Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ring Of Fire

A while back one of my fair readers had asked about what type of kiln I use for my pottery. I wish I could say I have a gas reduction or, better yet, a wood- burning kiln but alas, all I have right now is this electric kiln. I really hate that it uses so much electricity. Both for the carbon footprint and for my own pocketbook. For how much it fires at once, it is actually not too bad money wise if I keep new elements in it. But, I do endeavor to not use so much electricity and it is sort of a thorn in my side. I mean, it kinda makes me feel like a hypocrite in a way. I do a great deal to save power and certainly don't use much but still, I wish I had something else. On the other hand though, it burns very clean and is not a nasty process like the kilns that actually burn oil. You rarely see those but they do exists.
The shot above is of my last firing right as I had just opened the kiln. Most of the time, pottery is fired twice. The first firing is referred to as the 'bisque' and it is basically to drive out every bit of moisture from the clay and certain chemicals and contaminants also. The molecular structure of the clay is actually altered and it cannot be broken back down into workable clay anymore. Bisqueware looks like the flower pots you buy from the store and it is still porous, just like those pots.

The pieces are then glazed and fired the final time. The glaze firing is much hotter. In my case, I fire to about 2,230 degrees F ( I think: I could be off a few degrees), which is what we refer to as Cone 6. That is a mid-range clay. Porcelain and other stonewares fire much hotter. In this final firing, not only does the glaze mature, but the clay itself actually becomes vitreous (semi-liquid) and is no longer porous. There are hundreds of formulations of clay and these divided into categories where the clay bodies mature at certain temperatures. My clay would simply melt if fired to cone 10.
In the above photo I took a close up of the interior and of the cones I use to control the kiln. One small cone goes in a mechanical sitter so that when the desired temperature is reached that cone melts and allows and cut-off switch to drop, thus shutting the kiln off. Well, occasionally this doesn't work right; those sitters do sometimes malfunction so I always use a visual cone, or a witness cone as some call them. This is the large one you see sitting up by the plates. It normally sits in front of a peephole and I can physically look inside the kiln and see when it starts to drop. When I was in college we fired totally by sight in large gas kilns and so I am only comfortable doing it this way. Plus, it allows you to manipulate your firing if you want. Some glazes do better fired to a 'softer' cone 6 or whatever. You can tell by looking at how far the cone has bent as to the approximate temperature.
You can also see the plates are stacked in those neat plate setters. I love those things. Plates take up a lot of room in a kiln but those let you stack them vertically and they work great. By the way, the shelves and setters are made of a very dense clay-type material that will withstand temperatures much hotter than the pottery. They can warp though if you over fire. I found that out firsthand.

This is one place setting of some dinnerware that was recently ordered. I was very pleased with how it came out. It is very hard to get those red colors in an oxidation firing and that is what all electric kilns do. You can only do reduction firing was gas or wood. Why reds are hard to get in oxidation is a looong, boring explanation that involves a lot of chemistry so I'll skip that for now. I do actually understand it myself though! The specific kiln I use is a L&L. They are wonderfully reliable kilns and I like mine a lot. It is probably pushing 25 years old and still works great. You do have to replace the elements at least once a year, if not more, and this kiln has 6. It is not a cheap item of maintenance. However, old elements make the firings drag way long and that costs you even more. With new elements you can hit cone 6 in about 6 hours.

Now, amongst the clay elitists, cone 6 oxidation is basically sneered at. It doesn't have the 'mystique' and all of wood or gas reduction firing. In fact, when I was in college, we were not even taught how to glaze fire in an electric kiln. It was the unspoken, and sometimes spoken, idea that mid-range ceramics were inferior. That you could not get the range of proper expression with electric oxidation. However, I believe that a good artist can make good art out of whatever materials and techniques they happen to have available. Not everyone has the means or place for a large wood or gas kiln. But you know, those arrogant and narrow-minded views are often expressed by people that have the luxury of not actually having to make a living solely from their art. There is a tremendous amount of pretentious attitudes in the professional ceramic world that really makes me want to barf. I used to kind of hold those views myself way back when, because that is what I was taught, but after having been out in the real world and having to make a real living I see now that you do with what you have. Yes, I would like to have a wood-burning kiln. The surface expression you can achieve with them is amazing. And not all people who high-fire look down on us mid-rangers! lol! But for now, I will use what I have available and I will always have respect for my ol' L&L.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trial and Error

