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Brad's Blog

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   March 1
    Most people in the U.S. would say March was coming in like not only a lion but an arctic mountain lion (if there is such a thing).  Though if the forecast holds, it will go from a high of 15 today to 45 on Tuesday, with some snow and flooding in between.
    Last night we took the kids to see 70 kids (including some they know from the Christian Youth Theater group) perform Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-Coat.  I'm not sure if they got the story out of all the trappings and big production numbers, but they were entertained.  
    Today I went with a couple CAGNI clayworking friends to the annual kids carnival fundraiser for Art on the Edge, which serves local displaced people with a hankering to do art.  We doled out clay to several hundred children, often 20 working at a time at our two tables.  They took home stuff that they can paint, break, and eventually dispose of.   "Our" kids also came for the last hour or so, and are doing gymnastics at an open gym this evening.  (We like to keep them occupied.)

March 4
    We had over a foot of snow from several days of nearly continuous snow, and the forecast from a few days ago is holding, so we'll probably be routing water around  one of our garages within a day or two.  Parts of I-90 are closed both east and west of Spokane from avalanche danger.  
    Mostly we've pushed the snow to the side of the driveways and walkways manually, but the snow had added up to where I decided to use a donated snowblower for the second or third time.  When I started the snow was fluffy and went through beautifully.   In a few minutes though, the temperature had risen enough to make the snow sticky, and stick in the throat of the snowblower every couple feet.  If my back is doing well, I prefer hand shovelling, but I'll probably concede to the machine on some dry snow occasions...

March 7

When this blog started, these chicks were one of the topics in April, 2005.  They've lived in about 5 different coops over the years, and there might be one Buff Orpington left, but  the last Rhode Island Red died today.  It lived about 8 years longer than 99 per cent of chickens...
    I've been reading chapter books to the kids, including Robert McCloskey's Homer Price and Centerburg Tales to the older one, and Astrid Lindgren's Emil's Pranks to the younger, who tend to get in similar scrapes with authority.  I'm also listening to a Louis Lamour western while working in the pottery--westerns are easier than a lot of fiction to listen to since there aren't usually many characters to keep track of.  Then in the wee hours of the morning I'm reading a recent Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel (guilty pleasure).   It's a good thing my mind easily compartmentalizes.
    The weather is up near 50 every day--time to start pruning our fruit trees.  There's some bare ground in back of the pottery--that's probably what attracted 4 spruce grouse there the other day.  We don't usually see them in town.
   
March 12
The kids got their chance on a real stage last night, tap dancing, and acting, the showcase at the end of 10 weeks of drama classes.  They did well.
A mountain chickadee pair are cleaning out one of our nesting boxes, so we'll hopefully have them nesting this year--another sign of Spring beyond the days in the 50's.  We saw the first robins on a walk a couple days ago.  There are still heaps of snow up to 6 feet high in the parking lots around town, and a frozen deep layer has our driveway undriveable mush, but this is preferable to fresh snow and deep freeze.

March 14


I put the game  camera up on the raccoon trail for a few nights.  About half the photos were cats, the rest raccoons.  Infrared images of raccoons have the eyes glowing white, so I photoshopped in some dark pupils to make this pair look slightly less strange.

March 16
Although rain and wind were predicted, we decided to hike to a favorite small waterfall near Sullivan Lake.  It is early to hike in that area, so a lot of it was hiking on snow, but it had been compacted, only dangerous when it compacted to ice....  Because of the snow, there were good tracks to admire as we walked.

This one gave us "paws."  I was pretty sure from the lack of toe nail prints this was a cougar track (it's next to my boot for size comparison).  It was headed down the way we came, possibly following a deer.


This is Elk Creek Falls, after about a 45 minute walk, mostly up hill.


When I noticed this growing on the bark of bush, I thought, "This is a bryophyte."  Then I wondered what a bryophyte really was, and if a botanist along for the walk would chuckle condescendingly at me for my wild guesses.  So just now I looked it up,   and it's a catch-all term for plants that lack vascular tissue like lichens and mosses and other things that (in my humble opinion) don't closely resemble this plant.  The texture of the leaves was fascinating, lacking the vascular structure that defines most tree leaves.


When we parked for our hike, we heard water rushing below, from the Mill Pond dam (different from the Spirit Lake Mill Pond, but with a similar derivation).  Both this Mill Pond and a dam on Sullivan Lake were added around 1909 to create electricity for a cement plant in nearby Metalline Falls.   It included building two miles of elevated waterways out of 2 million board feet of cedar.  Now the cement plant and the sluiceway are gone, and this dam is scheduled to be removed in a few years, hopefully resulting in a more natural waterfall...


This is the view of Sullivan Lake from a friend's dock.  We were surprised to see the lake was still frozen.


Since we were enjoying falls, we took the road through Metalline Falls to see Sweet Creek Falls at a rest area.  The photos were disappointing--lovely falls, just recently improved access.  
Still the rain and wind never came (nor the cougar) so we had a fine day in the woods.

March 18
We're trying to walk daily...  Yesterday some of the last floating ice was blowing in toward shore when we were down at the lake.  It was only about a quarter inch thick, but it looked pretty as it pushed up onto the shore off in the distance.  So we worked our way through the bushes to observe it up close and the wind had blown it offshore again.
    Today the ice was nearly all gone, except in a few protected coves.  So we walked along game trails up the ridge, and looked for a place to put the game camera so we might see deer or moose instead of raccoons.  The real trick is being able to re-locate the camoflaged camera after a few days.   Currently I'm optimistic.
    Having added two new glazes recently, it's taking longer before I need to mix a batch of glaze (more buckets to empty).  Unfortunately a lot of them got low at once, so I mixed 3    4 gallon batches of glaze yesterday.  I also wore out my second fine glaze sieve in a couple weeks.   Normally they last years, and it was certainly time for one to fail.  I happened to have a used backup, and that one wore out quickly as well.  I added a lot of glaze materials to the shopping list as I was measuring glazes as well...
   Several days ago we had the first thunder storm of the year, a sure presage of Spring...

