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March 1
This picture is from yesterday.  It's little wonder the buds swell in spring, since the water tends to accumulate on them.  But of course it's not Spring, just a very wet winter...  Today was actually quite nice.
When you live in a beat up little town, you get used to things being a bit beat up.  So the opening of the newly enlarged grocery store today was very disconcerting.   In fact, I ran into one of our more distinctive residents, who usually drives this old car in the summers, as in this Labor Day parade shot:
His comment was that the new store hardly makes you feel like you're in Spirit Lake.  I had to agree.  As I pushed the cart around, I sort of reversed myself seeing another cart in the row, until I realized the new store can accommodate carts passing each other in the wide and well lighted rows.  Someday perhaps we'll again have a bank and a drug store as well...

March 3
In home renovation, one often finds that by replacing the floor, suddenly the walls look dingy.  In fact, that's happening with our fixup home as the floor progresses.  So my wife's been doing a lot of painting.  She's using a cool modern paint gadget with tubes and things so that the roller never has to be dipped, and seldom drips.  Ahh, this modern age...

But the reason I began talking about this is still the topic of the new grocery store in town.  For me, it comes down to, the new store makes you feel like you need a new town to go with it.  Actually, with the growth in our county, the new town has been growing around the kernel of the old, which one can ignore until the new store makes it obvious.  There have been plenty of other signposts pointing to this.  Spirit Lake closed its high school and consolidated years before we moved here.  But in the last 10 years, a new high school was built here and filled, and in the last couple years a separate junior high school of similar size was built and filled as well.

As with all growth, the pensioners and old-timers are put at a disadvantage as property tax valuations increase, but they also gain some in available services (such as variety of foods available).  We bemoan the empty fields where we walked, now slated for development, but it's fruitless to moan too much over the old days.  They were good old days, but they're gone, so look for some good times ahead in new places...  Too often we circumscribe ourselves in our routines...

Speaking of routines, unless I need lots of things like sacks of potatoes and flour, I ride my bicycle to the store, and get my groceries in my backpack. At the old store, all the checkout clerks expected me to use my pack, and if I didn't, would inquire about it.  At the new store, the number of employees has doubled, and it may be a while before my chosen system becomes familiar to them...

March 4
At one of the music sites I visit, I saw a childhood rhyme today  that took me back, and it seems to be pretty common in the English speaking world.  Although it has the cadence of a skipping rhyme, it was used to make fun of any romantic notions elementary schoolers might have.  It begins, "--------- and ----------- sitting in the tree, K- I- S- S -I- N -G.  First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...."
Actually there's some dispute as to what comes next (as there is in the real world).  Some remembered one of the names being pushed IN a baby carriage, others WITH a baby carriage.
The discussion I was following says that this ditty appears in print as early as the 1930's, so it had some staying power on the playground.
It makes one wonder what traditions might survive in that early childhood continuum, which could harbor rituals mostly unnoticed by the world.
Some things, like playing marbles, which was the hot thing for 1-3rd graders when I was a kid, are probably gone.  Possibly some skipping rhymes survive, at least where rope skipping is still encouraged.
The folk music culture was largely swallowed in the 1920's by the two brave new technologies of phonographs and radio.  By the 1930's collectors went to the prison farms, where the convicts were more out of the mainstream and more likely to rely on the oral tradition  rather than the popular culture.
Technology has rapidly overtaken all aspects of modern life in the affluent countries.  On the other hand, the Internet has proved a boon to researchers and those interested in sharing traditions...

