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Brad's Blog

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Oct. 1
    Being the end of the financial quarter, I'm pleased to say that 3rd quarter sales were up 19% from last year (too bad I'm not a corporation so you could buy stock :-)  ...)  I think the two outlets I've added were a factor, plus the great weather we had in August and September.  In fact weather is always a major factor for a vacation area located business, particularly where the display is out in the ambient conditions...   It's possible the new kilns contributed a lot also, since I was able to replace a lot of sold pottery, making it available for other buyers. The weather is still good for a day or so (frost expected again tomorrow night), but people are certainly closing their cabins, and sales have slowed a lot in the last week.  So the coming of October also marks the exit of my skiing son back to his life in Summit County, Colorado...

Oct. 2
    With a cold north wind heralding the predicted killing frost later in the week, we started harvest in earnest today--tomatoes, grapes, cucumbers, zuccini...   We got almost 3 boxes of grapes, lots of tomatoes (many just covered in the garden for now.)  Yesterday I dug one hill of potatoes for our supper.  There were two good sized potatoes sitting out on top, all green.  Usually you only get about 5 potatoes per hill.  This hill proved to have potatoes underneath pushing the top ones out, and I got about 5 lbs of potatoes from the one hill...  A friend of ours in the Silver Valley dug all his potatoes in early September--we put it off till rain or cold forces us to dig ours, assuming they keep best that way.
     We had our first fire in the woodstove today--I don't think we had one at our usual cool slump around the 4th of July.


Oct. 3
    There was a layer of ice on top of the plastic this morning, but the tomatoes were still in fine shape underneath.  I picked them all this afternoon and filled 6 boxes--probably 200 lbs total, mostly still green.  The next two nights are likely to be as cold or colder.  We also got  around 20 acorn squash and a half dozen pumpkins...

Oct. 4
They keep bumping down the predicted temperatures, so we dug the potatoes and dahlia tubers today.  We got around 175 lbs of spuds...  The dahlia tubers resemble skinny yams radiating out from the stalks--each big plant can fill a goodsized box.  We store them in our root cellar...

Oct. 5


Here'a picture from 2011's dahlias---they looked about the same this year, except in a row across the front of the garden.  Today I took 2 of the 3 boxes of grapes, mashed them with a potato masher, and filled a 4 gallon stainless steel pan and simmered them, with  a goal of making grape juice in the next couple days from them.  The chickens will like the leftovers--previously when they were loose they'd eat most of the grapes...
    We're getting into serious negotiations on a 4 wheel drive pickup--I took it to our mechanic for an assessment, which found a few things wrong that the owner hadn't...  It all started noticing a nice black pickup for sale between our house and the library...  
    So I'll tell some pickup stories over the next few days.  Our first pickup had rust holes in the floor so large that the wind blew in so that it wouldn't heat well in winter.  So we drove it from Minnesota to Portland in January with 4 of us in the bench seat, cold in spite of sleeping bags wrapped around us.  We stopped at a rest area in North Dakota, and tried to use the hot air hand dryers to warm up, which just led to a grumpy caretaker telling us to cut it out...  After taking some of the people to Portland, where we were going to start an urban Christian ministry house, we stopped back in Spokane, where we were lured by the cheap price of firewood into buying a load to bring back to Minnesota.  Coming down from the Homestake continental divide pass, our truck threw a rod, and we hitched a ride from local ranchers to Whitehall, Montana, where we gave the truck and wood to a gas station owner in exchange for his towing it off the freeway (we figured we'd get charged with something for abandoning it there). Then we rode the bus back to our insufficiently wood heated cabin in Minnesota...

