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October 4, 2011

fall maple leaves
    I went back to Minnesota for a family wedding.   In my spare time I walked around and enjoyed the Fall colors, which they take seriously enough to have a colorful map guide to the Fall colors on their tv weather programs.   We have maples around here, but not the oaks which turn the pretty red color.  I was too early for the oaks, but enjoyed the maples...  And here's another one from Carleton at years past:

The weather was excellent, and the wedding went well, but I proved a less than professional photographer at the wedding when I forgot my spare camera battery and the power died before the wedding started...  Ahh, well, I prefer nature photography anyway...

October 5
    I had a bisque kiln load waiting to be glazed when I got home, and since I'm enthused about the lilac/purple test I came up with 4 related variations (plus the original as a control) , and mixed them this morning.  Then I tried all the combinations, up to 3 at once, so I got 24 glaze tests, which I should get to see tomorrow.  From the other set of tests I know this purple color is tempermental--it only showed up on the one test, none of the hybrids, so it's possible most of them will be failures.
    It sprinkled and was cool all day today.  When I pulled a couple carrots for supper the moisture had only penetrated the very top layer of the ground...  
    The compacting on the road work on Maine St. was shaking the whole pottery  building enough that the pots were jingling sometimes--put me in mind of an earthquake (which I've fortunately never experienced).  The rumor is they're ahead of schedule (the Nov. 1st due date).
   

October 6
    My prediction on the tiles was dead wrong--they all came out purple, and pretty much the same.  There were a couple that were smoother, which is what I was trying for.  This evening I was going to use my glaze program to make a bigger batch.  I took a last look at the limit analysis of the glaze, and realized that there was no alumina in the glaze.  Most glazes consist of silica (to make glass), a flux (to help it melt), and alumina (for hardness and to help it adhere when applied).   So these glazes looked good, but I'm going to do one more set to see if I can add some alumina (clay). One source I checked online said that Cobalt without alumina turns pink, so it could be the glaze has to be alumina free to get the purple shade.  The next kiln firing should tell.
     I got asked today when we pick our tomatoes.  The answer I gave is "before the hard frost."  We haven't had a hard frost yet, but after some consultation we decided to pick the tomatoes today anyway, due to the wet weather and the way our tomatoes just lay on the ground, susceptible to slugs and other pests like our old hen.  Perhaps next year we'll finally buy some tomato cages to keep them higher...
    This time feels very transitional to winter, and the garden is rapidly heading towards closure, but there is still broccoli, cabbage, corn, potatoes, and  carrots to eat fresh, as well as the first apples and pears.  We had broccoli quiche and apple pie for supper, enjoying the oven heat (and some wood stove heat as well, with the highs in the lower 50's these days...

October 7
    I threw about 90 pots today, which will keep me busy tomorrow. I also put what is hopefully the last purple glaze test in a kiln that will empty tomorrow as well.
    When I looked out at the street construction this morning, half of the curbing had gone in without my noticing.  So I walked to the Post Office this noon and saw the big machine that digs a trench for the curb footing, then squeezes the concrete through an L shaped chute to make the curb without any forms.  For curves a piece of plastic pipe bent to shape was used to show the machine where to go.  As another lollygagger remarked to me, "that machine put a lot of cement masons out of work..."  That is a problem of our age--particularly as robots take over more assembly line work.  I enjoyed watching the Jetsons as a child--with Robot maid Rosy and George just having one button to push at work.  Unfortunately most SF portrayed robots as personal servants, when their real (and displacing) role is in the general labor pool.   Watson the computer has been hired to help insurance companies determine most cost effective treatment strategies.   It won't be long before something like it replaces most diagnostic physicians as well.  


October 8
    Besides trimming the 90 pots of yesterday, I mixed a 5 kilogram batch of the new purple glaze, and tried some decoration variations on mugs which I'll see either Sunday night or Monday.   Adding a glaze is momentous--I had to demote one of my oldest glazes to a bottom shelf to make room for the new one.  The bucket I used for it had been used for a yellow crystalline glaze which got so troublesome I had to quit it.  Currently the blue crystalline is also acting up by overfiring too easily so I plan on doing some tests with it next...
    In the afternoon we dug our potatoes--9 fruit boxes.  After supper we canned 14 quarts of pears from our trees.  So it was a long day...

