Saturday, May 30, 2009

kiln loaded

Busy day - got the kiln loaded and it will be on pre-heat overnight with just the pilot burner. I'm exhausted. When I win the lottery I'm getting a car kiln! This back and knees are getting too old and worn out for this much hard work!

Here are pictures of the front, middle and back stacks. I have one shelf of re-fires on the bottom, rear. For the next firing I'm going to buy a couple more advancers. I got all but one dinner plate in the kiln and could have gotten that in if I had another one more advancer. I also ran short of kiln furniture in sizes I need. Time to rent or borrow a diamond saw and cut some of these firebricks. I had to use some puny commercial posts that I covered in ITC 100. Now's the time to make my "to do, to buy, list for the next firing".

I thought I might take a day off after I loaded, but I've decided to go ahead and fire tomorrow. I have one of those camp chairs with a foot rest and drink holder and I'll just spend a lot of time sitting in the kiln room with a good book during the firing. Hopefully after a good nights sleep I'll be raring to go in the morning. Right now I'm hoping I can make it through this basketball game.

I'm watching the Orlando, Cleveland basketball game and if the 3rd quarter is any indication, Orlando may clinch the NBA Eastern division tonight and will be playing the Lakers for the championship.

Till later

Friday, May 29, 2009

Test tiles ready to load

These are the glaze batches and test tiles I've been working on the past two days, that will be going in this kiln load.

After lunch I decided to play with the bag wall some more and redid it (twice in 2 days). I also reduced the exit flues a bit. I think too much heat is going up the chimney. There's a new school of thought about flue sizes, so in the interest of fuel economy, shorter firing potential,and my need to continually experiment, I reduced the flue to about 47 sq in, about 17" less than was recommended by one source. I also removed two layers of brick from the chimney, which I had Shane raise for the last firing and lowered the bag wall. Those changes worked; but they worked too well, with the bottom now getting too hot.

I'm hoping that these current alterations will shorten the 24 hour plus firing which includes an overnight candling, and give me a more even firing. I'm also going to leave the spark arrestor cap on the chimney - hoping that removing those two layers of brick would open up the space enough to not impede the pull of the chimney. It should be an interesting firing! To be on the safe side I've unscrewed the cap in case it becomes necessary to remove it.

I got 3 shelves loaded before it was time to head in and get ready for dinner at the seafood buffet. It was after 7 when we got home. I did a quick garden check and caught some snails in the act of chewing on some veggies and on one of my climbing roses. Who knew they could crawl 4 feet up a rose bush!! It was too late and I was too tired to continue loading, so I opted instead to get caught up with email and snail mail and watch the Lakers, who won and clinched the western division. Kobi was sensational!

This morning I need to check part of my veggie garden. Jim spotted that big, fat, bunny in there last night when walking Bodhi and I have some pea seedlings in there that would be his idea of a gourmet snack! I put down some blood meal a couple of days ago. It works to keep the bunnies and deer away; but the problem is that it has to be replaced every time it rains, which lately, has been every day! :-(

Till later,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't do this. What a mess!

I rebuilt the bag wall yesterday morning, vacuumed the kiln, and got some soda ash dried in the electric kiln. Over watering studio plants caused the water to seep into a nearby 50 lb bag of soda ash. What a mess! This is what the bag looked like after I took a hammer and chisel to it to get enough material for a couple of firings, dried to 600F in the bisque kiln.

This firing, I plan to use the Gail Nichols Soda ash, Sodium bicarb,whiting and water mix. It calls for light soda ash, so I had to get it dry, otherwise it won't harden to a plaster like consistency, trapping water, which is what makes her method work.

If I can get the tests done that I want this morning, I'll start loading the kiln this afternoon. This titanium hip of mine is very sore after days all the standing on the studio's concrete floor all week, so I'm not going to push it. The plan is to fire Sunday.

No cooking tonight. It's seafood buffet at the Inn at Little Switzerland, and home to watch the Lakers. If they win tonight, they'll be in the final. Orlando lost last night; but they're still ahead - only one more win to clinch the eastern division.

Till later,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cone 6 soda tests

Yesterday flew by so fast and I didn't get anywhere near the work done I had hoped. I got 4 test glaze batches made, 3 of them sieved and each dipped on 3 different clay bodies. I was mixing the 4th one when John Britt called to say he had unloaded the cone 6 soda kiln, so I dropped everything, cleaned up and called Joy Tanner in case she wanted to come over, and headed over to John's studio to pick up the tiles. Here are all the tiles I had in the firing. I'm very encouraged by the results even though most of the flashing slips were on the dry side because there was no borax in the soda mix, which is needed at these lower temperature; but the flashing slips flashed beautifully. All in all I think it can work once we tweak the soda mix.

We'll get them re-fired - probably after the TRAC studio tour. That will give me more time to batch up more Cone 6 glaze tests.

By the time I got back from John's it was time to make dinner- London broil with red wine beef stock reduction, sauteed mushrooms w/shallots and sherry, salad and a baked potato with sour cream chive sauce for Jim.

After dinner I didn't have any more energy for the studio, so I called it a day, went through my soda recipe book to make a list of the test glazes I want to batch today and stayed up late to watch the Lakers win. They're now 3 to 2 in the NBA playoffs - one more win to clinch the western division.

Time for breakfast, then on to the studio. First job this morning is to rebuild the bag wall, then on to batching more test glazes. I'll probably load tomorrow because they've changed the forecast and Saturday is going to be the only non rainy day!

