I've been busy the last few days firing the first new kiln several
times (and waiting the final part needed to finish the second new
kiln). The digital kiln controls are so easy they invite ignoring
the firing, which is a good thing if all goes well... With the
old kilnsitter, I had to turn the kiln up twice after starting it, two
hours between each turn up, which meant usually setting an alarm
because it was easy to forget. Now it turns itself up in a smooth
curve, so I only have to shut the lid after two hours and leave it to
do its thing... When it's done it reports the final temperature
and the time it took to get there, as well as the current temperature
in the kiln for when to open the lid... (I used to drop some water on a
kiln shelf to see how cool it was, like dropping water on a griddle...
If it boiled instantly, the kiln was still too hot to open).
I worked at the art gallery today. We got some new glass display
towers, which was good, but from a co-op gallery (like us) in Coeur
D'Alene which went bust (which is not so good). I am having some
doubts about the financial wisdom of this venture for me, but the best
part of the year is to come, and I committed for a year... (I do
get lots of guitar playing and reading time while tending the often
empty gallery)... Fortunately sales are much
hotter around this time of the year in our Spirit Lake location, and
I'm loaded with clay and two new kilns and eager to resume full
production... (It's less than a month to Art on the Green...)
I'm also eager for the first swim--it's been warm in the late
afternoons, but not enough to urge us into the lake...
July 4-5 My son Birrion shot a short (11 second) video of me in the 4th Parade: http://youtu.be/Q1-n8mR8vlg It
was a regulation 4th celebration--relatives over for the parade and
lunch, music in the park (I was in charge for the first time, not
counting the time I was the whole music, provided at the last minute),
brisk sales, fabulous short fireworks at the ball field, and a few home
fireworks to finish off the day... Today I got
the final part to assemble the last kiln, so I fired two glaze kilns
today, and my shelves in the studio and above the kilns are loaded with
pots, so I'll be pushing pots through as soon as I can for the next few
weeks... Also I finally took the first swim, and
the water was very enjoyable... With the national heat trend
finally worming its way here for the foreseeable future, swimming will
be a daily event for a while...
I volunteered yesterday for an extra half day at the art gallery in
Sandpoint. At least 5 of the artist members came through during
the afternoon--it really does try to be an arts center for the
community. Meanwhile I sold stuff and played instrumental guitar
to while the time away... It was hot enough today
that by afternoon I could not work packing shipping orders for more
than an hour without stopping to cool off... Fortunately every
evening it drops below 60 so one can keep a living space tolerable
opening and shutting windows judiciously... I'm also firing two
kilns a day, which tends to heat the back part of the studio up...
July 9 We took advantage of the heat yesterday to enjoy swimming in Priest Lake after church... Our
garden is growing fast now, with the tomatoes and corn happy in the
heat... The spinach is quickly bolting, so I gave a bunch of it
to the chickens today... The strawberries are gettting over, and
the raspberries are forming--when they're ready the strawberries are
forgotten... We're still eating carrots and potatoes from last
year. I glazed and fired two kilnloads and
threw 60 more pots to keep the pottery flowing... I got asked to
fire some pots for kids in a summer craft program, and when the pots
arrived today there was a bunch of newspaper stuck inside them
(to support them while they dried, but now stuck in them). It
will burn out harmlessly, but I don't have fan-based exhaust for
my kilns, so it will be smoky for an hour or two in the firing...
I do have a chimney attached onto the kiln room roof to draw the
heat and gases out of the kiln room...
It seems like I'm always firing kilns when the weather is hottest (and
combines with the kiln to warm the house). We swam across the
Mill Pond this evening, since the heat was enough that there was no
hurrying out of the water. The pollywogs I saw a couple weeks ago
are now little frogs with tails and they are the size of a
nickel... A bald eagle flew over us as we reached the other
side... I worked on pottery through the hot part
of the day, driven by the pots going out the door and the 3 weeks or so
till Art on the Green... I'm still adjusting firing temperatures
with the new kiln--the crystalline glaze is getting over-cooked at Cone
9 and even Cone 8, so I may have to fire it separately at Cone 6...
