Saturday, July 30, 2011

Leaf ID

Pulling into the driveway, after an early visit to the Farmers Market, I saw these very large leaves, from what I think may be a sycamore tree. I pulled a couple and want to impress them in a slab and make myself a couple of small serving dishes.

I didn't find the arugula I was looking for at the farmers market, but did find a great looking, large head of savoy cabbage which I'll use some time next week for stuffed cabbage,some black raspberry jam and nice big eggplant which I'll do something with tonight.

I put my eggplants out too early this year, and when they get cold in the spring, they just stop growing. They're a pretty sad sight. Next year I'll be more patient.

When we got home I made some scrambled eggs with diced tomato, serrano chiles, and scallions from the garden. Now that breakfast is done, I need to get out to the garden and hand water my seedlings, and check if anything needs harvesting,before heading to the studio. Some critter ate an unripe ear of corn night before last and was kind enough to leave me the empty cob, just to rub it in. :-( Next year I'll be buying all my corn at Scott's farm in Unicoi. I don't mind sharing with our forest friends; but why do they have to be so greedy! Last year they ate almost every ear!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pickles finally

I was ready to make these pickles yesterday, but found that none of my quart sized canning jars had wide mouths, so I headed to Walmart before dinner last night and got a few boxes.

Next job on the agenda is to clean, blanch and package the next batch of green beans for the freezer, and do some pre dinner veggie prep. The only gardening job I intend to do today is hand water the newly planted seeds before I head to the studio for the rest of the day.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gardening in 90 degree weather

Yesterday I worked in the garden 4 hours - most of that in 90 degree weather, so I'm making it a shorter day today. I'm on a cool off break before heading back out to hand water newly planted seeds. Between yesterday and I today I've planted carrots, beets, broccoli raab, three types of beans, some turnips and parsley, and harvested, some more beans, cucumbers, currants (which I left on the bush too long),and most of the onions which are now drying on the front porch.

I also had to put down some blood meal, which will hopefully keep the critters away from my corn. One interloper already pulled down one the stalks and and took a test bite out of the tip. I guess he or she is waiting for them to get bigger and sweeter. I'm just hoping that the blood meal will work. Being surrounded by forest land makes growing corn a difficult thing to do without fencing or huge dogs to ward off bunnies, deer and raccoons.

Last nights dinner was veggies from the garden - sauteed summer squash, potato pancakes and green beans. Jim added some leftover steak to his plate; but I just wanted veggies.

After watering, I'll get those pickles started which I didn't have time or energy for yesterday. I want to make the Jewish barrel pickles that I used to buy from street vendors in lower Manhattan. They're the same type you get in Jewish delis, which are just barely pickled. I found two recipes on line, so I may just try both. One is done in a crock with whole cucumbers and the other uses just two wide mouth jars, using cucumbers sliced vertically. Those are ready to eat in 3 days, or so says the author. So it will be interesting to do a side by side test.

Time to don my old straw hat and do that hand watering.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Famer in the dell

Right now the garden is calling very loudly. My intent yesterday was to just work an hour in the garden; but when I found that the soil was very workable, I went ahead and dug up 1 1/2 rows of potatoes and planted some more bush beans and broccoli, did more weeding and harvested a few veggies - a cabbage that I'll cook tonight, more beans and another couple of cucumbers. I was too wiped to get any studio time, so instead, I got an early start on dinner and made a double batch of potato pancake mix from some of the newly dug potatoes and that's what we had for dinner.

Today will be more of the same. I need to pull the pea vines and plant beets and more beans and do more weeding. I'm going to get out right after breakfast and maybe the heat won't drain me like it did yesterday. Once I cool off, I need to prep some veggies for tonight's dinner, rub the dirt of the potatoes I dug yesterday and get them stored, and get the rest of the beans processed and in the freezer. I also have to start a crock of pickles.

