Friday, April 29, 2011

Asheville day

Before heading to Asheville for the Herb Fest and some grocery shopping, we watched the Royal wedding - very impressive; and of course everyone looked beautiful. The Brits definitely know how to do ceremony very well!

We had a lot shopping stops in Asheville, so I didn't linger too long at Herb Fest - just focused on what I was really searching for - French Tarragon and some unique pepper plants; but I found a few other goodies like pineapple sage, lemon grass, two types of nice sized Brandywine tomatoes that are already in flower, and a six pack of various swiss chard varieties. Herb fest is a once a year event near the Farmers Market and is always a fun event with wonderful selections of culinary and medicinal herbs from around the world,vegetable starters, hand made soaps, trees, vines, etc. Now I have to find time to plant them. Tomorrow I need a half day in the studio and the other half preparing for porch sitting with friends, so Sunday will be the first opportunity to get some things planted.

It's going down to the 30's tonight, so I'm heading to the porch to bring in the basil and pepper seedlings for the night and cover the rest with remay.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Storm system moving our way

Holding tight this morning with that big storm system coming our way. Jim was planning on some morning chores in Spruce Pine but he took my suggestion of waiting till tomorrow. We've already had some pretty strong wind gusts coming through and the main part of the system hasn't yet arrived.

I'm glad I was able to get a good amount of garden cleanup and planting done yesterday. After a bad night's sleep I wasn't up to studio work, but getting in the garden actually perked me up a bit.

Today will be a full studio day. The replacement plumbing parts for my small Olympic gas kiln arrived yesterday afternoon, so I'll be able to do those re-fires once we get a couple of sunny days in a row - maybe over the weekend. I need to slip and decorate a small group of pots today and maybe weigh out another glaze test or two.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's blooming

The first Irises and lilacs and some other shrubs have been blooming for several days; and the June and ever bearing strawberries I planted last month are also in flower. Volunteer johnny jump ups and tomato and morning glory seedlings seem to be everywhere!

Yesterday, I cut more asparagus and had enough for last nights dinner(cooked asparagus piled high on toast, topped with chopped hard boiled eggs and bacon pieces and covered in lemon butter.)

I've been up since 3am thanks to a headache interrupting my sleep. Since I couldn't get back to sleep I decided to spend part of the wee hours catching up with some email and snail mail. Studio time was not an option the way I felt so after the light, morning rain passed, I thought a few minutes in the garden might perk me up. Two hours later I have a tidier garden, with freshly planted pansies,and a few lemon yellow dahlias, some pruned roses and vines and a couple of huge piles of weeds and garden debris for Jim to discard in the woods. Now I'm going to get in a reclining position and hope I can manage to nap for a bit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Finished pots

Some of the pots from the firing that are sanded and waiting to get priced.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate this day! Got my Easter dinner veggies prepped this morning and made and ate our family's traditional, big Easter breakfast - ham, kielbasa, hard boiled eggs with horseradish and sweet bread.

There wasn't a full studio day yesterday, which is not unusual this time of year. Bunnies have been spotted near my veggies so I had to spread some blood meal to keep them away from my peas and greens, pull some weeds and harvest more asparagus. I cut enough spears for a dinner tomorrow and a few more will be ready to harvest by then.

For now, it's time to get into the studio and do the last bit of cleanup and finishing on some mugs and a couple of other pots and get them slipped and decorated.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April showers

Here's a quickly taken shot of one of the, small, oval bottles from this firing - once of the pots that came through the firing unscathed.

Yesterday was spent checking the pots and spending a lot of time grinding off the soda that crawled up the feet of way too many pots. Many are a total loss and will stay in the studio as pencil holders!

I had to stop work early enough to plant the two big flower pots in front of the studio, and then drive to Spruce Pine to TRAC before they closed. After a couple of other stops, we had a lovely shrimp dinner at the Knife and Fork which now has a good supplier for local seafood. Before heading home there was a last minute food shopping for Easter Sunday's dinner.

This morning I called Olympic to order replacement parts for the small cone 10 gas kiln I use for soda tests and re-fires. Some of the pots from this firing need to be re-fired but can't be done it until I get a new baso valve, water column gauge and low pressure regulator installed. The other chore of the morning was checking the test tiles from the firing and noting the results.