March 21
    For the second time in a week, we saw over 100 deer at sunset. The first time was driving home from Sullivan Lake.  The second time was last night, driving over the Blanchard pass, counting bunches of 8-10 deer in the alfalfa fields, where they're finding more to eat than in the woods.  We also saw lots of turkeys.  But the last herd of deer we saw seemed to have horses in the background.  It was getting dark, but it soon became clear it was elk--I counted 80.  This was about 6 miles from Spirit Lake--we never see elk around here--just moose and deer. 
    The purpose of the trip was to watch the Gonzaga mens basketball tournament game with relatives.  They led throughout the game, which was less exciting than a more even game, but easier on the heart...

March 23
Saturday I played music for the bluegrass showcase.  I've seen Arvid Lundin many times over the years, but his current Deep Roots lineup should be called Hot Roots, as they played Irish and oldtime music in an extremely competent and lively manner...  Aside from the usual frustration of singers that mostly ought to know better standing 3 feet from the mic, doing sound for the program went off well...  Here's the link to the March 2014 Music Showcase photos
On Sunday we stopped at Bear Lake County Park north of Spokane and walked around the small lake there--a paved walkway thus pretty bland for our taste.  The snow is clear except up by Priest Lake but spring grass and flowers have yet to emerge, so it's still a waiting time, except for the birds that are singing in Spring....

March 24

We saw the first buttercup of Spring, blooming on the west facing hill on our cabin property...   It was getting dark or I might have taken a photo, or not, since they're all about the same and not that photogenic.It looked just like this one from my wildflowers page...

March 25
Today we saw the first grass widows

This is an old photo from Little Canyon near Nezperce Idaho around 10 years ago...
I've taken the game camera out and returned with no photos--dead battery.  So it's out again with fresh...

March 26
    I got out the seedling planters and filled them with dirt today.  I also planted some of the everbearing raspberry plants we salvaged from the Fireside Lodge site, which is now scraped bare, ready for Spring construction.  While getting dirt to refill the greenhouse bed, I noticed some spinach volunteers and transplanted them to the green house.  Looking back at last year,  Spring is about on the same schedule as then, as far as wildflowers and greenhouse planting.

March 29
    I positioned the game camera on a deer trail, and got 130 photos, mostly of parts of deer in the dark...

Most of the deer that came by checked out the camera, but didn't seem bothered by it (their tails stayed down).  If I were taking the photo of something else, this would be a photobomb...


It's a little harder to locate a moose or coyote or cougar trail...
I got the garden seedlings started the day before yesterday.  It rained enough yesterday to fill the rain barrel we set by the greenhouse to capture water for watering...  There are still remnants of snowpiles where the plows have accumulated the snow, but it's clearly into Spring.

March 30
The family that has been staying with us decided to move on in the next couple weeks, so today was their last day at our little church at Priest Lake.  After the service one of the members suggested they all get baptized, and they agreed (although it took a bit for them to adjust to the idea, including one daughter who responded "no" when asked in the liturgy if she wanted to be baptized).  
Some snow was brought in to add to the water in the font...  One of the girls was concerned about getting her new Easter dress wet.  A hand towel from the kitchen was requisitioned.  Several of them played in the baptismal font during the baptismal service, or wiggled the fringe on the altar parament.    Time will tell if it was a meaningful event for them...  I've certainly never witnessed a similar baptism.  The Spirit blows where it wills...
    In the afternoon we hung out on the beach at Priest Lake, where the ice hasn't gone out yet, and it was overcast, but a few sunbreaks made it pleasant for walking and throwing rocks in the water.


Books read and other media of note:
The Huckleberry Murders by Patrick F McManus  I would enjoy these even if they weren't set in mythical North Idaho.  The writing seems heavy handed in a light farcical way, with clues seemingly laid out straightforwardly, but it remains a palpable mystery in addition to a Mayberry style comedy...  This would not be my best encapsulation...

Robert Parker's Bull River by Robert Knott 
I listened to the audio version and was pretty uncomfortable with the "Mexican" accent and stereotypical  reference the Hispanic character repeatedly makes to himself  (does anyone always refer to himself only by his first name?).  Aside from that it was a fair mystery in addition to a post mortem Cole and Hitch story.

Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich.  Still no car explosions.  All though it's more of the same formula of amorous ambiguity, humorous life failures, and a touch of murder mystery, I enjoy it...  The formula worked for PG Wodehouse, minus the murder mysteries.

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett.  
Although I've read the entire Discworld series, I'd forgotten the plot for this one, understandable since it's full of Uberwald court intrigues, based on the delightfully consistent rules that govern Discworld's physics and denizens.  Many are the phrases I'd be tempted to read outloud, except they seldom have meaning except in Discworld.

Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson.
Continues the world and characters of his first two novels.  After three of these, I start longing for the simpler worlds of Andre Norton where a youth with a small furry telepath assisted by a pacificist ancient lizard confront the mysteries of the universe.  But there's room for both of these authors...

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Although it reads like an historical novel now, it's still funny, and kids still worship superheroes like the Super Duper.

Explosive Eighteen.
by Janet Evanovich.  Entertaining as always, even if none of Stephanie's cars blew up.   Several entertaining mysteries mixed in with the laughs, including what exactly did happen in Hawaii.

Count Zero by William Gibson  
Like Neuromancer, this novel starts with disorientingly different storylines, with no sense of convergence until late in the novel.  This makes
for work for the reader, so it's not the easiest science fiction to encounter, but it's worth it...

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