March 5
I posted a new guitar video and several others at youtube.com, which got an article in Newsweek this week (Youtube, not me), as the new hot item (and  also on some of their copyright issues).  I've stuck to my original material to avoid those issues...  Since the time limit for the videos using my software is about two minutes, I'd like to do some fun little Pythonesque skits, but so far I'm sticking mostly to music.  Assuming you have broadband internet, you can see them all at: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=bsondahl

March 6
This was another good half day of skiing for me, with 3 inches of fresh snow on the slopes, and roads only wet (not icy) from the ski resort downwards...  The only glitch was that my season pass disappeared during the day.  It may be turned in, or I'll have to pay $25.00 to replace it.   I'm not sure if I've skied enough enough to pay for the pass, so it's sort of like raising the rail to have to pay another $25.00 to continue...  On the other hand, my son is approaching 100 days of skiing this season, so he makes up for any lapses I might have in diligence.

On matters of more consequence, in spite of liking to look at the night sky, and knowing a few constellations, this is the first year I ever really saw a bit of reddishness to Mars.  There was the business of it being extra close a few months ago which rekindled my interest, but I've really only been aware of planets as the brightest non moon objects in the night sky,  and seldom known which one was which.  And I'd never looked at them closely enough to see the color.
Also my camera has a very nice 12 X lense, and I haven't had the best luck taking sky photos, but this one above is either an Oreo cookie or the crescent Moon showing the nightside.  Although the reddish tinge is probably in this case chromatic aberration, the dark side of the disk is clearly mottled, lit with earthlight.

March 7

Today, in response to my wife's request, and because the chickens are laying about 5 eggs a day, I made a couple custards.  The old Betty Crocker cookbook which told how to make everything from scratch, called pudding "cornstarch custard,"  whereas these are baked.  The one pictured on the left had banana slices in it, the one on the right-- only cinnamon dappling the top.  I'd never tried baking the bananas in it before. I can't say that I will again...  In general most fruit, if fresh to begin with, is better applied afterwards to a dessert as a topping, unless it was getting past its prime...
Bananas generally benefit from being past prime when used for making banana bread--the flavor is stronger...   We still are eating fresh apples from our orchard, but that's the last fresh fruit from last year.  We mostly have canned peaches left now, and normally would have pears, but I thought our pear harvest would yield enough for canning, and was wrong.  In the freezer we have a lot of raspberries left, and a few bags of huckleberries that were given us...
And in spite of sounding like survivalists, we buy fruit and veggies at the store, and have been enjoying the first California strawberries lately, and Chilean grapes.  However, store fruits aren't our staples...
Back to the custard theme--my family didn't bake custards, to my memory, but my inlaws did, including this, and something incredibly bland called "England eggs," which my mother-in-law made frequently.  Instead of the country, I think England was the surname of where the recipe came from.  It was steamed in a double boiler, and was just eggs, milk, and too little salt to make it taste good.   It does make one think of English cooking...
Baked custard, in this instance, was 4 eggs, some milk (probably 2-3 cups),  a couple tablespoons of honey, a quarter cup brown sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a teaspoon of cinnamon, baked for 50 minutes in a 325 degree oven until a tableknife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  It's not an exciting dish, but could be spiced up in the cooking, or improved with fruit and cream in serving...

Meanwhile my counterweight securing the opposite side of the world, Linda from Australia, related this trip to the the seacoast:
"I have just come back to the real world and am back at work after Pete and I ran away to the south coast for a few days break. The trip was great, you start out from here going through undulating farmland which becomes increasingly hilly until you reach the dry forests of the western side of the great dividing ranges.  The great dividing range goes all the way along the eastern coast of Australia and you have to cross it to get to the east coast from anywhere inland. Then up past the snowy ranges to the top of Australia and the flat, sparsely treed highland alpine plains.There are always lots of wildflowers up there through the summer, fields of yellow & white everlasting daisys, under story trees in flower etc.Then down the steep eastern side of the escarpment where there are pockets of rain forest with beautiful cycads and tree ferns amongst the forest which grows thick , lush and tall. The south coast forests are beautiful and thick with spotted gums and ferns and the trees grow very tall and straight and there are still many areas where they are largely untouched by human habitation.Then come the coastal heath which is full of bird life. Lastly I get to put my feet on the sand and feel the thrill of the ocean rushing against my legs. Lovely stuff. When I first moved away from the coast to the inland I used to have cravings for the smell and the feel and the colors of the ocean. I love to walk for miles along the beaches and where we stayed the resort was the only thing at that beach so we mostly had it all to ourselves being not school holiday time. There are a few little villages down there that are aimed at tourists like us who visit. They are full of little craft shops and interesting shops and cafes. Beautiful woodwork and some good pottery, antiques, plant nurseries etc. "

