Sunday, August 28, 2022

The first firing

Our first time firing the kiln! So cool. Started it at 3pm Saturday, it reached Cone 6 temp at about midnight, and cooled to 130 degrees by 3pm Sunday.

Oooh. Love the chicken peeking out.

These are the four prep bowls. They came out quite nice and I like the colors. We learned some stuff with this firing. We're brushing on the glazes as we don't want big containers of glaze sitting around the house. We got quite a few brush strokes especially on the interior. I think I made two mistakes - 1) I didn't let it dry well enough between coats and 2) I didn't brush on enough coats. 

Large: Textured burgundy
Medium: Cobalt
Small left: Rainforest
Small right: Jade
All have Smoke inside

I got some interesting pooling in the left one but you can't see the swirl I added. The dots in the right one are just visible. I like the effect.

The travel mugs came out nice but we've got brush strokes again. 

Left: Blue green top, Cash money bottom
Center: Downpour top, Blue green bottom
Right: Downpour all over, stripe Charcoal

Aren't these adorable? I use bits of leftover clay to make pinch-pot animals. I've got quite a flock going (the pig suggests an expansion to full barnyard). The clear glaze slightly obscured texture. Sheep, pig, and ram are underglaze then coated in clear. The sheep at far right is Charcoal Celedon and White glaze.

Toast! Yup, plates for breakfast toast. Too cute. These are underglazes (mixed brown, white, black) covered by Clear glaze.

And this fine lady is a garden chicken. The bright colors are underglazes. They really pop!

Here she is in her natural habitat. 

Here are the firing statistics:
Start at 3pm
Cone 6
No warm up
No hold
Top temperature 2228
Firing time 9.04 hours
Firing cost $3.40 (based on our electric rate of $.14 per kWh)
Total time load-to-unload 24 hours.

We've got more pieces ready to glaze so we'll get to make some improvements in technique and do some more experimenting. I particularly want to see what happens if you do an underglaze and then a coat of White glaze. Will the colors still show well? Look too muted? We'll find out.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Figuring out the glazing process and documentation (which we suck at)

We decided that buying a kiln made more sense than continuing to use the community kiln. It mainly came down to convenience, cost, and ambiance. Ambiance??? Yup. Both of us admitted that we always felt rushed when using the glaze room. Part of it is the simple fact that we know very little about glazing. It's a trial and error kind of process at our skill level. So being able to stay home, take our time, and experiment with the glazes is really nice. We're both enjoying the process much more. 

The kiln we bought is really small. Which also works with our pottery style. We're not production potters - we dabble. 

We're now trying to figure out the best way to document our projects so that we can learn from success and failure.

Here goes - and obviously taking a photo of the notes is not going to work. I mean, who can read that???
Small scoop: Charcoal (stripes) plus handle and lip (x3)
Medium scoop: Rainforest (x3)
Large scoop: Dark Blue inside (x3), Smoke and Charcoal exterior (overlapping, x3)

Left: Inside Blue Green SM-29
Outside Top Blue Green SM-29, Bottom Cash Money Blue
Center: Inside Downpour C-25, Outside 2x Downpour, Bottom Blue Green SM-29
Right: Inside & Stripe Charcoal C-5, Outside & over stripe Downpour C-25

XL: Smoke x3 inside, Texture burgundy x3 outside & rim
L: Smoke x3 inside, Cobalt x3 outside & rim
M: Smoke x3 inside, Rainforest x3 outside & rim & interior swirl
S: Smoke x3 inside, Jade x3 outside & rim & dots inside

Toast (4 plates) Underglazed in shades of brown then coated in clear

First load in the kiln!

Not pictured (because that process broke down quite quickly) are a wee pig, a wee sheep, another sheep, a ram, and a chicken. All of them were underglaze in various colors and then coated in clear. 

The glazes are all Amoco brand and the underglaze is Speedball. 


Monday, May 3, 2021

Ways to use up eggs

The hens are laying like crazy so I’ve got to really work to keep ahead of production. So now we’re eating eggs two meals a day rather than just for breakfast. This could get boring fast.

Breakfast is now cold custard and toast. Four ramekins use one egg each but we only eat one ramekin per meal (we split one). I may need to start making egg rich breads to help this out.