Oct. 6
    I ran out of clay, so I had to do the drive to Seattle to get some more.  (I took my camera but the scenic parts were all hazy from forest fires) .  I brought some of our cornucopia of excess produce to friends there, and brought back some of their excess produce.  That's like on the trains when you see identical lumber or autos headed one way on the east bound and the other on the west bound...  As I was getting the clay loaded, the guy loading it asked why I don't get it delivered, claiming it would cost less than driving over.  That kind of put a crimp in my experience--I'll check that out next time.  I used to get the clay delivered to Sandpoint for around $150 per pallet (up to 3000 lbs), but gave that up when my van with a trailer hitch and my trailer both expired on the same clay hauling trip.  If we do get that truck, it would make it feasible to pick up the clay in Sandpoint again, if there isn't a cheaper option available now...
    Going through the Columbia basin, I saw dump truck loads of potatoes and sweet corn leaving the fields, and semi loads of bins of apples on the freeway.  It really is the harvest time...
    On the way home, I stopped to check into getting a round neck resonator guitar (so I can have a guitar in Minnesota when I visit my family there). I got there towards store closing, and they only had a couple models, but I'm leaning towards a Gretsch G9200, which sounded bad at first, but proved to be tuned too low...  A resonator guitar makes the characteristic slide blues guitar sound, but also has a unique tone for regular fingerpicking, which I do a lot more of than slide playing.   I was surprised to see the Gretsch name still around--I had a friend who played one back in the 70's...
    A note of passing--two of our cats, Velcro and Stumpy (that we got when some acquaintances moved out of our area) have died in the last month of causes related to age--Velcro today.  So we're down to one cat (Moby, who's a handful, or maybe 4 handsful), and 7 chickens...

Oct. 9
    The weather is fluctuating between frost and nearly 70 daily, so lunch is on the screen porch...  We're starting to make some of our fall foods, like lefsa, zucchini bread, and gingerbread.  I got the raspberry bushes trimmed and thinned Monday.  The carrots and giant sunflowers are the only things left in the garden, besides a few blackberries destined not to ripen...
    The new kilns have a metal thermocouple sticking in the side, to determine when the kilns should shut off.  They stick in almost 2 inches, so it's easy to bump them with a kiln shelf.  So I bumped one today and the controller displayed "Fail"-- an editorial comment, no doubt.   So I ordered a couple new ones today--had a scare when I saw one in the online catalog listed for $180.  It turned out the part I needed was  $20.

Oct. 11
    I got the new thermocouple installed, and made what I hope is an improvement.  The sensor poked inside the kiln about 2 inches, and was often interfering with shelf placement, as well as sticking out so far it was easy to bonk with the shelf.  So I added a piece of soft firebrick with a hole drilled through it to fit the sensor as a spacer on the outside of the kiln, so now the sensor only sticks in about one inch, which is what the old kilnsitter used to do.
    We had our Clay Arts Guild meeting, working on details of our Christmas sale.  All artists and musician slots are filled.  I also delivered bowls we had made to Art on the Edge, which works with doing pottery and art with challenged adults and children.

Oct. 14
    This is the day the rains returned, after a record dry period dating back to early August.  It was widely touted in advance, so we got everything put in that might have suffered from the rain...
    I visited relatives in Spokane overnight to watch a few football games.  After 3 or 4 I was pretty well footballed out, particularly since all the teams I was rooting for lost...  I returned home in time to walk by the Mill Pond before the rain hit, which felt good after the sedentary sports session. While in town I purchased the resonator guitar, which is now waiting for me in Minneapolis.

Oct. 15
    Last weekend I had a new (to me) gallery from Wallace Idaho buy a bunch of pots wholesale, which is my preferred way to go, instead of waiting for consignment sales to trickle in.  It's called the 6th Street Gallery, a block from the Melodrama theater.  Wallace is the old mining town that converted to tourism (used to have the only stoplight on all of I-90 before the feds forced a bypass) , although there's still a few mines going in the area.   
    That cleared out a lot more pots, so I was back to throwing mode today...
    We got less than a quarter inch of rain yesterday, but there's hope for more tonight...

Oct. 16
    We got another half inch of rain, and truly impressive winds of 30-40 mph for most of the day today.  We went to the lake and the wind would pick up water off the lake in puffs of spray...  The temperature has still been warm enough to go without a fire, although it's been nice to have some residual kiln heat to warm up the workshop in the mornings...

Oct. 17
    I spent most of my work day glazing two kiln loads of pots.  
The wind stopped today, but it was cooler than yesterday...  In fact after writing about not having a fire last night I went home and built a fire, and also heated the pottery office with wood.   They're forecasting a chance of snow by the weekend...
 