Jim is having to take it easy after the osteopath found that he had a few vertebrae out of place. She had to give him pain killing shots to try to get one or two of them back in place; and he's on pain killers and muscle relaxants at the moment. This kind of thing is a result of his accident a year ago where he fractured 9 vertebrae. He's been told to not do any heavy or even moderate lifting, otherwise he'll be dealing with a repeat of the current situation. Not fun!

Time for breakfast and then off to the garden early enough to beat the heat. It's supposed to be around 90F today!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Planning the day

We had a lot of rain yesterday, so I'm hoping the morning weeding will go easily. I'm hoping to harvest more of the garlic,dig up some more potatoes and plant some more bush beans; but if the soil is too saturated after yesterday's rain, the potato digging will have to wait till tomorrow.

After the hour of garden chores, the rest of the day will be for studio work. I have to clean up the drips from the pots I slipped a few days ago and start decorating them. I'll quit around 4 and head for the kitchen. After a heavy steak meal last night, I decided to freeze the other two steaks for another time. Jim thought it would be a waste to use those lovely strip steaks in my Mexican stir fry; and I wasn't looking forward to two heavy meat dinners in a row. So tonight it's salad and potato pancakes.

Yesterday, I harvested a bunch of pickling cucumbers and hope Jim can find me some more dill heads at the store later, so I can start a small crock of pickles. I only planted a couple of dill seeds for the leaf part; but forgot I would need more when it came time to make some pickles.

Yesterday I planned to just vegg out after our house guests left, but wound up doing some garden work, then on to a good bit of kitchen time baking two loaves of zucchini bread, got some of the green beans processed and in the freezer, and cooked a steak dinner with some computer work before and after. The day ended with watching two back to back Anthony Bourdain shows. The one on Naples had some interesting facts on Neapolitan pizza making. Evidently the government has created a strict code on what you can call Neapolitan pizza, even to the .3 millimeter thickness of the crust, the temperature at which is must be cooked - well over 400 C)and the type and where the tomatoes can be grown (in the local volcanic soil, etc). Truly amazing!

Time to start our boiled eggs and zucchini bread breakfast. Another busy day awaits.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lazy morning

Our house guests left after breakfast this morning and we're basically just vegging out at the moment, catching up with email and snail mail. We had a great time as always, and now it's time to get back to our daily routine. I did manage to check out the garden after breakfast, and harvest a bunch of pickling cucumbers and pull some weeds, so tomorrow I'll need to get some fresh dill to start pickling them.

Today I need to clean, blanch and all the green beans I've harvested the past few days, and get them in the freezer. Yesterday I picked the first cherry tomatoes which will go into tonight's salad. Since no one felt like the big steak dinner I had planned yesterday, because we were all still too full after a huge meal at the Toe River Lodge buffet. Instead, we just had some cheese, crackers, grapes and other munchies and margaritas.

Tonight I'll be grilling two of those lovely strip steaks for us and cut up the other two tomorrow for my my Mexican stir fry with garlic, onions, chile,tomatoes and herbs along with some refried beans.

There won't be time for the studio today; but I will get in there tomorrow morning after an hour of garden time if the weather permits.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Asheville day

Our electrician friend and helper came a bit later this morning but did a lot in a little time. They switched the studio and garage fridges for us and Jim and I emptied the one going into my studio and filled the other one. They also figured out what was causing a problem with our range and corrected it with electrical contact spray. They also checked our non working instant hot water and the verdict- it's kaput.

We have a family medical crisis going on with our daughter-in-laws mother, who two days after a car accident, has suffered a stroke as a result of the accident; and I was busy with emails and phone calls this morning. So any and all prayers would be most welcome!

Around 11:30 Jim and I headed to Asheville. Our first stop was at Highwater, mainly for some clay and yellow iron oxide (really pricey item; and of course they didn't have any small bags so the ten pound was well over $40. I hope it's a lifetime supply!), then on to lunch, food shopping at Earth Fare, and then to Lowe's to buy another instant hot water unit and home.

