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Brad's Blog

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June 1
    Pottery and life have been pretty busy lately, so I'm trying to complete the garden and work on the orchard in what spare time I have.  I planted out a row of tomatoes, and seeded another row of carrots, since the two I planted looked pretty spotty (I reseeded them as well).  Carrots require moist soil for about 10 days while sprouting, and that's hard to achieve, particularly when juggling other interests...  In fact I hope I remember to turn on the sprinkler when I go home...
    The fruit trees need thinning, and I started thinning one today while overseeing some children playing  (one at a time--that's the rule!) on the trampoline my ski son got in order to practice making turns in the air with...  It looks like a great year for the apples, with about 8 apples from each clump of flowers, which means they'd be the size of crab apples if they aren't thinned...  
    I was thinking of crab apples, and how the only crab apples I'm aware of that are  planted today are flowering crabs...  I remember a tasty eating crab called a Whitney crab I encountered as a child, and crab apple jelly was pretty common as well.
    In the pottery, May sales were up 25% from last year, which was partially the improved business climate, and partially the improved Spring we're having over record rains last Spring (part of why the carrots didn't come up too well this year).

June 3
    My skiing son is always happiest skiing, so we went with him up to Schweitzer ski area yesterday so he could do some tricks on some plastic pipe left up there on the snow for the purpose...  After a while I went back to the car and took a nap, and woke up to it raining hard.   He continued through the rain, but quit when his knees were getting sore.   I was reminded of this because we're having a heavy shower right now.
    As if we didn't have enough garden of our own, we started one at the church at Priest Lake, then added another one a week ago to give the children one they could plant.  We've brought several truckloads of manure, so it's looking better than last year, when it was mostly just sand.

June 10
    I made a long weekend trip back to visit my mother in Minnesota, and only learned when I got to the airport that she'd contracted Strep Throat.  She is still recovering from a broken arm, so she had a couple good reasons to be unhappy, but she bore it with grace and fortitude.  
    While she rested, I borrowed a bike from my brother and rode around Northfield, one time taking the Mill Towns bike trail to Dundas (3 miles).  It reminded me of the time when I was six and visiting a friend a couple years older staying overnight in Brookings SD...  I think he'd been harboring a desire to wander, since he convinced me to walk along the railroad tracks out into the country,  until we arrived at Aurora SD (about 6 miles away).  As I recall he called his parents to announce the feat, and they came and brought us home.  I wasn't encouraged to visit him after that, so my wanderlust waited till my college years...
    Oh yes, photos...

This is the view of the Cannon River from Sechler Park in Northfield.  The righthanded foliage is on an island--the river is twice as wide as this appears.
There were some wildflowers blooming--phlox, columbines, and a bunch I don't know the name of.  Also it was unusual and delightful to not encounter any mosquitoes, probably due to the late Spring...


At Lyman Creek in the Lower Carleton Arboretum, these Cedar Waxwings were enjoying a communal bird bath...


The flight out to Minnesota was mostly cloudy, but the return trip was mostly clear, so I took what low contrast photos of Flathead Lake, and Peck Reservoir,  but this was the sight to welcome me home (and just at the "shut down all electronic devices" time).  This is Lake Coeur D'Alene with the namesake city  being the whitish blotch above the lake.

June 12
I'm writing this while the granola bakes, and the chicken noodle soup is cooling, and the elk chili is cooking.  All this is happening after supper...  This afternoon I made an angel food cake from scratch, since we ended up with a dozen eggs we didn't need...  Yesterday I peeled the last of our potatoes from last year's garden, and we ate some of our first strawberries of the 2013 season.
    It's only been a high of 70 lately, but sunny, so it's comfortable indoors or out with short or long sleeves.  The garden could use rain, but only a few showers are forecast...
    I may be adding a new pot due to interest--a canister for storing sourdough in, with a perforated lid to allow it to breathe.  I got an order for one, and then she tried it and ordered another for a relative.  Meanwhile the guy from a honey shop stops by to get some honey pots and buys a canister with the same intent, then stops back and buys another for one of his customers.  I'm making one for myself--I told the customer I'd only make her another if she brings some sourdough starter with her when she comes...

June 14
    Gardens do take a lot of maintenance.  I thinned the apples last week, and now they're twice as big and easier to spot the multiple apple clusters that I missed, so I spent about an hour doing that. I tied up the raspberries so they don't hang to the ground and get dirty when they are ripe... Then I picked strawberries, which needed to be weeded as I picked, so that took an hour, to get a couple pints...  The wheel-hoe I made a few years ago makes it easy to weed row crops efficiently, but strawberries aren't in a row in the garden...  
    The weather was nice for outside work, overcast and with a high of 70 so it was comfortable in long sleeves.
    The readers of this blog are a select few, but one of them read the last post on making a sourdough pot and ordered one, so I'll make a few of them and see how they sell...  We've got a couple books on sourdough, but I haven't read them yet...   I have a sense that it's like feeding a pet to keep a healthy culture going...
    Speaking of feeding a pet, the feral manx cat that moved in on us is still too wild to pet, but will come in the house to eat cat food once or twice a day.  I declared his name to be Manxome, after a line in the Jabberwocky, "Long time the manxome foe he sought."  He has been a foe with his unfixed tomcat ways, spraying his scent around our door occasionally.  But he has a Cheshire cat face...