Till later,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Penstemons on a rainy day

These beautiful penstemons came into bloom yesterday. They're a bit droopy this morning from all the heavy rain overnight. I love the dramatic two tone leaf color which makes an interesting contrast in the garden even when their short blooming phase is over. I have a few more volunteer seedlings to share if anyone in Bakersville and environs wants a couple.

Yesterday was one of those smorgasbord days - wadding pots, taking a hammer and chisel and doing a partial cleaning of the firebox, then off to John Britt's studio to drop off a couple of sprayers for his cone 6 soda firing, and on to a doctors appointment in Burnsville. Not only were all my test results great, but I lost almost 9 lbs last month. Must be all this garden and studio work. Who needs a gym membership when you have a garden and pottery!

We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant and headed home. When we got home I picked some strawberries (the birds and other critters actually left me a large handful).After unpacking my shopping bag full of vitamins, I did some computer file clean up, had a glass of wine and watched a basketball game (Orlando won in overtime). A good day.

Yesterday I thought I might start loading the kiln today; but since I want batch a bunch of glaze tests for this firing, need to vacuum out the kiln and redo the bag wall, I'm going hold off on loading for another day or two and weight out and dip test glazes. Usually I sieve each one but I think I'll just mix them in one of my old Oster blenders which has a one cup jar attachment that will be an easier cleanup than having to wash out a cup and sieve for each glaze. I'll fire over the weekend when there's no rain in the forecast.

Till later,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pizza night again

Well, the frozen pizza dough worked OK. The texture was a bit denser, but I think that's because I didn't let it get to room temperature. After it defrosted I put it in the fridge. Next time I'll take it out a half hour or so before. Jim's side is the one with all the meat and anchovies. Mine is the veggie side.

I changed yesterday's studio schedule and wound up going food shopping in the morning and wadded pots when we got back. There wasn't enough time to finish before dinner, and I was out of the smaller wads, so after dinner, I sat and watched the French Open on the computer, thanks to the Tennis channel and by the time the Lakers came on the cookie tray aka the wadding tray, was filled with enough wads to finish the rest of the pots this morning.

Loading the kiln will have to wait till Wednesday because I forgot about my doctors appointment this afternoon after I drop off a sprayer at John Britt's. He's doing a cone 6 soda firing today. I have a lot of test tiles in that firing, so I can't wait to see the results!

The only garden time I got yesterday was to harvest some asparagus,pull a couple of weeds, and search out some slugs and snails hiding under the straw mulch around my cabbage family plants. They are now in snail, slug, heaven - hope they don't have many friends, at least not around my veggies and flowers.

Till later,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another clematis in bloom

This clematis against my gallery is blooming, and very abundantly! This deep red looks great against the dark green of the gallery.

The second planting of snow pea pods are up so I need to put down more blood meal to keep the bunnies away. There was a big, fat, cotton tail right near that area when I took Bodhi out at 6:30 yesterday morning. He's probably the one who ate the first crop as well as more than half my lettuce and a few other things! The feral cat we feed doesn't seem interested in earning her keep!:-( Bodhi would chase the bunny, to the next county if we let him. Problem is, he'd have a hard time finding his way back home, which is why we always walk him on a leash.

Yesterday I got about two and a half hours in the garden before the rain started again. Something had eaten half my sweet potato plants and I found a guilty slug on one of my almost dead, squash plants. He is now in slug heaven. I never mind sharing; but I don't tolerate total decimation very well. I guess I'm going to have to set some beer out to catch the culprits. Trouble is, with all the rain, it might water the beer down so much that it won't attract them.

It started to rain again, so I took my 12 almond lunch break, watched the French open for a short while and then went out and spent another hour and half in the garden before getting ready for a couple of hours of partying at our friend Shane's barbecue.

There were a lot of kids and dogs running around having a great time, lots to eat and a lot of good company. Even the weather cooperated and rain stopped the whole time we were there.

Today I'll be gluing wads on pots and redoing the kiln bag wall. I don't think I'll try to load today. At my old age I'm learning to spread out these pre-firing chores to save my energy for the firing.

Tonight is pizza night. It's the first time I'm making it with pizza dough that I've frozen. I'm not sure how long it will take to defrost, so I'm going to take it out after breakfast and hope the timing will be right for an early dinner.

Cone packs

Yesterday I sprayed a couple of the last small pots and then got a lot of cone packs made. As you can see, I usually make enough for more than one firing. After dinner I made a cookie sheet full of wads while watching a movie. I use a high alumina wadding mix and reuse the wads for a couple of firings.
According to the Farmers Almanac, today is a day to plant above ground plants and transplant . We had a pretty good rain overnight, so I'm hoping it will be clear enough after breakfast so I can get out and start planting bush and pole beans and transplant the rest of the veggies and maybe some flowers.
We're looking forward to the French Open Tennis which starts around noon. I'll be watching in the studio while I glue wads to the pots.
Later we're going to Shane Mickeys for his Memorial day weekend barbecue. He's cooking so I'm just bringing a 6 pack, some chips and pickles and a frozen margarita to keep him cool while he slaves over a hot barbecue. :-)

Till later,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A couple of garden shots