At Earth Fare I bought a bunch of organic, nitrate free bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts, among other things. For my nitrate free eating experiment I bought 3 different brands of bacon and I'm hoping Jim won't complain too much, or miss the chemical taste of all those nitrates! I'm hoping he'll find at least one them palatable.:-)

Needless to say, there was no time for studio and probably none tomorrow either. I got the soda pots slipped yesterday but will have to decorate them when company leaves Monday.

We have sushi for dinner thanks to Earth Fare, so dinner and sake(my choice), and white wine (for Jim), awaits.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Man/woman plan and God laughs

I'm always fascinated to see how a planned day evolves in a different direction. I term these days "man/woman plan, God laughs", which is what happened yesterday.The plan was to get the cone 10 soda pots dipped; but the the carpet cleaners arrived and needed to keep doors open. So I suggested that our little Jack Russell rescue dog Bodhi come into the studio with me, since he was freaking out with these strangers and their big noisy machines; and with doors open, he'd be doing what Jack Russells do best - take off for parts unknown. Well, the studio was another reason for him to freak. Anything new, with this little guy is an emotional crisis.

So I spent some time just baby sitting him and finding a few other things to do before turning on any machinery. I was happy to see that those pots, sitting in the old fridge all this time, we're perfectly leather hard. So I spent time trimming and waxing them. By now Bodhi was a bit more used to this strange land - my studio, and settled in a bit, but I didn't want to risk getting the turbo mixer on the drill going, which would an opportunity for hm to go into freak out mode.

Once the cleaners left and Jim came to my and Bodhi's rescue, I was able to clean up the trimmings, do a quick sweeping and get the flashing slip sieved, clean the sieve and the extra bucket,and dip a few of the smaller pieces. Then I had to retrieve and clean a bigger container (I use a huge, rubber feed bucket which is big enough for larger plates and platters) to dip some larger pieces. By this time it was already time to quit and start dinner. Where did the work day go!

Jim loved the watermelon arugula salad, so I'll probably make it again tonight along with simple tomato and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Time to get to on to the studio and dip the rest of the pots.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

cone 6 glaze tests

Got the tiny test kiln fired Sunday. These tests were mainly glazes that Steven Hill is currently using for his cone 6 oxidation, and some that he used for his cone 8-10 firings, as well as a few of my own re-vamped version of a couple, and two new glazes of mine. Before continuing with this cone 6 ox spraying project, I wanted to see just what these glazes looked like on the various cone 6 bodies available from Highwater. I tested each glaze on at least 3 bodies - Little Loafers Glory, Buncombe white, Desert Buff and one tile on a P5 tile that I had on hand.

It seems that Little Loafers Glory or P5 porcelain would be the best choice. So I'll have to get to Highwater to get some P5 porcelain this week. They'd been out of it for a few weeks last time I was there, so this time I'll call first, or just make up my own if they're out. The firing schedule I used was a slow one, soaking an hour at top temperature till a free standing cone 6 was touching, then cooled to 1700, and from there fired down 50 degrees F per hour to 1600, held for an hour at 1600 and let the kiln cool naturally. Looking at the results, some of these would benefit from a hair more heat or tweaking a couple of these recipes with a bit more flux.

Not all the tests I have on tiles, made it into the small kiln; but I'll wait till I get the next bisque done in my Skutt, which should be in a week, then do another glaze firings of these and other cone 6 ox tiles and pots after that. It was as much leg work manually firing that tiny kiln with all the holds, firing down, etc as firing a gas kiln, so the rest of these tests will have to wait to be fired in the larger Skutt programmable kiln. The results from such a tiny kiln don't warrant this much work. I was exhausted!

