Fowl Beasts and Sweetie Birds

The snowy weather has been hard on Da Chickz. In addition to the gound being offensively cold and aggressively covered in snow, it's hard to scratch for treats, the Most Important Thing In The World. Layer pellets are OK in a pinch, but it's much better to turn up some weed seeds, or a nest of termites, or best of all some grubs or a great big earthworm. Baby mice make a nice snack, too.

So I've been feeding them Hot Breakfast For Chickenz every day, in addition to breaking the ice out of the waterers and refilling them with warm water. Mostly they get hot grain mash (oatmeal, wild rice, cracked wheat, and millet - some fancy-assed pilaf mix that actually tastes like paste) with some dried fruit and sesame seeds thrown in. A couple times I've cooked it in stock. I cool it with milk, or condensed milk, or yogurt, or whatever slightly superannuated dairy product is at hand. If there are meat scraps left over from last nights dinner, they get sauteed up and thrown in.

They LOVE it. This morning, instead, they got leftover pizza, a perennial favorite. They grab the bits I cut it into and run off into the corners to gobble them up, then run back to the dish and grab another. They like the cheese while it's still melty, but prefer to let the crust cool. There's never any left by the end of the day, though.

I've been more careful about allowing food left in the enclosures. The other night, I went out to the fridge on the porch and sitting there on the steps was a fat, malevolent old possum, glaring at the light. If I'd had any kind of weapon handy, the tubby old egg-stealer would have been recycled as buzzard food the next morning. Possums are less of a direct threat to adult hens than racoons, but they could definitly kill the banties, and they'll go to great lengths to get eggs. And, of course, access to feed encourages them - they don't seem interested in layer pellets, but scratch, or whatever table scraps I set out would be a definite attraction.

During the depths of the blizzard, a new hen started laying. I think it's either Lucy or Ethel - it's a little small for a standard, but it's much bigger than the eggs the bantam hens lay. The first couple dozen eggs tend to be slightly small and somewhat thicker-shelled. It MIGHT be the Rhode Island Red bantam, seeing as she's larger than the other banties, but still smaller than the standards. The Barred Rocks have fattened into adult growth, and have the bright red crests and cheeks of layers, but the RIR and the Sebright (the two refugees - remember them?) came with the same indicators, but none of them seemed to be laying. Now, one of them is. Hopefully, it will be an incentive to the others. Othewise, I may have to hand a skillet in the coop and tell them to be prepared to fill it one way or another.

Anyway, we've got five chickens laying at least occasionally; here are pictures of each one's eggs, all laid within the last week.

The first and largest is Mrs. Howell; the second, a greenish one, is Omletter; then comes the mystery egg, and the Pineapple and Tikka (I'm not sure which one lays which egg - they never stay on the nest long enough to know which one it was that laid more recently).

Christmas Cheer

Here's the teapot I was bitching about so much last week. I'm actually fairly pleased with the way it turned out - the picture doesn't do the texture justice, but the finish is pretty close to velveteeen or shearling. It's Cone 6 porcelain, and sadly, it's the best-pouring teapot I've ever made. I sat sadly because it's totally impractical to use, seeing as how there's no good way to pick it up when its full of hot tea.

Still, my grandmother will LOVE it. And I'm very, very glad to be done with it, and if I were actually charging for it, it'd be a couple hundred minimum, given the amount of time put into the decoration.

Happy Little Trees


It's been a while since I've done any updates. I'll try to take pics of stuff this week, so you can see the horrors that Christmas inflicts upon my kiln.

Meantime, for those who weren't at Holiday Faire, I have a new apprentice. Everyone, say hi to northernotter, who is unfortunately for us, resident in the far northern reaches of Drachenwald. I say unfortunate because she's One Of The Cool Kids, and it'd be eaiser to assimlate her into the collective if she were closer. She's a Fiber Person Extrordinaire, and I expect she will be donating heavily to the Microterroist College Fund in the future.