Oct. 18
Although sales are definitely slipping due to the time of year, 
today was busy in sales and orders and making pots in response.  I got close to 100 pots thrown, which can happen at best twice per week, since there are a lot of other things to do with the pots besides throwing them. 
    This evening we picked pears from a tree growing at the edge of the road at the public access, because no one else ever bothers with them--mostly small and bruised.  We brought our picking ladder and got a couple boxes of pristine ones, several boxes of possibles, and several boxes we took just to add organic content to a new bed we started...  This bed was the result of replacing the triple sliding door--when I laid down on the grass the metal frame that held the doors, it was a nice sized rectangle for a flower bed, and being about 5 inches deep, will stop quack grass from entering the bed when it's dug in (probably in the spring).

Oct. 19
    Today I got asked to bring pots for the Coeur D'Alene Artwalk in November--at Seasons Restaurant. So of course I offered to play guitar too.  I've been curious to try doing the Artwalk for years, but haven't looked into it seriously.  Artwalk, as done locally, is local restaurants and galleries displaying one Friday evening per month to show off the local art talent, and offer stuff like (in the Seasons case) free martinis.  The only catch for me is that it's the night before the Fall Folk Festival, which is always very busy for me...
    It was time to sort the 6 boxes of tomatoes today... You can never tell which ones are going to rot, but you can tell when they start to ripen, so I sorted out the ripening and the already rotten  and left the others in their boxes for another couple weeks.

Oct. 23
    We were going for a hike Sunday, up the ridge, over and down, the four mile loop we just discovered this year.  The cell phone rang, and the truck we'd been negotiating about became a deal.  So Sunday night we bought it, and Monday I got it insured and licensed.  Then we went to relatives for a birthday party which included Monday Night Football and the last San Francisco Giants baseball final.  
    Last night they predicted 2-4 inches of snow, and temperatures of 21 for the next 3 nights.  They were wrong on the snow, but I still believed the cold was coming so I harvested most of our carrots today.  I picked them into 5 gallon buckets, and left a row for Spring use, but got 30 gallons, which was about 150 pounds of carrots.    The remaining row I planned to cover with plastic and then with some leaves we'd gotten last fall, which were in deteriorating plastic bags.  When I went to get the bags, I found that quack grass had permeated quite a few of them with their tough roots, that are strong enough to pierce  growing potatoes.  We like to get bags of leaves to use for mulch, but if I'd used these, the garden would have had a fresh infestation of quack grass.  But I was able to find enough unpolluted ones to cover the carrots.  Then I found out the weather forecast had been modified back to only light frost making all this unnecessary for now, but it's one more pre-winter task to tick off the list.
    After dealing with all the carrots, we decided to have a hot dog roast outside with the new carrots and potato chips.   As often seems to happen this time of year, it started sprinkling so we roasted them under umbrellas... The rain stopped as our hotdogs were ready and the stars came out above us, showing Cassiopeia...

Books read and other  media of note: 
Rapture of the Nerds by Corey Doctorow and Charles Stross.  I read this because I've enjoyed the challenging SF visions of Charles Stross, and was pleased to find the protagonist was a potter,  chosen by fate to save the human and machine world from intergalactic censure (anhilation).  The technology seems pretty far fetched, but I've read enough about technology to realize that the digital singularity is plausible, and much of the technology is just extended from current research...

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon.
 I remembered watching this on TV in the 60's, and got it as a book on CD to help me through public radio's pledge week. As usual, the book is quite a bit more than the movie, although a lot of the plot gibes well between the two. In spite of its now dated setting, it works well as a spy thriller...

Guilty Pleasures by Laurel K Hamilton
 Although I've enjoyed the Jim Butcher Dresden Files which were apparently inspired by the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, this beginning book of the series didn't make me want more--too many characters, too visceral, too little sense about what makes a good or bad vampire.  

The Third Girl by Agatha Christie
Poirot takes on the nefarious sixties with a surreal plot of an apparently crazy young woman who thinks she's murdered someone...

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
This book starts off feeling like an Italian movie from the 60's, and it soon becomes apparent why.  In a clever conceit, the making of the Movie Cleopatra and the tabloid love life of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton serve as a backdrop for the tragic love and loss story of some commoners.  It feels like great fiction, but the end's a bit cloying with all the tying up of loose ends, and I still think Citizen Vince is Walter's best work...