Today I'll finally get around to slipping and decorating some more cone 10 soda pots, which will enable me to top off and fire the bisque kiln in a few days. Carpet cleaners are arriving in an hour and Jim says he'll deal with them so I can get into the studio right after breakfast for a full days work. Dinner is simple - linguini with pesto, arugula and watermelon salad, already prepped, other than making a light vinaigrette which I'll do right after breakfast.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Got the tiny test kiln going around 5am and finished at 4:55 and had dinner ready at 5. I had to watch the firing like a hawk since I put a cone 8 in the kiln sitter to keep it from going off during the soak and fire down. It took as much tweaking of controls and leg work as firing my big soda kiln; but I think I was able to manually soak and follow the firing down schedule I had planned. Next time I do these cone 6 tests, they're going in my larger, digital controlled, Skutt!

I got some garden time and did a bit of weeding and harvested the first few plum tomatoes, cucumbers and beans (after buying a cucumber and some beans at yesterdays wonderful festivities at the Knife and Fork! So dinner was an onion and sardine salad, boiled parsley potatoes, buttered beans and cucumbers in dill and sour cream.

In between,I'm still dealing with my Dell laptop problems, which now seem to point to a Windows problem now that they seem to have fixed the hardware issues. It's refusing to make a reboot/repair disk; but I have one more thing to try tomorrow, using the installation disk. I'm too pooped to do much more of anything tonight but lift my wine glass and make some firing notes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

70 tiles ready to fire

Yesterday was a put my head down and get it done kind of day. I got about 20 glaze test batches sieved and dipped and marked 70 tiles - 61 for the cone 6 oxidation test kiln and 9 that will go in a cone 6 soda firing with more new ones and some refires in a few weeks. I thought it was going to take at least a day and a half to get these done but I was finished by 5 o'clock.

Working at that rushed pace was draining and when I came in to prep dinner, Jim took one look at me and said "You looked wiped, forget about cooking. I'll just go to Sally's and pick us up a couple of meat loaf dinners". After dinner I was treated to a foot rub and then headed to the bedroom to give kitty Bonnie some play time, and set up the Netflix to watch our new favorite British detective series "George Gently", then meditation and welcome sleep

I'll load these tiles today and fire either tomorrow or Sunday. I'm waiting to hear back from a friend about a possible plant shopping trip tomorrow and if for some reason, she can't make it, I'll fire tomorrow.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heat wave over

Looks like this heat wave is over. With forecasted high's only in the 70's, it would be a great day to get some garden work done; but that will have to wait till this cone 6 glaze project is over. I'll do a quick walk through the garden after breakfast to see if anything needs harvesting; but any other garden work will have to wait till Sunday.

Today will be a full studio day to continue sieving the rest of these glazes and getting them on to test tiles. I batched 20 new glazes the past three days and have 1/3rd of them on tiles. If I don't have any more afternoon interruptions from repair people for one thing or another, this job should be done sometime Saturday, and hopefully, I'll get them fired Sunday. The past four days I've had to deal with computer, heat pump and cable repair people, digging in to my studio time.

Dinner is going be easy, warm weather fare - sardine salad which is basically a couple of cans of sardines, with sliced onion, marinated in a garlic, oil and vinegar dressing for a bit, buttered boiled, parsley potatoes and simple sauteed summer squash from the garden.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dell laptop fixed Woo Hoo!

I got enough studio time this morning to batch the rest of the current batch of glazes. That job was finished by noon, and then I went ahead and sieved 7 glazes and dipped 23 tiles. I had to stop when the Dell repair man arrived.

He replaced the bad ram chip and re-set a host of bios settings and fixed the the mouse pad which wasn't working because the repair people at Dell didn't re-connect it properly. I'm still getting a strange Windows message at start up so I'll have to see if Microsoft has an online live help source that can fix it; but the Dell laptop is up and running again with just one extra click.

