WHEN RACCOONS ATTACK!!!

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Sorry, that is an almost baseless accusation. I don’t know for sure that it was a raccoon that was trying to dig its way under/in to the barn doors. This has proved to be an exercise in futility in any case. But I do know that if the doors weren’t as well built and/or closed by dark, there would be far fewer birds in the barn this morning. I say it was a raccoon, rather than a squirrel or a skunk or a black bear, because Maly actually backed one of the little bandits up a fence post in front of the barn a couple of months ago during the night shift. He was back there screaming his fool head off, charging the fence. And there was Rocky, cool as a clam, perched on top of the 4×4 wondering how it was going to get out of this one. I have these stupid moments of compassion sometimes. I simply got a LONG stick and pushed it off the post top, INSIDE the barn yard and told Maly to come with me, which he did, reluctantly. He likes the praise that much. I call it stupid because that sucker keeps coming back. Keeps digging away at the castle wall. I’m sure it has young’uns out in the woods somewhere. Guessing. What do I know of raccoons? Besides their being micro bears. It doesn’t smell like skunk either. When they are around and messing with things, in my experience, they leave their ick, just a hint, simply to let me know they were there. Barn schmarn.

One aspect of the native clay project has taken a HUMONGOUS leap forward. When I was at the gravel supplier looking at their pile of “blue clay,” I pulled a good sized chunk of what appeared to be very clean clay out. About the size of a watermelon, the lump only had about 6 or 8 stones about the size of a chick pea. The rest went through a 1/4″ screen. I just got the sense that it would work. The clay feels right. So, I thumped some down on the wheel and PRESTO. Pottery. Rather than conduct a really accurate test, I didn’t change my water so the pots have a white scum on them. This is the fine clay that was suspended in the water. I don’t think it’s all that big a deal. These cups and bowls have some rocks and chunks in them. Not terrible. the kind of thing that seems manageable as long as the supply is consistent.IMG_0631

The bits and chunks are more apparent here. Also, notice how the right bowl isn’t round at all. It was when it went into the kiln. Same with the one resting on it. They went through the firing stacked lip to lip and the left one (smaller and on top) actually sank into the larger lower one. The clay was soft enough to move with little pressure (gravity) but not so soft it actually slumped and melted into a pool. A side effect of it having gotten so soft, it has moved into the land of vitrified clay. Flick it with a finger nail and it rings like a bell. A lot higher of a tone than the earthenware (red or white) that was in the kiln with it. These guys were on the top shelf of the kiln, so they were undoubtedly hotter than everything else in there. Not a lot lot hotter, but some. the kiln is set to turn off around 1950 F. That is what the bottom looks like. I think the top went to closer to 2000 F. Doesn’t matter as long as I can get the same results and more, a lot more, of the same clay.

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I have a lot on my mind lately so I’m doing many things at once in an effort to get back to only a few things. Yesterday I made my first insulate bricks. At least, they are something along those lines. A different clay than the stuff used to make the cups and bowls, this clay is from under the pond across the street. These bricks are made of the same stuff that the Seed House inside walls are made of. Only, these things will get heated through quartz inversion (1000 C /1832 F).

The Work is heading into a more practical direction at the moment. I’m realistic enough to know that pottery is a luxury. Especially in what passes for our current local/global economy. If I can sell a few of these things this year, awesome. I feel confident that those who purchase them will be very happy with the improvement to their daily rituals. Most folks could really care less. I remember one of my Officers at the FD that refused to drink his coffee at the station out of anything but a styrofoam cup. New cup every time. A line of ceramic cups hanging from hooks right next to the coffee maker. Only styrofoam. It’s easier to toss it than to return to the kitchen, wash the cup and set it to dry. Ridiculous. He is someone who would never think about bringing something like my pottery into his day. This, to me, is an all too common state of mind. The difference between the garbage choked river in St. Marc, Haiti and Conneaut Creek is that we have curb-side garbage pick up. All those cups would be hammered into a plastic slurry on the beaches if it weren’t for that.

With the world seemingly, once again on the brink, I gotta find a way to bring something into the world that people will use. To get them to use it, they need to need it. We need to eat. We can eat soup from cupped hands if we have to. But we, as a North American 21st Century Society, have to heat the vast majority of our food. I’m looking for a way to make food preparation more do-able. Our time in Haiti showed me what cooking is like for most folks alive, RIGHT NOW. Smoky, smelly and dirty. I’ve read many times that lung compromise from breathing cooking fire smoke is a leading cause of death in women world wide. Lots of folks are traveling around the poor parts of Earth teaching people how to make Rocket Cookers and Rocket Ovens. That’s great. It’s awesome. I don’t happen to live in East Timor or Nepal or Burundi so I can’t sit in on what they are doing. I’ve chatted a tiny bit with one of those who goes. He’s busy busy and most of it comes down to experimentation with local materials so I’m on my own for the most part. The few tests I’ve done on the shallower clay look very promising. Same clay as the bricks. This is all very preliminary. Most of what I’ve come up with so far has left a lot to be desired. There is just so much iron in all the local clay that it melts at a much lower temperature than commercial earthenware. In addition to the 25 year hiatus, I only thought “using local clay” was a neat idea back then so I didn’t learn much about processing it. Learning it now though.

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