Q Road by Bonnie Jo Campbell (library book)  
This is a sequel to Once Upon a River, written 10 years previously, with enough minor discrepancies to bother a Star Wars fanatic but tolerable when you're willing to concede this is fiction...  This book is a slow moving train wreck of suburbia impinging on rural America,  with lives slowly imploding from their own issues like pumpkins rolling off the back of a pickup...

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
About half way through I looked at the back flap to see more about Stephen Baxter, and was not surprised to see that he wrote a sequel to H G Wells' The Time Machine, since this book had the same long meandering path through parallel earths that Wells took through time...  It was a wonderful coincidence to read it after The Cosmic Jackpot, that explains the possibility of infinite parallel universes which this novel riffs off of.  The characters were all a bit stiff, and I can posit a million better plots, but this one will do.

Cosmic Jackpot by Paul Davies  (hardback)
My nearly 90 year old mother read this first and slogged her way through the fairly technical explanations of why our universe is apparently geared for life (and intelligent life), and I was impressed by her enterprise.  Although the author carefully avoided equations, he has worked in the arcane and highly mathematical world of cosmology, and does his best to fairly present the competing theories of who are we, where do we come from, and where is the universe headed....

Castle Barebane by Joan Aiken  Although I've read nearly every Aiken book I could get my hands on, this one languished on our public library shelves till I bought it from the discards.  I'd tried it years ago, and it took patience this time to read my way through her attempt to create a Victorian romance novel, waiting patiently for the "novel of suspense" alluded to on the cover.  It was worth wading through, but not as fun as her young adult novels which were also historical but more highly adventurous...  I think it was her personal attempt to be a "serious writer," although her juvenile works are far more enduring and valuable as literature, even her Mortimer the Raven books...

Once upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell (library book).  This touching story of a troubled teen coming to grips with her dysfunctional family and finding a way to adulthood is hard reading, but uplifting in the end...  It reminded me of The River Why and Steinbeck...

Lullaby Town by Robert Crais (library book).  
This isn't really a criticism, just an observation, in that if you changed the names to Spenser and Hawk, this would be a Robert Parker novel about helping a woman in distress against her ex husband and the mob...  I like Parker, and I like Crais. This is still early in his career, so I expect his writing style to diverge later...

Free Fall by Robert Crais (library book).  
In this novel Crais leaves behind the vigilante shoot em up tough guys mantra for the more nuanced study of an elite police unit getting bent and the human cost of their unraveling...

Pines by Blake Crouch  
I've had broken ribs, and it bothered me how soon the protagonist in this series recovered from his broken ribs and other severe beatings so quickly to more grueling feats of derring do.
But it was set in Idaho, so I enjoyed that..  The plot was equal parts action and befuddlement.   Spoiler alert--it never made sense why the other agent that came to Pines was tortured to death, or why the town should kill anyone that wants to leave, when conditions outside take care of that...  So, yeah, I had issues with it.  The author said it was inspired by a tv series, and that makes sense--low bar of credibility in tv series...

Break Down by Sara Paretsky
(hardback 2012)  VI Warshawski epitomizes the modern bull dog with a heart woman detective.  The novels always include a believable personal life as well as labryinthine mysteries set in Chicago.   It was good to read the latest, after 30 years...

And All I Did was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley (library book)
 Mosley puts the "black" in "noire" detective fiction, and is one of the best writers in the genre alive today.  Leonid McGill has nothing but trouble, used to be nothing but trouble, and now has to make amends for his past by solving a major theft/murder...

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block (library book)
 The Matthew Scudder books read like an AA manual from the inside, but carry strong mystery plots as well...  This one is written from the parenthesis of a modern aged Scudder telling a story to a mobster friend from the early days of his sobriety...  I like the "Burglar Who" and Evan Tanner series better, but I enjoy most of Lawrence's writing...

Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais
 If his first book was a tribute to Robert Parker, this one tips the hat to Raymond Chandler, like The Big Sleep, a study of a rich dysfunctional family with disappearances and underworld connections.

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