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Jan. 2, 2012
   


Here's the first photo of 2013--the view from the public access towards the often spoken of Ridge--the oft photographed Mill Pond is on the other side of the road...  I include the photo to document the unfrozen state of most of the lake, in spite of weather in the 20's.
    I worked on closing the books for 2012--it was indeed a record year of sales for the pottery, almost twice what we were doing 10 years ago.  I made a little graph to compare numbers of firings over the years--there wasn't as big a jump in firings as sales, and I haven't raised prices lately, so evidently I had a bigger starting inventory than previously...  I also remember working through the wee hours of winter last year when sometimes I've slouched or worked on remodeling projects...

Jan. 3

We walked along the shore again today--the clear ice had grown blotchy with hoar frost.  In this photo a deer had tried stepping onto the ice (the dark spot) slid forward slightly, which left  frost as a seed for more frost to grow...  For once it was colder in Spokane than in Spirit Lake--we ranged from around 15 to 25 degrees today, with extremely rare clear skies (for this time of year).
    I also threw a lot of pots today, taking the time now to fill in some decorations that require more planning than the splashes of glaze that are my mainstay.  Also in pottery news, I had a large bucket of crystalline glaze that for unknown reasons was overfiring at the temperature I fire at...  I managed to make it usable by adding more silica, which has a very high melting point by itself...

Jan. 5
    Today the ice was much more solid--two days ago as we walked along the edge, it cracked menacingly all the time.  Today it was quite solid, covered with a half inch of snow so that I could skate along in my usual footwear of work rubbers and moccasins...  There were two muskrats at work on the smallish holes left in the Mill Pond.   Both Thursday and today there was a varied thrush in the trees, which we seldom see except in passing in the spring.

This is my file photo of a varied thrush--I'll have to work to get a better one--they look like a robin with a V across their breast and white stripe on their heads...

Jan. 7
    We got about two inches of snow yesterday, and 5 inches today, but it warmed up at the end and promises to be a bit messy the next couple days.
    We tried cross country skiing at Priest Lake yesterday, mostly finding out we had some equipment issues and needed to get a snow-park permit...

Jan. 9
    You might think that once I've come up with a glaze recipe, I just mix up more of it and get the same results.  That, in a nutshell, is science (reproducible results)...  Unfortunately there's a human error factor, and there's also the fact that the materials are dug out of the ground and change over time...  But it's mostly the human factor.  I can hardly stand to work in my studio without music or talk radio (NPR) on, since 99% of what I do is pretty boring.  So it's easy to be distracted when weighing out the batches of glaze.  I'm guessing that happened with both my purple and blue crystalline glazes sometime in the last 6 months.  The purple glaze came out glossier and more bluish.  The crystalline glaze came out blistered and overfired. So yesterday I opened the glaze kiln and a new batch of purple is back to the way it was... (The other 5 gallon bucket of bluish will still be useable--but I've had requests for the exact lavender shade).  With the crystalline glaze, I reasoned that adding silica, which has the highest melting point of all the glaze ingredients, might make the glaze settle down, so I added a whole recipe's worth of silica and the glaze is now maturing properly, but not growing any crystals, and looks pale sky blue instead of  darker blue.
   We're getting a Chinook--warming up to nearly 50 today and rain instead of snow, after an inch of wet snow yesterday. The cold ground underneath freezes the slush overnight so the roads in town are still slick...  It reminds me of Spring breakup, but the high is predicted to be 20 again in two days...
    We ate the last garden slicing tomatoes, a new record--who would think you could store tomatoes 4 months?  We still have some paste tomatoes but they may only be good as sauce.   While the tomatoes lasted, we frequently made a gourmet instant pizza with mayo or blue cheese dressing, tomatoes, and cheese on top of sourdough bread, broiled in the oven...  (Well, that's as close to gourmet as I get)...