We in Idaho can also travel to the sea with about a 7 hour drive, and it sounds like seaside tourist villages share similarities worldwide.  But the descriptions of the natural world in Australia sound different from the Pacific Northwest, as I'm sure they are, with the divergent evolution abounding on that continent...

March 8
It's one of those cheery March snowstorms this evening, where we've gotten 3 inches of fresh snow, but you know it will be gone in a couple days, being that it's March...
Meanwhile, I forgot to tell yesterday of lightning striking twice.  In this case it was Grandma.  The most diligent of blog readers (most likely my mother) will recall the middle of the night sometime in the last year when my senile mother-in-law got up in the middle of the night and pulled loose a water supply for the toilet by stepping on it.   Yes, it happened again.  This time I was pondering being awake around 4 in the morning when I heard a slight "thunk" coming from Grandma's area, which to my trained ears meant she was out and about.  When I came into the bathroom, I found she had wedged herself in between the toilet and the water heater, and after extricating her I noticed a drip on the floor where the supply for the waterheater had gotten knocked loose by her ministrations.  Fortunately it only required a bit of tightening with a wrench this time, instead of locating the main shutoff as the water shot outwards, as happened last time.

March 9
Today was my son's 100th day of skiing this season.  I made a pile of 100 snowballs to commemorate it.
Since we're talking round numbers, I also got an order for 250 mugs today, stamped with the camp's name on it.  I made about 50 to get started.

March 10
It takes about twice as long to add handles and stamp on the decoration on a mug as it does to throw the mug on the wheel. So I spent a good part of the morning doing that to the 50 mugs, then glazing a kilnload.  In the afternoon I threw 70 more mugs, so I know what I'm doing tomorrow...
For supper I took leftover stir-fry chicken and carrots, added some onion, frozen peas, and homemade noodles, and made chicken noodle soup.  Homemade noodles are as easy to make as piecrust--just add white flour to a beaten egg until it makes a dough you can roll out on a pastry cloth.  My latest improvement is to cut the noodles with a pizza cutter--one of those circular blades that rolls across, as opposed to knives that drag across and tend to bring the noodles with it.  Like store pasta, they expand in cooking, so you want to roll them as thinly, and slice them as narrowly, as possible.  Since they aren't dried to begin with, they cook quicker than dried pasta.

March 12
I've been sick today and part of yesterday with sore throat etc.  This causes me to reflect more on mortality than the sunny side of life, so enough said...  I am glad I'm not sick more often...

March 13
Although I'm still sick, I reported to my pottery group meeting today.  I took a vase destined for woodfiring next week, which I'll be expected to spend some time stoking it.  There's a whole side of pottery I put behind when I went with electric firing.  With fuel fired kilns, the pyromaniac in us gets a bit of excitement, with fire and smoke belching out of the kiln's orifices.  I expect to see this with the wood firing.  I also expect to see ridiculously high fuel consumption for the results.  Most of the anagama (wood firred chamber kilns) of Japan were closed when they had exhausted the local forests of wood.  That seems hard to imagine here, where we're surrounded by woods, but I've noticed firewood is harder to come by than it used to be, especially with the population of the area growing so quickly.
The area is also requiring more electricity, but that all remains a lot less visible, except for the natural gas-fired plant they built nearby a few years ago.  Nationally electricity burns most of the coal mined, and creates a lot of pollution from sulphuric acid rain and mercury contamination.  Regionally water power has been the primary source of electricity, but finally some wind plants are going up in the natural wind funnel areas.  Unfortunately every source of power has its drawbacks--wind farms kill a lot of migrating birds as they hit the rotors or towers, and do have that problem of still days...  On an up note, though, nanotechnologists are building circuits from the molecular size up, including the possibility of solar electric generators that could be sprayed on to be applied, as on the side or roof of buildings.
The final question is always, can techology solve the problems caused by technology...  It's not a totally fair question, since a lot of the problems we face relate to overpopulation as well as technology (pollution, food supply, etc.).  I'm rooting for technology, but I don't expect a panacea, even for my cold...

