Monday, June 22, 2009

One brick at a time

Today is rainy and dreary. At least the temperature's a little cooler.

Yesterday most of Steve's family was here for Father's Day. We cooked out and played Hillbilly Golf and Corn Hole. Our niece and her husband and sister didn't make it. She got nailed in the face with a line drive when she was pitching for some softball league they're in. It was pretty serious, but could have been much worse. It appears that nothing is actually broken in her face, but she's getting her teeth checked today, she had to have some stitches and couldn't eat solid foods for a day or 2. I hope she's doing better and doesn't pitch anymore softball because this is her second incident, and few years ago our son had to have major surgery on one of his fingers when he was pitching and got hit in the hand with a line drive. I told my niece that I've come to the conclusion that organized sports are of the devil! I've held this belief since I was a young (fat and un-athletic) child. These incidents only prove my instincts to be correct!

Today we got a little mowing in before the rain and then I was planning to start grinding the crap off of the bricks that I'm planning to use to build the salt kiln. They were used before in a gas kiln, and have a lot of crud on the edges that needs to come off. They should be smooth as possible so the kiln is tight and doesn't let a lot of heat out. But the weather deterred me from starting.

I feel like I've been putting off getting started on the kiln and I'm trying to figure out why, since it's really the main thing I want to focus on at this point in my life. I think part of it has been wanting to figure out what's the best location in regards to accessibility, but keeping in mind that the firings will produce some smoke, ash, and fumes that we may not want blowing directly over the house. After conducting some research online and emailing a few potters whose opinions I value, I think I've decided on the location.

But I think that's only been part of what's keeping me from digging into this project. Ok, another surface excuse has been that there's just so doggone much that needs to be done around here. There actually were some projects that I put a higher priority on than my salt kiln. But now things are somewhat squared away, we can at least live in the house and we've made it presentable for guests, so I'm at a point where it's time to kick ass and get this kiln built!

So today when I was mowing (I tend to do my major philosophizing on the lawn mower or when I'm shoveling horse manure, which I don't have the opportunity to do much these days.) So, while I was mowing, I was trying to figure out why I'm dragging my feet about this and I think it has to do with age and experience. I would bet that if I had been in this situation 10 years ago, I would be tackling this project with reckless abandon!! But now I know a little more than I did back then, I think that I know enough, to know how much I DON'T know about kilns and firing, and pottery and clay!! Am I making sense?

I feel like I've reached a major fork in the road of my development as a potter and while part of me is extremely excited about the opportunity, another part of me knows how much time and effort (and of course always the cold hard cash) is going to have to be invested in this venture. At 47, I think I'm just a little more aware of the effort and the possibility for failure. I know I've lamented this before, maybe I'm starting to sound like a tired old broken record.

I have a friend who's an artist (and may be one of the 2 people on the planet who is actually reading my blog!) He works full-time as a commercial artist and does his writing and painting in his spare time. A few months ago (in my former blog) I was
whining about the difficulty I was experiencing in coming to a decision to buy all this pottery equipment in the first place. At that time I mentioned my "fear of failure" as one of the hurdles that was making the decision so difficult. Big shock, that hurdles back. We think we've cleared them, but they always seem to pop up again, don't they?

I guess that means it should get easier to just get on with it. My friend said that he tends to look at his "failures" more as "learning experiences." He says he feels like he experiences his greatest growth during these periods, and if he didn't take the risks, he wouldn't experience the growth. I know he's right. (It's probably where the term "growing PAINS" is partially derived!)

I guess as I get older though, it takes more umph! to get myself to take the risk!! It's a helluva lot easier to sit on my duff and pontificate about my options. (Kinda like I'm doing right now, perhaps?!)

It's also easier to look at other people's so-called "failures" as learning experiences. My friend told me about a personal experience that he had, where he considered himself to be a huge failure. I disagreed with his assessment. Without going into detail, I told him that if he had actually "succeeded" at what he was attempting, he would have failed greatly in another area of his life that probably had much more importance and significance, even if he was questioning it at the time.

It seems like life is typically a balancing act. We try to strike a balance between doing the things we need to do and the things we want to do. Sometimes they overlap, which can be both a blessing and a curse! Unfortunately I think that often society in general tends to get the priorities turned around. Society looks at a successful athlete, or scientist, or artist and admires them for their accomplishments. But society doesn't take into consideration whether or not that person's family life is in a shambles due to the amount of time they had to dedicate to their chosen profession. I'm sure there are hundreds, maybe thousands of "average" athletes, scientists, artists, etc., who could have neglected other obligations to put more time and effort into their profession, but instead decided to put that time and effort into their relationships and never achieve the fame they might have had, if they'd focused on their profession a little more. It seems unfortunate to me that we don't consider these people to be the true examples of success!