October 9
Here are some mugs--the purple doesn't show as well in digital photos, and I was trying variations with my other glazes to see what would make a good pattern:

Both the blue and black glazes work well with it, although the black was too overpowering on the left...  I typically use white glazes stripes for a lighter version of the same glaze, but in this instance I think the second from the left (with crystalline blue stripes) looks better than the next one with white stripes.  Anyway, it's something new to play with...

Oct. 10
    It rained drizzly today, while the new streetlight base was installed in front of the shop, and they worked on getting the street smooth and compacted enough for paving. All of Maine St. will rejoice when the project is finished, hopefully by the end of the month.
    I've been working on orders again--one pot order will inspire me to make a bunch of whatevers, including lamp bases and utensil holders today.  
    It's been cool enough that I had to start heating the pottery to get the pots dried, and a morning fire in the house is needed to keep the place comfortable.
    
October 11
    This afternoon I'd decided to go to Spokane for a musical jam.   We're trying to finish a few remodeling projects at our house, so lately I've been monitoring the "materials" section of Craigslist for various doors, windows, and odds and ends.  So to make the 90 mile round trip more worthwhile, I went to a used lumber yard and a wood flooring shop and got a door and some flooring I'd seen advertised on Craigslist.  Unfortunately, with all the planning for the other things I was shopping for, I forgot my musical instrument at home, so just had to come home after shopping.  I guess it could have been worse--forgotten the instrument with no other purpose for the trip...

October 12
    I heard a quote from China yesterday on NPR, from a young woman  on  a reality show, about materialism in dating: "I'd rather cry in a BMW car than laugh on the backseat of a bicycle,"    Curiously, on Googling to get the quote right, I saw the article in Time Magazine that cited it is a year old.  I guess news sometimes travels slowly to NPR.  Anyway, the sentiment expressed is nothing new--consider Daisy Belle...

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2000558,00.html#ixzz1afaK4VEs
 
October 14
    One of the main problems about pottery supplies is that they are heavy.  There's no local clay manufacturer, so it's either pay exhorbitant rates for a middle man, or go to Seattle.  Fortunately we have good friends with a large truck, and they just came through, picking up 3000 lbs of pottery supplies.  Besides all of us helping to move the clay to the pottery workshop, later today I packed pots and set up for a craft fair this weekend at Ferris HS in Spokane.  My back is feeling a bit beat up, but there's a sense of accomplishment.  
    We also walked around the Millpond with our friends, and saw some of the large geese flocks migrating...
    We had light frost again yesterday, but none this morning.  The leftovers in the garden, and even a couple young prune trees we just transplanted, aer getting eaten by deer...   I did get some 8 ft. fence posts to try to improve our deer protection next Spring...

October 15
    Fall art and craft shows are a hard way to make a living, particularly with heavy stuff like pottery.  I was at a large one at the affluent South Hill side of Spokane, one of 140 vendors.  I'm sure I did relatively well (there were extenuating circumstances such as a huge new school construction project which ate up much of the available parking), but it's a long slow haul getting through the day...
    But afterwards I went to the opening bluegrass showcase of the year (to listen), and had an enjoyable evening of good local entertainment.

October 17
mushrooms at Priest Lake Idaho
We went for a long walk along the upper Lakeside trail yesterday at Priest Lake, and the mushrooms were great again, as they were last year.  So I pasted a collage of them on a photo of the blue sky day we had at the lake.   The less showy white ones (just above this text) looked like they were made of melted candlewax.  Some of the others were 6-8 inches across.  The diversity of that area compared to our own is humbling.  Although we were walking in grizzly bear habitat, we only saw a squirrel and a few ducks...


Here's the photo from last year--not too many repeats:
Mushrooms at Priest Lake Idaho

Oct. 18
    Since we've made the decision to stay at the pottery house this winter (to save on shoveling and heating), there is extra work to make the transition.  Today, this included building another hen house.  I do remember saying some time ago about how many hen houses we've built since we got the chicks in the first year of the Blog--2005.  At this point I've lost count.  When the chicks were first here, their coop looked like this:


Then as they grew, like this:


and this:


and this one on wheels:
 
I know there's no picture of the one attached to the greenhouse (the portable one settled in place) we're moving them out of for the winter, and probably a few other variations as well.
I'll probably take a picture of the latest model when it gets done.  The location is exactly where they started as little chicks:

Of the six originals-we're down to four, plus the 5 hens and a rooster we added this Spring.  

