Monday, April 30, 2007

And another...

I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeders yesterday.

He stayed up on the feeder for quite a while, then flew into the smoke bush where I got a nice photo of why he's named what he's named...

The female is a pretty brown and white, but I haven't seen one yet this year.

I'm still seeing quite a few of the cowbirds at the feeders now and then. I'm trying very hard not to detest their presence, and I think I'm starting to get used to them. There's no way to keep them away, not without scaring all the birds. They are an attractive bird in their own way, and their antics can be entertaining.

I looked through my old “Farm and Household Cyclopædia” for information about cowbirds and birds as pests, and found this:

Friday, April 27, 2007

New visitor

A Rufous-sided Towhee showed up at the feeder this evening.

I haven't seen one of those in years. He caused a bit of a ruckous, scraped around on the ground and chased some of the sparrows off. Ate his fill and flew off. I hope he'll be back.


April showers...

bring April flowers, too...


Oh, it's just a head!

Pottery Projects 6, 7 & 8

I picked up some small finished pieces recently. These were all made from "leftover" pieces of clay from when I made bigger projects. This first one was made from when I made a large candle holder, which is currently being bisque fired, and I used the largest diameter on the extruder... it made a large tube of clay. I had a long piece left after I cut the pieces for the candle holder, so I just pinched it around and played with it. I really had no idea what I was doing with it. Somehow it turned into a little olive dish. I'll take mine shaken or stirred...

The next one I made from some leftover pieces of slabbed out clay, from when I made some box pots. I carved in some Celtic knot designs, and I tried an experiment with glazing. I first glazed it with a solid green, and then I put the same kind of glaze I used on my poison ivy pot on top of it, lightly. My thought was that the vase would turn out kind of glossy with some of the green showing up in the crevices where I carved in the designs. But the 2 glazes were not “compatible” (not of the same family, chemically), and the result was not super glossy, but instead kind of leathery looking. I really like it. But I have learned that just because that combination turned out like this once, it may not react the same again. When you mix glaze families like that, it’s a crap shoot. Guess I was lucky, since I like it.

The Celtic vase is only about 5 or 6 inches tall. This next vase is just a little bit taller, probably about 7 inches or so. It was made from leftover coils from when I made Joycie’s pot (more on that later, it’s ready for final glaze firing now). I left the coils looking like coils instead of smoothing out the clay, again with no real plan in my head. It started to look like a bee skep, so I ended up making the top kind of like a wild rose and put a bumblebee on it. I am happy with how the glazing turned out.

That’s one of the things I like about using up leftover pieces like this, I can experiment with glazing. I can discover what I like or don’t like on these small pieces, so if it doesn’t turn out, I’m not so very disappointed.

I have started a large triangle pot like my small one, though I don’t plan to glaze it in the same fashion. I was happy with the shape, not so much the glazing. I have also finally finished glazing 2 of my 3 box pots and, as I mentioned, the large coil pot I made for Joyce. Tomorrow, I will get to see how my large candle holder has turned out from the bisque firing... fingers crossed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Our pond

The weather has turned absolutely gorgeous. Last Thursday evening, I went to bed and left my window open. I fell asleep to the sound of Canada geese, on the pond, calmly and quietly chatting with the turkeys, roosting in the trees behind our little red barn north of the pond. I woke Friday morning to a very cool room and more chatter by the geese. This early morning chatter was a bit more lively.

Yeah, it was perfect.

The pond is so full right now. I remember when Kevin decided he wanted to build this pond, and I thought he was going overboard. Too big and too close to the house, but mostly way too much money. But my heck!, when that man is right, he is so right. I love our pond. I love sitting outside in the mornings and watching the sun on the water, nice cool breeze, hot coffee...

This morning, I saw a couple of ducks land on the pond. I got very excited when I discovered it was a pair of Wood Ducks.

I didn't try to get close enough to take a good photo because I didn't want to scare them away. I was rewarded for my willpower by another pair landing on the pond about 15 minutes later. They stayed only a few moments and then took off. I think the other pair told them to get lost. The first pair swam from one end of the pond to the other, then back and forth, every once in a while going up on the bank. I realized they were going up on the bank at the places where we have wood duck houses set in trees. I would be so happy if they decided to nest in one of them... but I just realized that neither Kev nor I have cleaned out the houses yet. Crap. Now I wonder if it's too late.

And speaking of crap, we have a woodpecker who has, since very early this morning, decided to peck on the metal downspout near our bedroom. A stupid woodpecker. Unless of course his intent is not to find a meal of insects but rather to annoy us immensely... in which case, he's brilliant.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Do you know what day it is?

