Well, (a deep subject according the Maggie my wife) where to start? I could start with why we found it necessary to change studios. Or I could start with how much we (my wife and I) love to make pottery. Or I could start with the loss of our 2 year old German Shepard "Mo" to liver cancer. Or I could start with Maggie's first day of being a pin cushion (dialysis patent) and my learning to stick two 15 gauge needles in her arm every day. I suppose I could start with our fifty gallon fish tank that started leaking on the floor shortly after our first bisque fire in our new studio. Possibly, I could start with the engineer from the electric company who told me where to dig (2) two (5) five foot deep holes through rocks in order to run enough electricity to the studio to fire our electric kilns. Yes, perhaps I will start with the electric project.
Here I will try to explain to you how things work in my part of the South:
I called the 'lectric company about 9:30 in the morning to ast if they could run 'lectric to the new pottery studio. I was told I would have to call back at 8:00am the next morning and speak with "Jeff the engineer". I called an said "Hi Jeff the engineer, this here's Jeff" an he come out to our studio give me a sheet of paper that had a basic outline of how he wonted the power to be run. "Jeff the engineer" told me our studio was 340 foot from the transformer and the electric company would only run wire 300 ft from the transformer to the meter. (I thought the meter would be on the studio, silly me) So he then showed me where to put the 'lectric pole with a meter and the anchor. I ast how deep the hole should be he said five foot and I would havta to bury the wire two foot deep. "Jeff the engineer" also wanted me to cut some trees down and a bunch a branches (firewood, cool). That would take a couple more days so I said "How much you reckon it'll cost to hire ya'll or someone to do this work for me" he said "about $4,000.00 maybe a little more" Yikes, I reckon I'll have to do it myself and I done it myself for $1,300.00.
Oh yeah, let me tell ya'll what happened when I was digging those two five foot deep holes.
Back in August of 2007
It's hot and dry now here in Southern Middle Tennessee. The air is so dry my nose has been bleeding in the morning for about a week, usually it's very humid this time of year. There hasn't been any rain for more than a month and the ground is hard as a rock. But, I'm going to dig two five foot deep holes. I have spoken with many of the older folks around here and most don't remember the last time it was this dry, but those who did said "1957ish we didn't get no rain from April to October."
I just spoke to "Jeff the engineer" it's gotta be 90in the shade out and just goin t' get hotter today so 'stead of diggin them holes just yet I get my chain saw and head out lookin for a way for the 'lectric company to get that big ol' truck over here. We have a ol' wood bridge that a big 'ol five ton truck just cain't cross. So, I found me a spot I'd only have to cut one tree down and make a gap in the fence. That was somethin'! There weren't no existing gaps on our side, I reckoned most spots would need two or three trees to be cut out fer that five ton truck.
I admit it's not the coolest (temperature wise) of jobs on a hot day but better than diggin. Speaking of which, I pored some water on the stakes markin where I'm going to have to dig those holes! Maggie and I cut down the cedar tree and made a gap in the fence. Then the next day we went to the neighbors who live behind us about 1 or 2 miles up the hill.
Awright, it's Saturday about 10:00a.m. we stop at the house what that we reckon owns that there land behind us. Ah ast if they're goin to get up if we have the 'lectric company drive their big ol truck across their land to get 't our place. He said it weren't no problem long as his cows didn't get out. I asked if we couldn't go down yonder an find the gap from his side, so he give us a ride an we found it. Then we went on back to his place. Maggie and I stood out side and we all yammered awhile what with him and a couple of neighbors. I got to talking about digging them two holes and they offered to bring their tractor with an auger to dig them holes. They said that auger was only four feet long but "that's four feet a man ain't gotta dig."
As you can imagine it took two days for them to get ready and come down here to dig those holes. In the mean time, I began to partake in the pricing game, since parts are going to be the most expensive part of this project. Besides it is 107 degrees outside in the shade and still going up according to our at home indoor/outdoor weather station. What more incentive does one need not to dig holes?!
Well I hear them coming cross the hill and start walking up that way to meet them and show them where the holes need dug. You have to understand this is a big production they all comedown here two fellows in the truck two on the atv and one drivin the tractor. They started running the auger it goes down about a foot then stops going down but continues to spin, well... they put more pressure on the auger and the shear bolt broke. They pulled the auger out of the ground and I got the dirt out to see why it stopped going down. It's a rock and I look up jus as everyone is leaving.