After a late breakfast, we headed for our local banks customer appreciation festivities and picked up more tomato plants. They had a huge selection and I was able to get a pink and red brandywine, Arkansas Traveler, and a few others to replace some the snail and slugs destroyed. I planted the brandywines and one of the beefsteaks in 3 large buckets, hoping they'll be a bit less prone to disease than they are in the garden.
After that I prepped some of the food and made the margarita mix for our Friday night porch sitting with friends and then headed for the garden when Karen arrived.
The garden is pretty well finished. All the mulching is done and it looks wonderful.We got some perennials, and miniature peach tree planted yesterday, as well as weeding and putting down about a dozen more bags of mulch. It was my helpers last day so I got out there to work with her so we could get as much done as possible. Even Jim who hates gardening came out and mulched our mini Japanese garden at the back of the house.
After our fun porch sitting, we stayed up to watch the end of the Orlando, Cleveland basketball game. It was another nail biter with Cleveland, only getting possession of the ball with one second to play, made a 3 point shot to win the game. Unbelievable!
Today will be a studio day to finish glazing those last 3 little test pots and then I'll start wadding. Sunday is a good day to transplant and plant non root crops, so I'll try to get the rest of the veggies planted between the projected thunder storms and get studio time if possible.
I should be able to get my firing in by the end of the week after I batch up a bunch of glaze tests for this firing.

Till later,

Friday, May 22, 2009

Arakawa throwing and firing tea bowls

Click on the title to view a short video of the late Japanese potter Arakawa throwing and firing tea bowls.
Arakawa was a National Living treasure whose tea bowls sold into the thousands of dollars. The video is in Spanish, dubbed over the original video moderated by actor Jose Ferrer and part of a video from National Geographic on Japan's National Living Treasures.

More flowers

Here's one of my favorite Knock out Roses and one of the perennial geraniums in full bloom.

Jim is off to Walmart before breakfast to load up on mulch. Today is customer appreciation day at the local bank - a charming, small town activity, where the bank brings in a band, has free hot dogs and drinks and gives away free tomato plants and other little goodies. Main street looks like an outdoor mall for a few hours - children joyfully running around, friends and neighbors meet, munch and laugh for a bit before heading home to plant their tomatoes or just get on with the rest of their day.

Jim and I will go out for breakfast when he gets back and after lunch I'll be back in the studio. I just have two more pots to glaze and then I can start wadding.

Friends are coming over for Friday night porch sitting, so I'll have to stop work around 5 to make margaritas and get some veggies prepped for dip (Marie's Ranch dressing makes a great dip for raw veggies), mix up some sour cream and chives to go with the potato skins and hot chicken wings (thanks to Friday's).

Sometimes our porch sitting gets a bit fancier, at least when I'm not deeply involved in getting ready for a firing; otherwise it becomes a simple affair like tonight.

The garden is 99.9% weeded and mulched and looks wonderful. Karen will be here this afternoon to finish weeding and and adding some extra mulch on the steep slope behind the house. I've already done some weeding there but she'll dig out the last couple of tough grass spots.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Glazing and more glazing

Here are some of the pots I've already decorated. Most of my day was spent glazing. At this rate, I think it will take at least another full day to finish this phase.

My garden helper Karen got here late morning and continued with weeding and mulching and I had her clear another section and plant another 8 tomatoes. While dinner was cooking I got some wood ash from the studio and sprinkled it around the base of all 26 tomato plants. It's supposed to be a deterrent to the slugs and snails. Hopefully this will do the trick. I can't believe how many slugs and snails we have this year. Guess they love all this rain we've been having! The little suckers have already killed 4 of my tomato plants and some lettuce and bunnies have eaten most of the row of lettuce and as of yesterday there were only two leaf lettuces left, so I need to replant. Problem is the blood meal I use as a bunny and deer deterrent has to be reapplied after the rain and all we've had is rain, so I haven't been applying it regularly.

After dinner I got another hour of studio time and then came in to watch the American Idol final. I had never seen it before and figured this would be a good time to check it out. They certainly put on a good show! It was like watching the Grammy's with all the music superstars. Jim said that the fellow who came in second will have the better career and I think he's right.

Jim will be making another mulch run after breakfast and another one this afternoon. That should give Karen enough to finish the mulching today and tomorrow. I'll be in the studio all day other than giving Karen the next "to do" instructions and making us all green smoothies for lunch. Jim is picking up Chinese food for dinner so I get a cooking break tonight.

Till later,

More new flowers

Here's a new peony that opened yesterday and another one of the clematis in bloom. We have at least 6 clematis, maybe 7. I've lost count!

Lakers won last night - what a nail biter! Even though we were both exhausted, we stayed up till almost midnight to see the finish. Fortunately Bodhi let us sleep in.

Studio time came to a halt when Karen needed my input with the weeding and I wound up working with her for a few hours. We got enough weeding done for her to apply 15 bags of mulch. I did get enough studio time to get the temmoku and yellow salt glazes mixed and sieved and glazed some pots. Today I'll mix the Oribe and continue decorating.

They've changed the 3 day weather forecast and no rain is expected till Saturday, so hopefully Karen will be able to finish up the weeding and mulching and maybe even get some things planted for me. Sunday is the next planting/transplanting day according to the Farmers Almanac so if there are some clear skies in between the scattered thunderstorms that are predicted, I might be able to get some things planted. It's mostly small stuff that needs planting now and that should go very fast once I get started.

I didn't start any bread last night, since I had enough leftover from the cheese fondue; and I'll make garlic bread with that for tonight's gumbo.

