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July 1
I read today where the state is going to dump 200,000 lbs of 2, 4 D into a nearby lake to try to control Eurasian Milfoil, an invasive seaweed.  Aside from the staggering quantity reported, it seems a questionable strategy.  It doesn't eradicate the weed (though it might eradicate some native species which are less fierce competitors).  Every year they spray the same chemical along roadsides, with similar results, and every year they need to do it again--the weeds are never gone, nor really controlled by the practice.  Our lake has a smaller infestation, which is being controlled by divers gathering the weed with a sort of vacuum, as the parts can reproduce themselves.
I do believe in fighting the invasives, but am not convinced that chemical herbicides  do not cause more problems than they cure.

July 2
It's a curious coincidence that in the last 3 days I've gotten 3 things in the mail with my stuff in it, and two realtor webpages with my photos.  What they all have in common were that I was giving it away.  A pot I donated for a public radio auction was featured in their monthly magazine, and the rest were internet searchers looking for free stock photos of Spokane, that received permission from me to use them to class up their various sites, or an ad magazine for Spokane seniors.  So it's sort of fun to see my stuff appearing elsewhere, but I'm probably losing money for some stock photo company somewhere...  Not to mention, myself...

July 3
Hot.
It was hot enough (close to 90) today that the pots I made this morning had to be trimmed this afternoon.  That makes it easy to increase production, but also makes some pots (with attachments such as handles) hard to make without having the handles crack loose. Wide pots that dry too fast tend to warp or crack in the middle.
Potters use a lot of techniques to control drying.  Covering with thin plastic, such as dry cleaners use, is a nice way, because it's very light and doesn't usually disturb the pots much in application or removal. If the pot is getting only a little too dry, a spray bottle can be used to remoisten it.  You can also dip the pot in water (usually upside down), but if the pot is starting to turn white at the top, it can be quite brittle and susceptible to breakage, even just from the wetting.  Also with any technique if water pools in the bottom of the pot, it can increase cracking later... So if I dip a pot, I often hold it upside down and clean up the bottom and sign it before turning it upright again.  Some potters also build spaces that are sealed and supplied with excess water to put evaporation on hold (wet rooms).  Those places are likely to get moldy after a while.  Usually the least you do is best (a variant of Occam's razor).
All this talk about slowing drying time is because my pottery isn't climate controlled.  It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. When it's too hot, it's time to swim.  When it's too cold, it's time to split wood.  Cold is easier to deal with than heat.  There are many ways to heat the pottery, but only air conditioning will cool it (besides opening windows at night and closing up by day.  The increased production in summer exacerbates the heat problem because the kiln is firing a lot, and radiantly heating nearby rooms...

July 4
It was an ordinary July 4.  That means loud explosions are going off as I speak.  Fortunately this is not Iraq, or I'd be seriously worried.  We sold a lot of pottery.  I marched in the parade pulling a wagon "float" with Barbie atop a ceramic castle with her watering can, and lots of flowers filling the rest of the wagon.  It was a tribute to our local flower club, that donated flower baskets to all the Maine St. businesses this year.  The one they gave me fell apart while I was trying to hang it, but I rescued the plants, and it makes up the bulk of the flowers by the Sondahl Pottery sign in the photo last month.  While pulling the float, I was also playing the harmonica and lighting smoke balls, which I stuck in a pot attached at my side.
Then, during the town celebration in the park, I played a hour of my favorite American music (mostly obscure songs from the 1920's and 30's).  I'm still hoping to get a swim in before fireworks, as it was nearly 90 here today...

July 5

Today I took a half dozen errands to Spokane, then I fit in visiting my favorite parks.  This is the new fountain that doubles as a wading area in hot weather.  There's a young child in the middle, almost obscured by the cascade...  It being nearly 90, I was tempted to join the splashers but didn't want to get my camera wet.
It was a nice break from pots and more pots, which is mostly what's scheduled...

July 6
Yes, today was pot making day.  Many customers comment on what a nice life it must be to be a potter.  They mostly imagine the pot throwing part, which always looks fun.  It probably is the most fun as well, though the fun becomes work through endless repetition.  When they're freshly made, they mostly don't yet have the little warps, scratches, and ill fitting lids that seem to appear from nowhere when you're unloading the kiln...
Anyway, this was the first day this week I've been able to do the "fun" part, having spent two days glazing, and one day selling, as well as business related shopping yesterday.  The weather today was humid with occasional showers, and cooler, making it possible to again make pots that require slower drying, such as those with handles.  Every night I have to decide (if I remember) whether to cover some of the pots so they don't dry too much overnight.  If I do cover them, they might not be dry enough to finish tomorrow.  If they're too dry, the handles will crack off from shrinkage.  The perils of potters...