The old kilns were a couple cones cooler on the bottom shelf, but
these seem to fire more evenly... There are a lot of nuances to
being a potter...
Looking back, it is amazing that in less than a week the temperatures
and the Mill Pond went from just tolerable for swimming to the
current bathtub temperatures. Even though it cools down to 60 at
night, and we can mostly cool the houses down, by late afternoon it was
88 in both my studio where I was throwing pots and in the pottery
showroom itself. We're all looking forward to a chance of showers
and slightly cooler weather this weekend... Maine
Street is getting two new businesses-- a hair salon and a spay/neuter
clinic (hopefully with other vet services, so our cats won't have to
take a 20 mile ride for vaccinations etc...) Both businesses
started with fairly serious renovation to their spaces, which shows a
desire to be in it for the long haul... It's always good to see
new businesses on our two block main street... We
had our monthly Chamber of Commerce meeting today in a bar and grill in
Blanchard, 7 miles north of Spirit Lake. The invited guests
filled us in on Stoneridge, the local timeshare condo place near
Blanchard. Since it's a time share, with most people staying only
a week, there are a lot of potential customers... We've been
advertising on their inhouse cable channel--haven't had anyone mention
the ad, but probably it's had some positive effect... The people
presenting knew about us and said they often mention us in their
July 13 I
got another surprise opening the kiln today--the new batch of white
glaze came out underfired looking and blistering over other glazes...
Chances are good that I forgot an ingredient when weighing out
the glaze... I'll add the ingredient that contributes most to
melting and try that before discarding the whole batch... So I
spent part of the afternoon washing glaze off pots that would have been
ready to fire... This is just one of those two steps forward, one
step back things... Sets back a couple orders...
Jonathan and I did the hour concert at the library at 7 this evening.
With a high around 88 today, no-one was cold, but it wasn't too
hot for an outside concert, and the mosquitoes didn't make an
appearance, and the whole concert went well, with songs of the Beatles,
Stones, Dylan, and the Grateful Dead predominating. It was
mostly an older crowd, as one might expect with 50 year old music...
So we went swimming this afternoon, at the point when the house heated
up to 88 degrees, and the outside was the same, and I took along a
thermometer and the water in the Mill Pond was 85 degrees, which
explains why we don't get too cooled off swimming these days...
We got 1.15 inches of rain overnight, which is a lot for July, our dry
month. El Nino is forming, where places that are dry get wetter
and vice versa, but we seem to have gotten the wetter early, as opposed
to the many drought states of central and southern U.S. For us
the rain means no need to water for a few days, and a break from the
oppressive heat... Our first raspberries are ripening, as are
the broccolis, lettuce, and spinach, and the garden loves the
heat and humidity...
July 16 I
deduced what was wrong with the batch of glaze last week, and added in
the flux I'd skipped over. I do get distracted from multitasking,
so I'm considering putting up a sign with my glaze scale--"shut off
radio before use..." Today I threw 120 pots, and fired one bisque
kiln, meaning I have to trim that many pots tomorrow, plus glaze a kiln
load... It's a good thing rain is predicted for tomorrow...
The rain was brief, the day was long in the pottery workshop. It
was only moderately 80's hot today, so the daily swim was
more for pleasure than comfort... During the swim, an immature
bald eagle and 3 adult eagles flew over us for entertainment, and
a red necked grebe popped up a dozen yards away with a fish in its
mouth... The raspberries are ripening fast, and
the first peapods were good in stir fry this evening. The bush
beans have 3 inch beans, and the scarlet runner beans are flowering...
So are the daisies, bluebells, heliotrope, and hollyhocks...
If you think of summer as the 3 months
June through August--it's half gone... But we've only had about 3
weeks of warm weather, and in recent years the frost has extended later
into September, so hopefully there's still plenty of summer left to
It was 90 both in the pottery workshop and outside around 4 pm when I
began to sweat seriously and decided it was time to swim... The
water in the Mill Pond was still 85, but refreshing none the less...
We saw a heron, and eagle, and baby bullheads at the lake...