October 19
    The day felt rather momentous.  I made a lot of honey pots and bowls in the pottery this morning.  Then in the afternoon I planned to finish one of the two chicken coops under construction.  Just as I started on that, I learned that we'd be getting 4 cords of wood in a few minutes, so I ended up spending over an hour moving wood.  The four cords looked more like 3 to me, but the price was low enough that I didn't mind too much, and the providers helped stack the wood, which seldom happens.   So then I got back to work on the chicken house, which finished this evening.   The 3 hens are moved into it and will probably be adjusted by the morning.  Then the plan is to enlargen the coop they were in so the 5 hens and rooster will not feel too confined (and therefore peckish).   We'll also move the one special hen down to the pottery so she can hobble around freely...  We'll then have all our "eggs" in one basket....
    Both the wood and the hen quarters are preparations for winter.  The cooler nights and days are pressing on us with final food chores (such as the carrots and apples still to be harvested),  winterizing projects, and other remodeling which will involve leaving the house wide open (such as installing a new door and window).  And it is this preparation for winter, as for a long battle, that makes this day of 4 cords of wood seem momentous.
    I also got rid of a futon couch we'd acquired for free several years ago at the closing of a yard sale.  It was an ad in the "free" category of Craigslist that brought someone immediately from Cheney Washington to get it (about 60 miles from here).  It was also an ad from Craigslist that yielded the firewood from someone right here in Spirit Lake.  Hard not to like Craigslist...   For me it's mostly supplanted Ebay, which I was fond of for a few years.  Amazon.com also has replaced Ebay, since they list used items as well, and generally at the same price as "buy it now" prices on Ebay.

October 20
We were working on Coop 2 today when we heard a sound like a squeeky bicycle and a hawk came down with another screeching bird in its talons, landing about half a block away.  It was late in the day and cloudy, so the pictures came out grainy, but you can see the sharp upturned beak of the soon-to-be supper, and the hawk deciding if I were a threat.  After the photo the hawk flew to the top of a telephone pole to finish eating...
hawk with bird
Another afternoon and the chicken palaces should be done for a while...

October 22.
    Well, the coop's not totally done, but we moved the chickens in today, in the rain.  A funny thing about that rain--we'd had showers around noon, then the sky cleared and it seemed the rains were over.  As we went for a walk near sunset, we remarked on how nice it was now, with just a few poofy clouds.  We walked up on the ridge, and as we started back, I saw the first flash of lightning, not even sure that's what it was.  When the thunder came after 20 seconds, that confirmed it.  Then as we walked, we tried to look for the lightning flashes while making a point of getting off the exposed ridge.  The storm quickly moved in, just one dark cloud, with mostly cloud-to-cloud lightning, one flash every minute.  It was a very nice little thunderstorm, excluding the rain, which we were totally unprepared for, and which got us soaked on the walk home.   Since we were wet anyway, we decided to move the chickens before changing into dry clothes.  So now all our chickens (except the one special one) are at the pottery, where we have no near neighbors who might object to our rooster (except me, perhaps, early in the morning).

Oct. 24
    Although we've had light frosts, our pole beans and dahlias have not yet succumbed.  But with a predicted low the next two nights of 23 F,  today was the day to gear up for the end of the season.  Picking apples was the first priority.  For the record, there were 10 boxes of red delicious, 5 of golden delicious, and one or two boxes of other fall apples (in addition to 3-4 boxes of summer apples earlier picked).  Being organically grown, probably 40 % of the apples had codling moth holes, but previous experience has shown that they still store well, and usually half the apple or more is still usable.  We've already been cutting them up to cook with oatmeal for breakfast, although fresh pears are still available as well.     The only things left to harvest are the carrots, which will hopefully handle this cold snap without too much damage...

