Monday, June 28, 2010

Only mad dogs and English men go out in the noon day sun

After three years of pampering, this plumeria finally bloomed; and oh does it smell sooo sweet.

It's too hot to work outside other than some early morning weeding and watering; but I have been using the time watching Wimbledon matches to go through a pile of cooking and ceramic magazines and other snail mail that's been sitting here a while,taking care of correspondence and going through pages of emails that I've been too busy to read.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My oh my, we've got pie

Just pulled this blueberry pie out of the oven - going to have some for breakfast! Our blueberry bushes are being very generous and the birds and deer are kindly leaving some for us. There were  3 mature bushes when we moved here which I didn't discover until I  had planted two others. They were hidden away up the hill behind the house, somewhat shrouded by some large trees. Now that we've cleared that area a bit, these bushes are thriving and very bountiful.

The garden has kept me busy even in this oppressive heat and humidity; but I'm having to plant, weed, harvest, water and spray in very short increments, retreating to the house to cool off, tend to other chores, and then back outside to work till the heat gets to be too much. I've even started getting some garden time early morning before and after breakfast and at times, even after dinner. I hope this heat breaks and we get some rain coming our way soon. The plants are showing signs of stress and I hate to use well water to do that much hand watering. The heat is draining and I don't have much energy left after garden chores to do anything else but cook and take care of the animals.                


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some of the current blooming daylilies

There a lot of new blooms in the garden this week. Here are a couple of my more colorful day lilies. They're not re-bloomers like some of the yellow varieties like Stella D'oro, but their beautiful color makes up for their short bloom time.

Today was a mixture of gardening jobs - planting a bunch of parsley seedlings, weeding,  feeding potatoes, sprinkling blood meal all around to fend off some critters, picking some black raspberries and the first bush beans and  resting in between enjoying Wimbledon. This afternoon I made a huge batch of potato salad for tonight's dinner and porch sitting with friends tomorrow night, and there went the better part of the day.

Some critter or critters have eaten some tops and lots of stems off many of my tomatoes as well as de-nuding one of my potato plants and been munching on my bush beans, and beet tops. I don't know if it's deer (saw about 5 or 6 of them behind the house a couple of days ago), or the ground hog I caught running away from one of the vegetable beds a couple of days ago. I also spotted a big grasshopper, who may also be one of the munchers.This year has been a particularly bad one for every kind of crawling, flying and walking critters helping themselves to our veggies.

Tomorrow morning, while it's cool enough to be out there, I'll try to mix up some of my pepper spray and get it on some of these veggies. Hopefully it will make them a lot less appetizing to the free loaders!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Attack roses

The New Dawn roses are taking over the arbor and attacking passers by. Jim put on some heavy work gloves and wound them through the lattice. I had hoped to get a bit more gardening in today after my doctor's appointment; but only got about an hour because there was a world record breaking tennis match on Wimbledon that begged to be watched. So I dropped everything and watched this match while dealing with some paper work.

They finally called this men's singles match between the American Isner, and the French man Mahut after 9 hours of play, due to darkness. So they finish tomorrow. The score was 59 to 59 games in the 5th set. This match broke all kinds of tennis records. This 5th set was longer than any whole tennis match in Wimbledon history; and maybe any tennis history. There really won't be a winner or loser when they resume play tomorrow. Needless to say, Jim and I will be watching this history making match. I can always find time before or after to water, weed and feed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Header photo - somewhat

Well, I've done all I can think of to create a photo header with a few pots, in a smaller size and nothing worked. I reduced the size of these 2 pictures to 1 inch and as you can see, they opened larger, even though I selected the small option.

Time to get some outside help, I think!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The family karate kid

Here's our 11 year old grandson Brandon, after receiving his black belt in Tai Kwan do. When I was 11, I was playing jump rope, jacks, hand ball and roller skating.

Since I can't go far from home base at the moment, I'm managing to make good use of my indoor time. I redid the blog today and I really like the new color theme. There's still a bit of work to do.Today I've spent a lot of time with my Paint Shop Pro for Dummies book  and still can't find out how to put three or four pictures next to each other, and save it as a single file, to use a header for the blog. Maybe one of your readers can clue me in how to do this!

After the many failures with Paint Shop Pro, I tried to use Word Perfect, but some of the pictures came up half blacked out (haven't a clue as to what caused that). So I need to keep trying. Maybe I'll try Word which I rarely use.

