is just a leaf blowing in the economic whirlwind, quite satisfactory.  I somehow managed to fire approximately the same number of glaze firings as the previous year, but with 10 fewer bisque firings.  I must be cramming in the pots more to the first firing, or more consistently forgetting to write down the firing on my firing list...  One never knows, do one?
    We're in for another few days of light snow fall--repristinating the still loaded trees (no wind for a week--they don't call it the Pacific for nothing...).  When walking, if you barely bump a bent over tree, it wags up, dumping its load, setting off a domino like chain reaction with other trees and branches in the area.   The Mill Pond continues to have slush under the snow, perhaps leaking from the hole that
seldom closes  where the water flows under the bridge.  That hasn't stopped us from walking across (on snowmobile tracks, for the most part), and enjoying the woods on these snowy evenings...

Jan. 7
After writing about the lack of wind on the 5th, we went out walking and a mild breeze came up, enough to start the trees dumping.  So we made a point of pulling on trees as we walked along, dodging the snow falls...
Last night the weather bumped above freezing again, with roofs sliding clear as well as the trees...  By Monday it's supposed to be near zero again...  It's nice to get a break, anyway...
    We finished our list of Christmas foods with fruit soup, made of canned and fresh fruit simmered with tapioca, and some Spritz cookies for Epiphany (camels and stars)...
    There's a squirrel nesting in the ceiling of the pottery workshop.   It's three times chewed a hole in a corner by the glazing table, in case it decides to romp around.   This time I put a metal lid from a can over the hole before screwing a piece of wood over it...    As cute as squirrels are, they are aerial rats and can do a lot of damage...

Jan. 9
We've still been walking every day, for 40 minutes or more, which was recently reported to be great for people, restoring their mental abilities to those of a 30 year old.  Still waiting on that, but I HAVE lost a few pounds since we started.  It helps to have a hill the equivalent of a 7 story building to walk home up.  
    A couple days ago we could see a red spot on the ice, and then the carcase of a deer a few yards away.  There was already not much left, and we'd just walked there a couple days previously.  The next day we walked there and even the bones were gone.  In comparison, on our way up to church, we saw crows perched on 3 deer road kills, and even found one when walking in the ditch that hadn't been eaten at all yet.   Crows have the best reconnaisance for finding carrion, with the aerial ability and flocking when a kill is found.  I'd guess the deer on the lake was caught by coyotes, who live from kill to kill...
   
 Jan. 10
We're enjoying moderate cold, since it's more moderate than extreme cold, which is extremely unenjoyable.  A dump of snow tonight is predicted to yield above freezing temperatures, which will hopefully improve the local streets from the sheets of ice they are currently.  Every day on our walks (which we skipped yesterday in favor of getting ready for the Oregon Auburn game), the world is a different place--snow falls and melts and cold make for more variety than summer weather, although the scrupulous observer finds something new in nature every day...
    I made soup yesterday with the last of our fresh garden tomatoes--a little limp but quite edible.  I also had to sort through some of our stored carrots.  When I put them in bags, I sorted them into best quality (no cuts, no multiple stems), and second best.  We ended up, even after giving a bag to the food bank, with 4 bags for storage, two of them 2nd quality.  One of the second quality bags developed a lot of mold, from the cuts and flaws, so I had to toss it out, but we still have A LOT of carrots, AND potatoes...
     On our walk today we came up a back way, having seen some Spruce grouse fly up that way. We didn't see them again, but saw some moose prints (their stride was about 6 feet at times).  Also there was coyote scat  nearby, and we'd seen where the coyotes had dragged the deer carcas to the beach to finish gnawing on it, down to scraps of fur and bones...  Both the coyote signs and moose prints were within 50 yards of our house...

Jan. 12   With 8 inches of snow, most of the day was devoted to snow removal.   So far the powder snow over the glare ice in the parking lots makes for treachery, but the rest of the week is supposed to go over freezing, an event devoutly to be wished for.