Till later,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Here's last nights pizza. Using the high protein (high gluten) flour, made a really light, lovely crust, better I think than the bread flour I used on other pizzas. I also made the dough a hair wetter than I have before.
By the end of the day I was way too tired to start the sourdough bread; so I decided to shift tonights menu from gumbo to salad and cheese fondue, and I'll probably start my bread tonight.
Yesterdays plan to glaze pots went kaput when my helper didn't arrive, as expected, in the morning. Since I didn't know if she was going to show or not,I decided to taking advantage of the great weather and work on weeding. I also dug up a lot of penstemon, cosmos and calendula volunteers and either transplanted them or got them temporarily into pots to decide later where to put them or share them.
Karen arrived around 12:30 so I had her plant a few packs of purple petunias and continue with the weeding. I took a break around 1:30 to make us all green smoothies for lunch and get my pizza toppings ready, then continued weeding till 5 and then came in to make the pizza and margaritas.
Karen starts a full time job on Monday, managing a new, take and bake pizza place that's opening in Spruce Pine in a couple of weeks, so I'm hoping the weather holds enough so she can get on top of this weeding the rest of the week, because I MUST get back into the studio and finish these pots so I can get the kiln fired some time next week.
Today I'll be mixing Temmoku and Oribe glazes and continue glazing pots. Most of the day will be spent sitting down, painting with glaze, which is a good thing, since I'm quite sore and tired, even after a good nights sleep, from all that garden work.
Before I went to bed I brought a lot of plants into the mudroom and kitchen for the night. We had some frost on the roof this morning, but the plants in the garden don't look like they got any damage. I'm going to keep them in till tomorrow since we're expecting another night in the 30's.
Jim cleaned out the gazebo yesterday, and got all the outdoor furniture back in there - a tiring job. After breakfast this morning he's going to make a Walmart run to fill the car with 12 more bags of mulch for Karen to use today.
With all the garden and studio work we're doing and planning in the next couple of weeks, we should have everything looking pretty good for the TRAC tour the second weekend in June.

Till later,

Monday, May 18, 2009

New garden blooms

The rain stopped around dinner time so I was able to take a few pictures of a few of the newly blooming flowers. I started the lupines from seeds last year and this group is spectacular this year - even gifted me with some new babies. The other group I had died over the winter - probably from the fact that they were in an area that was too wet.
As forecast, it went down to 39F last night. To be safe I covered the newly planted peppers and basil with remay and took some of the tender young plants in the mudroom and I'll leave them there tonight since it's going down to 36.
The corn and Corno de toro pepper seeds sprouted so I got those in little seedling packs yesterday; but that was all the gardening for the day. There's just too much studio work to do. Hopefully I can get all the glazing and decorating done in the next two days.
After dinner we watched our Netflix movie "Taken" - a very good, fast moving,well acted, intelligent, movie. After the movie I went back to work for a bit - decorated a few pots and shut the studio down for the night and came in and did more computer cleanup while watching a basketball game with Jim.
This morning I need to feed my sourdough starters and make pizza dough for tonight. I'm going to try the high protein (high gluten) flour this time, which is what I understand is used in New York style pizzas.
Time to cook breakfast.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another rainy morning - more garden blooms

Here are few photos of plants currently in bloom. The photos don't do them justice, but if you click on them, you'll get a larger, better view. The first one is a verbascum, followed by the blue flax and then the yellow and white Siberian Iris.
Two peonies opened yesterday as well as another clematis and one of my old fashioned climbing roses; but the rain came before I could get out and take some pictures of them and it's raining again this morning.
Later this afternoon I have to cover some of my freshly planted basil and pepper plants with remay. It's going down to 39 tonight and these plants prefer temperatures in the mid 40's at least, or they get stressed. I'll leave the remay on for a few days, because it's going down to 36 or lower in another day or two. Every day for the past three days, they've kept lowering the projected night time temperatures.
I use and you can get your local area weather for up to ten days ago and even get an hourly forecast for the current day or more.
I got a couple of glazes mixed yesterday and lined a bunch of pots. The second bisque hadn't cooled enough to unload, so I'll do that this morning and continue with glazing.
My intent was to continue working after dinner, but by then I was too tired, so I just went back to the studio to cover the next group of pots I had lined up for glazing, opened the lid of the bisque kiln for a peek and closed up shop for the night. We watched one of our Netfix movies followed by the Brit coms. For as tired as I was earlier, I wound up staing up till 1 am cleaning a lof of files on my computer.
The 7th game of the Lakers series starts at 3:30 so I'll be working, and watching, but mostly listening. Dinner will be my quick linguini with clam sauce. I was going to do pizza today, but I need all the extra studio time to accomplish what I want today; and the linguini with clam sauce is a quick and easy favorite of ours.
If the rain lets up at some point, I'll try to take more photos of the garden. With this almost constant rain we've been having for weeks, maybe I should start researching Ark plans!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Variegated Weigelia blooming

Here's a shot of the variegated weigelia in bloom. This is it's third year and it's coming along nicely. I just love the contrast of the variegated leaves against the delicate pink flowers.

I got the second bisque fired yesterday. It was a little worrisome when the thunder started; but fortunately we got through without a power outage.

It was too hot in the studio with the kiln on, so Karin and I did a bit of weeding before the thunder reminded me that it wasn't a good idea to be out there with a metal weeding tools in our hands during a thunder storm.

We had our Friday porch sitting with our good friends Jim and Laura and after we finished off 3 bottles of wine, I'm a bit foggy this morning.

