March 1 I
rebuilt my second kiln today, after it had arced during a firing last
week. After it was all put together, I switched it on, and
could hear arcing in the same place as previously. I opened it up
again, and couldn't see any obvious fried wires, so, while it was open,
I switched the kiln on, and threw on the breaker. I heard the
same noise, but now saw a little flame shooting out from inside the
switch. So I replaced the switch, and it should be good for
another 100 firings or so. We got another cord of
wood today--having used 4 so far this mild winter. Today a fire
was hardly needed, with blue skies and temperatures in the 50's.
I continued working on finishing around windows and doors at the blue
cabin. Those last touches make a wonderful difference...
March 2 A faithful blog reader requested a photo update on the cabin. This is how it looked in December:
Here's the same basic view today:
This shows the oak trim around the windows. The floor still needs finishing, otherwise this room is about done.
should never make predictions on the blog. The kiln that I said
yesterday should be good for 100 firings won't start today. I
have to tear it apart and fix the kiln-sitter--the switch that shuts it
off (and on). I put it off until tomorrow.
It took two hours, and I never did find why it wasn't working, but I
replaced a couple bad parts I noticed along the way, and the kiln is
firing alright currently. We had a close call
with our chickens today. We've been letting them out to enjoy the
spring weather (4th warmest Jan-Feb in local history), and today a
stray dog came through and got a mouthful of feathers off one, and made
two of them vanish. Fortunately at sunset they were all back in
the cage. I guess we'll have to keep them enclosed... It
will also ensure we find all their eggs (currently 2/day).
When we moved here 28 years ago, more often than not there was a dog
asleep in the middle of Maine Street, a sign of tolerance of loose dogs
and slow local economy. Now loose dogs are rare, at least if
their owners aren't with them, such that we hadn't really worried about
The black glaze that I'm still trying to perfect came out a dark blue
gray, so I tried adding another per cent of Iron Oxide, and will see if
that's better in a couple days. Glazing pots today kept me from
throwing any new ones, which hasn't happened consistently all week, due
to kiln issues. I've got lots of pots anyway, but I applied for
two larger art fairs last week, and if accepted I'll need a lot of
extra pots. In the cabin, I had to redirect the
water coming to the shower, since it had been routed outside, making it
not very functional for winter use (it had always previously been only
a summer cabin). I did the plumbing work and some other
finishing work in the afternoon. April 1 is the deadline,
assuming the young family (friends) decides to move in then...
My one day of throwing this week yielded 50 mugs, 3 platters, and two
bowls, one of which I got talked into making into a sink. I've
avoided making sinks, figuring they require an overflow drain, but
apparently a lot of people make them without one, so I'll join the
crowd making bowl type sinks. If it works out...
The customer who wanted a sink left a draintube off. It was
designed for the overflow, meaning I had to add a two inch extension
onto the bottom of what would have been a bowl with a hole in the
middle. I'll also have to fire it on a specially made cylinder.
I'm less optimistic that this will be a new product...
The mugs I made yesterday needed handles today, and logos stamped on
(they were an order). It took me till almost 2 pm to finish with them
so I could work on the blue cabin. Finishing work involves a lot
of details--how to cover up this or that glaring mistake, etc. It's
fairly creative, as carpentry goes... Earlier
this week I saw the first robin of Spring. Sometimes they come
and shiver in the snow. This time there's no snow, but I think
the ground is still a bit cold for worms to emerge, which is a major
part of the robin spring diet.
March 7 We
had to let a butterfly out of our screen porch today. I watched
it fly joyously up into the sky. The forecast tomorrow is for
snow and a high of 38. It's a tough world, butterfly.
We also planted spinach and carrots and peas today, probably the
earliest starting date ever. The planting didn't take long, but
there was a lot of manure to move around first...
March 8 No snow, but light rain today, on and off. I'm still working on finishing work for the cabin.
I made a new potter's apron last night. My old one was
threadbare, but a perfect design for keeping me relatively clay free,
so I copied it. The material was some I picked out years ago on
the basis of how heavy the material was. Some of it got used as
car seat covers, and the pieces I recycled into it had been curtains.
The mouse was back getting seeds under the
bird feeder today. There had also been a mouse in our greenhouse,
where the hens are wintering, but when I went out there today one of
the hens was parading around like a cat with the dead mouse in its
beak. I'd never thought of chickens taking on anything larger
than a grasshopper... Fierce chickens.
The young family is visiting again, planning to move here in April.
This visit includes a job interview. I spent the last
afternoon building a cabinet to hold the bathroom sink. The side boards
are very remarkable--pieces of pine about 21 inches wide, with no
seams. There aren't that many pines 21 inches across anymore, not
to mention the losses when making lumber from the wood. They were
scraps found in our garage when we bought the place. But they
harken to the days of virgin forests cut for every use.
