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
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
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...
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.