March 14
I'm still sick, but well enough to glaze a kiln load today, and probably resume making mugs tomorrow.  My wife has been working over my former pottery workshop, reorganizing it to a pottery warehouse and shipping room.  So I'll need to build a few shelves to complete that tomorrow as well.
There are several good things to being sick when self employed.  I don't have to call in sick, of course.  And I can go back to work as soon as I want without spreading any sickness (since I have no employees).  Since being sick gets old fast, it's nice to start resuming normal life...

March 15
I've returned to being functional, and did exactly what I mentioned yesterday, today.  But you can never know what the day ahead really holds...
Dementia type senility is sort of a reverse of baby development--you slowly unlearn whatever you learned. When you have a two year old, you rapidly learn what you need to do to protect your possessions and safeguard your child from itself...
The reason I mention this is that Grandma started the day  (at 5 am) by tangling with the toilet again (no leaks this time, but she got a wet slipper from stepping into the toilet)...  So we're learning what we need to do to safeguard Grandma.  She no longer understands toilets without help, so we decided it is best to keep her away from the bathroom at night.  As long as she's mobile, we can't prevent her from getting up in the night, but we can limit her movements, so that's what we're trying for...  We've even tried using a baby monitor to listen for her, but since she often talks to herself awake or dozing, and contrarily might be totally silent when getting up and wandering, it's of limited use...  Fortunately, most of the time she's fairly easy to care for...

March 16
Our young cat Candide has a certain type of demented logic in its outlook.  A while ago, in the loft where we sleep, I opened a window to let him out onto the roof (from whence he can go anywhere).  He'd never seen that before, and was quite amazed.  He'd go out--I'd shut the window, and he'd beat on it with his paws (his way of expressing his desire to go in or out).  When I'd open the window, he wouldn't want to come in--just liked having it open, apparently.  Since then he occasionally wants to go out that window, but is fairly consistent about not wanting to come in there, which can be frustrating in the middle of the night when it's cold, and he beats on the window with his  tom-tomcat paws.   Since he absorbed his window lesson, he's also started beating on the view window in the kitchen, which doesn't open.  I figure he assumes that if we, his appointed caretakers,  can open one window, we can open them all for him.
When he does this I have to go out the front door, and around to the side, and call him, which he mostly ignores.  Probably his thinking is if he'd wanted to come in the front door, he'd have gone there...
It reminded me of a developmentally impaired person I knew once, who came to me with a power lawn mower he'd fetched out of a dumpster.  It was just the wheels, housing, and handle, with no motor.  He wanted to know if I could fix it for him--put a motor on it.
That would, of course, fix it, but it's also the part-and-parcel expensive core of the mower.
So our cat has lots of faith in my ability to do whatever he wants...
Meanwhile, what got me up at 5:30 this morning was my cell phone, quietly beeping that it's ready to be recharged.  I don't care if it is recharged or  not at 5:30, but it's sort of retarded that way, and wants what it wants when it wants it...
Well, I suppose we all do.