Jan. 10
    I forgot to mention another way to screw up glazes.  Most glazes look white, or slightly off white, or gray, except for ones that have iron oxide in them, in which case they look beige.  When I glaze large pots, I pour the bucket of glaze into a wide pan so I can dip the whole pot.  So the other day again I was listening to the radio while pouring the brown glaze back into the bucket from the pan, when I realized it was the wrong bucket--the black glaze, that looks just like the brown glaze.  Fortunately, the reason the two glazes appear so similar is that they both have a large amount of iron in them, and the brown glaze added to the black had negligible effect on the glaze.  But I do need to mix a new batch of brown glaze now...
    Last evening the wind was blowing hard over the inch of water on top of the ice at the lake--it would have been white caps, but the shallow water just allowed wisps of waves to form--very pretty and interesting...  Today it was back to subfreezing, with an inch of snow on top of the slick ice--I fell a couple times on the walk to the lake today...  Time to put on the Yak Trax...

Jan. 11.
    We hiked down to the lake again today, and when I got back I noticed the Yak Trax were missing--I'd lost them in the first deep snow in our yard...
I need to order some more anyway, and started looking online, thinking I like the chains design of IceTrekkers more...  Most of the slickest ice got covered up with hard packed snow today, so it doesn't seem so urgent...
    The sky was a rare and lovely blue today, presaging the cold spell due to hit  (nothing like the old days--only down to 5 tonight)...  Walking on the edge of the lake was a crackly experience--so a few days of cold weather should firm it up.  There were raccoon and hare tracks on the ice today.  I heard that recently in the Mill Pond a moose was stuck after breaking through the ice, so the fire department got to use some ice rescue equipment to free it...  They should have called the TV news people to cover that...
    Also today the city should have finalized the purchase of the Fireside Lodge at the Mill Pond to become additional city park.  It's our loss, as we have chosen to swim in that area for many years, and plans include making it into the main swimming area...  The hope is that the lodge, once the main office of our town's founding mill, could get moved back to its original location, and become an area museum...  But that would take a lot of money for moving and bringing the building up to code...

Jan. 13
    It's a new lake every day, or every couple days.  The last time I was there the ice cracked continually along the shore.  Today it was solid enough that foolhardy souls were walking out towards the middle...  Also there was a dead deer 50 yards off shore, which seems to happen nearly every year. Closer to shore, we saw this wing print apparently of an eagle swooping in for something, possibly related to the deer carcase.

You can see the dark wing scrapes and a tail scrape as well as a bit of a fracas at lower right (at the upper end are some adult human footprints to give you a sense of scale...

At the lake we also saw a tiny wren which is apparently a "winter wren."  In our mountain ash tree, which has gone long uneaten this winter, a lone robin sat for over a half hour, eating a berry now and then...

It's hard to tell if it is the last robin of Fall or the first of Spring... In another mountain ash down the street pine grosbeaks were gathered to feed...
The lighting was too dark to get a good photo--the males have reddish heads like a house finch, but they're about the size of a robin...

Jan. 15
Two days ago the dead deer looked like this:

I didn't have my camera yesterday, but it looked about the same as the day before...
Today the carcase had been dragged to the beach by coyotes, and this was all that was left:

This is about two square feet of hide.  There was no sign of any bones, skull, etc...  You can see where the Native Americans got their "use the whole buffalo" ethic...
I caught another glimpse of the winter wren, in the same area, but it flits into the brush too much to get a photo, so far...

Jan. 17
    In contrast to the dead deer story, I heard that the local fire/rescue people used some of their training and equipment to pull a moose out of the ice on the Mill Pond recently...  Speaking of moose, there's a female moose with two mooslings staying near friends in Pinehurst Idaho right now...  I assume that means they're stripping the foliage from the neighborhood, unless some hay was forthcoming...
    We had our first CAGNI clay art meeting of the new year today, and I was open to anything from closing down the group on upwards... No one else seemed to want to end the organization, but there was consensus to step away from our annual sale for now...  We'll try to focus on education and workshops for a while...

Jan. 20.
    I enjoyed helping with sound for another Bluegrass Showcase last night--a "professional" flatpicker was featured, and I appreciated his virtuosity, but not his ability to make a flowing sound that connects with the listener (as in his oft cited references to Doc Watson)...  Here's the link to the photos I took...
    We've had another visitor to our mountain ash--a spruce grouse:
grouse

At the Mill Pond in the ever tinier hole at the bridge, a lone common merganser is toughing it out:
male common merganser
There are ice fishermen out now on the other side of the bridge.  I read in the paper where normally shy blue herons are accepting small perch from ice fishermen in Silver Lake west of Spokane.   In the summer they spook if they see you 100 yards away or more...