Jan. 13  The old saying is "be careful what you wish for..."   With the thaw and rain brought back the chance of flooding.  Although it would take a Noah type flood to inundate us, situated  100 feet above the lake, the people who built our cabin's garage built it on fill in a gully, and with the fill it is still several inches below the road in front which wants to drain several blocks worth of water into our garage.  So the renters and I dug through up to 3 feet of snow berm to create a less harmful direction for the water to drain. 
    Even with the thaw, local schools were called off today, since back roads are just sheets of ice.  The thaw should last long enough to get the roads down to gravel...
    We had  our first clay group meeting of the year, discussing the last sale and starting to consider next fall's sale and other things we'll do this year.
I am likely to continue as fearless leader.

Jan. 14
    On our walk today the ice is all covered with water again, with the feeling of it being the Spring thaw.  We climbed up on the ridge and there was a large patch of open water towards the island on the lake.   While it's entirely possible it will get cold again next week, it's also possible that the lake, which shows the average of all the temperature extremes we're experiencing, is the best indicator of an early Spring.  Once or twice before we've had a January thaw that mostly held--after all the snow shoveling, one can hope...
    Speaking of snow shoveling, the best shovel for digging through deep snow is an aluminum grain scoop.  We did have two of them--one cost $45 with a wood handle, and one was a cheap import with a plastic handle.  On the cheap import, the aluminum cracked apart.  On the expensive one, the wood handle broke while digging canals yesterday.  
    Then while I was typing this I heard that the emergency brake had locked up a back wheel on our ancient (260 K) Honda.  I spent some time dragging it around our streets hoping it would break loose on some (hard to find) bare ground, but it looks like it will have to go to the shop on Monday...

Jan. 15
    I spent an hour or so today fixing my grain scoop shovel.  Whenever a tool breaks or dies, we usually save the handles, as the hard wood comes in useful in other projects, such as the garden cart I've made.   In this case, I needed a two foot long piece to replace the broken wood part.  When I removed the broken wood part, I could see that paint had been sprayed at the factory into the crack that caused the handle to break--in other words, a factory flaw. But luck had it that we had another shovel handle of a suitable diameter, and with about half the tools in my shop (including my grandfather's draw knife) I got the shovel back in operation.
    The only flaw in fixing the shovel was doing it in the afternoon, when the sun was shining, which meant by the time we went for our walk, it was overcast and dusk.  Well, dusk is nice also--saw the moon through the overcast...

Jan. 16
The thaw continues, with highs in the mid 40's.  Yesterday, when we decided to take the Honda to the shop, we figured our best chance was to take it on the streets that were icy, since one wheel was locked up.  We towed it to within a block of the auto shop, when the towing strap snapped.  We bought a new one, but then figured we could retie the old one, and made it there dragging it along the bare pavement highway...
    Today because it was so slushy, we walked by the Albeni Falls Dam, which we hadn't actually visited for many years, although driving by it regularly.  There were several informative displays about hydroelectric power, with photos of the dam, but curiously no photos of the now inundated falls were anywhere in evidence, clearly a choice to not arouse scenery lovers' passions.    The dam itself is the usual grey concrete, with a little painted gray superstructure and lots of high voltage electric lines going away from it.  The best part of the stop was the free maps and brochures with info on the area, which, in spite of living here so long, had a few interesting new places to consider to travel, assuming we have time and energy for such endeavors...

January 20
    I usually write my blogs in the evening, but there have been busy evenings this week, and of little consequence, hence no blogs...  Two nights ago we had our book club, where I talked about antiheroes related to some novels I've read, such as The Confederacy of Dunces, and
The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool.
    Last evening I practiced music with my bass player friend for an upcoming set using the music played by Doc Watson as the theme.  He didn't write a lot of songs, so it ends up being a variety show of its own, featuring the eclectic pieces he excelled at as a flat picker.  Doc Watson became the theme thanks to the book I was sent last month...
    The recent  warm spell cleared most of the snow that's not in piles, then it grew colder and we got 3 inches of snow today.  We went walking in the late afternoon, making the first human tracks on the ridge, following fresh deer tracks with hopes of seeing the deer.  Indeed, just as dusk was falling, we saw two deer about a block away, wagging their white tails as they walked away.  It's not all that rare to see deer even in the street in front of our house, but this was a first for tracking them...