July 7
Last evening I played it safe and covered most of the pots I made yesterday.  Today I spent most of the day trimming them.
But the garden is now yielding raspberries, as well as the best broccoli I've ever grown, so it's all getting good.  Pleasant day today also.

July 8
We've had 3 sets of visitors in the last 24 hours, and another set expected tomorrow.  That's part of summer.  This evening the guests and some of my family (including me) swam for about an hour at sunset--the water is warm enough that you don't get chilled in it...  One set of guests brought us a load of firewood, and I sent some broccoli and cauliflower home with them to take the excess to church.  They agreed with me that it's better on the whole to share garden excess than freeze it--much of it is appreciably less tasty when revived...
In my spare time this afternoon, I recorded a couple more musical pieces, available on my video page...

July 9
"The gift must always move."  I think it's a native American expression, which I first read in Coevolution Quarterly 30 years ago.  It refers to passing on the generosity one is the recipient of.
Here in the Northwest, Potlatch is now best known as a lumber company, ironic, as it epitomizes the capitalist spirit of "Get free from the government and sell at a huge profit"--the principle that settled the west (trains, mining, logging, and evolved the Robber Barons).  The native form of potlatch was a give away of goods, where the one giving the goods received honor from the ones receiving.  It grew in size as cheap trade goods entered the area, including many blankets and horses, and was outlawed in the US and Canada at the urging of missionaries and government officials, who saw it as a threat to The American Way.
Later it was conceded it was probably no more harmful than Christmas, which now must exist (whether God does or not) to keep our economy solvent.
The potlatch tradition still continues as "giveaways" in local native culture, at special times such as marriages and death.
I was thinking about this this morning as I picked strawberries and raspberries for an hour and a half.  It was the first major raspberry picking, which will now happen nearly daily for the next couple weeks.  I offered half of the raspberries to my wife, who was going to town for a baby shower, another form of gift giving.  The friends who gave us the wood yesterday mentioned how they probably give away 60 % of their garden produce, and sometimes get give crops like corn, onions, and raspberries which they don't grow.  It's not barter, but in an extended system it all sort of balances.  It doesn't threaten The American Way--since mostly (but not totally) we reserve on a cash basis our major livelihoods.
I also thought about Warren Buffet this week, deciding not to wait till he dies to share his lifetime acquisitiveness through the Gates foundation.  Both men were hardnosed in their business dealings, but have found it fit to donate back to our society from their large profits.
Liberals have tried to balance the excesses inherent in the capitalist system with taxation and redistribution through the state, which did create a dependent welfare state.  It seems to me that the socialist governments of parts of Scandinavia have done a fair job of balancing the sides (but then I don't live there, and cherish personal freedom).  I fear that the net effect of the conservative "trickle down," theory has been to funnel money up to an increasingly disparate elite.  The poor have always used barter and gifting as a way of sharing sparse resources, but people with limited resources are self-limited in their sharing.
But the bottom line on giving is whether you feel better having done it than not.  Or maybe it's whether the effect on the recipient is better than not.  They're both important...
July 11
It was hot enough today that I made 65 pots this morning, and had to trim them all this evening.  Besides that I picked raspberries for two hours, getting about 2 gallons.   Once the raspberries are in, the strawberries seem like second class citizens, so I made some freezer jam with them a couple days ago.  I've never made freezer jam before--it doesn't cook the berries, so has a fresher taste...

July 12

Recently I forgot to include one pie plate in a wholesale order for the Priest Lake State Park.  It gave me an excuse today to drive the 70 miles to the lake, to get views such as this...   Priest Lake is near the Canadian border, with no freeways nearby, so it remains relatively untrammelled. The west side of the lake is mostly National Forest Service land, and the east side is primarily Idaho state lands, with 3 manifestations of state park.  Mostly we've gone to the west side, so I enjoyed seeing the new (albeit similar) territory.  The lake is nearly 30 miles long, with several large islands.  Unfortunately I mostly drove, as I didn't plan enough time to do much hiking, aside from a short nature walk in one of the parks.  The northernmost park, called Lion's Head, was the home of a film production company of Nell Shipman in the 1920's.  I had seen one of her films which was filmed there, featuring bears and other native animals, so I hoped there was some historical exhibit, and there was, but only a single large sign...  She managed to bankrupt herself in 3 years trying to make films in that isolated locale.  On the other hand, Spirit Lake's most famous summer cabin owner was director Frank Capra, who just came to Idaho to relax...  The cabin is still in the Capra name...
 

July 13
Another day, another 70 pots.  It's cooler (high in 70's) but things are still drying fast enough that I have to trim the pots I throw the same day.  There was a nice little storm that blew through last night with a quarter inch of rain and some thunder, otherwise this is the dry time of year...  I made more freezer jam today, using the no cook pectin designed for freezer jam.  You just mix the pectin and sugar, and mix in mashed fruit.  If it gets any easier, it will just be "shove the berries in a bag and freeze them," (which is mostly what we do with them when not making jam).