Jim will be going to Walmart after breakfast for more mulch. Karen will be back to continue weeding and mulching and I'll be in the studio glazing. We still have all the planting beds in the front of the house to weed and mulch but the flower beds in front of my studio are done and all the vegetable terraces are done.

I picked a few more strawberries this morning when I took Bodhi for his morning walk. I didn't check the flower beds, other than a quick peek out the kitchen window; and it looks like the first peony is opening. Maybe I'll get a better look later.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bisque done another one going

Finally got everything decorated yesterday, unloaded the first bisque and loaded the second one and got it started at 6 am this morning. I was in the studio till around 9 last night and wound up staying up past midnight watching the Lakers. The least they could have done was win. Now they have to go to a 7th game.

We had thunderstorms going through last night, so I held off firing till this morning. More storms are expected this afternoon, but at least I'll be awake in case there's a power failure.

There are liner and accent glazes that haven't been used since last November that have to be mixed today. This should be fun, not! :-( I'm hoping I can get enough done before the studio gets too hot from the bisque kiln.

Every morning, I check the garden for new blooms. What's blooming this morning are a yellow and white Siberian Iris, the first roses (2 knockouts are blooming), perennial geraniums (just starting to bloom) and flax. It also looks like the first peony is going to open today or tomorrow. The variegated weigelia is also blooming. It's is such a beautiful shrub. I took some pictures of today's flowers and will post them tomorrow.

It was drizzling at 6am, so I don't think there's any chance of me or my helper getting in any garden time today. The only gardening I did yesterday was to get some corn and corno de toro (great frying peppers) seeds on wet hand towel paper to start sprouting; and some old Chico paste tomato seeds soaking. The first Chico pastes that I planted didn't sprout and these are old seeds, so I dumped the rest of the seeds in water and I'll be happy is just one sprouts so I can get more seeds saved this year.

Check out Michael Kline's blog. He's posted pictures of this weekends' firing and there are some great pot pictures there!

Till later,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Clay Club Mexican Night

Here's a couple of photos from last night's Clay Club. The first one is John Britt, Joy Tanner and Emily Reason. John shared the highlights of his two week Korea trip with the group and Cynthia Bringle told us all about her trip to NCECA and passed around a lot of the printed materials she collected at the conference. As you can see, there was SO much food and all of it good.

We've had 3 firsts the past two days: Saw the first Monarch butterfly, the first lightning bug and got the first two ripe strawberries!

Yesterday wound up being a heavy gardening day. My helper can't be here today and is coming later Friday, so I decided to go ahead and try to get caught up on some planting since the weather was cooperating, and I think I'm on track in my timing to get my firing done before the TRAC tour.

Since it was the last day this month,(per the Farmers Almanac) for planting root crops, I got the last row of potatoes,carrots, cippolini onions,shallots planted. I also replanted snow peas since the local bunny population decimated the first crop. After that I transplanted some basil, winter and summer squash, zucchini, banana peppers, some perennials, and annuals, mulched, weeded and hand watered. I started before breakfast, took a brief, green smoothie lunch break and worked till 4:30. I was wiped; but it felt good to make so much headway with the planting. There's still a lot more to plant but at least there's some light at the end of the tunnel now.

After showering I whipped up some guacamole for Clay Club, put a huge bat full of test tiles in the car for a cone 6 soda firing in John Britt's new, soda test kiln.

Today will be an all day studio day. Other that unloading the bisque, it will be a sitting and slip decorating day- a nice rest after yesterday's digging and planting.

Till later,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boy, do we have irises!

Here are some of the other irises currently in bloom. There are other bluish and purple ones blooming as well. It's a shame most of them give this one, spring, burst of color.

Yesterday came and went so fast. I didn't get on the phone with Dell, and I don't think I'll be able to do that this morning since I'd like to get an earlier start in the studio. I didn't get to bed till around 2am - just couldn't go to sleep, so I sorted some seeds and got the next batch of seeds and markers ready to go.

I got the rest of the pots slipped yesterday and this morning I'll continue cleaning them up and finish decorating. The bisque will be ready to unload this morning and I might be able re-load and fire it again overnight. Tonight is Clay Club meeting so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get as much done as I hope since I have to stop early and make some guacamole for our Mexican food theme for tonight's meeting.

Once I got all the pots slipped, I headed for the garden. I got the A frames up for the beans, dug up and transplanted some perennials and got two mounds made and planted with summer squash. Karen got a lot of mulching and weeding done and the dug up daylilies finally got replanted in a new bed she dug on the edge of the driveway.

If I get the pots finished, I'll take a bit of time after lunch to transplant the zucchini,basil and sweet peppers and plant some root crops. It's the last day for a while (according to the Farmers Almanac) to plant root crops so I'll definitely plant a row of carrots and maybe some parsnips. I still have potato seeds that I saved from last year, to plant but I've planted enough potatoes already, so if I don't get these planted it's not a problem. I'll just cook them! :-)

Till later,

deer interlopers

Here's a picture of one of the two deer who were eyeing my new planting area outside our bedroom.

The gumbo came out great but it's a long prep and cook time, so I didn't get in much studio time.

I got a few pots dipped after dinner, finished loading the bisque kiln and fired it overnight. If it's not too hot in there later this morning I'll dip and decorate the remaining pots for the next load.

After breakfast I have to get on the phone with Dell and straighten out my laptop order which they messed up.