Jan. 21  I've put up a new video, with some short films I took at the bridge the other day and altered the colors a bit. All Praise to God
We had more March weather today, freezing rain after snowing in the morning.  The melting earlier in the week caused flooding in some areas locally, and raised Lake Coeur D'Alene by 7 feet in a couple days,  That's saying a lot, it being a 30 mile long lake...  I'd like to get over to see the Post Falls dam or Spokane Falls when the runoff is still high--probably missed it for this round... It's nicer in the Spring, with the wild flowers blooming.
    When the snow was mostly gone, earlier this week, the moss on the rocks looked as happy as it ever can, fat and fluffy and bright green.  Our lake has also filled up significantly with the flooding, making a thin ice area near the edge such that no one is tempted to go out on the ice again yet...

Jan. 23
Priest Lake Idaho in winter
We walked the shoreline trail at Luby Bay on Priest Lake today.   This is the view up lake, towards Chimney Rock at the right edge of the photo.  The snow on the foreground was on the lake ice--we didn't try going out far, knowing how melted Spirit Lake's ice has been.   There were fewer deer tracks there than around Spirit Lake, and one set of moose prints.  It was the nicest blue sky day in a long time, with highs just above freezing.  

 Jan. 25
    I started going back to my pottery roots today--making the blue scallop and brown scallop decorations I used when I started being a potter.  I try to keep some of them around, but they are made differently from the rest of my pottery, with slip decorations either added at the time of throwing or when trimming, so I always have to plan to make them, whereas the rest of my pottery is a blank slate waiting to be decorated with glaze.
    This afternoon I started working on a new location for a washer and dryer in our main house.  Since we moved to the main house, we haven't had laundry there, so have transported it to the pottery, sometimes by foot or bicycle, or car.  Today I got the drainage installed...
    This evening we walked onto the ridge at sunset, and could see about 7 deer off in the growing darkness.  Deer tracks are the most common tracks anywhere around here.  After that it's raccoons, quail, and probably coyotes...  We've seen a few snow shoe hares previous years, but the rabbit family is not well represented in our area, except for some neighbors that have a couple running loose...

 Jan. 26

    By committing to the new location for the washer/dryer, it also involves redoing a nearby bathroom, since I had to access the water from there.  So today I took out the existing sink and cupboards,  and expect to get a better sink at the Habitat for Humanity store for $10-20.   The old one was some kind of cast plastic that didn't age well, with the cupboard of pressed board.   Projects like this help one get through January and February.
    But today wasn't just a day to get through--the sky shone convincingly, and the temperature approached 40, so I went for a good walk to the ridge hoping to see some deer in the sunshine to photograph. I guess it was too early for them, but the walk was nice anyway.  The photo shows how happy the moss is, in spite of being inundated by icicles...


January 28
    We recorded some songs last evening, and now they're up on Youtube:
Mississippi John Hurt's Payday performed by Sondahl and Hawkins
Mississippi John Hurt's Louis Collins performed by Sondahl and Hawkins
Down in the Valley to Pray performed by Sondahl and Hawkins
    I also mostly finished the enclosure for the bathroom sink, but can't install it before we figure out some flooring.  Of course it looks so much nicer than the rest of the bathroom that a total overhaul is inevitable...

Jan. 29

The Spirit Lake Chamber had its Winter Fun Fest today, in front of our pottery on Maine Street.  Teams of four,  sponsored by local businesses, competed for a trophy.  Here the 4th and Main Pizza team was pulling a 250 pound dog igloo down a hill and back up.


This is smooshing--4 people trying to walk together with their feet strapped on 2 X 4's.  Some teams never really figured out a method to locomote...
This was the local INB banking team, which prompted me to yell in encouragement, in front of the bank manager, "We don't want our bank to FAIL!"


This was sled bowling, where the team directs a snow saucer rider towards the inflated pins.  A splendid time was guaranteed for all...