Christmas baking is mostly done. There are 37 kinds of cookies and candy in the dining room right now, although some kids are already running out and we're on the second batch of Chex Mix. There are still a couple of kinds I'd like to get cranked out before Christmas, but if I'm not able to, it's not the end of the world.

Christmas pottery is almost done, too. Just a couple more peices for family members, then I'm done for the year and it's time to start working on stuff for Birka. And general stock for later in the year. Birka should have some new stuff, I'm just not sure what yet.

The purchasing part of Christmas is mostly done, too. I've got a few more gifts to buy, most notably for the outlaws, but today took care of many of them. My nephews aren't nearly as jazzed about getting pottery as they should be...

Yesterday a tremdously enjoyable day at ischeke's and paleobob's place Out Past Hell And Gone. Now I've got a major case of House Envy. If we ever remodel this pile of stone, I'm going to hire their architect.

Time to emulate The Boy and take a nap. He's zonked out on the sofa, so maybe I'll get the fire going and doze in the La-Z-Boy.

Home again, home again jiggity-jig

So, home again and back to the grind, including dealing with the legal/financial mess that my former business partner left me with. Sigh.

I'm also off to get more clay today, and some kind of space heater for the studio.

Something silverstah posted made me think of this, and so I'll put it out there;

Every year for Christmas, I make a number of kinda campy, kinda cheesy Christmas items for my mother and her sisters - stuff like snow-man cookie jars, christmas tree serving dishes, wreath platters, etc. Essentially, the kind of seasonal stuff you can find as Macys or pretty much anywhere, but (obviously) handmade and with a touch more artistic integrity...

Anyway, I'm starting on this stuff this week, and it should be mostly done by next Friday. If you're interested in ordering a peice for that hard-to-shop-for Grandma, or even for yourself (if you're as Christmas-mad as I am), drop me a line.

Anyway, more coffee, some productive calories, and then to work.
Happy Little Trees

Back to work and back to basics

So, I've had two good solid days of work so far. Production still isn't where I'd like to to be, and none of what I've been doing is what you'd call complex or heavily constructed. In fact, it's all very spare, almost zen in its simplicity.

The break has been good for clearing my mind as far as design goes; I'm very happy with the proportions of these pieces. My work has been developing a certain sparsity for a while now, with the aesthetic relying much more on form and subtle shape than on applied decoration. Even as average weight goes down, the average size goes up. The end result is thin walls, light weight forms that function as way of defining a space. At the same time, I've been experiementing with plastic decoration, especially manipulated rims, stamps, embossing, and other form-based alterations.

I'm happy with the direction that my work has taken. I can see a significant improvement over the last 12 months in basic skills; I'm getting better performance out of the clay. Since at the same time I've been working with less-ideal materials (spectacularly non-plastic recycle, for instance) the end result isn't neccessarily visible to the consumer.

Artistic development is tough when working within the confines of someone else's aesthetic - there are only so many techniques appropriate to medieval European pottery - most of them are very different than the Asian-centric skillset taught by modern craft potters. I'm still deeply in awe of the work of the Leach-Hamada school of mingei, and the American potters like Warren McKenzie that took the style and made it their own. For the first time, though, I derive as much satisfaction for my own totally different work. I feel like my abilities have progressed to the point that there is as much validity to my interpretation of 14thC English pots as there is to Michael Cardew's interpetations of Yi dynasty Korean pieces.

Maybe I'm developing a unique artistic point of view. I dunno - it's hard to be objective about it from the inside.

Calligraphy help needed

Any calligraphers out there who would be able to turn a project around in about a week; to wit, a docuement, unilluminated and without particular embullishment, about half a typed page? In english, in a bookhand appropriate to 14thC legal documents? If I can get it done, I need it for Holiday Faire.

It's worth a fair chunk of barter to me, or possibly (some) cash.

What the cluck?

I made an interesting discovery this morning. Chickens reproduce by osmosis.

When I went out to feed and water, I found in the far enclosure two new chickens. Not chicks, but pullets. Bantam pullets. One looks like a Rhode Island Red, and the other looks like a Sebright or a Wyandotte. Definitely NOT there yesterday.