We started having a surplus of raspberries today, meaning we're selling
them, and freezing them if they don't sell that day... The garden
continues to be very happy with the heat and moisture...
We got an inch of rain again yesterday with a windstorm that bent over
a lot of stuff in the garden (and caused a lot of downed trees and
powerlines at Priest Lake)... The storm led me to add a second set of
twines to hold up our raspberries, which are now yielding about 4
gallons per day (sold them all today). Currently our support
system for the raspberries is a steel fence post about every 20 feet,
and taut haybaling twine pulling them inwards from either side...
I think doubling our poles would be a big improvement...
The storm slanted most of our decorative sunflowers, but in the one day
afterwards they are swooping upward from the bent part, which shows how
fast they are growing... Jonathan and I played
with Don Thomsen for a private party tonight--nearly 3 hours of
music--sore fingers but fun...
July 24 Our
days are currently consumed with making pots, selling pots, picking
raspberries, peas, and green beans, and selling and preserving and
consuming some of them... This is also prime time for tourists
in the area, so our sales are very good... I'm still trying to
get in two kiln firings per day... We've had a
couple cooler days in a row so we didn't swim, but the weather's headed
back up again later this week. This cool respite makes me think
the lake might have got about as warm as it's going to get...
The wet June has made the lake stay more full than any other year--only
a couple days ago the top of the corrugated conduit passing through the
road to the Millpond has become exposed--usually by now you can sit on
the end of it and only get your feet wet... I was
also staking and tying up tomato plants today--they are the happiest
tomato plants I've seen for some years, due to the frequent rains and
recent heat wave... The tomato plant in the green house is over 4
feet tall, and the cucumber and squash in there are brushing the
ceiling... This year the quail have really gotten
populous in town, with their various calls echoing frequently through
various neighborhoods, and more often than not a pair or more of them
in our yard...
The view is of part of our garden with tomatoes
staked in front of the corn, trampoline in the middle, and greenhouse
to the right...A Another day, another 2 kiln firings--in fact for the last 4
days--and the shelves are full again... This is using the summer
heat to good advantage... We're back to the daily
swims, but the cool nights are allowing the buildings to stay
reasonably cool during the days...
To add to the summer juggling act, we had a fundraiser pottery sale at
the Kootenai Farmer's Market today... I started the day picking
about 4 gallons of raspberries. Other members of the group took
the setup/early shift (although several stayed on till the end).
There was enough help that I was happy to sit and lend
encouragement for the most part. I got back to Spirit Lake around
3, and took care of the pots from yesterday and unloaded two kilns and
glazed two more kilnloads. I only had time to fire one today,
breaking the longest string of two firing days I can remember--10
firings in 5 days. The new kilns make it easier to start a kiln,
since they only require an hour or two to get hot enough to shut the
lid, then they run automatically. Previously someone had to be
there to turn the kiln up for 4 hours, making late evening starts
Books read and other media of note: (free Kindle books unless otherwise noted)
The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan. Another
satisfying mystery, told in a straightforward manner by the thief.
Instead of the Maltese Falcon, the McGuffin everyone wants is the
3 wise monkeys that see, hear, and speak no evil... The Dark Knight Rises (film) Although
forever marred by association with the Colorado shootings, and more
visceral in some of its scenes for the similar violence it portrays,
this was a great movie... Touch by Elmore Leonard
(paperback) I like Elmore Leonard for his snappy plots, sleasy
con men and interesting situations. This older book of his stands
out for being about a genuine faith healer and the riff raff that line
up to score off him... It was not theological, just a plot driven
by this "what if" notion...
Amazing Spiderman 3D (film) Although the zipping above the streets scenes were good in 3D, the rest of it seemed to make nodding use of it... The
acting and story were good, given that I, like the average film goer,
don't have an obsessive memory of the first Spiderman series. The
bad guy seemed to have a human dimension, on the Jekyll-Hyde theme...
of Beyond by C J Box (genuine library hardback) This is a combined thiller/detective novel
set in the modern West. Although the plot is convoluted and
highly unlikely, Box manages to make sense of the senseless in
the end, and keep the reader guessing and up late reading..