A writer and a potter, happy together.
Posted in Derek on August 4, 2017
The bears up here wander through the towns, people’s yards, onto the porches, decks, etc. They toss trash and rip down bird feeders but generally do minimal damage. Most people pay little attention beyond taking “cute” pix. Leiao, our recently deceased dog, treed a family of 4—mother and 3 cubs—in a mini-spinney right next to our porch about 3 years ago.
This year’s bear has been coming back every few days for the last couple months. The last tour, he/she overturned the compost bin but disturbed nothing, pulled open the door to the trash shed and hauled off a bag of trash without marring the door and carried the porch dustpan and brush down the steps without leaving a mark on them. Apparently a considerate but very curious critter.
Last night, Gracie (newest dog) was growling by the back door, then shot out so fast she ripped the screen loose and chased something off into the woods. Or so we thought. Reminded me I needed to bring in the bird feeder. Opened the door to the front porch–Linda and I were in the front room with all the lights on–and something directly in front of the door shot sideways off the porch, breaking the lower railing. Seemed too soon for the the usual bear to have gotten around front, so maybe we have a whole family who have targeted us–and possibly learned diversionary tactics. I’m beginning to feel they’re smarter than we are. Have they learned that when the lights are on inside, they can see in but we can’t see out?
As always, besides the broken lower rail from its panic, there was no damage to anything else–no footprints down below, not a flower disturbed, one small rock dislodged. Wish I could hire them to do the gardening.
Posted in Derek on July 29, 2017
In a sense, those who say more gun laws will not save lives are correct. Because the problem is not laws, not even the guns themselves, but the gun culture unique to the U.S. We are the only country where the dominant religion of roughly 1/3 of the population is guns – not Christianity or any other normally recognized faith – with the Second Amendment as the only recognized scripture. That more guns increase safety is a matter of faith, and as such unassailable by logic or reason. Nothing will change until that tenet changes.
New laws to control guns won’t stop the next multiple killing or the one after it, though they might help start a change of attitude. What we need is not (just) new laws, but an outlook that places human life above gun ownership. That’s not currently the case. The “right to bear arms” in the minds of possibly half the adult male population outweighs the “right not to be killed.”
It’s hard to comprehend how such a mindset came to be, but it’s been fed and manipulated by the NRA and its followers. I must admit my most ironic fantasy is that some joker with an assault rifle will march in, openly, and obliterate the board of the NRA. That’s hardly an ethical or pacifist attitude, and I doubt it would improve the situation or change a single mind. But it would give me a warm feeling in my tummy.
Posted in Derek on July 22, 2017
A crew has been lumbering the shit out of the area lately because the Chinese are paying twice what the local sawmills do for hardwood. It’s shipped over, sawn (some to thinsy-winsy veneers), processed, then shipped back for I’m not sure what. Home Depot? All the loyal “buy American, support our country” locals have their hands out for Chinese checks with no problem. (Don’t blame ’em whatsoever).
Our little woods might have a few trees worth something, but talking to Rick, the deforester boss (who I liked a lot – open, straightforward guy), he’d have to rip our ten acres to flinders to get to them. I like trees better than people, so why the hell for a few bucks?
His crew was cutting on the 4th of July. He expects the Chinese price to go down and/or he has a deadline to meet and/or a bonus for early delivery. Guys like him I can respect for working their asses off 7 days a week, being honest about what they’re doing.
He seems to know everything I could imagine about trees (even though he left devastation behind at our uphill neighbor’s – not that Ralph would care). He told me that damned near every species of local tree is in danger of obliteration of one sort or another. We’re already having almost total loss of the beech, elm and ash population, with at least three types of threat to the hemlock – the major native tree.
He knows the stupidity of how the world works and what the result might be – almost total deforestation, because we’ve introduced every possible killer insect, fungus, etc., worldwide.
It will even out eventually, I suppose, but long after you and I have added our bones or ashes to the soil – which should do a little good.
Posted in Derek on July 19, 2017
As some of you may know, Linda has Lyme Disease, which was treated for a month with antibiotics strong enough to leave her almost immobile a good deal of the time. She seems fine now, but it could come back. It’s hell to get rid of – maybe impossible (see below).
Lyme has become a true scourge up here, and apparently in other areas of the U.S. and other parts of the world. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to call it a hidden plague. The symptoms run the gamut from itching to rashes to muscle ache to fever to, so help me, brain malfunction, which makes it hard to diagnose – you get the supposedly “typical” rash and bullseye in only about 15% of cases. That’s also left it remarkably unrecognized overall, even up here: Pennsylvania is the epicenter for Lyme, with roughly a third of the cases reported across the country. And the test for it gives a lot of both false positives and false negatives (Linda came up negative the first time, then with one of the highest positive readings our doc had ever seen two months later).
The woman who published my first book (a PA native) has dropped out of publishing to get a more lucrative job because her husband had undiagnosed Lyme for years and can’t work regularly. With Tammy, who runs the embroidery shop in town, it affected her brain to the point she thought she was going crazy or getting early dementia before it was diagnosed. I’ve now talked to 5 or 6 others in which it chugged along, unrecognized, with lasting, debilitating effects.
It gets into areas of the body with low blood flow where it “hides” from the immune system and is seldom fully cured. So far, there’s no vaccine because it’s crept under the health radar while zika got all the publicity (and funds). If you’re not pregnant, Lyme looks like a far more virulent bastard than zika.
Don’t you love to get the latest apocalyptic health news?