Then I'll get my garden helper, Karen started on the garden list for the morning. The day lilies I dug up to divide need to replanted at the bottom of the driveway and we have to do more mulching the already planted vegetables. If it's too hot in the studio, I might set up the bean A frame and plant a few of the veggies on the knoll next to my gallery. Karen got that area weeded the other day so I can get the whole thing planted in less than a half an hour. I'll wait a couple of days before planting the beans though. The soil is pretty wet and cold at the moment.

Till later,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blooming Irises

Here are some of the irises that are currently blooming. If it weren't raining I'd take pictures of some of the others. There are other groups of yellow, deep purpose, and purple and gold, throughout the garden - just beautiful.

By 6:30 this morning I was at Spruce Pine Hospital for routine blood work, then some grocery shopping, breakfast out and home to start on some chicken, andouille and shrimp gumbo. I made a big pot of it, so some will go in the freezer for another day or two.

I want to make some fried corn bread to go with it. I had fried cornbread for the first time two days ago at Michael Klines party and it was delicious, so I have to dig up a recipe. Maybe you just fry regular corn bread batter?? I'll have to go to the repository of all knowledge - Google, to find out!

Yesterday was split between supervising some of the garden work and doing some slipping of a couple of pots and starting to load the bisque kiln. It's 90% loaded, so I'm hoping to get out there later and finish loading and turn it on.

It's supposed to be nice tomorrow so I may get to plant some of my veggies. I have squash, cucumbers, melons, peppers, basil and more tomato plants to get in. The ground may still be too cold and too wet to plant beans and corn, so I think I'll wait a bit on those.

Jim picked up another bale of straw today and will get a couple more tomorrow, so we can continue to mulch the vegetable beds that have been weeded and planted. It's all, slowly starting to come together.

Till later,

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Michael Kline's new studio opening party

We partied at Michael Kline's studio opening gala last night - great food, good conversation and all around great time. Here are some of the pictures of Jim and Edwina Bringle, Michael's new gallery space and his wood kiln which he just loaded and will be firing today or tomorrow.
Yesterday I wound up doing what I said I wouldn't do - work in the garden. The rain stayed away, so my helper Karin came and I had to get her started on the garden chores and wound up getting right in there with her.
I dug up a scuppermong grape vine which took quite a while. It's a good thing it was only in that spot a year or I don't think I would have been able to get it out! Together, we planted 6 raspberry plants, three thornless blackberries and two grape vines.
I also dug up a couple of volunteer potato plants and transplanted them along with some leek and swiss chard. We both did a bunch of weeding and I put down 4 bags of mulch.
Overnight I lost 4 of the tomatoes I planted the day before. Karen said snails were the culprits.I'm going to put out some beer to atrract them and hand pick at night when it's not raining. I don't mind them eating some leaves but when they destroy the whole plant they are going to heaven! We seems to have a huge snail population this year. I'm wondering if all the rain we're having is causing this population explosion. I got some good info from google on how to stop these critters - copper, wood ash, oak or cedar wood chips,etc.
The rain started at 2:30 ending our garden time which was fine because I had to get in and feed some sourdough starter that I was giving to Michael.
Looks like we're having a dry morning; but I am DEFINITELY not gardening this morning. I've got to finish dipping pots and want to make a roast chicken dinner tonight. I don't like to go out on Mothers day and prefer cooking at home. We had my mothers day dinner out already.

Till later,

Friday, May 08, 2009

Caged tomatoes

Here are some of the tomatoes I planted two days ago. I'm hoping for another sunny day to get the rest of them, as well as the other starter veggies and flowers planted. All the tomato cages are use so I'll have to use poles for the rest of them.

I'm glad I didn't plant carrots yet because all this rain would have probably washed away the seed; but as soon as I can will plant and cover the row with some boards

Yesterday, before breakfast and before the rain, I weeded one of the terraces and a couple of other spots. There was a period late morning when the rain stopped, but I resisted the lure of the ever beckoning garden, and continued dipping and decorating pots. There was grocery shopping to do later, and an early dinner out, so I could only work till 3:30.

Today will be a full studio day. I should be able to finish dipping the rest of the pots (mostly plates and low, wide, serving bowls) and get some decorated. I'm hoping by tomorrow I should be able to load the first of the two bisque loads I need to fill the soda kiln. Pots are taking a long time to dry in this constant wet weather.

Michael Kline is having his party tonight to celebrate the opening of his new studio. I can't wait to see it!

Till later,

We have sourdough!

The sourdough was a BIG success. I will definitely be making this regularly. The crust was nice and crunchy from all the water spraying on top of the dough before it went in the oven and then spraying the oven walls and floor every minute or so for the first ten minutes, as well as a cup of boiling water on the floor of the stove. I used bread flour as recommended, but the bread seemed lighter than I remember San Francisco sourdough. Next loaf I'll try a special European flour blend I got from the King Arthur flour web site. I think I'll try this bread as toast this morning.

Yesterday was another woman plans, God laughs day. The lure of the garden on the first sunny day in what seems like weeks, was too much of a temptation. I had a wonderful garden helper, Karin Elder, a local artist and photographer who knows a lot about gardening. She did a great deal of weeding which enabled me to plant 18 tomatoes, a row of sweet potatoes, a couple of Corno de Toro peppers,a few perennials, and doing some weeding as well. She also started mulching some of the veggies I've planted. Hopefully this will keep my weeding down once I catch up with all this garden work.

She'll be starting earlier this morning and should get a few hours of work before the forecast noon showers. I'll try to get the rest of the tomatoes and some other things transplanted after breakfast, and before I head for the studio for the day.