So, either someone I know decided to get rid of a couple of chickens (they look like hens - if they are banties, then they're just about mature, and neither has the pronounced crest and tail that accompanies roos), or the rest of the girls managed to conjure up a couple of new companions from mud and chicken exhaust.

Given the state of distress on all parts, I doubt that's the case. MY flock are all "downstairs" on the ground, squawking like a dive alarm, which is what they do when they feel threatened (by a hawk, or a dog, or something else). It's pretty tooth-rattling, since they are all in a slightly different key, and if it weren't raining HARD, you'd be able to hear it clearly in the house. The newcomers are "upstairs" in the coop, whimpering in a truly pathetic fashion. It's like they are trying to say "they were MEAN to us...!", which they probably were. This is the more easy-going and less heirarchical of my two flocks, but they are still nasty little dinosaur descendants.

I'm a little annoyed - I mean, they'll figure it out soon enough, since there's no clear alpha heirarchy (unlike the other flock, which is ruled by the iron fist of Maggie Hatcher), and they are a pretty mellow bunch (for the equivalent of chicken teenagers), but in the mean time, it's going to result in some minor injuries, a lot of pulled feathers, and a disruption in the egg-laying schedule.

Anyway, that's the major trouble in my life right now. In a few minutes, I'll be off to drop Aaron at school and go to PT, then the chiro this afternoon. Tomorrow, I get the day off, which means maybe I can try and do some throwing - no point in the rain, the moisture in the air makes the clay just dissolve. Maybe I'll invest in one of those Heat Dish space heaters from Costco for the winter. It looks like it may be a while before the wood stove gets hooked up - the chimney needs lots of work.
Damn my eyes

Wisdom from th mouths of babes.

When your four-year-old starts a conversation with "Daddy! I've got a REALLY GREAT idea!" it is without a doubt a VERY BAD idea. Horrifyingly bad, even.

Also, he wants us to know that he is "malarious". We're not sure what that means, but he thinks it's very funny.

It's gonna be a Monday

The doctor still hasn't cleared me for starting work again. That's OK, I'm REALLY not feelking up to sitting at the wheel and trying to get work done.

Physical therapy seems to be helping - it's managed to loosen some of the knots in my neck and shoulders, allowing me a greater range of motion, allowing further loosening, allowing greater range of motions, etc etc. Recovery seems slow, but I know it's actually going pretty quickly. At least today was less exercise and more massage, heat, and e-stim. I'm tired and sore, but not as exhausted as I was on Saturday.

But, to add insult to injury, I was stung by a yellowjacket on the way out of the PT office. Fontunately, my doctor's office is RIGHT NEXT DOOR, so I was able to go in and get a shot of ephedrine within 5 minutes or so. My right hand is pretty swollen, but that's as far as the reaction really got. Feel like crap from the ephedrine, though. And I'll be crunching Benadryl for the next 24 hours to make sure it doesn't come back and bite me in the ass.

Musings under the influence

If you drive long enough, you'll eventually be in an accident. A moment's inattention, a missed signal, some minor mistake that sends your car careening away from a collision. For some reason, I seem to be Ground Zero for these types of errors...

For example, the lady who ran into me at the stoplight wasn't an idiot. She's a normal person who has gone years and years with a pefect driving record. She misread the signals and ran the red, something I can completely understand after looking at the way the signals are laid out. It was an entirely understandable error.

I feel bad for her. I feel worse for her that her insurance company is going to punish her for this mistake. Yes, she was at fault, and she admits it. More fundamentally at fault, however, is Baltimore County, which designed the traffic pattern at the intersection in the first place. According to the guys in the garage at the corner, who were the first people on the scene, there's accident like this every couple of weeks. That should be a clue to someone that th intersection needs to be redesigned.

Like I said, I feel bad for her. That's not going to stop me from jumping on her insurance company with both feet. They're doing thier level best to screw me out of fair value for my (totalled) car. I'm gonna screw right back.