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Brad's Blog

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July 2
The weather finally hit 80, so I finally went swimming, and after the initial shock, it was very enjoyable.   I also finished thinning the apples, and we've nearly planted everything in the garden. including a bunch of orphan squash plants given us by a neighbor.  The rain barrel went empty today, which coincides with the hot dry weather, so it's time to focus on keeping the garden watered.   The strawberries are at their peak--two gallons per day, mostly given out to friends and neighbors since we don't need the jam (that would be the principal way we store strawberries).  The countdown now is for raspberries, which are forming but still very green...

July 3
Both our sons are here for the 4th holiday.  They're currently doctoring up various small fireworks to make them more interesting than the original.   This is a time honored tradition in our family.  
    Last night we had a "20% chance of thundershower " storm which had single loud booms staggered out over long time periods, and a brief shower.  Thunder storms are fairly rare here in the West, where, if they were frequent, huge wild fires would be created in the forests.  The timing for the 4th fireworks is also crucial, on the cusp of the dry July which could never bear fireworks without serious consequences.   As it is, Spirit Lake is bombarded all over with professional sized mortar displays purchased on the nearby Native reservations.  Many locals, like us, attend the brief local professional display, then adjourn to private smaller fireworks with friends and neighbors.

July 4
The 4th is full of annual events, like a few relatives or friends for brunch.  This year Amber, who is visiting for the summer, fixed a fabulous breakfast with 2 kinds of quiche, biscuits and sausage gravy, fruit, and cinnamon rolls.  Then my older son, just in for the festivities, drove our riding lawn mower with me behind on an old red wagon, holding a stuffed hippo and playing the harmonica while lighting off smoke bombs for the parade.  Then my bass player friend Jonathan came over and played a set in the park, and after a break, I played solo for an hour and a half mostly to entertain the many booths in the park. The weather was perfect today, and both the crowds and the parade were the largest I've seen.  Some of us had naps in the afternoon to make it to the night's fireworks, still in the future as I write this.  

July 5
This morning there was a little baby swallow perched just below their house, which we noticed while eating breakfast.  It wasn't quite ready for flight, but it looked like it fell out of the nest and was now stuck.  The parents seemed oblivious to it, bringing food to the remaining ones.  So I caught it with a plastic bucket over it, and a piece of cardboard under it, inverted it so it was in the bucket, and gently removed it and stuck it headfirst back in its nest, which it was glad to be in.  Hopefully that's the end of the story.
    Instead of daily walks, the weather in the 80's has become inducive to daily swims.  And watering the garden is added to the list of garden chores.  We're all getting sated on strawberries, so it's probably time to make some jam.

July 7
    Yesterday I did indeed make 3 batches of strawberry jam.  Lots of strawberries left...
    This evening Jonathan and I did a 40 minute set of originals for the Spokane Songwriters (a crowd of about a dozen, which mostly filled the room of the coffee house we were in.  It went well, but I realized in getting ready for this that I'm not a prolific songwriter and so wouldn't be likely to put on a new show for a long time, if I were to join the Songwriters...  The 90 degree heat of the last several days blew away this evening with a dry cold front, so the weather here is always an adventure...

July 9
We made our annual trip to the next lake over, Upper Twin Lake, to see the birds and natural beauty of the peat bog which floats on one end of the lake.

I don't know what these plants are called, but they cover the the peat bog with flowers in May, and with these fuzzy seed clusters now...
    This was a very busy day--I'd made about 60 pots yesterday that needed trimming, and we'd also planned to go canoeing, for which it was excellent weather.  Then we had homemade tortillas and black bean burritos for lunch, and I had to rush off for two hours of music at a private party by Hayden Lake.  (It was a very nice experience, well remunerated).   There was one person there that knew me, and said a hearty, "Hi Brad," whom  I admitted I couldn't place.  It turns out it was the mayor of Spirit Lake.  I told him that even if I didn't recognize him, I probably voted for him...  