We're having dinner out and then doing some grocery shopping afterwards and have a couple of Netflix movies to choose from when we get home. We watched Frost Nixon last night which was excellent. Langellos Nixon was brilliant!

Till later,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

First Rhododendrons of the year!

The first rhododendron blooms appeared yesterday. What a glorious color! It should be spectacular when all the buds open.

Yesterday was an example of a total waste of planning, since the day unfolded itself, totally oblivious to the fact that I had a plan! It started with several trips to the bathroom with some intestinal bug. Fortunately that didn't last more than an hour or so, which was encouraging. Maybe the day would proceed as planned (silly me!).

The new Dell laptop had arrived late Monday (2nd one they sent). I spent that evening unpacking it and doing a check list of the order, compared to the first, original laptop order. Even though the re-order tech assured me the order would be exactly the same as the first one, it wasn't. So after comparing the order sheets of both shipments,yesterday morning, I wrote the tech, listing all the missing items by number. They also sent a backup battery which I hadn't ordered. Do they really think I would use a 9 pound laptop as a portable computer! As of this morning I have not heard back from them so a phone call may be in order later.

Breakfast was uneventful(it's hard to screw up rye toast!).Afterwards I managed to get some software uploaded to the new laptop - just a few minor glitches there. My plan to go to the studio for a full work day by later morning, was thwarted by thunder and heavy showers, which freak out Bodhi, our little rescue terrier. Since my husband was off to the dentist, I didn't want to leave this 12 lb trembling, frightened out of his mind, dog, alone. Rain alone freaks him out so you can imagine how he is with thunder added to the mix! I could probably run a major appliance on the shaking energy he generates during one of these storms.

Finally, the rain and thunder stopped and I took him for a much needed walk through the now, overly saturated yard which strongly resembled a mud hole. I noticed that the heavy rain was drowning a planter of begonia bulbs, so I tilted it with my free hand (the other one was holding Bodhi's leash)to let out the water. The tilt turned into a mud slide, taking with it the entire contents of the planter and breaking off one of the plants.

Now you might be asking, why this timid, frightened by his own shadow, little dog would have to be on a leash. I guess I forgot to mention that he is a canine Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This little Jack Russell terrier, who is frighted of remote controls, fly swatters, rain, anything new, and just about everything in between, if he's not on a leash, spots a bunny or any other little animal, that looks like prey, even in the dead of night, will take off deep into the woods and be unretrievable until he is good an ready, thereby generating panic in the rest of the household over his safety.

While I was struggling with the over saturated, now damaged, begonia bulbs, Jim pulled into the driveway. So I handed him the leash, while I tried to retrieve and re-pot the bulbs. Now my hands were as muddy as my feet.

At this point it was already mid afternoon, seemingly too late to get started in the studio, so I decided to clean and chop the veggies for the pizza, keeping my fingers crossed that at least dinner would go as planned. Pizza was prettier than the last one but I could have gotten it a bit thinner or cooked it a bit longer; but we've definitely made progress on the pizza front using Ron Slagle's recipe and technique.

Fortunately the second half of the day was pretty uneventful and I was able to get a lot more computer work done after dinner, feed my 4 sourdough starters watch a nice meditation tape and get to bed early.

I was up before 6, and after taking Bodhi for his morning walk, I started on my first attempt at making sourdough bread. The first stage is now resting for 90 minutes (called autolysis) before the next step - adding the rest of the flour and kneading. Now I have to figure out what I want to make to go with it for dinner - probably a soup.

My garden helper should be here at ten but everything is so saturated I'm not sure what she can do other than pull some weeds. Since I lost a full day of studio work yesterday, I need to get in there today and continue slipping and decorating.

Till later,

Pots in progress

Here are some of the pots I got dipped yesterday. Some are decorated already, others just dipped in slip that I need to decorate today. There's another couple of days of work ahead to complete this phase. Hopefully by the time I'm done the first pots will be dry enough to get in the first bisque.

I'm dragging a bit this morning from a bit of stomach upset, getting to bed after 1 am because of getting the new lap top set up and having to deal with the fact that the new laptop which arrived yesterday afternoon, is missing some of the programs and services I signed up for with the original order. So I had to go through both lists and write the person who took the latest order. They also sent me a back up battery which I never ordered, since I doubt if I would ever use a 9 lb laptop as a portable computer and would not have any use for a second battery.

I'm uploading software to this new laptop before I head to the studio. I thought I'd get in at least 6 hours work until I have to make dinner, but with Jim out to the dentist, and dealing with our rescue dog who is terrified of rain and thunder, I guess I'll have to wait till Jim gets back or the rain and thunder stop, before I can get to the studio. Dinner is pizza again and it should be easy since the dough is already prepped, so I just have to cut up the toppings.

Yesterday I took a quick stroll around some of the property but no morels to be found. Tomorrow morning I have a helper coming who can get some of the berry bushes, elderberry and boysenberry bushes, etc. planted They've been sitting in temporary pots, are sprouted and desperately need to get in roomier quarters.

By the weekend I should be able to get some garden time to plant the rest of my veggie starters and do some weeding and mulching. The weed seeds are just loving all this rain! :-(

Till later,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pizza success!

Here's a pizza that came out really well, taste wise. The crust was lovely. I have to work on getting the shape right, though.