Oct. 25
    I got the final chicken coop 95% done today, with a glassed in enclosure where the nesting box and roost are so they can enjoy any sunshine we have this winter.  There is a big door to the inner enclosure for me to enter by, and a little one always open just for the chickens.  But I was worried that, chickens not being particularly bright, they might not notice their door and roost outside for the night.  So I went out with a flashlight and found all the hens in the enclosure, but the rooster roosting on top of the outer fence (where it could easily "fly the coop" from).  I'm not sure if he was too stupid, or if it was some rooster protective location theory known only to roosters...  I just hope he figures out to fly back in to the coop in the morning.

Oct. 28
fall tamaracks
A friend of ours expressed an interest in seeing the Roman Nose lakes, but we couldn't do it till this last Wednesday, and the weather had turned to hovering within 10 degrees of freezing.  So we dressed fairly warmly, and drove up there, encountering snow on the road for the last 20 minutes of the drive.   Part of our goal was to see the tamaracks (larches) when they turn golden before losing their needles, which we saw plenty of as the photo shows.  Besides being lovely, tamarack is the premium firewood of the area.  With the subfreezing temperatures and the trail partially coated in ice, we didn't make it to any but the first of the lakes, which was nearly covered with ice.  
    After we got back near Bonners Ferry, we drove the auto loop through the national wildlife refuge (a misnomer, since they allow hunting on 40% of it).  We saw a roughlegged hawk, some coots,  and 4 otters, but the lighting was poor, as were the resulting photos, except maybe this bald eagle:
bald eagle perching
    Yesterday I made a trip to Spokane to practice music, and to make the trip worthwhile I also picked up our old Craftsman push lawnmower, in for sharpening, and most of a birch tree donated by our friend who'd gone on the walk with us.  I also walked around Riverpark square at sunset, and took a short video of a  Mallard pursuing a wily acorn
.
    Meanwhile I glazed two bisque loads of pottery yesterday, and started thowing again to have a good supply of pots for the two weekends following this one, which should be busy selling pots.

Oct. 29
    With nights getting down in the lower 20's, it was time to dig most of our carrots.  We had so many last year that this year I planted only two rows.  I dug about 3/4 of them, and got a full feed bag of carrots that look like you'd get them from a store, and most of a bag of multirooted, crooked, and otherwise weird "number 2's."
    Also, we noticed the other day that there were some piles of feathers in places in our yard where our one special hen didn't usually go, and we think it signs of "fowl" play.  Once the leaves dropped from our grape arbor she was in plain sight when roosting, and we expect something got her. She could barely walk any more--a poster chicken for the ones the predators are supposed to cull out of the flock...  Because of her tameness I was thinking she was the best chicken we ever had.  (Then the "wag" part of my nature responds--"so how did it taste?")  Not that we would have eaten her, but something did...

October 30
dahlias
    It was a drizzly Sunday, but with colder weather soon in the forecast, it was time to dig the dahlias.  This photo was from earlier in October, when they stood taller than I in a huge mass in our garden.  Today they were withered fallen-over stalks.  They aren't frost hardy, so we dug up the root balls, which consisted of short stems and yam-like tubers radiating out in all directions.  Each clump is about the size of a Jack-o-lantern.  We put them in boxes and hauled them to the pottery packing room, where it's warm and dry from kiln firing heat.  When drier, they will be put in the root cellar until Spring.
Books read and other media of note
Now wait for last Year by Philip K Dick  Just when you think you know what Dick is writing about, the plot takes a twist and it's a whole new ballgame.  This fine novel combines domestic untranquillity, organ transplants, time shifting hallucinogens, and alternate universes fending off an alien invasion.  Yet it's not (as of this time) listed on the Dick Wikipedia page...  Tch Tch...

Doctor Bloodmoney by Philip K Dick
  This book seems an allegorical follow up to Dr. Strangelove (written in the same period).  Nuclear armageddon was only a side plot device for the interesting mutations that might develop among the remaining survivors of the blast.

Fletch and the Widow Bradley by Gregory McDonald.
 The mystery solving investigative reporter was given a new hip interpretation in this series from the last century, which I find worth rereading whenever I've forgotten the plot, which is getting quicker with age...

Cold Wind by C. J. Box
  Taking the hottest trend in alternative energy, wind power, as a setting for another Wyoming game warden murder mystery, Box successfully keeps the reader off balance to the end.



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