 July 11
    There've been some advances in evolution theory about the favoring of sexual reproduction over asexual, countering over 100 years of theorizing.  One of them involves the Red Queen hypothesis, from Alice in Wonderland.  The Red Queen encourages Alice to run as fast as she can, just to keep in place.  In evolution this means keeping up with the pathogens and parasites that would like to devour us, essentially running fast to maintain the status quo.  So one theory is that the genetic diversity of sexual reproduction helps protect a species more than the clonal type offspring that result from asexual reproduction (which doesn't have the diversity to withstand attacks).  But another theory just out says that sexual reproduction is actually a stabilizing influence in sustaining a species, whereas asexual reproduction, which experiences a similar rate of mutation as their sexual counterparts, actually wanders into new species more rapidly.  I'm not sure if the two theories are mutually compatible, but I'm an interested observer of the debate.
    Also it's a slow news day around here--my oldest son just returned to his home from here today--and we're eating pea pods now from the garden...

July 12
    What I failed to mention yesterday about the Red Queen hypothesis, is how it seems to fit most of reality--we go and go to keep in the same place.  Pottery flows out of my hands like a river, just so I can stay in this same place...
    I was asked if I would like a Kindle reader for my birthday, and I stuck stoutly with the print book and libraries as my preferred model over the "purchase everything you read" model for Kindle.  However I was searching on Amazon for some hard to find sequels (such as the next collection like TNT, in the reviewed books section below) and found that some of these titles are available for free in Kindle versions.  So I expect in a few years when they stop publishing paper books I'll switch to the latest "Kindle", which will probably act out the books with simulations in 3-D.

July 13
     We got a quarter inch of rain last night, and the temperature never hit 70 today, so we stand in contradiction to the rest of the nation's heat wave.
This morning I started weeding in earnest again, with the wheel hoe.  After pottery work for the day, I spent time trying to keep the aerial rats (squirrels) out of the pottery workshop ceiling and an insulated floor.  Like everything else (the Red Queen again), I'm running as fast as I can to keep ahead of them.

July 14
Spirit Lake 4th 2011

Here's a photo Birrion took of the 4th of July parade with son Birrion driving the lawnmower and Happy Hippo and I riding on the wagon, playing holder harmonica while setting off an orange smoke bomb.

July 16
    I got my new camera today (Panasonic DMC-FZ100), and it takes great pictures, but it's as far above my old camera as a smart phone is from a regular cell phone.  It can take 200 frames/sec slow motion, 11 frames per second still photos, take photos while making HD video, but I'll have to learn how to do most of those things.
    We had our annual sale at the Farmer's Market as a fundraiser for our pottery group--it went well and quite a few of us participated in it.   The weather was about perfect today, although it's breaking towards storms this evening.  The garden is still running a couple weeks late--we're hoping for a long warm fall to get a lot of our late crops in, like corn, tomatoes, and squash.

July 18
    Summer life continues to be busy.  We've managed to be renovating  two of our three bathrooms at our house currently, with guests arriving tomorrow, so there's things like getting up the towel racks to be done.   Along with that I managed to get a kilnload glazed and fired today, and make a strawberry pie.  It takes sugar and whipped cream to help maintain our enthusiasm for strawberries at this point--the basic law of supply and demand is curbing our demand with our seemingly endless supply of strawberries.  But we watch the raspberries carefully--one showed a little color today...  (I just checked last July's blog to see that we're at least one week, and possibly two weeks later on our garden stuff this year).  We're also facing a cooling front tomorrow--we'll be one of the few cool places in the lower 48 apparently.

July 20
Since getting my new camera, I've been pretty busy with mundane things, but also snapping pictures, getting used to the new camera.  So far the longer telephoto and more pixels have been the best improvements.  Here's a photo of a common wildflower at this time of year, scarlet gilia:
Scarllet Gilia
It's always starting to bloom around the 4th of July, and is sometimes called skyrockets.
Following up on yesterday, the high was around 72 today, but since summer's been so short, that didn't stop us from going swimming.  I am sorry to hear the rest of the country is sweltering...