Hey folks! some of you may have noticed the new little tabs under my header. I am attempting to add pages for my pottery only; sort of like a website within my blog. It is still in the rough draft phase though, so don't be too freaked out by how scarce it looks. It looks rough and I don't have near the information that it needs yet. I was basically just trying to see if I could even make it work. I will be photographing much of my work over again in a more professional manner and replacing those pictures. I am also going to add complete information about the make-up and care of my work and ordering info. So, just so's everybody knows, that page is still under construction.
If anyone has any advice or ideas or knows tricks to Blogger pages I would love to hear any of it though!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wild Women Don't Get The Blues

Or at least, that's what they would have you believe... Actually, I'm doing okay. In a way, I've been enjoying my solitude. As the Junkies would say, "I kinda like that extra two feet in my bed". Grendal and I can stay up half the night and listen to the Doors just as loud as we want. But you know, it has it's ups and downs. To my surprise though, I have found myself longing so for the southwest. Maybe it's the cold getting to me and I can only remember the warmth of everything out there. The sun, the rocks, the food. Or maybe it's because Jack and I had so much fun there. It was such an adventure; at least for me.
I can still visualize and even feel, almost perfectly, the dead of night in the cauldron of Big Bend. The moon was so full and bright you could see every detail in the mountains surrounding us. And when morning came, the mists oozing silently down the slopes towards our camp. It was one of the most beautiful and horribly uncomfortable nights I have ever spent. I was terrified we would be attacked by bears. Or one of those giant spiders would jump on me right when I was trying to take a leak. We couldn't get the air mattress to inflate enough and we both kept rolling towards the center. Exasperated, Jack finally moaned, "I feel like a weeny in a hotdog bun". I guess it was the goofiness that claims you after a certain amount of sleep deprivation but we laughed the rest of the night.
I want to go back there.

In other news I have continued to work on the pantry between throwing and firing new pots. I finally got the forth shelf put up. I didn't have the bracket put on yet in this photo because I had to paint them black and it wasn't dry enough yet to touch. I have discovered one unfortunate thing about organizing your pantry though. I wanted to munch on all of the goodies I found and was relegating to various clear jars. Dried fruits and chocolate chips. Nuts and organic honey. Yum!! The third and forth shelves up have not yet been organized. Still working on that. I hope to have everything in glass or ceramic jars and out of all paper or plastic containers. I do buy some glass jars new but also pick others up at thrift stores and such. I don't care if they match as long as I can get my hand or a good size scoop inside.

I hope that after summer these shelves will be filled with my freshly canned food instead of store-bought cans. Tomorrow I hope to work on the countertop itself and maybe pouring the backsplash. Oh, ignore that awful mess on the countertop. I don't know how that got there. Probably Grendal. I have to get on to her about strewing my tools everywhere.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cryin' Shame

Today was a beautiful, sunny, even almost warm day, so I decided to take a short break from the pantry and do a little yard work before it turned cold again. I moved two grape vines to the inside perimeter of the garden, so they would be within the protective boundary of the fence. My goal is to have the whole perimeter of the garden filled with assorted fruits with the veggies occupying the middle and a nice walkway dividing them. I also brought in a lot of firewood and kindling to prepare for the coming cold. They are even calling for more snow in a day or two.
Toward sundown though I came in to finish prepping the last of the big shelves to go in the pantry. I got it sanded very well and the beeswax put on. Hopefully, I can install this tomorrow and maybe a few smaller shelves too.

Well, Jack left today and he ain't comin' back. I guess I just ain't cut out for coupledom. Someone told me the other day I am like a bull in china shop. Reckon so. Cryin' shame though. Jack and I had a lot of fun together. I'll miss him. I guess not all problems can be overcome though.
I got lots to do around here though to keep me busy.
I even noticed that there was the weeist little sprouts popping up in the coldframe. I believe it was the loose leaf lettuce.