I did manage a bit of weed pulling and hand watering time in the garden but am a bit weak after days of dealing with the results of eating bad shrimp.  In the meantime, I am catching up on a lot of other things.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The culprit shrimp dish

I've been dealing with Montezuma's revenge from some bad shrimp two days ago. Here's  the offending dish. It looks good doesn't it - shrimp with a cream mustard sauce and bacon; but it must have come from bad waters because the shrimp looked firm and fresh and the strong iodine taste should have warned us!  I think it may be a while before I buy fresh shrimp again; but I think this sauce would be fine with other fish and even chicken.

Needless to say there's been no studio or gardening time other than the odd couple of minutes here or there pulling some weeds and some spraying today.

It's given me time to catch up with some paper work, read Ceramic and cooking magazines that have been sitting here for weeks, watch a couple of Netflix movies and even do some more clean up on the computer. This morning I ordered the Windows 7 key to upgrade from home premium to professional which would allow me to use all my old software that worked with XP but doesn't work well or at all with Windows 7.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pink lilies blooming

These pink lilies have been opening the past couple of days. The garden is pretty soggy and droopy this morning after the powerful thunderstorm that came through last night. The bees were out very early taking advantage of what looks like a short dry spell before the storms come through again; and the hummingbirds and the rest of our feathered friends are munching away at their various  feeders. The feral cat Tommy, is late for his breakfast. The trust is building between us, albeit slowly. He will now lay down just a couple of feet in front of me, roll over and meow sweetly, as I put down his food; but that's as far as it goes. This is huge improvement from his first visits months ago when he wouldn't even come up on the porch to get his food, until I went back in the house.

Yesterday was a day of  running around, doing chores. Jim and I both had appointments for osteo treatments in Burnsville, lunch at the Mexican restaurant, a bit of food shopping, dropping off a propane tank with broken valve to be fixed, and on and on. The only garden time I had was harvesting some broccoli and a couple of hand fulls of snow peas which I made to go with our fried clams dinner. 

I'll be heading to the studio right after breakfast to slip and decorate some of these mostly bone dry pots while keeping my fingers crossed that they won't crack. I won't even attempt to slip the dry plates. They'll get done after their bisqued. I'll be stopping around 4 to make a shrimp with bacon in a mustard cream sauce recipe from my new Pub cookbook, and after dinner I need to make another loaf of bread. It's amazing how fast a day fills up!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kiln and furniture ITC'd - finally

Finally got the messy job of coating the small Olympic gas kiln with the ITC100 yesterday. It was a donkey work day in the studio, battling the clogged sand blaster (finally gave up and finished with a brush) and other chores. I had enough ITC leftover to coat a lot of the commercial kiln furniture; and then had a prolonged job of cleaning the gritty ITC out the hoses.

After sitting for months, my most used flashing slip had to be scraped down, mixed and sieved. Normally I can just use my turbo mixer and now re-sieve; but it did funny things sitting that long. After cleanup I was done in the studio for the day.

There are still other slips and glazes that have been sitting a long time, to mix, pots to dip and decorate and more pots to make in between garden and home chores the next few weeks. Today is a day for outside chores and probably no time for studio or garden.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another man plans God laughs day

This is another one of those man plans, God laughs days! My original intent was to get to the studio and get my little Olympic gas test kiln coated with ITC 100 but realized that in the middle of it I might get some TRAC tour people showing up. Spraying ITC is not one of my favorite jobs. It's a messy, gritty mixture  and you have to stir constantly and work quickly - not a job you want interrupted.

So I changed gears and decided to put together more tomato cages. I  got  8 or 9 more cages installed, and weeded a bit as I went, but the humidity got to me. So I'll cool off again and if it's not raining , I'll try to at least get the rest of the cages and maybe some of the poles up.

Since I don't have enough cages and poles for all these tomatoes, I'll use them  for the  heaviest ones and  let the rest of them just grow on the ground with some straw under them. It's a muddy mess out there with possibility of rain almost every day for the next week. The weeds seem to be thriving with all this rain, along with the snail and slug population. I weed a bit every day but I would need to make it a full time job to get on top of them this year.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Some things hat's blooming in the garden

There's more blooming than room to post; but here are a couple of the clematis that are blooming and the first of the hollyhocks blooms.

Got a good day in the studio doing a lot of things on my "to do" list. Mixing slip and glaze test batches and dipping test tiles, sweeping and mopping the kiln room,studio, porch and mudroom, re-claiming clay in the mixer and having to take a chisel and hammer to some porcelain that was too hard to reclaim with the wet towel trick and too soft to slake. It was a donkey work day but felt good to get that much studio time. 

