Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ancient memories

I love diggin' around in the ground. (I suppose that's why I got into pottery) There's nothing better than havin' my hands (or feet) in the dirt! Yesterday morning I hoed and raked the garden. The weather was absolutely perfect and the the dirt was too. I have romaine lettuce coming out my ears, and have unfortunately discovered that I don't really like romaine lettuce. It's a little too pungent. But it looks so pretty out there in its crooked little row, I don't mind weeding around it, and just leaving it for looks. I hope I have some broccoli soon. I saw a few little green tomatoes have made an appearance.My rows are a little too wide, but I got a late start and knew I wouldn't be able to plant everything I'd like to, so I kinda spread everything out a bit.

I like my tomato cages. I made them out of branches we had trimmed earlier. I think they look kinda "zen" and earthy.

I do lotsa thinkin' when I'm hoein' and rakin'. I was thinking about why I love working in the garden and why I love being a potter. Of course there are the obvious similarities, both involve handling dirt. But I wonder why some people enjoy the earth more than others.

When I was in high school, I enjoyed painting more than potting. I actually went to a commercial art school for about a month and I thought I would make a living drawing and painting. Well, that never transpired. (Not only did I never make a living drawing and painting, I basically never made a living, period!) But, my point is that over the years, I drifted away from the painting, but got more and more interested in the pottery.

I think that what I like about pottery is that it involves 3 of the most basic elements, water, fire, and earth. I like that.

And I think I like gardening because I come from a long line of farmers and my mother always had good things to say about growing up on the farm. I don't believe in reincarnation, but I do think that we retain some sort of sense of remembrance from what our ancestors did. I don't know if I'm expressing myself clearly, but I think that if we can pass along things in our genes like eye color, hair color, and things like that, why can't we pass along some sort of sense of what our ancestors experienced and loved? My ancestors were farmers, they hoed and raked and planted and now I do it too. And I think that somehow they passed on their love of the earth to me and I look forward to passing it on to my grand-kids. I had Jaedon out in the garden with me the other day in his car seat. He fell asleep. But next year, I'm sure I'll be yellin' at him to quit stepping on my beans and don't pull the blooms off the tomato plants. Yeah, it'll be fun. (I think!)

I think that what got me to thinking about that is a book I'm reading. It's called Speak to the Earth, and it's by a local Indiana woman who wrote for a newspaper named Rachel Peden. She says:

"A farmer's heart leaps up when he beholds a well-tilled, fertile field in any stage of production. If a non-farmer's heart leaps up at the sight of a field of ripe wheat or a cornfield sparkling greenly in sunlight, it is because in his subconscious ancient memory he associates it with his own food. A preservationist's heart leaps up at the sight of any kind of land...farm, wilderness, jungle, tundra, prairie, or swamp just lying there with no harvest being exacted of it. For true earth lovers the most heart-upleaping sight of all is the sight of abused land showing that it can heal itself and being given the opportunity to do it."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Corn and Concrete

It's been a busy week, yet again. Today Megan and Jaedon came out and we put up freezer corn. I haven't done it for probably 10 years!! It brought back a lot of memories! It had been so long, I almost forgot the procedure!! I found my old recipe scribbled on a sheet of paper stuck in my cookbook. It called for 12 C. of corn and luckily I had written down that it would take approx. 4 dozen ears of corn. What I didn't write down is that I really only needed about 18 ears of corn to end up with 12 C. of corn kernels, but I bet I used to buy 4 dozen ears so I could make 3 batches. It's not really worth going to all the trouble if you don't make several batches!

I did remember how messy it is! So we shucked the ears and cut the kernels off the cob outside. There was silk, and corn husks everywhere and we both had to clean our glasses off because the juice from the corn tends to spray everywhere!

Putting up freezer corn is a great thing to do with a friend (or family member - or BOTH!) When Megan was a little girl, my friend, Becky would come out to the house and bring all her kids, and they would run around and play outside while we did the corn. The shucking is probably the most time consuming part, but it provides a great opportunity to have some meaningful conversation and enjoy a beautiful day!

I would imagine that when women used to can and freeze on a regular basis, it would
turn into a bit of a social event with a friend or neighbor. It makes it more fun! Usually when I make freezer jam, I do it alone 'cos it's pretty quick and easy. But freezer corn is definitely a job for 2 people.

Jaedon was his usual angelic self for us and slept like (what else?) a baby!! He's really starting to get smiley and even is beginning to laugh out loud! Grampa made him happy by playing peek-a-boo.

The kiln is still progressing too. Scott came out again last Sunday and Steve used the second grinder we purchased and we ground more bricks. We've
made a pretty good dent in them and should be able to finish with one more session. The weather was cloudy and cool, unfortunately it wasn't as windy as the previous week, so the dust and sand didn't blow away as easily. We all looked like tired ghosts when we were done, and I noticed a slight cloud of dust hovering behind us as we moved around the yard. It reminded me of the "Pigpen" character on Charlie Brown.

Day before yesterday Steve and I got to work preparing the area where we poured the slab for the kiln to sit on. We decided that the sandy site where the above ground pool sat would be the perfect spot for the kiln. We spent most of the morning digging the footer, a trench about 9-12 inches deep and about as wide as a shovel. We're making the slab 10'x18' in size. The kiln will be quite a bit smaller than that, but we're going to put a roof over top and will use it for a picnic area when I'm not firing.