The repairman didn't leave till after 5 o'clock, which is our usual dinner time; but fortunately I got all my pre dinner prep for the chicken and snow pea stir fry ready, so dinner only took 20 minutes, mainly to cook the rice. I can't make pizza right now, since my recipe calls for preheating the oven for about a 1/2 hour or more; but it looks like there's at least one more day of fast recipes because of this hot weather. I think tomorrow is going to be a sardine salad and boiled, parsley potatoes dinner - quick and easy and giving me more studio time to finish dipping these tiles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Computer woes never seem to be ending

Today I got about 3 1/2 hours of studio time to weigh out more glaze tests; but had to stop to call Dell. My supposedly repaired Dell laptop arrived and it still wasn't working. Fortunately I had a backup battery to at least get it turned on; but it still won't load. So 3 hours later and after being shifted from one tech to another it was determined that I also have a bad ram chip among other things, which makes me wonder why, with all their diagnostic equipment, they couldn't figure that out! So they're sending a tech out to the house as soon as he receives the new chip. Fortunately this 2 year old laptop is under a 4 year warranty which is some consolation. It also helps that I have a one year old HP to work on and a very old Dell desktop that still works.

Hopefully I'll be able to get a full studio day tomorrow to weigh out the last couple of tests for the cone 6 ox firing; and then I'll start sieving them and applying them to the bisqued tiles.I have about 12 or 13 batches that I weighed in the past two days and each of them is going to be dipped on 3 different claybodies, so this will take me another couple of days. I also have to dip a separate group of tiles for cone 6 soda firing; but that one is a few weeks away.

I'm wondering what possessed me to get involved in this; but I think it's because with old age upon me I have to think about other possible directions for my involvement in clay. At this stage, I don't envision my firing a soda kin till 1 am for much longer! So I'm either going to have to switch to cone 6 for that kiln, or look at the possibility of oxidatin firing in a programmable electric kiln, or both. I have to keep reminding myself that I don't have to make pots I like, I just have to like the pots I make! It's a bit difficult even thinking about the possibility of giving up the atmospheric reduction firings. Funny how we get attached to a certain way of working.

Lovely summer morning gentle rains.

Weighing out glazes is a slow process, even with a good digital scale. After unloading and sorting, the bisqued test tiles, I had to find and label a lot of containers before starting to weigh out the test glazes. I got 9 weighed and mixed; but will wait on the sieving until I'm ready to dip them. By the end of today I should have all the glazes weighed out that I want for this first, manual, firing down in the tiny test kiln. I'll be dipping 3 different clay bodies in each test which should fill that tiny kiln. If all goes well, I might be able to start sieving and dipping some tiles this afternoon.

It was 90 degrees here yesterday and after a couple of hours of feeling like I was in a sauna, I gave in and turned on the studio air conditioner. This morning, we woke up to a balmy, gentle rain, which hopefully will keep things a bit cooler than yesterday.

You don't get much done in a pottery studio in 6 hours! I stopped around 4:30, and after resting my screaming lower back, we headed to the Tin Lizard Pub for a lovely dinner. Monday is 1/2 price on wine, and we opted for a Pinot Grigio to go with our perfectly cooked fish (salmon for me and macadamia encrusted grouped for Jim). We're so lucky to have The Knife and Fork and Tin Lizard - two good, reasonably priced restaurants with young, talented, chefs.

My repaired Dell laptop arrived late yesterday, so I'll need to get the hard drive re-installed before heading to the studio after breakfast. Hopefully, that's all I'll need to do to get it working. If not, it will just have to wait till after dinner to get any more of my attention.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Horse hair raku

Yesterday was a donkey work day - cleaning studio floor and other messy cleanup, as well as a good amount of garden time. The humidity was fierce. It was like working in a sauna, so the gardening time was done in bits and pieces with rest time in between. Fortunately dinner was leftover lasagna, so I didn't have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

I had a very nice early afternoon visit with a fellow potter, Lisa Skeen, who went way out of her way to bring me some tail horse hair to play around with some horsetail raku. Lisa shared that she doesn't use terra sig, but instead has found that using a teflon rib to burnish the pot is a good substitute. I was able to track the rib down at Sheffield Pottery. It's an expensive little tool - $22, but free shipping. Have no idea why a rib is that expensive but if it can do the job when no other will, I guess it's worth it. I've got some terra sig on hand that I made and tested in soda several months ago, so I'll do a side by side test of both. Horse hair raku will be a good fall project. By then I'll have all this cone 6 testing out of the way and have enough pots made for a fall soda firing.