My friend says we're probably just rationalizing! He may be right. But sometimes I think it's almost easier to neglect the priorities that are typically considered mundane, like going to your kid's soccer game, or taking your spouse out for a date, or taking care of an aging parent. I believe that some people use their desired profession as an excuse to neglect doing the mundane chores that often drain us of the energy we need to do the things we consider fun. How many people who are considered to be a success at their profession have failed miserably at being a spouse, parent, son or daughter? It boils down to priorities.

So I guess all this is just my rationalization for why I'm not outside right now sanding the crud off those kiln bricks so I can start building that kiln. The sun has come out again, I've got no excuses. Well, I am waiting for Steve to get back with a handle for the disc sander. I could probably lose a finger or two using it without a handle and that's not very conducive to potting! But I'll get out there, I swear I will!

My goal is to have the kiln firing by the first of September. Yeah, I don't wanna push myself, do I? I figure that gives me time to pour the slab, clean the bricks, get it built, have propane piped out there , get the electric upgraded in the garage so I can fire the electric kiln, hopefully get water run out to the garage, get some pots thrown and bisque fired, and get my new shelves, get the kiln coated with ITC, build the kiln shed..............................OH MY GOSH!!! I'm not so sure about the first of September now!!! Ok, deep breath, one day at a time, one brick at a time.

I'm gonna go do something more productive now!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Odds 'n Ends

We are now officially "moved in." We finally have a mattress in the house so we don't have to sleep in the camper anymore!! And we even got a couple LazyBoys, but who has time to sit on their butt? Well, we do have a little down time!

Let's see, since my last blog we've made a little progress. The ro
om we're going to use as our closet has carpet and storage shelves now. Here are the before and after pictures:

We put down some cheap berber, the cheapest we could find. The room was just a little too big to find a remnant. We were going to put it down ourselves, but the guy at the carpet store offered to install it for 65 bucks (first it was $75, when we hesitated he said $65, I talked Steve into letting them do it. He had some idea for coming up with a makeshift stretcher, sounded scary to me. Now, it's done!)

We got the shelf kit and corner piece at Lowe's. We're going to put a few more shelves in on the right, a storage bench under the window, and a make-up table to the right of the window.

We also found a nice old 8N tractor with a finish mower! We had been looking on Craig's List and we found this guy in Alexandria who had about 10 old tractors in various stages of restoration. His name's Clyde and he apparently loves anything with a gas engine, 'cos besides the tractors, he had 3 motorcycles, 3 late 60s model Camaros (one for each of his daughters and his own) a '70-something corvette, and countless lawnmowers, both riding and walk-behind. Everything was in pristine shape, including his garage, and he kept meticulous records on everything he owned. He gave us the logbook he kept on the tractor and he recorded every part he replaced, the date, and the cost, and everytime he started it up he would write the date and the outside temperature!! Talk about anal! But that means we got a tractor in really good shape. It was a little more than we planned on spending on an old 8N, but like Steve said, if we take care of it, it will easily retain its value, if not increase in value! So, we christened the tractor Clyde Jr. and Steve spent a few hours on Tuesday getting the yard mowed.

Here's Clyde on Jr. You can see one of his camaros in the garage, and if you look closely, you'll see the corvette is actually stored above it on this crazy hydraulic lift thing!!

And here's a shot of Steve and the long, long trail which is our driveway! That's our house looking teeny-tiny to the left of his head!! (click on the photo for a bigger view.)

Here's a close-up of him:

While Steve was picking up the tractor, Megan and Jaedon and I made freezer jam. Megan noticed a sign up the road for strawberries, so I went and picked some Tuesday morning. At first the guy who owned the place didn't seem to think I'd be able to find enough berries, it is getting to be a little late in the season. But he saw my dissappointment and told me I could try to find enough. There were actually plenty. And after I started picking, about half a dozen more people came out and picked too. The owner of the farm used to be the football coach at the high school in New Castle and this is what he's doing as his "retirement." One of the people picking tod me he had heart surgery at the beginning of the strawberry season, but it didn't appear to have slowed him down. No wonder he wasn't really in the mood to pick though!!

We made 2 batches of freezer jam, I had forgotten how easy it is to make (and how delicious!!) Between the jam and the new tractor and getting our chairs and mattress delivered, it was great day!!

Wednesday we went to the Optimist Breakfast, we're thinking about joining the group as a way to get to know people in the community. They're a really nice bunch of people. The Optimist is an organization that does things for kids. This was our 3rd meeting, so when they mentioned a volunteer opportunity I thought we should probably offer to help. So that's why we found ourselves waking up at the butt-crack o' dawn (as one of the optimists called it, which was actually 4:30 a.m.) so we could make pancakes to serve at a youth camp for "at-risk" kids that was sponsored by the Henry Co. Sheriff's Dept. It was fun, Steve and I both made pancakes, so of course it got a little competitive, to see who could make the best ones. Unfortunately, there were some problems with the batter, seriously! so the pancakes didn't brown very well and looked pretty anemic. But they tasted fine!!