This is a good time to give a "State of the Maine Street" report.   This weekend one of the second hand stores (The Assortment) is clearing out of the Old Post Office location in preparation to combine with their other store across the street. They will be expanding their space there, making it easier than having two separate store fronts.  All of the restaurants are still in business, and across from the official Post Office there's a building with a sign for a new  insurance company, though it hasn't been mentioned at a Chamber meeting yet, or by anyone else I know.  The hardware is integrating a younger generation of Esterlies into it, assuring the continued convenience and knowledge of a hometown hardware.  The only vacancy on Maine besides a few persistent ones will be the Old Post Office, so generally businesses in Spirit Lake appear to be doing pretty well, given the recent and hopefully receding recession.

Jan. 31
We have a young friend who's a freshman at Augustana college, and spent the month touring Egypt.  They headed for the airport earlier this week, but weren't sure if their scheduled flights would go, and given the situation there, we were nervous along with her family for her well being.  Fortunately they did get off on flights today, so she'll get to arrive back in Sioux Falls  in time for the aftermath of a blizzard.
    I've got a son north of Chicago that's scheduled to experienee a whopper blizzard first hand this week.
    Meanwhile here it's warmer than Nome, Alaska, which isn't saying a lot, but since I'm going to Nome next month it's a little reassuring.
    Also we did arrange to buy some flooring off Craigslist, but to get it I have to meet someone at 6:30 tomorrow morning.  This is a burden for the perennially self-employed--the early awakening-- but hopefully the money saved will make it worth it...

Books read and other media of note
Stalking the Dragon by Mike Reznick  Although stocking this series with similar fantasy beasts to the Discworld series, these Stalking books, set in an alternate New York City, are a far cry from the wit and warmth of Terry Pratchett.  I wouldn't even compare the two if I hadn't just read the book below...   That said, there's still a bit of fun to be had, albeit mixed in with a lot of  increasingly  stale humor about the hungrily avaricious habits of his pet cat girl.

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
There aren't a whole lot of knighted authors, judging by my Googling of the same, but Sir Terry Pratchett is one, a bit ironic since the fantasy Discworld he created lacks knights, but has lots of dragons...  The subseries of
(The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight) is tentatively aimed at a young female adult audience, but his compassion and insight and humor wreak a marvelous tale out of such  unlikely fodder as drunken child abuse and rejected love.  Although I have read and like nearly all of the 30 or more Discworld books, this subseries seems to contain the Discworld's heart.

Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn.  
Although it could easily have been written with no SF as a Ninja novel, this story of martial arts trained commandos fighting an alien domination of humans was compelling reading, due to Zahn's clarity as a story teller.

The Highly Effective Detective  by Richard Yancey  
Sort of a zen detective, antihero type, seems a failure but works things out in the end...


I'll mature when I'm Dead by Dave Barry  
A fine collection of humorous short works by the master of unexpected overstatement.

Across the Universe (film)  
Enjoyable for the fun versions of Beatles classics, apparently this was the alternative universe out of which the Beatles songs emerged, with parallel Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, and others.  Very quirky plot...  I'm not sure those of us who went through the 60's really want another rehash, but the music was cleverly intertwined with the plot, like the musical version of Forbidden Planet.

The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool by Richard Yancey
 Although the cartoonish cover on the desk jacket might put one off, this is a well crafted, clever detective novel, fairly funny like Janet Evanovich, nicely tied together at the end...  This is the third in a series--I'm looking forward to the rest.

Mr. Mysterious and Company by Sid Fleishman  I picked up this novel from the discards at the library, with fond memories of reading it to my kids years ago.  It's the story of a family entertaining troupe in the 1880's, traveling to California, and a fine juvenile novel, that reads well out loud.

Gardens of the Moon
by Steven Erikson.  The complexity of this novel (start of a fantasy series) is both its strength and bane, in that I couldn't follow half of the references, characters, etc, but I stuck with it and it generally came together in the end.  This is basically Terry Pratchett's Discworld without a sense of humor.  I prefer Pratchett.

Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker   I'm guessing this is his last novel, since he died last January and this was released later in 2010.  It had all the elements to make for a successful Spenser detective novel-- snappy, terse smart aleck dialog and dauntless pursuit of doing good.  I think the denouement was a bit weak, but it was a good ride.  As a swan song, it touched on many of his previous characters, but curiously lacked Hawk, always a drawback...





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