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Brad's Blog

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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.

I 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.

March 3
    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 dog attacks.

March 4
    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...

March 5
    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...

March 6
    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.

March 9
    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.

March 10
    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.

March 11
    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.

March 13
   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.  

March 16
    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...

March 17

Spring 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 from it.

March 18
    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 contributions...
    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...

March 20
    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.

 March 26


    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.

March 29
    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.

March 30
flicker
Here's 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 Falcon.

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.




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