*Lyle Lovett

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keeps Gettin' Better

So, here is the pantry after I cleared all the junk out and had prepped the walls for painting. And yes, I know that many of you are sitting there thinking, 'she put plywood on the walls?' Well, in the pantry, yes. This was actually Allen's idea way back. I wasn't too sure of it at first but I guess it was a good idea. I mean, in a pantry you are going to be installing many shelves and attaching various things to the walls. Well, this way you don't have to worry about hitting a stud. The plywood is 1/2" I think, so it is very sturdy and it is easy to tell where the studs are also. Plus, most of the walls will be covered with supplies, boxes etc. on the shelves, so it's not like you are going to see much of the walls anyway. And, it's a pantry! who gives a crap; it looks smooth and it's easy to clean. One more note; that is plywood not OSB. Which is shit. Mashed, hammered shit that will begin to expand on you the first time it gets wet. I hate that stuff.

And here it is with the final coat of paint (I used a kitchen and bath semi-gloss) and the window trimmed out. The only thing I don't like is that, if you look real close, you can see a slight crack where the sheets of plywood butt each other. But! I have a trick for that I will show ya'll later. I did skim some areas of the walls with sheetrock mud. It adheres to plywood just fine and sands real smooth.
Now, I just have shelves to put up over the window and around the other wall and move the freezer etc. back in. Oh! I forgot, I am going to go ahead and install the flooring in here also.
I have picked out some really neat stuff I will show you later.

In other news, Jack installed a sink for me in the basement/ studio. Man, this helps me SO much with my pottery and just everything. A friend gave me the old cast iron sink, the faucet and the countertop, so that was great! We also had the lumber for the legs and framing so the only things we bought were a few fittings for the plumbing that I did not already have.

When Allen and I first did the plumbing in the basement he stubbed out for hot and cold water and the drain line by the washer and dryer 'cause he knew my studio was going to be here at some point. I was really glad he thought of that because it made hooking things up a snap. Just cut off the caps, sweat two fittings on the lines and install the valves. Jack says I did most of the work because I sweated the 2 fittings on, but he really did everything. And I think he did a real good job.
But seriously, if you are ever running any water lines and think there may be the slightest chance you may want to put some other fixture anywhere in the vicinity, go ahead and stub out at least some partial lines. It hardly costs anything for a few inches of pipe, a couple of T's and 2 caps and you will be SO happy if you ever do install the other stuff.
I thought about showing a step by step of how I connected to those water lines but wasn't sure if ya'll would be interested in that.

Now, from some time ago I know a few of ya'll had wondered about my support for the pantry shelves I have installed. Here is a photo of the steel braces that are in the center. I know some people seemed skeptical of my methods but you have to consider the materials. These shelves are a FULL 1" thick and they are old-growth pine. That makes a tremendous amount of difference as compared to the 3/4" sugar pine (new growth) they sell at Lowe's. That stuff will warp and sag all over the place! Plus, the shelves are doweled into the wall. These brackets are 1" wide x 12"x 8" and they are 44 3/4" from the wall supports. I could load these babies up like hell and they ain't goin' nowhere.

So, hopefully I will have more finished pantry photos soon. My Be Prepared Challenge is probably going to go slower than the other peoples, since I'm dealing with new construction not just organizing, but that's okay. I will finish the challenge and be stocked up. Plus, it also involves accruing a decent first-aid kit and similar things, not just food. This is something every home needs. If any of ya'll are participating int he challenge, even a little, please let me know how it's going for you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