Since I can't get any gardening in with showers forecast all day, I might just throw some replacement pots that I can soda fire in the small kiln next month. Time to get to work.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A couple of racers from this firing

A couple of quick photos of 2 of my favorite pots from this firing.
The hastily taken pictures don't show the depth of color on this platter and plate. Once I get the rest of the pots cleaned up (today's chore) I'll have to take some decent photos.
We had some shopping to do in the morning and after we got back from Spruce Pine I unloaded the kiln. There was a lot of plunking, which I call "snot" on the feet, from too much soda/salt. I think it was the extra salt that did it because I've used as much or more soda and never got that on the pots; or maybe I was too stingy with the alumina on the shelves. The draw rings looked right, so it was a surprise to see all that gunk on the feet of so many pots.

If the rain stays away till mid afternoon, I've got some dahlia bulbs and lettuce starts to plant, and maybe make one more feeble attempt to look for morels which seem to be living elsewhere in the county this year. Otherwise I'll stay in the studio until it's time to get ready for a nice dinner at the Knife and Fork.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Soda kiln door unbricked

I checked the kiln after planting three rows potatoes, and some weeding and garden cleanup. The kiln was cooled down enough and since I had a little time and energy after all the garden work, I decided to at least un-brick the door.

Shanes glazed pots look very good with some nice crystals on some of the turquoise oribe. There are only a few of my small re-fires on that front portion because I loaded my pots first and they're on the back and middle layer, I won't get to see them till tomorrow when I unload. I'm just too sore and tired after all the heavy garden work to do anything more than type and watch some TV tonight.

Looks like I could have used a bit less soda/salt and/or maybe a bit more alumina on the shelves because some of the pots have that "snotty" stuff crawling up the base of some of the pots which I haven't had happen since using the alumina on the shelves.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Post firing baking day

Just took these two loaves of rye out of the oven. It's my first attempt with this sourdough rye starter to make a New York deli type rye. I hope it tastes as good as it smells. It doesn't have that lovely crispy top that you see from the bakeries of my childhood in New York; but I suspect that bit of crispiness was from their wood and coal burning ovens. I did steam the oven for ten minutes with boiling water in a pan before baking and sprayed more water in a few time while baking. I may have to do more next time.

The kiln is cooling nicely. The bottom is 200F but top is much hotter (over 500F). Once the top is around 400F I'll open the peeps. I got some peeks and see that I go some of that crud crawling up some of the pots from the soda/salt, which I normally avoid. I added a bit more salt this time (about 2 1/2 lbs), along with about 2 1/4 lbs of soda solution. It may have been just a bit too much salt, or maybe I went a bit too thin with the alumina on the shelves. The colors look good from what I can see. My celadon liner is reduced enough to have some color and Shane's turquoise looks like it held it's color well. Can't wait to get a better look at all the pots - maybe tomorrow.

Time for a little lunch and then off to plant for a while while my no knead sourdough bread proofs for another 3 hours.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What not to leave in the kiln room

The heat from the cooling kiln did an interesting thing to this 6 pack of ginger ale. It gives new meaning to the term "pop open can".

The kiln is cooling (down to 1100F). Yesterday's firing ended at a reasonable hour for a change thanks to friend Shane coming over at midnight to turn a couple of burners on low and me, turning it up again at 5am. We shut down around 6:45. I'll be using that schedule in the future, except, I'll start even earlier.

This crossdraft is still not firings as evenly as I'd like, so I'm going to open up the lower part of bag wall a bit more for the next firing.

Today is my post firing vegg out day with the Sunday papers, a marathon of "The Tudors" to watch on the BBC, and some ceramic magazines and other snail mail to read.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kiln humming along nicely

The kiln is slowly rising(around 2100F at the moment.

Shane loaded his pots last night and we not only got all our pots in, but there was a bit of room for a few of my re-fires.

I called it a nigh at ten o'clock, and Shane came back at midnight to turn a couple of burners on low and I took over at 5am. Shane will be back for dinner at 5 (Jim is getting us some Kentucky Fried chicken and cole slaw and I made potato salad yesterday)and we'll finish the firing together. It looks like dinner may be happening about the time I may be ready to start spraying the soda solution.