I got to pull a few weeds in the garden and do a bit of hand watering and that was it for garden work today. Dinner was easy - leftovers. Now I'm going to watch one of my Netflix movies "The Blind Side" and relax for the evening.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

This morning's harvest

This is my domestic morning - baking another loaf of oatmeal bread and harvesting a few things from the garden - beets, a cauliflower, a mix of lettuces. That is one huge strawberry that Jim picked - one of the few that the critters didn't get to before us.

I got a little bit of studio time yesterday but didn't get any where near what I thought I'd get done. It took forever to break up my yellow slip which was hardened like concrete at the bottom of the bucket; but I finally got it broken up, mixed and sieved along with one of my 6 tile flashing slips and got a few pots dipped and decorated. I hit a few more glitches with some decorating slips like the under glaze refill from Axner that was so thick it was unusable and when I added a bit of water, it was too thin. It was one of those days! LOL

I'll probably skip the studio today. There's salad dressing and salad to make and pancetta and other things to prep for tonight's spaghetti carbonara and still more email and paper work to catch up on. I also have a large pot bound Boston fern I want to root prune and re-pot as soon as the bread is done and the rain stops.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Picking the first snow peas

Yesterday was a total wipe out day. I perused the garden and saw all was OK. I picked the first couple of snow peas, saw that some pole beans finally sprouted, and the potatoes didn't seem to have any more damage, so I decided to take a real day off and just tend to some of my email dating to 2007 and file some things, write out recipes etc. There's still so much of that to do but it will have to wait. Today is a studio day.

I got a bit of studio time Sunday mixing very hardened decorating slips and accent glazes; but a strong headache shortened the work day. Right after breakfast I'll be mixing a couple of my flashing slips and start dipping and decorating some pots.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Yesterday I uncovered the pots I'd been able to make in small pockets of time since Jim's accident and laid them out on the slab roller. Frankly, I was very surprised that I had this many since studio time has been almost nil. As you can see there are enough plates and bowls and a few mugs. What I need now are more covered jars, maybe some slab pieces and more tumblers and a teapot or two.

When I start a throwing cycle I usually start with some small bowls and if the clay is very soft, maybe a couple of plates and then on to mugs and other things. But since I have not been able to get into a full throwing or studio cycle for months, this group is mainly those pots I usually start throwing for a new cycle.

Yesterday I got them all waxed, trimmed a couple and got a handle on a mug. Today I'll be re-mixing up my decorating slip, a couple of accent glazes and a couple of flashing slips and maybe start decorating this group and getting them ready for the first bisque. I need to have two full bisque loads in my electric kiln to fill the soda kiln.

The only garden work I got yesterday was hand watering the seedlings on the porch and pulling a couple of weeds on my way to and from the studio; but I need to get in the garden tomorrow morning for some weeding, feeding and spraying.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Remembering the 80's

Here's a saggar plate from the early 80's. The pink/lavender from the copper carb among the sawdust. I should do more of these in the future if I can fit my old space age glass saggar in this little Olympic, gas, test kiln. Some of the other markings were from a particular sea weed I'd collect from the Santa Barbara beaches.

Yesterday, after my helpers worked on the warped mudroom door and did some driveway work, they got my little Olympic gas kiln up on the cart for me. It took me a while to find my old sandblaster and get it fitted to the little compressor; but after getting the kiln vacuumed out, I started the job of spraying the kiln bricks with water using the sand blaster and it wasn't working like the last time I used it (about 9 years ago!). After several pressure adjustments on the compressor which didn't make a bit of difference, I finally remembered that I had to raise the bucket of water higher and let gravity help. So I got out the ladder, and  got the bucket of water at the top and voila - got the sprayer working with no problem

Next step was to get the can of ITC100. Big OOPS - no ITC100 to be found! There were three other cans of ITC products and no 100. So back in the house to get on the computer and order a 1/2 a gallon of it from Baileys. So the whole process will have to be repeated in a week or so when the ITC arrives.

Then it was time to try to vacuum the area around the kiln and my Nilflisk, super duper studio vacuum just wouldn't pull, even after cleaning it out very well. I've had this since around 1980, so maybe the poor thing is just worn out. By that time it was time to get some indoor chores done, shower and off to Walmart for more potting soil and another pack of replacement sweet potato plants (a vole has eaten a couple already) and then on to the seafood buffet for dinner.

This morning I need to harvest some spinach and do about an hour of gardening chores and then I'll head to the studio for the day. I need to uncover and lay out the pots I've been able to throw in the little time I've been able to steal for the studio since Jim's accident, and see what I have before I start throwing again.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Lawn sign

After dinner I finished up a few things in the garden and then got on line and ordered 3 lawn signs for the pottery. Vista Print has pretty good prices and I was able to upload a color photo of my work on the sign. Hope it looks as good as it does on line. I don't currently have a sign for the pottery and this is just a test to see if it will be worth it to have a more permanent sign made for our somewhat hidden location.