July 21
Here's an old picture of a Columbia ground squirrel:

And here's a new one I took today:

Columbia ground squirrel
The original photo was 5 times larger than this...  I think it's a better photo, but a lot of that is the background.  I was only about 20 feet from this guy, so it wasn't too challenging--also they tend to freeze, hoping we won't notice them.  I'd guess this one also knows how to beg for snacks, judging from his rotundity...
Today was heavy overcast with occasional sprinkles and a high below 70 again.   The summer without a summer for us...  Tonight we ate some of the last potatoes from last year, and the very last carrots, with fresh garden broccoli and pea pods.  I don't recall ever having  carrots and potatoes lasting into the next summer (it helped that we dug the overwintered carrots and stored them in a refrigerator rather than our root cellar).  This year's potato plants are huge and about ready to flower.  Perhaps we can start stealing new potatoes from them as they start to die back.

July 22
    Spotted Sandpiper
The photo for today is a spotted sandpiper, common across N. America in the summer, but it's the first one I've identified and photographed.  I also saw a pair of kingfishers, a female blackheaded grosbeak, and a flicker.
The weather today made a brief stop at lovely on the way to "too hot" forecast for the weekend.

July  26

Summer is at its busiest.  I can't keep up with orders...  So we went for an overnight camping trip and hike to Hall Mountain.
But first, we had to bury Rascal (Cute Cute), our 19 year old cat yesterday. (she's the one on the right--Ariki, on the left is long gone.)  Cute Cute lived with us longer than any pet in our collective lives.  She was content to stay close to our pottery shop, a key to her longevity.
Here's a link to my new webpage with photos from today's hike:  http://www.sondahl.com/hallmt/hallmt.html

July 27
    When the Post Office takes a holiday, people keep generating mail anyway, so it just means more to deal with when they get back to work.  This isn't such an issue nowadays, with the Post Office in decline, but I do think of it after my brief summer vacation.  Today I threw 90 pots, fired two kilns, and installed a washer and dryer at our formal residence (ending 5 years of bringing all our laundry down to the pottery to wash, often on bicycle).  Oh, also the raspberries are in, and I only got partway done picking several gallons of them...
    This evening I walked through our garden, and I'll really have to take some pictures soon--the cool wet Spring agreed with many of our crops.  Besides excess raspberries, we've got more peas and broccoli and lettuce than we know what to do with.  Well, actually we should freeze some broccoli and raspberries, so that will happen soon.

July 29
    I made 120 pots today.  Actually it was 170, but 50 of them were lids...  I'm gearing up for Art on the Green, the biggest local arts festival next weekend.  Sales have been brisk here also.  We decided to rent the Chamber of Commerce sign at Maine St. and the highway to see if we'd draw in customers, and I think it's been effective.  
    I also added a sign in front for raspberries, and we've sold  over $20 in two days.  Raspberries are our "cash crop" which we sell to help pay for the water for the garden and orchard.  (Considering we have an overabundance of berries, we'd probably try selling them without the incentive of some karma balance theory)

July 30
    It was a long hot summer day.  I started at 6 a.m. picking raspberries for a couple hours.  Then I spent the morning fitting lids and adding handles and feet to the pots from yesterday.  Then I had to repair a kiln that burnt out about 1/3 of its wiring on the last firing.  Due to salvaging the old kiln for usable wiring and switches, it only cost me a couple hours of time instead of any other cost.  Raspberry sales remain brisk, though as I picked this morning I realized my hourly wage as a berry picker is a lot less than if I can make 60 pots per hour...  So I'll try to do both for the next couple weeks.
   
Books read and other media of note
Rebel Angels by Libba Bray I like fantasy as an escape from reality. This one brings a lot of burdens from this world into the world created in these Victorian novels.  In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the usual fight for the outcome of the universe seems weightier than sometimes happens in lighter fare.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray  
Although the cover looks like a Victorian romance, it's  an historical fantasy set in Victorian England with magic leading to another realm for young girls at a boarding school.  This genre was pioneered by Joan Aiken, one of my favorite authors. The story is well-wrought, difficult to tell where it was headed, a bit bleak, but worthwhile reading.

TNT by James Schmitz  
Schmitz is one of my favorite old time Sci Fi writers--this collection shows why.  He didn't bother with bogus theories to explain things like faster than light travel, or the CommWeb (his precognitive version of the Internet, ala 1970), and his strong and resourceful female characters are always a delight.



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