June 18
    Last Saturday our clay group went to Diane Simon's studio for a tour and to do a raku firing.  I posted a picture of the firing at http://www.cagni.org/.   It's always interesting to see how people set up their studios, and raku is actually a new experience for me--taking a red hot pot and plunging it into crumpled newspaper to give it a quick blackening reduction...  I've always been too committed to utilitarianism to experiment with what is by nature not functional--raku vases will not hold water, for example.  The pot I decorated I will donate to our club sale next month...
    I got the carrots thinned today, after a quarter inch of rain last night.  The yard and garden are looking forward to the significant rainfall predicted.  These June rains are all that stand between fun and wildfires on the 4th of July.  

June 19
Slow but steady rains yielded an inch accumulation in the last day.  I used the time in the afternoon to build some A-frame trellises for tomatoes.  The design came out of an old Rodale organic gardening book.  The book has advice on everything, but mostly use lots of manure and mulch.  I've backed off on the mulch as it can harbor slugs, but the manure idea has been great for us...  Anyway, the tomato trellis is basically a grid made of wood supported by two legs that swing out at the end to make a stable form to attach the growing tomato plants to.  I used an old railing from a former porch and more free wood from the local pallet works to build them...

June 20
Another day of drizzle, another inch of rain...

June 21
    And in the end there was 2.1 inches of rain, falling almost continuously for 48 hours.
    We took the 3 children we're providing enrichment (from a difficult life) to the Spokane Public Radio free kids concert in Spokane today.  The Bing Crosby theater was nearly full, and lots of children were dancing to the bluegrass/rhythm and blues beat of "Big Red Barn."   They used songs like "Iko Iko" (a New Orleans Mardi Gras song frequently covered by the Grateful Dead) and "You can't judge a book by looking at its cover" by Willie Dixon.   They also threw in a few songs about chickens.  Kid concerts are the hardest venue in the business--it's hard to know what will work in children's minds.  Our kids were wiggily with the music half the time, and wiggly "when is this over?" wiggly the rest...
    After the concert we ate some orange chicken at the River Front Square food court, and rode the Carousel and the played on the giant red wagon in the Park.  We finished with a tour through the sky walks, and rode the escalators up and down in Macy's, which we did with our own kids when they were little.  (By the end of the day we took them to two more parks, since they don't tire of playing in parks as soon as we do...)

June 23
It was such a nice day today that I walked around the Mill Pond this morning, when it was still:

I saw nothing amazing, but it was all green and fresh...

June 24
baby California quail
The baby California quail are out on parade...

This is their mother, not as showy as the fathers with their topknot.


June 26
    I was out weeding and picking strawberries today, and saw this butterfly resting on our grape arbor:

It's a fairly common species, but I don't know its name.  
    We had another half inch of rain in showers yesterday, and a couple brief showers as well today...  The garden generally looks quite happy, unaware of the burst of heat predicted starting in a couple days...

June 29
    Although the weather has been predicted to be hot, the 50% chance of showers keep us cool and wet all day, which gave us a chance to do some baking. The strawberries are in, so I made Pavlova, or strawberry meringue pie, which uses the meringue (with pecans) as a shell to add strawberries and whipped cream on.  We had already used up frozen raspberries in a raspberry cream pie...
    But the major baking project was sourdough bread.  I got some starter this week from a customer, and I'm trying out one of the sourdough pots I'm introducing in the pottery showroom...  I had a lot of time to peruse a couple sourdough books while the bread was rising.  I think no two sources agree on how to do sourdough. Even the relative amounts of flour and water  that you add to keep the culture active vary from 1:1 to 2:1.  Some say to leave the culture out all the time, others to refrigerate it whenever you're not using it.  Some call for adding regular yeast to the culture regularly, others say avoid regular yeast as it may inhibit some of the good wild cultures.  The length of time you should let bread rise varies from 4 to 12 hours. Also the amount of starter you add to a batch of bread varies widely.  I dumped in a couple cups of starter, added flour then  I found it was too dry, added more water and some oil and salt.  I had the impression you avoid adding sugar to sourdough, but there was some disagreement on that in the books and Internet sources also.  I set the bowl of bread dough on top of a firing kiln to keep it warm, and it rose quickly enough that I could punch it down in a couple hours, and let the loaves rise for about an hour.  The result was tasty, but not as tangy as the local Rathdrum IGA bakery that got me hooked on sourdough. Anyway I think I'll enjoy trying pancakes and longer raising with less starter next time to see if I can get more sour flavor...
    One of the many interesting bits of trivia about sourdough that I enjoyed is that the liquid that rises to the top of the starter is called hooch, and is where the term for cheap liquor comes from, since sourdough miners would drink that liquid for the possible 15% alcohol content...


Books read and other media of note
Much Ado about Nothing (movie)   A fun version of the Shakespeare comedy, especially for fans of Joss Whedon...

Man of Steel 3D (movie) A fairly slow paced movie where, if you'd ever read an early Superman comic, you would tick off points in agreement or variance of the accepted creation myth... I remember baby Clark's rocket being a lot more like a tin can with a pointy end...   Beyond that there was a lot of blurry 3D explosions, and it was generally enjoyable.

Flashpoint by Linda Barnes
 -Carlotta Carlyle tracks down several mysteries including arson with an ending I didn't see coming...  She and VI Warshawski are favorites of mine among the tough women PI's.

The Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds
This was a step backward for Reynolds, whose imaginative star ships which reconfigure on the nano level first captivated me.  I'm not a big fan of Steampunk, and this, with blimps and mixtures of technologies, is too typical of Steampunk fare..

The Forgotten Man
by Robert Crais.  Another terse crime story by Robert Crais, with a lot of backstory on Elvis Cole...

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