I’ve saved 3 buckets and one milk crate of things salvaged from the fire–mostly kiln posts. Yesterday and today I scrubbed them all off and they’re now drying on the kitchen counter. I was also able to save most of the kiln shelves. They’re out by the wood kiln, along with some silica, nepheline syenite and Hawthorne clay that may be still usable. Don’t know about that because all the bags broke, and it’s difficult to tell if they’re really OK to use. One white powder looks pretty much like another white powder, and how do you know if they’ve gotten mixed up?
It sort of looks like a city scape if you can ignore the spices, sauces and oils behind them. I think I’ll probably have to put everything through a firing to get all the soot off. That won’t be until next spring. In the meantime, I’ll be making little things in our old bathroom–actually, it isn’t the old bathroom yet–the new bathroom is not yet finished, so I still have some time to wait before I can play in the mud again.
In the meantime, I can write blogs and play on the computer where I am daily visited–usually several times a day–by our friendly, neighborhood red squirrel family. I only have a picture of the baby–who is now quite adult–because he’s the one who comes and checks me out. I know he can see me, just as I can see him, and he is immensely curious about what I am and what I am about. I got a picture of him the other day.
I’ve spent the last three or four days going through all my financial files and my memory files, trying to get a handle on everything that was destroyed in the pot shop. It’s pretty clear to me that I’ll never remember everything, but at least I’m trying.
As you can see, I’ve got piles of paper everywhere and yes, I keep losing the piece of paper I need now, and then finding it in the pile it doesn’t belong in. Thank god I’ve got a wonderful, calming view out of my window. I can look out and take a breath. It helps me keep things in proportion. What I’m going through now is really only one little piece of my life. Anyway, here’s the view.
Last night I asked Derek to go over the list to get his comments and whatever he might remember that I can’t, so I’m thinking I’m really almost done with this part, anyway.
We’ve come back to LickHaven in the middle of a big storm. It makes everything beautiful, but if we’re going to keep the machinery on the first floor of the workshop usable, we’ve got to keep the snow off. We used push brooms to get it off–not nearly as bad as shoveling, but still a workout. It’s snowing again. So far, we’ve swept it off twice today and the snow is still coming down.
Here’s how it looked before we did the second sweeping today. One thing leads to another–we’ve gotten the snow off the top, now we’re going to have to figure out how to get at the firewood that’s now covered with the snow we pushed off.
Our dogs are enjoying the snow anyway. Leiao likes to bite it.
And my wood kiln looks marvelous covered in snow.
I’m spending lots of time trying to remember everything I had in the shop so I can make a list. It’ll be useful for insurance and I’ll be able to plan what I don’t want in the new shop.
This is how the workshop looks from our house. That’s a 30′ x 50′ tarp and it’s really blue. Unfortunately, even though Derek has nailed it down, it still lets some water through when it’s raining. So far, he’s spent two nights going out every couple of hours to try to sweep the standing water off of it while it was raining. I was asleep the first night, but last night, I went out and held the flashlight for him. He said it really helped to be able to see–very difficult to hold a flashlight and sweep at the same time. It helps somewhat, but we have to have barrels and buckets under the leaks in the woodshop. We’ve covered all the machinery with tarps and have a dehumidifier going all the time. It is somewhat drier than it was, but there are still lots of big wet spots.
Here he is with the broom in the daytime. We can’t walk on the deck, it’s too burned. Looks like we’d go right through. Note the boards on the top of the ramp. Note also, that big lump under the tarp in the middle. That’s my kiln. We had hoped that putting it in the middle like that would create enough of a slant that the water would pour off. Unfortunately, the edges are a couple of inches higher than the middle, so we get the puddles around the edges that need to be swept off.
This morning it started snowing. Although I’m worried about how the snow will affect everything, I still love how it looks and feels. This evening there’s still a bit on the ground, but it’s mostly gone. We want to visit our sister-in-law who lives in Mendenhall, PA, about 200 miles from here. We were going to go today, but were so exhausted we were afraid to drive–maybe tomorrow. I do not want this fire to be in command of everything we do. I am concerned about leaving for a few days, but I don’t want our holiday plans to be completely scrapped. Whatever happens, we will have to find ways to deal with it.
Hail the conquering heroes! After a week of work, the 2nd floor walls are down, and we’re ready to put the tarp over the floor to protect the wood shop on the first floor!
Thank you friends!
This is what it looked like on the inside. I’d show you pictures of all my equipment, but I’m just learning how to use this blog, and I can’t get it to show any more without everything getting mixed up. You probably don’t want to see them anyway. It’s not a pretty sight. But if you look in the left center of this picture, you’ll see my slab roller under the charred ladder-like thing, and the pug mill is way in the back on the right next to the window. The kiln and wheel are destroyed, even though the kiln’s insides are probably OK, it’s lost all of its wiring, the computer, the power assist on the lid, etc., etc. It must be pretty clear that I’ve lost the building, too, but the amazing thing is that the fire did not go past the floor. Since my shop is on the second floor, we still have the wood shop underneath and the building around it. We’ve been able to walk on the floor to do the clearing, although there are a few holes you have to watch out for.
We’ve been spending the last few days clearing everything out and taking down the walls. We almost have the dumpster filled, and almost all the walls down. We are so blessed to have good friends who have put on their crud clothes and come out to help. They’re coming back tomorrow, and we’ll probably get everything down. Then we have to put a tarp over the top to keep the weather out of the wood shop below. It got lots of water, so it looks like most of the damage there will be rust and such on the machinery. We’ve got a dehumidifier going 24 hours a day, and there are a couple of spots on the floor that are beginning to dry out.