July 14
Seems to me like this is Bastille Day, or currently Israeli Lebanon War day.  It's so easy for shots to be heard and felt around the world today.
Although it may have far reaching local impacts on gas prices and other parts of the economy, so far it's just news.
Meanwhile the weather was in the low 80's, so I snorkeled around the mill pond today, noticing it's mostly deserted except a few fish and some water lilies.  It had been reassembled after patching the bottom with plastic so it wouldn't drain, a year or so ago.  I've seen a lot of people fishing in the mill pond this year, but few catching.  It takes more than water to make a good environment for fish...

July 15
We sold lots of pots today, including a dinnerset that sat waiting since October.  I wish all the pots on my order shelf were picked up eventually.
While typing I was interrupted by my wife announcing there was a dog in the shower.  There'd been some fireworks, and the dog came in through an open door to hide.  While trying to get its collar to see about the phone number, the collar slipped off and she nipped me.  Then the phone number on one of the tags was too worn to read all the numbers.  There were 4 tags, some of which might identify the owner, but fortunately while debating what we were going to do, we heard a loud whistle, and the owner, who'd been at the bars, came and got the dog.  This was better than trying to keep a frightened dog till morning...

July 16
My thumb is still sore from the dog bite.  There's no justice for good Samaritans.  They end up being the next victims lying by the roadside...
Enough droll religious commentary.  There was a nice bluegrass jam today in Spokane, concluding with picking up a couple couches a friend wanted to give us.  Our new house, almost totally supplied with donated furniture, is getting full...

July 17
Currently the garden has available peas, green beans, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cucumber, spinach, and lettuce.  Our cherry trees, though loaded and very pretty, are all infested with cherry fruit maggots, so the birds are the winners of that one.  These cherry  maggots aparently only entered the continent about 60 years ago, making them another exotic invasive...
I'm continuing to fire one or two kilns per day, barely keeping up with the sales.  Summer becomes a blur...

July 18
Because we're expecting a lot of relatives in August, I arranged to have our septic tank pumped today.  It's under a plywood deck which I have to disassemble every time it gets pumped.  The lid on the tank is getting rusted out, but I always hope I can make it last a couple more years, since I've no idea where I'd get another one.  So while reassembling the deck, I inadvertantly kneeled on the lid, causing it to fold in two and drop into the (now mostly) empty septic tank.  I would have dropped also, only I caught myself on the side and just got my ribs dinged a bit.
Now, rather than detail how I used some plywood and an old card table top to fix the lid, this story reminded me of a family favorite story along similar lines.
We had a small fox terrier dog named Ajax, who was a fanatic about squirrels, rodents, and anything smaller than itself that it could chase.  We also had a lake cabin with an outhouse (you can see where this is going already).    So what happened is the dog saw a mouse run under the outhouse, just as my father opened the door to go in and use it.  The dog jumped down through the toilet seat to get at where he was sure the mouse was.  Rather than having to fish out a stinking dog, though, my father caught him by the back legs and hauled him out unscented...The curious thing about the story is that it's been retold so many times I think I was there when it happened, but can't be sure. It's hard to forget the outhouse.  We used to embed marbles in its wood with a cannon my father built which was powered with firecrackers...

July 19
Another day of harvesting--peas and green beans today, raspberries tomorrow.   It was also the day to defrost and clean the freezer to get it ready for the onslaught.  The weather was only moderately hot today, so it was a toss up whether to go for a swim at dusk.  I did, and the water wasn't hard to enter at all.  While out in the mill pond, a red necked grebe came through and cackled its own special laugh.
You can see  photos and hear the call at this offsite link: http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/275/_/Red-necked_Grebe.aspx

July 20
The newly clean freezer is now nearly full, including 100 pints of raspberries (I picked 19 today), and peas and green beans blanched and frozen today as well.   A deer came and ate the lettuce and some of the beans in the garden, and I'm about ready to cheer them on.  We plant expecting deer depredations, and they've gone too easy on us this year, so that the harvesting is becoming a burden...

July 21
In selling pottery somewhat on the honor system (that is, people can just leave a check and take the pots), I'm frequently asked if theft isn't a problem.  It isn't, in any major sense.  What's more, mostly I couldn't tell if something were missing.  But  I sometimes point out that if half of my pottery were stolen, it would still pay to sell it without monitoring.  Part of this would be the cost of paying someone to watch the shop.  Or another way to think about it is when you sell pottery wholesale, the store or gallery takes half (or more).   So in either case about half of your earnings disappear to overhead.
I feel this most distinctly when I wholesale, which I no longer seek out, since it just means double the work for the money.  But a few places that have been outlets for years continue to buy this way, including one today.  Wholesaling makes sense if you just have to run your machinery a little extra to crank out the extra widgets, but the hand craftsman mostly loses selling this way.
On the other hand, I did get about $500 I wouldn't have otherwise today, so there are compensations.