My Daddy got me again this year... how he remembers these things, I'll never know. Or maybe I did know, but forgot...

Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Yesterday after I got home from pottery class, Joycie was gone to a soccer practice, so just Sammy was home (Kev is working day-12’s this weekend). Sammy convinced me to take him into town for breakfast at IHOP.

On the way there, we saw a great blue heron on a riverbank, so of course I had to turn the car around and take a couple of photos of him.

The photos turned out better than I thought they would considering how far away from the road the bird was.

We had a good time at IHOP.

The coffee there was excellent.

While there, Sammy let me know that his finger was hurting. It’s his right index finger, and he could hardly use his hand to eat. Turns out that he cut his finger on Thursday after school while at the gym; he was running and caught his hand on the wire cage thing that protects the fire alarm. He didn’t notice he had broke the skin until later, when the boys were all sitting around on the gym floor and Sammy had his hands flat on the floor... when he picked up his right hand, there was blood on the floor. How hygienic!

When I looked at during our breakfast/lunch, around 1pm, his finger was slightly swollen and a little bit red about a half-inch up and also down from the cut... Not Good.

As soon as we got home, I had him soak it and then I sanitized it and put antibiotic lotion on it. A few hours later, and he was in pain. His finger was noticeably more swollen and definitely more red.

I called our doctor’s office, and was surprised to actually talk to our family doctor as he was the one on call. I knew what he would say, and Sammy & I were already on our way into Emergency at the hospital (the Urgent Care facility closes at 5pm on weekends). It’s a staph infection. Sammy got a prescription for an antibiotic, and he got a tetanus shot in the arm. Now we do lots of Tylenol and Advil, and Sammy has to have a hot, moist cloth on the wound often. We also have to wrap it with his ring finger, and we have a splint on the healthy finger, so that he doesn’t bend his index finger. The doc told him that if he bends it, the infection could get into the tendon, which would be more painful and more difficult to get rid of...

Sammy’s baseball team has a tournament next weekend, and he’s supposed to be one of the pitchers. Maybe not now... poor kid.

On the way to this hospital, I told Sammy he would be getting a shot. That boy was not happy. When we were waiting in the room, I told him to just put in his iPod and turn it up & it’d be over before he knew it. He was still very unhappy at the prospect of a shot. Joycie & Kevin also both have this unusual (unusual to me, anyway) aversion to getting shots. Shots are no big deal to me, so I find it difficult to understand. I do try, though... and I ended up promising Sammy another breakfast at IHOP for tomorrow (which was today). Good thing he’s not a greedy boy, coz I would’ve caved on just about anything he asked for while we were waiting there to see the doctor...

I had totally forgotten about promising him more IHOP this morning, but he didn’t. So Joycie, Sammy and I headed out to breakfast again this morning. They were really busy in there this morning... as Sammy said, they were really IHOPping! Oh, come on, you know that’s cute!

And, they have really good coffee there...

Pottery Project No. 5 - Karner Blue

My butterfly pot was ready to pick up yesterday morning. I used a Karner Blue as my inspiration. I'm happy with it.

I think the wings became a little darker during the 2nd glaze firing (from when I fixed a small chip). I like it this way.

It's funny how the photos make the glazing on the wings look splotchy... I'm looking at the pot right now, & the wings don't look splotchy at all. I saw the photos and had to take another look. Whew!

When I first made this pot and it was drying, the antennae broke. They were so fragile. So at the suggestion of Kathy, the owner/instructor, I redid the insect's head and poked holes in it to hold the antennae, then I made each antenna and stored them inside the body for drying and bisque firing. It worked perfectly. I put them into place when I painted on the glaze, so they were glaze fired that way... so they stuck.

A rafter of turkeys

Yesterday morning before I left the house to go to my pottery class, I noticed some visitors coming up our drive...

I also noticed there were 3 toms among the many hens, and those gobblers were showing up in fine fashion.

Take a look at those beards!

I soon saw the cause of their display... it was for the benefit of a young beardless jake.

Well, I suppose it could be all about mating season, too...

It was pretty interesting to watch this group and their dynamics. The 3 old toms were pretty much sticking together, but also managing, for the most part, to boss the hens into where to go. The toms mostly stayed to the back, like they were herding their harem.

After a short while, a small group of the hens strayed behind the 3 toms, and were busily pecking at the ground. It was the opportunity for the jake to strut his stuff among them... but none of them seemed to pay him any attention or even to notice him. Poor thing.

Or at least they didn’t show it so as I could tell. The 3 gobblers noticed, though, and they hurried back over, majestically, not urgently, all puffed up and wings dragging in an impressive, full strut...

The jake wisely retreated.