I'm planning an early start in the studio this morning. First I have to get the test tiles out of the bisque kiln, then start weighing, mixing and applying cone 6 glaze tests. It's going to be an all day, probably longer, job just to get this first select group of recipes that Steve Hill uses in his multiple spraying technqiue, along with some of my own revisiosn, done. These will be fired in my tiny test kiln using a manual fire down. The rest of the cone 6 glaze tests along with a few test pots will be done down the line in the bigger electric kilnk where I can program the firing schedule. Some of the glazes Steven is using are cone 10 glazes, and I've spent a lot of time the past several days running some of them through my glaze software. Some look like they'll work in the cone 6 range and others may be iffy, so before I start spending a lot of time spraying pots with these glazes I want to make sure they're going to work at cone 6.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Test tiles dry and loaded

Spent a couple of hours before breakfast doing some glaze chemistry before heading for the studio. Trimmed some pots,loaded the tiny test kiln with tiles to fire in the morning, and loaded the rest of the test tiles and a couple of shelves of pots into the larger bisque kiln. I did some studio tidying and cleanup but had to stop to get a quick, easy dinner of knockwurst, sauerkraut and buttered parsley potatoes, and did some weeding after dinner. Studio sweeping and mopping will have to wait till morning.

Time to call it a day and do some glaze paper work for an hour before the Brit coms come on,followed by a new British detective show we discovered yesterday on Netflix. We hooked up a special cable between our TV and my small laptop, and it plays the free Netflix movies, or other streaming videos on the big screen TV, which is great since this little laptop doesn't have very good audio. We do love Netflix!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Test tiles drying glaze batching starting

The C6 ox test tiles are done and I just have to finish and trim a couple of small test pots. I'd also like to do some slab sushi sized plates later today or tomorrow to test spraying multiple glaze combinations. While they're drying I'll start the glaze test weighing and mixing marathon which should take me another couple of weeks to complete. Studio time is not on todays' schedule; but an early afternoon to the dentist is. :-( So I'll spend the morning getting caught up with these glaze notes.

I found Steven Hill's firing schedule posted in the February 2011 Oregon Potters newsletter, thanks to a referral from a member on a cone 6 web group. Steven is getting amazing results on his work in these cone 6 ox firings. In fact, there's no discernible difference in the looks of these current oxidation pots and his cone 10 Reduction work. Using glazes that promote crystal growth, and spraying/layering 4-8 glazes on the pots, results in a rich, beautiful, complex surface.

For me, this is a project for potential future use. I still love doing my soda fired work and will continue that as long as my body permits; but I may augment it with some of the cone 6 oxidation work if I can get results I'm happy with, and then get down to just one firing a year with the soda kiln. We'll see.

Friday, July 01, 2011

test tile overload

I'm definitely in test tile overload - trimmed and marked a whole bunch yesterday and threw some more, then threw a couple of small cone 6 test pots with the Little Loafers Glory. Softening that clay made throwing it a lot easier. After centering and opening, I just threw dry and had no trouble with it.

After breakfast I need to get a half hour in the garden to do some feeding before I head to the studio. Today's studio time is going to be a repeat of yesterdays routine - finish tests tiles,throw more test tiles and a couple of pots, and trim yesterdays pots if they're ready. Yesterday I had to quit at 3:30 to get ready for company.

Today I'll be able to work till five, before I have to get ready for our Friday porch sitting with friends. Tonight's porch sitting menu: Chinese pork dumplings, pate, raw veggies with dip, Oriental nibblies,and an assortment of cheeses and fruit and wine of course.