Lunch is an egg scramble with veggies. This solves the added issue of what to do with garden produce and is a quick to prepare meal while we’re doing all the chores this time of year brings. It also adds variety since you can change up the flavors based on which vegetables or meats you add. I’m also thinking of doing some Asian inspired dishes like cabbage pancakes and tempuras. 

Dessert, ah dessert, that’s where you can really shine. And use eggs. Lots of eggs.

Chocolate pecan pie 

Baked banana pudding 

The pecan pie uses four eggs and tastes wonderful. Unfortunately it’s also so rich that one piece is enough so it lasts a while.

The banana pudding is that Chef John recipe I mentioned earlier and has the added advantage that you can eat it for breakfast. 

That’s still not enough to use up all the eggs but combined with some sharing I can just keep ahead of the hens.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Not your typical spring

We’ve had terrible weather this spring. Mainly because it’s been so nice. That’s right, I’m complaining about sunny days. I mean, there was that one freak snowfall that gave us over an inch of heavy wet snow, but otherwise it’s been incredibly dry.  

This is all kinds of wrong

Where are my April showers to bring May flowers? How is my beautiful garden supposed to fill with healthy veggies if we don’t get rain?

All kidding aside, the yard and garden are bone dry. And although the chickens enjoy the dust baths this is not good for anyone.

When we built the tractor shed in 2008 it rained for 8 weeks straight. We were soggy messes every single day. The creeks ran full and the mosquitoes were fierce. And every year since then we’ve had a little less rain. Dry April, dry May, and finally some rain in June. Not sure if this year will be a repeat but we’re already planning. We have two large rain containers set up to collect as much as possible. And we have another barrel that we may set up soon.

The forecast calls for rain for the next three days. Here’s hoping.

Monday, March 22, 2021

We made syrup!

We have plenty of maple trees on the property but we’ve never tried to make maple syrup before. Well, apparently this was the year to give it a go!

The main reason we decided to try it was that Chris scored both a food grade barrel and a whole bunch of bricks. The barrel would let us accumulate the sap (we only had 5 sap taps/buckets and we had to borrow those) and the bricks would provide material for a quick and dirty wood-fired evaporator. 

The barrel and the evaporator 

We had good collecting weather for about a week and managed to accumulate about 22 gallons of sap. 

Beginning the boil

The weather was perfect: sunny, warmish, and barely breezy. I even brought Cooper’s bed outside so she could enjoy the sunshine with us.

You’ll note there is no dog...

We boiled outside for nine hours the first day, five hours the second, and three the third.

Turning golden
It did get warmer as the day progressed
Eventually she joined us

The chickens were loving being able to roam around at last. They’ve been confined to their coop and run because they hate to walk on the snow. The nice weather means they finally have a grass path to freedom.

Now we’re getting closer
Once enough had evaporated we moved into the house to finish it off. 
It took about 2.5 hours to turn into syrup 

A good production run
We ended up with a generous two quarts. That was our goal and I can’t believe we actually hit it! It’s not like we were carefully measuring anything. But I’d estimate we collected 22 gallons of sap so we at least have a target for next year.
I partially filled the jars because I’m going to freeze them. Well, some of them. We’ll be dipping into the first jar tonight. Waffles for dinner!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Putting up beans

I spent a chunk of Saturday pressure canning dried beans.

I had six bags, each containing a pound of beans. I did three bags of pinto, two of black, and one navy. It was quite colorful.

Soaking the navy and black beans

Lots of pinto beans

After soaking them overnight I boiled the beans for 30 minutes. That gave me time to get my canner and supplies ready.

No photos of the filling process as I was wicked busy filling jars, getting them sealed, and loading the canner. 
Steadily streaming steam

The beans were processed for 75 minutes. I needed to stay in the kitchen to keep a close eye on the pressure gauge so I had time to make pizza dough and banana bread too. Time management for the win!

Gorgeous beans
I yielded 20 pints plus enough for a side dish from those six bags. Not bad.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Snugging in on a cold winter night

Cooper passed out in my chair 

The cats melted in their chair

The reason everyone is so relaxed 

There is nothing more pleasant than snuggling in with the woodstove going full bore. The critters have it right.