Then more of the hens pecked their way back over nearer the 3 toms, and then some of them pecked their way closer and closer to my bird feeders. I finally had to open the window and holler, “no turkeys allowed!” They all scooted away toward the pond, where they settled back into pecking busily again. The 3 old toms kept strutting their stuff this whole time, while the young jake alternatingly puffed out his feathers and then settled back down, puffed up, down, puffed up, down... Very entertaining. It made me think of a young teenaged boy...

Then I noticed the 3 toms seemed to have encircled a single hen, and then one of the toms was doing a different kind of dance, and I thought sure it was courtship-related...

He stood like that, crouching, and was shivering his feathers and doing a little stamping thing with his feet... and I thought, holy cow, he’s gonna get some and I have my camera ready! I know, I know... kind of invasive, but that would be interesting to catch on film, er... card. But nothing really happened, and the hen just kept pecking, was joined by another, and the toms moved around doing their thing. Every once in a while one of them would do the crouching dance, & then they’d move on. A few more hens made their way closer to the feeders, and I had to warn them off again, then again. More strongly the last time, so they all took off across the yard and made their pecking or strutting way out into the woods.

But of course, they thoughtfully left several reminders of their passing in the yard...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Springtime in Michigan


And today:

Gotta love it!

Pottery Projects 3 & 4

I have so many projects in the works at pottery class right now, that I actually made myself a list to keep track of them. They are in several different stages... not yet finished being formed, done being formed and drying, dried and bisque fired, bisque fired & have to glaze, and glazed & waiting to be fired. I’ve also begun documenting what I did & how I did it in case I want to do it again... or more likely, be sure not to do it again.... kinda like file that one under live & learn...

I picked up a couple of finished items the other day, and I’m pretty happy with them.

The first one, Project 3, is “triangles vase” made from slabs of clay forming 3 triangle shapes, each slightly shorter than the previous and set slightly off center. It is about 6.5 inches in height, not very large at all. I painted on designs after the first firing, using a navy blue and a lighter blue accent. After that glaze firing, I covered the entire piece with clear glaze because I wanted it to be the orange/red color of the clay and the dark blue. Once it was bisque fired, I decided to glaze it that way and give it to Sammy, because he likes orange and blue. Also, Sammy saw the vase right after I finished it, before it was bisque fired, and he really liked it. I was a slightly disappointed in how the blue glaze ran (smeared) a little bit in the 2nd firing. If I were to do something like this again, the glazing, that is, not the shape, I think I would try clear first, then the accent glazes. I love the red clay, though. I have another piece I’m working on that I’ve been trying to decide how to glaze it, and I think I’m just going to put clear on it.

I liked the shape, too. I made this little vase just because I had leftover clay that I had slabbed out already for a box pot. I think I would like to make another one like this only much larger.

The next one, Project 4, is one of a group of 3, and it is my “ladybug pot.” I made a pinch pot for the insect base (body) and then shaped the wings for the lid. I decided to make the lid in 2 pieces, with pegs on the body to hold them into place. It was tricky getting the holes on the lid pieces to match the pegs on the body. It's small, only about 2 inches in height and 5 inches from end of wings to head. Once I made the ladybug pot this way, I decided to do a lightning bug and a butterfly... I got on the ’net and found photos of these 3 insects, all Michigan photos and used those as a guide (and only a guide) when I did these little pots... they are by no means meant to realistically represent the insects, as you can see.

The lightning bug pot is done, except I broke the antennae... I plan to make a new set tomorrow morning at class. The butterfly is done, except one of the wings got chipped after the glaze firing... just a little bit, so I just touched it up and it had to be re-fired... I'm hoping it'll be done tomorrow.

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy these pottery classes?!!.... Even when the finished product isn't exactly what I had in mind, I'm still enjoying this so very much, and I always look forward to my next class.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My 47th

Yesterday early evening when Kevin woke (he's working midnights this week) & Joycie got home from soccer practice, Kev suggested they all take me out to dinner for my birthday after all since Sammy's baseball practice was canceled. I looked at him and said, "it is my birthday, right? so I should get to do what I want, right?" And you know he didn't argue with that. What I wanted was to get into my jammies and have Kev make me a bowl of oatmeal and toast for dinner. So I did and he did. It was comfy and I loved it. Kev baked me a birthday cake and Joycie decorated it and Sammy put a bunch of candles in it. It was beautiful.

Weird angle, huh? I rotated the photo... I like how it makes it look like it's falling off the counter. The four of us had birthday cake and ice cream while watching "How I Met Your Mother" on TV, and that show was so funny that I nearly snorted cake out of my nose.

I had a wonderful birthday.

Have you seen "The Exorcist"?