March 18--not for the queasy stomached...
I went on a wild deer chase today.  My wife had noticed a dead deer lying along the shore of the lake, and didn't want to encounter it again so was avoiding walking that stretch of shoreline.  So I offered to locate it and drag it up into the bushes, where the detritivores could devour it more unobtrusively.  But I couldn't find the deer.  I was walking on the ice, watching the beach as I walked.  I did finally notice a few patches of fur stuck in the ice in one area, and decided it was either gone or in the lake...  My wife walked there later and thought it was probably in the lakc, as the level of the lake had risen...  It will remind us to avoid that bit of beach this summer...
It also reminded me of the time we saw a deer die of clumsiness.
Lots of people see deer die from lack of traffic smarts.  But in this case we were eating a picnic supper at a park overlooking the Mississippi River in Dubuque Iowa, when a deer came trotting through the area, was a bit startled, and slipped on a rocky area.  It fell down and broke its neck, and died immediately, about 20 feet from where we were sitting...
We reported it to the entry gate, and I think the worker there called some friends to pick it up as pristine roadkill...

March 19
I went to the local bluegrass showcase last night (that I played at last month, and will play again at next month).  I took a few photos and pasted them up at the link at the top of this page...

March 20

It was a blue sky day at Schweitzer today, so I took my camera.  There are lots of great views up there.  This shows some of the frost covered trees with some of the ski runs behind it, the Sandpoint valley behind that, and more mountains to the east...  There's still lots of snow, and the groomed runs are perfect.  It was easy to go fast today, as the runs were very solid from the night before...
Here's another view of part of Idaho's largest natural lake, Pend O'Reille...

March 21
I pruned our fruit orchard this morning, and prepared a bed for planting early greens in our greenhouse.  My wife Althea planted spinach, peas, and some other early vegetable there this afternoon.  There's still snow in the shady places, but there were rain showers today, and since it's officially spring, it's about time to start the other bedding plants as well.  Althea also started a spring cleaning of our display pottery in the outside kiosk.  These are our slowest months, and when the weather is below freezing, it's very hard to clean the pots.  We're also approaching having the most pottery on hand of any time in the year, so that makes for hundreds of pots that have collected dust and snow.  So add dishwashing to the requisite skills needed to be a potter...

March 22
The big accomplishment today was moving a large upright freezer from an outside porch into the former pottery workshop.  The freezer was too large to go through the two doors without removing a lot of door stuff, and even  taking the door off the freezer.  But I'd just cobbled together a window in the room from a couple old wood framed windows, and that space was wide enough to take the freezer on its side.
So my wife and I (she with a bad shoulder, no less), wiggled the freezer over to the window and tipped it onto its side, supporting it on a bench.  Then we lifted the top of it into the window, and slid it into the room.  We never had to lift all the weight of the freezer, as the other end was always supported.
So now that room is the pottery shipping and storage room, combined with food pantry.

March 23
It was in the 50's today, the warmest day since October, so I moved some raspberry plants to thin a stand that was too thick.  The first bulb in our yard bloomed this week.  I also finished throwing the 250 mug order I started a couple weeks ago.

March 24
We accepted the gift of a car from a friend. It's a 1995 Plymouth van (3 years newer than our old Plymouth van, which has over 200,000 miles on it).  The only catch was that the transmission had gone out, so we're paying to have that fixed.  We don't know what it looks like, or how many miles it has on it.  But we figured we'd need another car sooner or later, so here we go.  It's easier than shoppng for one.

