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Brad's Blog

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July 3
    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...

July 7
    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...

July 10
    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...

July 12
    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 Saturday orientations.

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...

July 15
    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...

July 17
    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 enjoy...

July 19
    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...

July 21
    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...

July 26

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...

July 28
    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 unlikely...

July 30
  I picked cherries over the last two evenings. A lot of the bags I had put on the trees (to protect them from the cherry fruit fly) only contained dried up rotten cherries, but this was the best year yet, with a couple gallons of good cherries.
    If they were all to make it to market, the pots I threw today were worth $600.  That's part of what keeps me in the business...  Most of the year I can't sell them as fast as I can make them, but currently that's not a problem...

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...

Back 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..

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