I think this schedule of candling a few hours, then turning two of the burners on low before bedtime, is going to make for an easier, earlier firing. It will be nice to be in bed before midnight on firing day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New burner ports and tightened bag wall

Shane worked late last night tightening up the bag wall and building new burner ports. We'll be firing Saturday. I'm loading today and Shane will load his half after work on Friday.

We're hoping that these latest changes will result in a more even firing in this cross draft.

I weighed out six glaze tests yesterday (one new glossy base with six different color combinations). I had to stop by mid afternoon to get on with dinner prep, so I'll be mixing and dipping the test tiles this morning. The Chicken Canzanese was a big hit and I will definitely be making that again. It's a time consuming but not difficult recipe.

I'm waiting for the kiln room to warm up a bit before I start loading. Right now I'm heading to the studio to mix and sieve the test batches and get them on to tile.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Glaze testing and potato planting day

Moving slowly after a sourdough pancake breakfast, and a bit early dinner prep for tonight's Chicken Canzanese. The propane people just left after topping off the tank and I'm waiting for a friend to come with a truckload of straw that I'll be using to mulch my vegetable beds.

It's cooler than it was a few days ago, so I'm going to head to the studio for a couple of hours and batch up some test glazes and then get in some garden time early afternoon to plant some potatoes.

My friend Shane is coming by around 6 o'clock to do some work on the kiln ports and tighten up the bag wall, so I'll be able to load my pots tomorrow which should go faster than usual since I already wadded them. That will give me an unusual day or rest after loading and before firing. Shane will be loading his pots Friday and we'll be firing Saturday. It's all good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nice video on building and firing an adobe kiln

Today was a day off from the studio. I had to get an osteo treatment, which my body welcomed after days of heavy studio and garden work, then our big meal of the day at the Mexican restaurant, and some food and plant shopping.

After all the groceries were put away I decided to get some seedlings into biggers pots and then it was time for a light dinner of samosa. The days do fly by!

Looks like tomorrow will be a good day to finally plant my potatoes. I just hope the ground isn't too wet from all of the rain last night.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Decorating done

After breakfast and seedling and house plant feeding, I headed to the studio and got the rest of the pots decorated before noon, stopped to make a green smoothie lunch and then made more draw rings and cone packs and got all but one shelf's worth of pots wadded before I had to come in and make dinner.

I thought I might go out after dinner to finish the wadding, but my back is screaming "NO!", so I think I'll do some computer work, finish watching the Masters golf and then watch one of my Netflix movies. It's been a good day.

Friday, April 08, 2011

last pots bisqued and unloaded

Unloaded the last pots from the bisque kiln this morning and will be glazing later. First I need to see about ordering the new low pressure regulator and baso valve for the Olympic gas kiln which I use for tests and re-fires.

Yesterday was a super busy day cleaning out the clay mixer, mixing up some wadding and mudding mix for the kiln, doing some studio tidying and filing and then 4 hours in the garden. I got one bed planted with broccoli, broccolini and cabbage, planted a grape vine and spent the rest of time on weeding and other garden cleanup. With the early warmth, the garden is really coming alive. Even the peonies are coming up, the hydrangeas are ready to come into leaf and I saw the first volunteer potato which was a good reminder that I still haven't planted my potatoes. That job will have to wait till Sunday or Monday.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Looks like a planting day

Fired the last bisque yesterday and did some studio tidying and got the floor mopped. It turned out to be a lovely day, so I managed to get a bit of garden cleanup time before dinner.

Before breakfast this morning I got some wadding and mudding mixed and that will probably be it for studio time today other than unloading the bisque later.

It looks like it's a good day to finally plant that grape vine, cherry tree and cool weather veggie starts and feed and transplant some of the seedlings.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Short studio update

I need one more day to finish decorating the last few pots from the latest bisque. I've got another bisque ready to go as soon as some of the pots finish drying.

My friend Shane came over yesterday afternoon, and put the new safety on the soda kiln and checked out the small Olympic gas kiln. Seems it had the wrong regulator, which ruined the safety. So now I need a new regulator and a new safety. That's the second safety valve I've had to replace this month. :-(