March 26
Yesterday was a nadir day.
It started with going at 6 in the morning to participate in a wood kiln firing.  When I got there, the kiln was easily spotted, belching yellow flame out of the chimney.  I also saw that the pot I sent for the firing didn't make it in, which instantly changed me from participant to observer.  There were 3 other people there, and little to do except throw enough logs to heat our house for a day into the kiln every 10 minutes.  I went there expecting woodfire to be an extravagant waste of wood, and it was.  Part of the reason they stopped using large Anagama kilns in Japan was that the hillsides were denuded to fire the beasts...  I'm guessing they'd use at least one cord (4 X 4 X 8 feet) of wood to fire it, or roughly $125 to fire the kiln, which probably held as much pots as 3 of my electric kiln firings (and would have cost about $20 for those firings).  Most of the huge inefficiency of wood firing, and fuel firing in general, is that the heat pours out of the chimney, even as visible flames.  Electric kilns are only minimally vented, and thus heat much more efficiently.  Well, I guess there's room in the world for more ways of doing things than my own, so I'll let that rest...
After returning home I was at loose ends, so I went up to our sleeping  loft to make the bed.  Coming down the ladder I slipped on the ladder and fell onto a garbage can which was about 5 feet below me.  All of my weight connected with a small portion of my ribs in back, and I broke 3 of them.  The first thing that happened was my lung on that side temporarily collapsed.  For a couple seconds, I couldn't breathe.  Then I found my breath and voice, and like a slapped newborn, I began to bellow.  As I breathed I could feel the crunchy crepitus of bone sliding on bone, so although I'd never broken a bone before, I was sure that I had now.  Fortunately my wife was close by.  As a former EMT, I knew the possible ramifications of my fall, but also I'm cheap by nature and not inclined to pay for an ambulance if I can avoid it...  I felt my breathing stabilize, and there was no gurgling to indicate blood or puncture of the lung, so we drove in the 20 miles to an emergency care place.   Aside from pain medication and an elastic bandage, there's little they do for broken ribs, so I'm left to heal on my own, over the next 3 to 6 weeks.
I think about getting injured frequently as a professional concern, like last week when I was straight line skiing down the groomed slopes at the ski area.  Although my goal in skiing is always not to get hurt, the smooth groomed runs make going fast easy...  And even though I've heard the statistics that most accidents happen at home (and I even fell out of this same loft a couple years ago) it's impossible to totally ward them off, or I would have been more careful on the ladder.
So now I have an enforced vacation, as claywork is out of the question, since I can't put my back into it.  I'm still moving very gingerly, but beginning to contemplate what I will be able to do until the ribs have reknitted.  I do think I can make figurines, which is something I do only when I'm totally bored with making wheelthrown pottery.   I can still sell pottery from our showroom...  And I can still produce copies of my pottery videos, which is time consuming.  I'm hoping I'll be able to play my guitar within a week or so, just so I don't go crazy... And obviously I can type, but my blog will not be very adventurous, only introspective...  Also I can walk, slowly, so I will check out the spring wildflowers as they appear, if my body can take the rough trails it takes to get there...
The larger issue for potters and all those who are self employed is sustaining your self and family through such an injury.  We've made a point to keep savings set aside for this type of thing.  With a storefront pottery, well stocked as it currently is, the only thing on hold is a couple orders...  I've considered hospitalization insurance, but it wouldn't have provided any help in this situation, only if you are hospitalized.
Although I was unlucky to take the fall, I was lucky not to land on my spine, or head...

March 30
I know I'm recovering.  I've started doing a bit of cooking and dishes, and walked to the Post Office (2 blocks).  I can get up and down from my easy chair without grimacing.  But my easychair is still my hospital bed, since I can't sleep on my side yet, and the place I mostly have to call home.  It's really quite good as a hospital bed--sliding easily to full recline or pulling up easily to get up.  Yet parts of my body are getting too familiar with it, and I get tired of sitting as well as standing.
All this over my broken ribs is happening in a nexus of other family and friend turmoil.  My wife may have to join her sister in California, as her brotherinlaw faces heart surgery...  One of the musicians I play with regularly is starting chemo and radiation treatments for cancer.  Still, with all, while there's life there's hope.  And otherwise, hope for an acceptable afterlife.

March 31
No trip currently planned for my wife, since surgery for various reasons is likely a couple weeks away.  And I was able to work on starting seeds in our greenhouse for over an hour today, so my progress is good.  I'm thankful for the many web friends who have sent encouraging emails.  

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