Jan. 21
    I got an order by phone text and an enthusiastic new pottery shopper today (over $200), so sales aren't as dead as they could be for this time of year.   I fired a bisque today and glazed a bisque load, so I should have 3 or more glaze kiln firings in a row in the next couple days.
    The weather continues to stay below freezing, and some fog has helped the growth of lovely hoar frost on the trees...
    I'm glad I learned recently that a cold can average 15 days to get over, since I'm over 15 days with this one and taking it mostly in stride...

Jan. 23
So I woke up yesterday with a fragment of a song, which I've since forgotten the tune for, so it's now a poem:
The Amateur

There's been a murder in the mansion,
and there's blood on the sheets.
The widow's catatonic--she's forgotten how to speak
The bank is missing money and there's dirty work afoot,
but no one ever thought that the banker was a crook.
The police were on the scene with Inspector Pettigrew--
no one can find a weapon, they do not have a clue.

The maids are all atwitter but they hadn't seen a thing,
the butler's looking guilty, cause he was off on a fling.
The banker died at 3 a.m., the butler was alright--
his date gave him an alibi until the morning light.
The gardener is working on the roses with a shear,
the Inspector calls out to him, "Get over here."

"I don't know nothing," the gardener said,
"besides I got no reason to wish the old man dead.
There's an amateur detective over next door.
Ask him to help you, I think he looks bored."

The amateur detective this phrase overheard.
He'd been looking across the fence where the ground was disturbed.
The Inspector didn't like amateurs much.
They dug up the knife, and said to him, "Keep in touch.
In fact where were you last night, round about 3?"
"I was with my friend the colonel, drinking some tea.

"I'm on vacation, so I can't help you,
but a couple observations is what I can do.
The killer was left handed, had a white collar job,
probably worked at the bank, and his name might be Bob.
The banker might have caught him with his hand in the till,
and that was enough to lead to the kill...

I'm going out boating with the colonel at Eight--
good luck with your murder, the fishing can't wait..."

The police never found a teller named Bob,
went to see the colonel and it was rather odd.
The colonel had no visitors and never drank tea,
And the amateur detective is still running free...

Jan. 25
We've had a couple inches of snow in the last couple days, but the weather today was the Weather Service's dread "wintery mix," rain, sleet, and slushy snow.  Bicycling had been good on our frozen snowy streets until today...  It's likely to continue through the weekend, just in time for our town's Winter Fun Fest...
    In addition to pottery, I've been doing a little woodworking, building some boxes to hold overflow pottery under our regular pottery shelves. I'd also like to build a few bird houses for our local birds... (We had a pair of chickadees checking out our one birdhouse last week, and that birdhouse has been used by both chickadees and swallows, so I may copy it...)

Jan. 27
Today was the Winter Fun Fest again, this time held at the lake access...  We had slushy snow yesterday, but everything was firm and slightly below freezing today...

This team added to the Igloo Pull with an little rider in the Igloo...


For the Saucer Bowling competition, hands tend to be out, but are not allowed to knock over the pins...
It was a fun community gathering.  But near the end a couple of kids wandered out onto the ice near  the tube where water flows from the lake to the Mill Pond (and due to the flow, never freezes...)   They went foolishly too close and one of them broke through the ice...  A teenager jumped in and pushed him back onto the solid  ice, then got himself out and walked away, presumably to go home and get dry clothes on.  Tragedy averted!  Hero as yet unknown... (Our town lost two kids to drowning in the Mill Pond in the last year...)  
    The counter on my Youtube videos just went over 2,000,000 this week.  A few of them are theoretically making a little money from ads, but I've never figured out how I'd collect the money from Youtube.   Here's the list of my most popular videos recently with views in the last 30 days:

Jimmy crack Corn played by Brad Sondahl
2,451
2.
Greensleeves on fingerstyle acoustic guitar
2,264
3.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man
457
4.
Noah's Ark Song (arky arky)
365
5.
You can't get to Heaven on roller skates
335
6.
Dem bones gonna rise again
238
7.
Hymn Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning
217
8.
Grandfather's Clock done by Brad Sondahl
176
9.
I have decided to follow Jesus (Spiritual song)
162
10.
Pachelbel's Canon in D played in C                    145
I think Jimmy Crack Corn continues to do well due to a rap song with the same name...  I'm kind of surprised Zacchaeus is doing pretty well...
When I look at my total Top 10 chart, it looks like this:
Greensleeves on fingerstyle acoustic guitar
500,933
2.
Christmas Hymn Silent Night on acoustic guitar
119,099
3.
Jimmy crack Corn played by Brad Sondahl
110,947
4.
Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring arranged by Sondahl
43,365
5.
Pachelbel's Canon in D played in C
41,443
6.
Birrion Sondahl ski tricks
33,174
7.
Grandfather's Clock done by Brad Sondahl
32,977
8.
Barbara Allen played by Brad Sondahl
32,797
9.
God Rest Ye Merry on acoustic guitar
28,939
10.
Maple Syrup Rag
28,623
The Google Analytics page says I've only had 1.6 million total views, but I've been charting it weekly myself for a long time, and I doubt their lower figure than the channel count shows...  Also I didn't make the video of my son Birrion doing ski tricks, just uploaded it for him,  so I should probably wait 33,000 views for a true 2 million mark.  Oh well, it's just a number...

Jan. 30
   
This mushroom emerged in the last couple weeks while the average high temperature was below freezing.  Today it was 40 and I finally remembered to take its picture...  Its sibling had joined it since I'd last noticed it.  I also found a live moth out in the woodpile the other day, and there are ants and stink bugs in the pottery workshop...

Jan. 31
    I'll be off for a few days break, to Minnesota for the Superbowl.  What?  The Superbowl is being held in New Orleans, and the weather in Minnesota is hovering around zero?  Such is life...

Books read and other media of note
The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers  Although I'm a huge fan of Walter Moers, this book seemed to be what happens when a verbally and visually effusive writer confronts a form of writer's block.  Ostensibly it is Yarnspinner the narrator suffering from loss of the Orm, or writer's block, but the whole book seemed to be mostly a rehash of The City of Dreaming Books retold in puppetry.  Even a cliffhanger ending did not lead me to be excited to read the purported next book in the series.  

Bandit's Moon by Sid Fleischman.  
One of my favorite juvenile authors, in this book he paints a sympathetic portrait of an Hispanic bandit and the young girl who ends up briefly riding with his gang...  Fleischman is at his best at tall tale adventures, but he's pretty good at the warm and fuzzies as well.

Robert B. Parker's Ironhorse by Robert Knott  Early in Robert Parker's career, he wrote a sequel to The Big Sleep called Poodle Springs...  In the same way Appaloosa screenwriter Knott has done a fine job of continuing the Vergil Cole/Everett Hitch stories which have helped revive the western novel in the 21st century.  Although the repartee sometimes seems like it's written by Garrison Keillor with Dusty and Lefty, the train robbery and kidnapping are engrossing events, and Knott may well assume the mantle of Parker, at least in the western genre.  

A Mighty Hard Road--Woodie Guthrie by Henrietta Yurchenco.  
Even though it's many years since I read Bound for Glory, Woodie's autobiography, most of the facts in this seemed to be about the same.  It's nice that the biographer knew Woodie from his radio days in NYC. Woodie filled a major musical niche in the mid 20th Century, picking up songs from the earlier generation of the Carter Family and other oldtimers, appropriating old tunes and writing new lyrics. When I started buying records at the end of the folk era, I got several lp rereleases of his folky stuff, with Sonny and Brownie and Leadbelly joining in.  It was in college when my brother in law lent me the BPA album that I heard his best music.  The tribute lp's to Woodie after his death were important also.  This book taught me the real connection between people like Will Geer and Ramblin' Jack Elliot and Woodie...

The Players of Null-A  
by A. E. Van Vogt.   Sort of a story within a story, as an agent from Venus trying to stop an imperial invasion is transported across the galaxy into the mind of an imperial courtier...

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