Not much exciting here, so I'll tell what the rest of the bathroom sink
is made from, which I started varnishing today. The door to
access under the sink was some prefinished veneer thing, which looks
nicer than the pine, but isn't (being veneer on particle board).
The sink is one that was apparently removed by a previous owner,
and stuck under the deck. The sink that was in the bathroom was a
pale lavender color--the one we're replacing it with is white (just our
taste, I guess). The sink is inset into a piece of plywood,
to which I epoxied an off white Formica piece (of which we have a lot,
leftover from the cabinet maker--unfortunately, we mostly don't like
Formica, but had to concede to its cleanability). The weather is cooler, but still mostly clear--24 this morning, mid 40's in the afternoon. I was able to point out the mouse at our bird feeder to our 2 year old visitor this morning.
This is the monthly date for two meetings, Chamber of Commerce and
Potter's Guild. The Guild meeting was most interesting--I had
suggested a bad glaze day as a theme, and several besides me brought
problem pots, with crawling (bare strips on the pot without glaze),
crazing (fine cracks in the glaze), and underfired or overfired pots.
I also brought a bowl with my crystalline glaze blistering, and
one of a badly overfired bowl from the last month's kiln disaster.
It was interesting to me to learn people's
glazing habits. Several of them make a habit of double dipping
pots, which is likely to cause crawling as the coating of glaze is
thick and likely to crack in drying. Several others either spray
water on their pots before glazing, or dip them in water, which would
tend to cause them to get a less thick coating, but I'm not sure what
the purported advantage would be. One person brought an unevenly
brushed handpainted pot, which is the hardest and slowest way to glaze
a pot. For myself, I only double glaze where one glaze overlaps
another, usually over a small area of the pot. And in those
areas, I do sometimes get crawling. Anyway, people do what they
do, and I'm not sure anyone was likely to change their practices from
the discussion, but it was fun.
Although it was rainy and cold, I spent my whole work day cleaning
pottery. The pots outside particularly get dusty over time, and
I've been building up a supply of clean pots that need to be integrated
with them. Boring but essential work... It's paricularly
tedious knowing they will all get dirty again in another month or so,
before many people have even looked at them. That's life...
March 15 I
let the chickens out today, but I regret it, since they found the bed
we'd planted peas in. I don't think they ate many, but they like
to scratch... That's it for chicken freedom till late summer.
I'm mostly abandoning the pottery for finishing work on the cabin
currently. The weather is extremely cordial for working outsice.
I moved the saws out under an awning on the back porch, to reduce
the dust, which I'm allergic to.
So I only abandoned pottery work for one day. I glazed a couple
kilnloads today, and had to work on taxes.... Nicest day yet, but I'm inside mostly...
Marches on-- we saw our first Spring Beauties in the yard yesterday,
and buttercups last weekend (S.Beauty photo is from my Wildflowers
and wildlife of Idaho). For some reason a spring video I made a couple years ago has gained popularity on Youtube--probably it's the mating call of the Chickadee
that did it. Anyway, Youtube contacted me today suggesting I try to
make money from related ads so I finally decided to try their
AdSense program--I'll report if I ever actually make any money
I had to change the elements on the hot water tank in our home today.
That's actually a fairly easy operation, particularly since the
hardware loaned me the special wrench needed to loosen the elements.
Aside from that and pottery work, I made some coat and towel
racks for the blue cabin. It's approaching the point where the
floor can be sanded and varnished. I've been staying out of any
dusty work since it's affected my lungs so significantly.
Also, I worked on setting up the Adsense account. I got to a
place where it gave me two choices and no way to choose one, so after
cogitating a while I tried Internet Explorer instead of Firefox, and
there were some pull down menus visible on the one browser that weren't
on the other.
March 19 Politicians ought to be
like NASCAR drivers--wear suits with their sponsors' names on them,
maybe proportional in size to the amount the corporations give them in
I couldn't stay away any longer from work on the cabin. I put up
cedar in the bathroom, and started a set of window protectors (to
protect window from a 2 year old that likes to throw things). I
worked just a bit too long--missed the Gonzaga NCAA basketball
game--glad they're moving on...
Nearly 60 degrees here today. I've been working in the pottery on
some larger orders lately--one of them will take about a week of work
to finish. Meanwhile we're sanding the floors in the lake view cabin.
Since I can watch any of the college NCAA playoffs at ncaa.com, I got
to see parts of the Kansas game and UWashington today. But
Gonzaga's next happens during church tomorrow...
March 22 Still
sanding on the floor... I made an outside pen for the chickens
today, a step towards reclaiming the greenhouse for seedlings.
They found a way to escape the pen and wander the yard...
We have a book club tonight, discussing Have a Little Faith by Mitch
Albom. It's a nonfiction mystery about what a Rabbi, a
sportswriter, and an exjunkie pastor had in common. I had mixed
feelings about it...