People Get Ready

I do not believe that ever in my life have I seen snow last this long in the South. This is the 9th day now with snow still on the ground. Granted, it's not a lot but still, how weird. Well, anyway, that is not really what this post is about. Just a quick update on the coldframe etc. During the worst of the snow I was beginning the really think that my coldframe was going to be a wasted effort. At least for starting any crops. Maybe if I had had presence of mind enough to sow the seeds for things way back in September I would be able to have some things but then, you eventually are going to eat all that up. You need to be able to start some seeds during the winter at some point. Well, a couple of days after the initial snowfall things began to warm up and the sun started coming out again. I kept checking the daytime temps in the coldframe. It was staying in the 30's and 40's at least, during the coldest days. Then we had some days where it got up in the high 40's and even 50 degrees. The temps in the coldframe skyrocketed to the 70's and 80's! Plenty warm enough to germinate seeds! Of course, once the seeds germinate I have to make sure not to cook the plants but even in this colder than normal winter, days around 50 are not too uncommon. Maybe this will work after all.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, just start the seeds indoors and then transplant. Well, I do plan to do that with a couple of things but some crops, like loose leaf lettuce, are much easier to just direct sow. I do have some head lettuce that I think I'm going to try to start and then transplant.

Another thing I wanted to post about was this challenge that some other bloggers have started. Now, I have never participated in such things but I think I'm going to give this one a go. And no, I don't think society is fixing to collapse or nuclear war or attack of the zombies or whatever but I did realize something during this last snow. I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have thought. Now, we had plenty of food and never had a problem but I did realize a few days in that I just didn't have a couple of items I thought I had actually stocked up on. And then I got to thinking; you know, in these days, weird things are becoming not so weird to happen. Super heavy snowfalls, floods, fires etc and just becoming more commonplace. Now with that, many economists are publicly admitting that the food reserves in the US are already "disturbingly low". I think that we would most all agree that depending on our government to truly help us in a real crisis is like peeing into the wind. I don't want to depend on that. But even if it is just to make me more comfortable during the occasional snow, that's fine too. At the very least it will make it so I don't have to run to the grocery store with the rest of the mindless hordes who are fighting over bread and milk. Like what the hell are you going to do with bread and milk? Screw that; I get steak and whiskey.
So, I am going to participate in this challenge to get my house ready. Even if nothing ever happens it doesn't hurt, as other bloggers have pointed out. I am not advocating mindless hording as some people do where they just buy and store ungodly amounts of food and then let most of it spoil. That is a disgusting waste on many, many levels. I am advocating an ordered system of acquiring and producing a sustainable flow of food and supplies. So, follow along if you wish. This first week we are simply cleaning and organizing an area for storage. It can be a place in your basement or house but it should be easily accessible and an area that is not subject to extreme heat or cold. I am going to put much effort into finishing my pantry and also clearing an area in the basement for some shelving devoted to these items only. The back reaches of my basement stay very cool and dark, so I think it would be a good stable place for storing some things.
Alright! Well, time to go to work!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter's Song

You may recognize this scene from my last post. Sunday evening we got whacked with about 6 inches of snow and sleet. It would snow heavily for a while and then switch to sleet for a bit, making for a dense, crunchy coating of fluff and ice. It has remained very cold all week so most of the snow is still with us today, although I have just begun hearing large chunks of it letting go from the roof. It is warming some today so I expect most of it will melt. It's most unusual for us to get this much snow and even more so for it to stay so long. At least the sun has been out the past couple of days, flooding the house with it's warmth and cheerfulness.

This is walking down my drive, going towards the road. I always have liked this rock ridge. We took many walks but also made time for naps, eating hot soup and just generally taking it easy. I am feeling better although I have resigned myself to the fact I cannot drink coffee anymore. Probably need to lay off the caffeinated tea too.

I did get to feeling well enough to have some major fun too! Nothing like good laughter to relieve stress. It was mainly Jack's idea to construct a sled. Now, we are not used to such weather and so we don't have equipment for work or play in it. You can't just run down to the store and buy a sled or skates here. So, after trying cardboard boxes, which didn't offer the speed we were after, we switched to the old redneck standby; tin. An old piece of roofing works wonderfully.