July 22
Two good things happened today.

My son and I went to a free Leo Kottke concert in Liberty Lake.  I'd seen him a couple times 30 years ago, and except for the age and more jazzy consistency of his newer compositions, he was much the same. His wry wit is sprinkled liberally between his complex fingerstyle arrangements.  This picture, of the 50 or so I took, more captured his spirit than when he's concentrating on astounding the audience.
The other good thing was an email I got when I got home, which reads, in part: "I went to your website based on the link in the Daniel Pinkwater site.   What a treat.  Maybe I'll order later.   Right now, I have a house full of my mother's pottery (including mugs and chalices, vases and candelabra) and many pieces of Shoji Hamada which my husband bought (or was given by Hamada) in Japan when he was there teaching on a Fulbright, 1953-54.   Am I dreaming that I see a strong influence of Hamada in your beautiful work??   I think he would like what you are doing, the restraint."
Hamada, along with Bernard Leach, helped form the craft pottery movement. Even though I was aware of them in my development, I've never tried to imitate their work.  But I like to think that through the hundred thousand or more pots I've made, I've come to similar aesthetics through convergent evolution...  Anyway, it was a great compliment, like an artist being compared to Picasso...

July 26
Our internet link died two nights ago.  My son and I spent a lot of time on the phone yesterday to the Verizon help desk.  While waiting for technical help, they offer canned advice like, "Visit our web-based help section," which, being unable to access the internet, seems particularly moot.  Although the low paid service representatives were very patient at walking us through sets of diagnostics, in the end they would conclude it was our router or our operating system or our modem, at which point they could refer us elsewhere and be done.
Unfortunately it wasn't any of those things, but something that happened somewhere "out there", as it started working again spontaneously, although a number of web addresses still aren't working.
To add to the excitement, my monitor sometimes flickers down to about 1/3 size, sort of resembling the scrolling words at the beginning of Star Wars movies, so everything seems a bit iffy.
I was about ready to go to the library to check my email, but since it's working here again that won't be necessary.  Although I imagined lots of exciting mail would appear, the most interesting thing lately has been a series of emails from Nigeria, not asking for money, but pottery assistance.  The author has made his own equipment, including wheel and electric kiln, and hopes to manufacture electrical insulators, but is having trouble with glazes. There are language problems and issues about materials, not to mention that I don't know much about cobbling glazes together for the third world, but it seems worth trying to help...

July 28
Like a tempermental time portal, our internet connection comes and goes with caprice.  Fortunately no great thoughts have come to me at the wrong moment to be lost forever...  However the monitor problem is temperarily solvable with a satisfying whack on top of it.  So few things are settled with a good whack anymore...

July 29
The dog bite from 2 weeks ago was still bothering me, so I visited the doctor today, who thought it was tendonitis, which was a relief, since I thought maybe it was infected...  Fortunately neither for pottery or music playing do I use my left thumb for a lot, and it only hurts if I bend it or grab stuff with it.
I did go to a party at a friend's house today and played music for an hour or so, but there were no other musicians to play with, which is what makes parties fun for musicians...  Well, I suppose wild women throwing themselves at musicians might also be fun, but I've given up expecting that to happen, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't deal with the ethical and moral ramifications of it anyway.  There was a Japanese aerospace engineer there who liked my music, so I'll settle for that.
That reminds me.  The "casting my bread upon the waters" which is Youtube video, has yielded at least one interesting result.  A couple in Upstate New York plan to use my "Love Sweet Love" song as their recessional at their wedding. I probably should have asked for a video of the wedding, so I could sob at the hack job their musician makes of the song...

July 30
We spent several hours moving gift furniture today.  Our new house is getting full of donated furniture.
This evening a friend who's currently teaching school in Qatar (during the school year)  stopped by to play tunes for a couple hours on mandolin and guitar.  I used to visit him regularly in Spokane and we'd work on old Grateful Dead tunes.  We're still working on them, as they're not as easy as your average bluegrass tune, but we had fun trying.

July 31
I got another 3000 lbs of clay and glaze materials today, and since I noted in the May Blog when I got the previous load, I now know that working pretty steadily I use about 1000 lbs of clay per month. Whenever I go to get clay, I take a trailer and drive 35 miles to a salad dressing company that brings it over from Seattle (for $180).  The last time, after I got back, I noticed one of the tires went low overnight.  I've had trouble with bead seal leaks before, so I decided the next time I'd just pump it up and see how it did. Having lost the lug wrench that fits that wheel, it was a good idea to make it home without a flat...  Fortunately, my strategy worked, though the tire may be flat again tomorrow.


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