March 25 After
a day of varnishing with oil-based polyurethane, I found out my lungs
don't like that any better than sawdust, so others are helping finish
the finishing. I worked today on glazing pots, and planted the
greenhouse with spinach, cucumbers, pole beans, and the potted plants
like tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower. I also made a batch of
caramels after supper for the workers (and myself).
I saw two mice under the bird feeder today. It caused me to reflect on
the health care debacle. The problem with the bird feeder is we
just fill it up every time it empties, which encourages the birds, but
also results in a lot of spilled good feed. This is good for the
ground feeding birds, but it's wasteful and leaves it wide open for the
mice to come in. In the same way, the health insurance system,
with no incentive or capability to control expenditures, and no limit
on raising premiums, has created a profit hog with lots of mice
nibbling in the bushes. Of course, with the birds I can take the
feeder down for the summer and reestablish a balance before the mice
take over. That's not possible with health care.
I worked on edging one long side of the garden today--digging out the
quack grass, which spreads by underground runners.
The chickens are finally checking in, with all of them laying an egg on
some days. They're staying contained in the coop as well.
We want to add a few chicks after Easter to liven up the coop and
eventually supplant the older hens, who we got the year I started this
blog (photo from 2007)...
March 27 We
had a college aged godchild visit overnight with 3 friends--fixed them
homemade donuts for breakfast. They were all very bright
impressive young people. Two of them had gone to the Galapagos
and Ecuador for January on a study program, one of them spent first
semester in New Zealand. It's amazing how global most young
people are today--most of my young relatives have done a great deal of
globe hopping. The moon is rapidly advancing
towards full. This coming full moon is worth noting, as it is the
first full moon after the vernal equinox, making the following Sunday
Easter, by definition.
Today the wind blew 40 miles an hour, after a night of 2 inches
of rain (during which our transformer blew out with a bang, taking out
electricity for a small group of homes in our neighborhood).
Meanwhile we've been working like crazy on the cabin--bought a
used stove off Craigslist yesterday--mixed 200 lbs of mortar with
rubber gloves to grout in some flat rocks in the bathroom.
I had major headaches dealing with the plumbing. The water was
turned on for the first time in a year and a half this morning, and I'd
done a bunch of plumbing, which tends to introduce new issues. So
as soon as I'd turn on a faucet, it would run for a minute, then
trickle out. I'd taken out the aerators, but there were big
chunks of rust clogging up the supply lines. In spite of all the
travails, it should be photogenic in a day or so, which is good,
because the people are coming to live in it on Thursday.
a picture of a flicker that's been feeding on the suet cakes Mom gave
me for Christmas... I assume it's a red shafted flicker.
Did I mention we often see two mice feeding at our bird feeder now?
We're planning to move it farther away from the house, so the
mice won't be so housey. This was another big
day for the blue cabin--I installed the bathroom sink and enclosure,
the toilet. a couple doors, and a bunch of baseboard. I recycled a
Formica countertop (we got with the cabin) into a closet shelf and some
open shelves for the kitchen. That reminded me of how my father
always liked to recycle materials in the wood items he would make.
The last major project is to make some flooring out of pine to
cover a difficult area that had a lot of liquid nails glue on it.
That will hopefully get done tomorrow.
Books read and other media of note
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett A riveting novel that lurches through perceptual changes as the Continental detective tries to clean up a corrupt Montana town. The Affinity Bridge by George Mann Steam
powered SF, or alternate history. The closest I've seen to this
is the historical fantasies of Joan Aiken. In this case, a
Victorian Britain with steam powered road trains and zeppelins and
mechanical monsters. Hammett by Joe Gores Gores
gets the feel of seamy 20's San Francisco, and captures the writer that
changed the detective novel. With historical fiction you always
wonder where the line is--after the curtain is down Gores separates
fact and fiction. This is probably the best written Gores novel
I've read, but it's not for the faint of heart. Gone, No Forwarding by Joe Gores A
nice thing about the DKA, skip tracer novels is that they are an
ensemble group of sleuths. The plots are also fairly complicated,
and the solution contrived. There are also a lot of legal details
in this one that probably make more sense to more worldly people than
I. Still, I enjoy the ride... The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn. Fun
on the interstellar train system continues. The third lynx is a
McGuffin--Hitchcock's term for what everybody wants, like the Maltese
The Big Burn by
Timothy Egan. The history of the beginnings of the American
conservation movement, through the lense of the huge forest fire of
1910, and the fledgling Forest Service that tried to fight it, and
Teddy Roosevelt's and Gifford Pinchot's efforts to preserve our
national heritage lands. Fine reading... Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
These aren't the kind of vampires the teenage girls rave
over--lots of nastiness and evil fighting by the generally down but
never out Harry Dresden.