You just can't steer it very well, so you pick your trajectory well. Or at least try to. My land has some wonderful rolling hills on it and two driveways, one leading up a fairly steep hill. All in all, the course we eventually laid out was about 200-250 yards long. By the time you neared the end you were screaming down through the front yard. Literally and figuratively in my case. I haven't had that much fun in a while! Sometimes Jack and I would ride together, which was really fun but harder to steer. You have to lean hard one way or the other to direct yourself. Other than smashing headfirst into a couple of pine trees we did pretty good. Finally, we got a good trail going and only veered off once when we jumped the compost pile and landed smack in a huge blackberry patch. We both cut our faces up a little but Jack valiantly fought the briers to retrieve my hat that they had snatched off as we plowed through.

So, the past couple of days have been back to the grindstone, so to speak. I'm throwing again and will hopefully have these orders out soon that some of you have contacted me about. I have some miscellaneous pieces still that I may put up soon. I'm investigating ideas for a permanent website and have read something about being able to put different pages in different tabs up here on Blogger. Don't know if that would be best for a commercial site but I'm going to look into it.
Hope you all have endured the cold too. The days are noticeably getting longer again and I am anxious for warm weather. Been pouring over the seed catalogs and what seeds I already have to see what I want to grow this year.

*Cowboy Junkies

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Weakness In Me

Hey folks, I'm gonna take maybe a short break. My stupid heart and blood pressure are not wantin' to play fair right now, again. Not feeling real sporty. Mebbe it's tryin' to tell me something, again.
I'll get to the comments and emails shortly. I did force myself to get out today and get the garden ready for this awful snow and ice that is coming our way. Got the tunnel shored up and lots of straw bedding down over the garlic and fruit.
See ya'll shortly.

*Melissa Etheridge

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Livin' In The Future

I'm not sure if that title really fits this post but I'm in a lazy mood tonight, so that's what it's going to be anyway. Well, I finally got the coldframe experiment completely underway. The weather has been warm enough the past couple of days for me to mix a little concrete and fill the few gaps in the stone that make the foundation for the frame. Then, we were able to fill the inside with dirt. I say 'we' but Jack did most of that. Anyway, I did add one big bag of bought garden soil since the soil here is so lean.
I think one of my major projects for this coming year is to truly start producing a significant amount of my (our) food. Food prices just continue to go up and it doesn't seem that they are going to be going down anytime soon. As a matter of fact, many things point to possible food shortages in our future. Many crop failures here and abroad, the continued decline of pollinating insects, strange and destructive weather patterns, corrupt corporations that control certain aspects of the food chain, and it goes on and on. Add to that the always slightly under the surface possibility of food poisonings from factory farms, even among organic farms. It is my strong belief that if you can grow any amount of your own food you would be wise to do so. And it's something that we need to start now, before things get bad. A garden takes time to develop; those seeds don't become tomatoes overnight!
A lot of people might say I'm being melodramatic or a fearmonger or whatever. I think I'm being more a realist. And I aim to back up my beliefs. I think we are destroying parts of this world through factory farming, both the earth itself and the small communities of farmers that can grow things locally. I've noticed lately that a lot of the people that seem to hug the most trees and squawk the loudest about the earth and helping people etc., often don't actually do much to those ends. They still continue to participate in the old corporate cycle of consumerism and dependency. 'Save the earth and help the little guy but, by God, I better have my tangelos in February! You know, screw The Man and all that but only if it doesn't inconvenience me or make me get my big ass out from in front of this TV'. I don't think that's right. If I'm going to claim to care about our society and this earth, then I need to do what I can to relieve some of that burden. And part of that might be buying a few things from the farmer down the road rather than Big Box Grocery that trucked the food 600 miles to me.

Okay, so I think that's enough ranting for now. But seriously, what is it going to take for us to get off our ass? Things are not working well the way they are. Half the kids in the nation don't even know where a hamburger comes from. But hey, probably a good percentage of those kids will die of cancer or diabetes before they reach middle age.
But anyway, even if things never get worse, not much beats a fresh, real tomato picked from your own garden and eaten right there. It's good for the soul. It's time to beat those swords into plowshares.