Steve probably dug 3/4 of it and I helped with one corner and the short side. He thought it would be funny to hold his "achin' back" when I took the picture. It turned out to be a prophetic pose because the next morning when he bent over to tie his shoes, he threw his back out!! I had tried to talk him into renting a little back-hoe but he insisted he could do it. I told him that I had no doubts about his abilities, I was just concerned about his back. So, I must've had a premonition (or wifely intuition or whatever "ition" you want to call it!) I knew exactly what had happened when he walked into the bedroom to put his shoes on and a minute later I heard him say (through clenched teeth) "D - &*%$# -!! Son-of-a-b&*%$!!!"

"Did you throw your back out?" I hollered. He a
nswered with a disgusted sounding yes and I walked into the room to find him lying on his stomach on the floor arching his back and groaning. Uh-oh, the concrete is supposed to arrive in a few hours!!

Luckily he wasn't rendered completely immobile, and my trusty friend, Scott, had offered to come out and help us get the job done! He also told us we'd need to rent a "bull float" for the initial smoothing (after screeding.) I've learned a lot about concrete in the last couple of days! Steve's using the bull float in one of the photos below.

With 2 male perfectionists on the job, not only did I feel like I wasn't needed, I'm pretty sure that the general assumption was that anything I could contribute to the process would be woefully inadequate. So, I weeded the garden, filled drink containers, and generally piddled around. The boys screeded and floated and troweled and watered, and after a few hours, they called it a day! And my beautiful slab is ready and waiting for us to start building the kiln upon it!

I'm not sure if we'll start building the kiln first or try to get the 4x4s and the roof put up so we can work on the kiln in some shade. As usual, we'll fly by the seat of our pants and see what happens. It's worked for me so far, why change now?!

I'm somewhat surprised at how quickly we're getting things accomplished. (Or maybe my goals aren't lofty enough!!) Not having to work full-time is definitely helpful. Hopefully we'll get most of our major projects done over the summer and fall, and then with a little luck, I'll sell some pots throughout fall and the holiday season. Once we get into heavy winter, we'll have to assess our situation and decide if Steve's going to continue his "life of leisure." (I'm sure he would argue with that description right now!) But eventually we will get a handle on things here, and I t
hink even he will get bored with sitting around the house all day! I suppose if the pottery does start selling, he could take over the household chores and give me even more time to spend in the studio!

Worst case scenario: pots don't sell at all and not only does Steve become a WalMart greeter, but I have to find work based on MY experience, which would mean waiting tables, cleaning houses, or working in a daycare facility! Not my idea of fun career choices! But hopefully the lucky penny that Scott said we should lay in the concrete will get the potting career off to a good start!! (Nobody would leave a hand print in the cement to commemorate the occasion so the penny had to suffice.)

I guess we'll just have to wait and
see what happens! I'm just trying to enjoy the present, and so far, I would say I'm succeeding!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Only in Indiana

The summer is flying by!! It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the 4th of July.

We are in the midst of several projects around here (I think that will be the norm for awhile.) We're grinding bricks for the salt kiln. They're used bricks and have a layer of mortar on them that needs to come off. Grinding seems to be the best method, although I am going to try using a power washer on them, at least on parts that don't have a heavy, baked on coating. My good friend, Scott Shafer (an extremely talented potter - I'm laying it on thick 'cos he's
designed my kiln and worked his butt of last week) came out and helped me grind. It's a messy, back-breaking job and the day was hot and windy. The wind was good for 2 reasons though, it cooled us off and it blew the dust away.

Steve is building a form for the concrete slab to be poured into. We're going to make it a little larger than necessary and also use it as a picnic area. It will have a roof over it eventually. I'll try to remember to take pictures as we progress.

Last week-end we had a visit from some good friends, the 2 ladies who introduced us to geocaching. We spent a couple days in New Castle looking for caches. Our first day of caching included spending several hours hiking around a local lake that was encircled by a mountain bike trail peppered with caches. Unfortunately, we didn't take into consideration the fact that the
trail was 10 miles long and the day was extremely hot and humid. We also didn't think about bringing anything to drink on the trail. Well, one of the ladies brought a styrofoam cup with a couple inches of ice water and a wedge of lemon.

Four and a half hours later, at around mile marker 7, we were all sitting on a log, sucking on a tiny section of the lemon she had divvied up between the four of us. (I felt like Survivor Man.) We were trying to figure out if we were going to make it back to the car before dark and we were ready to throw in the towel, except it didn't look like an option. I could envision the headlines in the paper, "Inexperienced hikers from Ohio airlifted out of New Castle park." Luckily for us, a friendly biker shared some of his sport drink with us and told us how to get to the road, which saved us a couple miles of hiking. It made for an adventurous day and will give us exciting tales to tell to the grand-kids.

While we were out and about in New Castle, we came across a statue of a rather large, blue man in front of one of the local liquor stores.

I did a little online research and found a website that lists various roadside landmarks, or places of interest. Indiana seems to have more than its share of bizarre roadside statues.

I came across this one about a month ago, on our way to the closing on our house. When we drove through Fortville, I saw this pink elephant!! (And I hadn't ad a drop of any beverage that might cause this type of hallucination.) I would've stopped and taken a picture, but we were running late. I did find one online, so here it is, The Pink Martini Drinking Elephant of Fortville, Indiana:

I gotta say I admire the sense of humor of whoever put the statue there! It's in front of (you guessed it) yet another liquor store!! (I especially like the geek glasses!)

I hear there's a Paul Bunyan statue in Muncie, I'll have to to check it out.