We met our neighbor who lives at the other corner of our road. He stopped in to say hi. It looks like we've got 2 pretty good neighbors!! He talked to us for about an hour, filled us in on the local gossip that our other neighbor, Jeff, hadn't already told us about! He also gave us his phone number and said that since we're all kinda out in the middle of nowhere we watch out for each other and if we see anything strange, like a car going real slow, or someone we don't know pulls in, he said just give him a call. He said if I'm ever here alone and think someone's messing around, just call him, 'cos he "carries." (as in weaponry! Gotta love these Indiana boys.)

I got another definition of a Hoosier from one of the guys in the Optimist Club. He told me that a Hoosier's someone from Kentucky who didn't make it to Michigan!! (Wow, I think we have Hoosiers in Ohio too!!)

Tomorrow we're having a cook-out with Steve's family for Father's Day. We thought everybody was going to make it (except Danny's girlfriend, Ainsley, who had a wedding to attend.) But we were informed today that my neice in Cincinnait was injured in a softball game. She was pitching and got nailed in the face by a line drive! Several stitches and a swollon lip mean she's just going to take it easy at home tomorrow. The ironic part is she had almost exactly the same thing happen a couple years ago when she was playing intramural at Asbury. That time, the batter was her boyfriend (now husband.) He's swearing that he was playing short stop when today's incident occurred. But he does have a propensity to nail members of our family with softballs! A few years ago he hit a line drive at a game our son was pitching in, and shattered Danny's pinky. He had to have major surgery done in Louisville, and wore a strange contraption on it for several weeks hoping that he'd retain some mobility. I suggested they just lop it off, his dad told him that it would be cooler than a tattoo, but no one agreed with us.

So, anyways, we've been trying to get the house somewhat organized and I've been on a cleaning binge, 'cos the place has literally years of grime and filth!! I've been doing lots of vacuuming, mopping, and washing. It's a little better,
but still needs work.

Here's a picture of the stairway that I took from a weird angle. I kinda like how it looks......

Danny came up today and is spending the night tonight. We took him to the Wilbur Wright Birthplace Festival. We got there just as the skydivers (both of 'em) were jumping out of the plane, that was probably the most exciting event of the day. It was a little too breezy for the R/C guys to risk wrecking their 1/4 scale WWII replica model planes. One guy flew a helicoptor, but he hadn't been flying long, so it it was kinda boring. Then another guy flew a little "park model" corsair. It was fun to watch. And one of them flew an acrobatic kite.

Came home, had spaghetti and Danny and I played a little frisbee golf out in the field. It was my first time, but I did ok! Later this evening we saw a huge buck out in the field by the woods!!

So, now I do b'lieve I've caught my blog up for the week, and I'm going to hit the sack!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Indiana Sunset

We have a great view of the western sky from our back yard. We've been treated to some gorgeous sunsets, and I managed to capture one with my Kodak the other night.

It just kept getting more and more beautiful!!

Of course the camera just doesn't do it justice!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Projects Galore!

There is no lack of projects to help us while away the time here! I already posted about tearing up carpet in three of the rooms. Now we've started to prepare the smallest room for carpeting. It's the only one we're planning to carpet. The floorboards were in pretty bad shape, they'd never had any kind of finish on them whatsoever. They reminded me of the floor at Bear's Mill!

They've had some water damage and are very un-level. We got onlin
e last night to try to figure out how to level them somewhat without using leveling compound. I read some posts about using old roofing shingles. We decided to give it a shot! Steve also wanted to get some shingles to do some roof repair. So, a trip to the local lumber yard ensued. When we asked about the shingles, we had a little discussion about the color of the existing shingles. There seemed to be some discrepency. So, a bet was made, a firm hand-shake was given, and all I'm going to say is that I'll be enjoying a steak dinner soon!! The lumberyard guys appeared mildly amuzed.

Steve spent quite awhile trying to figure out exactly how to utilize the shingles, but I think he did a decent job. We're both glad we're carpeting this room and not laying hardwood. Here are a few pics of our progress so far:

Here's a shot of the floor with the carpet ripped up and molding removed. It's pretty rough-looking!

This was our crude method for filling in the low spots without completely ruining the original floor boards.The 2x4 served as a level.

Next, we began cutting and screwing down the luan, a very thin plywood.

We finally got all the plywood screwed down.