*Bruce Springsteen

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

All Together Now

Alright, I finally have a completed project to show ya'll. You may remember I started on this one some time back when I first laid this little block knee wall. That was in preparation for this. I backfilled behind the wall with gravel and also filled all the cells of the block with gravel except for the cells in which I had drilled the floor and driven rebar vertically, to help tie the wall to the floor. Those cells I filled with concrete. I then formed this little slab on top of the wall. You will see that I have put a vapor barrier down under the wire. If you ever pour a slab in an area that might ever, ever be enclosed, you need to put a vapor barrier down or you can have moisture issues later. Since this is in an enclosed basement I always put poly down. Say you pour a concrete patio out back and in your wildest fantasies think maybe you might one day make it into a sun room or such; put a vapor barrier down! It is cheap and will save you much if you do ever enclose the area on the slab. This little slab is only two inches thick but will be fine for the shelves I want to put here. I always put wire or rebar or some reinforcing in my slabs also. Welded wire is great and this is some I had scavenged off a job a couple of years ago.

I just happen to have a bit of plyform which I ripped down to make the edge form. Plyform is simply a high grade 3/4" plywood that has been treated with a release agent so that it will not fall apart because it absorbed water off the concrete and will release after the concrete cures without pulling chunks out of the slab edge when you wreck it off. I highly recommend the stuff if you are pouring anything that will show after it is finished. If you can't get it then an alternative is just to spray regular plywood with motor oil. Works great and is much cheaper than painting the plywood with any type sealer.
After establishing the correct elevation for the top of the plyform on one end, I drilled through the plywood, with a hammer drill, into either a concrete filled cell or into the solid wall of the block, as you can see in these photos. With one end of the form set at the correct height, I simply used a 4' level to get the rest of the form correct or you could pull a string line. The top of your block is not going to be correct all the way, so you don't want to just measure up off that.

I then used my cordless drill with a nut driver to run a Tapcon through the plyform and into the block. Tapcons are wonderful! We use the quite a lot at work. They come in a wide variety of sizes and lengths and can be reused many times. Any time you are attaching something to any masonry product and think you might want to take it back off one day, I would recommend using Tapcons. Now, Tapcon is a brand name but anytime you see these big, bright blue screws with coarse threads, that is what they are. You have to have a hammer drill to use them though; a regular drill, even with a masonry bit, won't hardly drill a proper hole for them.

Thank God I was able to borrow Allen's concrete mixer and mixed my mud for the slab. It went SO much easier than mixing by hand. I'm just getting too old for that crap! I just threw a little 2x4 form up in the back and leveled over to establish a grade line on it. You can pop a chalk line and then drive a few nails partially in, along the line, so you can see your grade after the mud goes in. Since the top of my form on front was on grade, I just ran my screed along the top and made sure the other end was on the nails along the 2x4. When you screed concrete, you kinda saw the board back and forth as you push or pull it along. This gives you a pretty level surface; just make sure you stay on your grade marks!
After you screed it off, smooth the surface with a hand float just enough to seal the holes and lay it down smooth. Then leave it alone!! Let the water come to the top but do not work it back in! you will see when the surface starts tightening up. The water will start disappearing. Go over it once more with the float to smooth it further and then let sit again. You can either broom it or go over it with a trowel to get a slicker finish but this takes much practice.

I also ran an edger along the front edge to give it a nice rounded corner on front. I'll get a picture of this thing one day. They are handy to have if you pour much concrete. So, I let the slab cure for about a week and then wrecked the forms and installed my shelving. This frees up much space in the basement and has made things much more organized. I plan to continue the little wall all the way down and probably add a few more shelves. I also bought a few storage tubs and organizers for my tools and drill bits, etc.