I used Ron Slagle's wonderful crust recipe and technique. There's enough dough left for at least one more large pizza which we'll probably have tomorrow night. Tonight it's pork chops with a cream and sherry reduction sauce. Here's the URL for Ron's recipe on his blog if anyone cares to try it:

Yesterday was spent dipping and decorating pots in between pizza making. After dinner I got back in the studio to dip a few more pots and then watched a Netflix movie "Rachel's Wedding", that's been sitting here for two weeks. The movie is a bit strange, pretty much a downer, but has some powerful acting.

Looks like this rainy weather is going to last till Sunday, so the garden will have to wait, which is just as well, because getting these pots ready for bisquing is probably going to take me the rest of the week.

If we get a break in the rain, I'm going to try to take a short walk and see if any morels have shown up. I haven't found one yet this year and I know it's the season. We did find one large tan mushroom off our back deck, so if I look further afield I might find some of those elusive morels.

Till later,

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Pots ready to slip and decorate

Yesterday I enjoyed my lazy Sunday morning and spent the afternoon in the studio.I got all the pots out from under plastic and on to the slab roller. I found a couple that needed trimming, finishing and waxing; besides these on the slab roller,there are more pots on a ware cart that have already been slipped and decorated.

I have a few slips to mix later this morning and then I can get on with dipping and decorating. Hopefully they'll be dry enough by the end of the week to do the first of the two bisque firings I need to fill the soda kiln. There are also a couple of refires to go in the soda kiln if there's room.

Check out MIchael Klines blog today. He has some wonderful new bird mugs in progress. I want one!

Till later,

Saggar fired dish - June Perry

Here's a cone 10 saggar fired pot I made in the early 80's. It got great flashing from the copper mixed in with the sawdust and other organics.

Finally finished all but one pot. Got a slab platter made that will need to be dealt with today but everything else is thrown, trimmed and waxed, so later, if I feel perkier, I'll get all the pots out from under the plastic and sort them according to the slips I'll be using on them, and maybe start mixing some of the flashing and decorating slips so I can start decorating later today or tomorrow.

Yesterday I finished up the trimming and waxing and got a did a good sweeping of the studio. The floor was a mess where I had tropical plants living all winter. I got my wheel area and tools all cleaned and finished in time to get ready to meet friends for a Mexican dinner and then on to the Montessori fundraiser auction, which is always fun.

I didn't get anything even though I tried to bid on a custom dinner set by Shane Mickey. Two people were bidding and I was holding back till they were losing steam and the auctioneer never looked in my direction to see me holding my card high up and waving to bid - not good auction practice to not check the whole room for any late bidders! He just assumed that only two people were interested. :-( Needless to say, the dinner set sold way too low for it's worth and the school lost some money.

Several friends have children in the school, so it's always a good time to touch base with them. I got to talk to Mark Peters about making me some signs for the pottery which I desperately need. His teaching stint is over for this semester so he has free time now.

Time to make some breakfast,enjoy a lazy morning and read the Sunday papers before getting to the studio.

Till later,

Saturday, May 02, 2009

White bleeding heart

There are so many white flowers blooming in my garden - these white bleeding hearts, aquilegia, perennial baby's breath,lily of the valley,brunnera, candytuft,tiarella, and dogwoods everywhere. I soooo love spring!

Got an email from Dell that my replacement laptop has been shipped, so that should be here next week. Yeah!!!

Today will be another studio day but stopping around 4 o'clock to get ready to meet friends for an early dinner at the Mexican restaurant and then on to the Montessori wine and dessert fundraising auction.

I got to finish some pots yesterday and threw a small planter for my bathroom. It's rare for me to make anything for myself; but the past couple of firings I've started to pull one pot out to keep, that's not a second.

There are a couple of more pots to finish this morning and one more slab to roll out. Then I want to get all the pots to be slipped back on the slab roller and separate them according to what flashing slips, glazes, liners I want to use. I may have to wait till tomorrow to start slipping and decorating; but I'm on schedule as long as I don't get distracted by the garden. With all the rain expected, that's not likely to happen.

Time to make Jim some poached eggs, oatmeal for me and on to the studio.

Till later,

Friday, May 01, 2009

Lilacs blooming

This is the first year I've gotten blooms on my two lilacs. Last year someone (deer I'm sure) ate the blossoms before they opened; but this year we finally got our first flowers.

We decided to skip the Herb Fest in Asheville this morning due to the forecast of rain and thundershowers. Lord knows I have way too much to plant already and don't need any plant temptations. Instead we'll get over to one of the big nurseries in Asheville next week in search of the one or two items I need to get. Maybe by then I'll have a lot of these other plants planted.

I think my black bamboo, which was in a pot, died over the winter, so I need to get a variety for our zone. I took at chance with a zone 7 bamboo (we're zone 6b) and thought it might be OK since it was so close to the house; but that doesn't seem to have worked.

Today is another studio day. I got a couple of slabs cut for a sushi dish and base for a tray and will roll out a bit more this morning. All but one pot got trimmed so I'll get to that this morning, finish assembling a couple of pots and maybe get time to start slipping before dinner. I tried using pelon instead of canvas to roll out the clay and it does give a smoother surface than the canvas. My Bailey slab roller is huge and I never make slabs that wide, so in a way it was a useless expenditure; but it does work as a great work and catch all table! LOL

The trimming of just a few pots is taking forever because of the sticky soft, reclaim clay which is making me have to throw thickly and then having to trim a lot. I hate this but I'm determined to use up all this clay.

Tonight I get a rest from the kitchen. The Inn at Little Switzerland is now open and we're heading there tonight for their seafood buffet which is always a treat.

Till later,