Workers are here putting on a new door to the mudroom and some road work; but before they leave they'll put my small Olympic gas kiln on the cart. I didn't get to the studio as planned yesterday to spray the kiln with ITC 100. Just as I was heading for the studio Jim came home from the post office with the package of Escar-go, the organic pellets to get rid of the snail and slugs. Since they have been such a problem I dropped everything and got areas wetted down and got the pellets distributed. As always, when I get in the garden, one thing leads to another and before I knew it, it was 4:15, time to come in and start on the linguini and clams sauce for dinner!

I'm heading for the studio as soon as I take my vitamins and get that kiln spraying done. Jim is off to the propane place in town with my 7 gallon and 5 gallon tanks that I'll use on that little kiln. They say it can be fired with 5 gallons but I'm a bit dubious, so I'll start with the 7 gallon for glaze firings and use the 5 gallon as a backup. I want to do some strike firings which will require a cone 10 firing, and then a drop and  4 hour hold at bisque temperatures; and I think the extra gas will definitely be needed for that.

After I spray the ITC, I'll have to do a bisque first and I have more than enough dry pots to fill that tiny 4 cu ft kiln. Then I'll test it with some soda re-fires. I already had Will Baker cut larger holes in the kiln for soda introduction, so there's nothing else I have to do but fire it when ready.

The workers promised to take a few of these tomatoes off my hands, so the porch will soon be back to normal as opposed to looking like a seedling nursery.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Raisin bread

Yesterday started with unloading clay and then after breakfast, it was time to get a loaf raisin bread started and then take advantage of the good weather to keep planting. I got the last large planter cleaned out and refilled and planted the last eggplant,  two French Tarragons, removed some cukes and replaced them with pickling cukes I finally found at Walmart the other day, then had to make new mounds to replant the regular cukes, pulled up some old lettuce, planted a few more lettuce and  spinach starts, more basil, and on and on it went for several hours. I removed the remay from the cauliflower and lettuce to find that one head of cauliflower is ready for harvesting. Looks like we'll be having a cauliflower curry sometime in the next week.

As usual, I worked till I almost dropped, had a later lunch and watched some of the French Open tennis while I did paper work and placed a small order at Axner's pottery supply in Florida. They carry some things I can't get locally and using the post office's flat rate for heavier packages, it makes it reasonable to order some of the heavier raw materials. I think it's in the $14 range for up to about 75 lbs.

I've been waiting for friends Jim and Aaron to come to do some work on the driveway and my tiny electric test kiln that needs elements changed; and I need them to lift my little 4 cu ft Olympic gas test kiln onto the wheeled cart so I can get it outdoors and start using it for tests and re-fires. The tires on the old cart couldn't take the weight, so it now has heavier duty tires, which will hopefully do the job. I need to use my sand blaster to spray it with ITC 100 before I use it for soda and that's probably the first studio job I'll tackle this afternoon since it will be easier to do with the kiln sitting lower on the ground.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Oatmeal bread

Had a good rest day thanks to the rain yesterday. In the morning I loaded up some tomato and hollyhock plants and took them over to John Britt's studio. I was thrilled to look at some of his recent copper red and shino tests - what a huge amount of work and what fabulous and intriguing results! I can't wait to get back to work try some of those recipes as well as some of my own using the striking, and other two firing cycles that John used for those tests, in my little 4 cu ft Olympic, gas, test kiln.

After a shopping trip at Wally world, where I finally found pickling cucumber plants, and did some grocery shopping, I came home, made bread and did some paper work before dinner. The oatmeal bread makes great toast and the strawberry rhubarb jam I bought at the Bakersville Farmers market Saturday morning went really well on this bread.

This morning we drove to Asheville where I picked up my clay and a few other studio items at Highwater. While there, I bumped into Lisa Gluckin and Michael Hunt and Naomi  Dalglish and their beautiful baby girl. I was amazed at how well Michael's truck handled that full pallet full of raw materials! Our Highlander would have sunk with that big a load!

Before heading home, Jim and I had lunch at Chai Pani, a new (for us) Indian restaurant. It was wonderful and worth the search for a parking place in downtown Asheville. They  even had some of the wonderful street food dishes that I had when I was in India.

I'm too tired to unload the clay today, so I'll just relax, let this swollen knee rest another day and watch the Federer Soderling match while I catch up on the days email and check out the new Ceramic Monthly that was in today's mail. Dinner is going to be easy and light - frozen potstickers.