Sunday we took down the swimming pool. It was an above-ground and we're not really pool-side kinda people. I tend to avoid wearing a bathing suit in public if at all possible. So a friend of ours expressed an interest and we told them they could have it if they promised not to cuss us later this summer when they're doing the daily cleaning and adding the umpteenth gallon of chlorine. The best way to have a pools is if it's your neighbors, we know 'cos when we lived next to Steve's mom and dad, they put a pool in. They also eventually filled it in!! They're one of those things you can't wait to get and can't wait to get rid of!

It took about 6 hours to drain it and several more to get it all torn down. Several green frogs were rendered homeless in the process. I wish I had thought about taking pictures while we were doing it. Especially when some of us were wading around in the slimy, green water!! But it didn't cross my mind 'til the next day, so the only picture I got is the "after" shot!

Saturday, we mowed.....and mowed......and mowed!! It took about 6 hours using the neighbor's Craftsmen riding mower. We definitely need to get a tractor and a bush hog/finish mower!! My back and shoulders won't take the abuse!

We also managed to drain and refill the hot tub. Now there's a body of water I can appreciate!! And I think I shall go and do that this very moment!! Before I'm completely devoured by mosquitoes!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Random Observations

Some observations about rural Indiana (from a former "Buckeye's" perspective):

Most of the hoosiers I've met so far have been very friendly and helpful.

I haven't met anyone yet who can explain to me exactly what a "hoosier" is.

The scenery, weather and terrain feel strangely familiar!

The nocturnal, forest-dwelling creatures make the loudest, creepiest chattering noises I've ever heard!

Even with the chattering forest creatures, this is one of the most peaceful places I could imagine!

If your car is designed to leave a small carbon footprint, it will probably be swallowed up by a pothole.

Most people will take you at your word, and expect you to do the same with them.

Coffee is not taken seriously enough.

Garage sales are taken too seriously.

Pizza King RULES!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Starting a new chapter!

I'm starting a new blog to commemorate the newest chapter of our life. It appears that our nomadic lifestyle has been put on hold and we're once again property owners. I've decided to blog about life as a wanna be potter and the adventures I'm sure we'll have on 18 acres living in a hundred year old house.

At the moment, we're living a kind of a double life. We have minimal furniture in the house while we make a few changes and updates, so we're sleeping in the camper. But we are using the kitchen and bathrooms in the house, so I've spent a lot of time carrying necessities from one place to the other!

We're living in a state of complete disarray for the moment and I've decided to just embrace it. I think I'm truly a slob at heart but mother-hood forced me to actually become somewhat organized! Now I'm just happy to delude myself into believing that I've achieved some level of organization.

The first day we were here, we both kinda walked around in a daze. We didn't know where to start or what to do first! Steve's not good at prioritizing or planning and I felt too overwhelmed to start! Now I'm starting to get a handle on things and I keep telling myself that we have all summer to get a lot of stuff done, so we need to pace ourselves.

The first project we tackled was tearing up the carpet in 3 downstairs rooms. The people we bought the house from had 2 dogs and they either didn't own a vacuum cleaner, or didn't know how to operate it!! The house reeked of old, dirty dogs!!! When we tore up the first room, it was disgusting the amount of stains and the piles of dirt and dust that had accumulated between the padding and the floor!!
Here's what it looked like!! I wish it was possible to upload the smell, but I would hate to make my loyal readers gag!!!

After removing the carpet and padding, and vacuuming and mopping up the filth, we started removing the staples and the tacking that's used to hold the edges under the molding. That took several hours!! I'm not used to sitting on the floor for that long!! I wish we could figure out how to get the hot tub chemically balanced so we could use it without fear of slow cooking ourselves in a warm pool of bacteria!

I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment today though!! And we're relatively happy with the condition of the flooring underneath the carpet, at least in two of the rooms. It's painted a somewhat "poopie" shade of brown, but it actually goes rather well with the molding and the character of the house. (Not that the character of the house is "poopie," I'm mostly referring to color and style.) I think we're going to freshen the paint, and maybe do a contrasting border. I hope that once we get a large area rug and move our furniture in, it will be quite cozy and we will have saved thousands of dollars by not putting down new carpet or hardwood floors. I would LOVE to lay some gorgeous hardwood, but I'd rather live with this for now and see what transpires with our finances, the pottery business, and Steve's job search.

The house is actually in pretty decent shape and even though we could put endless amounts of money and sweat equity into it and make it quite a showcase, we're hoping to keep the costs down and make it livable and just a little more cohesive than it is right now.

And hopefully we'll leave ourselves enough time and money to be able to just enjoy the setting. Seems like we try to find this idyllic life and then we end up making it so complicated that we never have time to relax and enjoy it. So that's my goal, keep it simple!!

We'll see how it goes!