I don't really make New Year's resolutions but one thing I really want to work on here is more organization and storage. Getting the basement in proper order is a big accomplishment and I think will help me greatly. It's especially important now because Jack has brought a number of his tools and such and I want to make room for his stuff and have him feel comfortable. Many people have commented that my house was not built for two people but I think I can make it work. We do need a separate workshop but that's a whole 'nuther project!!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Travelin' Man

I tell ya, I feel like I am really falling down on ya'll lately. I just don't feel like I am writing about much of anything. I thought I might have some interesting things to relate from this weekend trip Jack and I took but, not so much so. Or, the thought just popped into my head, maybe I am experiencing a bit of shyness when it comes to writing about my private adventures. Hhhmm. Not sure; it's not like Jack and I were up to no good while visiting the Parthenon here. Hell, it was so cold that day I wasn't about to part with even the slightest bit of clothing. Heh.
Well, anyway, the holidays are practically over so I'm sure I'll be back to the tasks around home pretty quick.
This quick trip to Nashville was suppose to be so I could restock on clay but the supplier I use up there stopped carrying the one clay I like. Dammit. Happens every time. Now I'm gong to have to try to find a dealer in Georgia or just bite the bullet and have it shipped from North Carolina. Or start using a more local clay. Piss.
We saw a few sights while in Nashville but a lot of things were closed since we went up on Sunday. Jack used to live there, so he knew the whole city. That was great; he knew how to get everywhere and I just had to ride along.

The columns and the Parthenon were much larger than I would have imagined. For those who are not familiar with this structure, it is a full scale replica of the original Parthenon, complete with the enormous statue of Athena inside. We didn't get to see that however.

This was the Gaylord-Opryland Hotel. We did not stay here by the way. Much too expensive, but we went through it to see the Christmas lights. It's like a 4 acre arboretum under glass. Pretty cool.

These were the lights out front. Way down where those brightest trees are there was a full-size Nativity scene. I was kinda surprised to see a religious display like that on commercial property but I guess it's still legal. For now anyway. It was very well done.

So, I didn't get my clay but I got some other supplies and we had a blast, as usual. I like traveling with Jack because he just makes it so easy. He's very accommodating and we just take our time and enjoy ourselves. Even if I'm not feeling well, like Sunday night, we have fun and laugh at what we can. It's so nice to be with somebody like that.

I have completed one project at the house that I've been working on for a while so I'll show that next time. Nothing real exciting but it is helping immensely on organizing the basement. Got a few other projects underway that I will show soon also.
I guess I am wanting this blog to focus more on what I am trying to accomplish here now, more than just whatever hits my brain. I think this is because I feel more focus now and really feel I should knuckle down and make a concerted effort to move into a truly self-sufficient life. Lots of things are stimulating this move, like Jack being here and me loosing my job. But those are good things and I think bringing this place to fruition is a good thing too.
Don't worry though; I'm not going to get boring and all. Ya'll know stupid things are still going to happen to me!

Saturday, January 01, 2011


It was a stormy night
You know the kind where the lightning strikes......
the night was long
the night went on
peep's was coolin' out until the break of dawn....

Yes, those lyrics pretty aptly describe last night. We didn't stay up until the break of dawn but did wake up about that time. It was still stormy, with a steady rain drumming on the metal roof. a sound that will lull you back to sleep so easily. So, we snuggled back in bed and snoozed a little more. The storm brought slightly warmer weather with it so there wasn't even the need to go stoke the furnace. I hope the rest of my year plays out so peaceful!

Another reason I choose that song title is because today is traditionally the day for blessing, or wassailing, the apple trees, although I think it's okay to bless all your fruit bearing trees this day. On this day apple cider is poured over the tree roots and ceremonial threats are hurled at the trees to intimidate them into bearing lots of fruit in the coming year. That sounds kinda crazy to us Americans but it's still a fun thing to do! Now, most fruit trees should not be fertilized until spring but I will use today as a benchmark to fertilize my blueberry bushes, which should be done now.

I was doing a little inventory in my mind lately over my fruit stock. I added two new plum trees in 2010 and one new apple to replace one that died. I also added four raspberry bushes and two blueberries. This, to the two fig trees, one apple and two grape vines I already have. None of them are old enough to produce much more than a handful of fruits yet but they should be catching up soon. I hope to clear enough land this year to add two or three peach trees and at least one more apple. I don't care to eat many sweets at all but love fruit, as does Jack, so I hope to really increase my capacity for producing my own.

I hope you all have a fine day spent with loved ones and that your new year is prosperous and fruitful in every way!

*Erykah Badu