Come next day I'm out there its still over 100 degrees I'm sweating tryin an tryin to dig that rock out of the hole. Ya know what was under that rock? About one inch of clay an then yet a nuther rock and a nuther. Turned out to be a whole pile of them rocks, a pretty dadgum big pile! So I'm diggin an diggin til I done got to about three foot deep and I hear that tractor comin on down the hill!
Me, I think thank you God for sending help to get these rocks out of the ground and make two five foot holes. Here they are with the auger, this time there are only three neighbors, I say "Less that auger of ya'lls can bore through rock I don't recon it will be much help but I'd sure appreciate it if ya'll would help me get these rocks out of here."
One of them said "OOH Mah back! Mah back! don' think I can stand up!" and everyone laughed.
He did not stand up and they then said their farewells and he left with the rest following suit. "Great, the help left and forgot to help." "God, I love you. I really kind of thought you had sent some help this time." Unfortunately, this time God had faith in me that I would be able to dig these two five feet deep holes. And so I did.
Time passed along, I finished that hole the anchor goes in and put the anchor in then filled the hole back in. All I have left to do is dig two more feet in the hole for the pole.
Now the hole is finally big enough for the pole. How do I get the pole in the hole? Looks easier than it is! This pole is twenty five (25) feet long and around three hundred (300) pounds. The Neighbors had offered to bring the tractor down here to lift the pole up but wouldn't you know it? When I called to ask when they could bring the tractor I was told that the tractor is in the shop getting fixed and the shop they took it to had to order the parts but it should be out in a week or three. The tractor would not go in gear and they had to use the come-a- long to get it loaded to take to the shop. I had already tried to lift the pole, I could lift it to a forty five degree angle at most before it got to heavy. Once again God did not send any-one in to help. He knew Maggie and I could stand that pole up and so we did.
After standing that pole up it was time to hang the meter, conduit, and weather head. I had decided to put them all up in one piece. The neighbors were out skeet shooting on the hill about a half mile away and had been for about an hour when all of a sudden (while Maggie was taking pictures of me) the pellets started hitting the trees near me. First one shot and then another three and four they seem to be getting closer and closer.
I didn't think I could shimmy down that pole so fast. I thanked God that the pellets had lost most of their speed before they reached me! It sure got my attention I felt like a sitting duck up on that pole.
Now that the pole is in the ground and the meter is up we need a ditch two feet deep and forty feet long, so we rented a walk-behind ditch witch from the local lumber yard.
Now that ol ditch witch was so heavy it had to have it's own trailer. When we finally got that dadgum thang out here to the shop started it up and moved in to place to start cuttin open the ground I found out that thang will shake ya so much it will wear a feller out in the time it ud take fer a cat to blink, jus tryin to hold down that dang handle is a job an a half! The handle is like on one of them there ol push mowers. When ya let it up it stops, when ya hold that wire down it goes. So it took me bout 5 seconds to tie that dadgum handle down with a handy piece of wire of my own! Thataway I figured I wouldn't have to hold it all the darn time. Of course, there was lots an lots of big ol rocks that needed to be pulled out of the hole too, so while that ol ditch witch was running along all on under it's own steam I started gettin them rocks out with that good ol six foot tamper bar. God was surely watchin over me, that ol ditch witch started hoppin up and down and stalled out on yet a nuther rock! I thought OH Lord, what now? So as soon as I done got the rock I was working on out the hole I walked on over ta pull out the rock out that stopped that ol witch. An ya'll never guess what I saw down thar in that ol ditch. Jus sittin thar as purty as ya please wuz a fairly long ol stretch white plastic pipe all uncovered an looked like it had done been wiped clean! "Good Lord Ya'll that's our water line cain't believe it didn't even get cut"! I had Maggie take a picture of it just so every one could see how God blessed us that day.
One of my closest friends for the past five or six years had come out to help us with digging that ditch. Lucian has been a great friend over the years he has a big heart and spends most of his days helping others and praying for those he cain't help. God blessed us with Lucian.
Lucian helped me to do the hand digging that had to be done around the water pipe.
Now it's time to measure the ditch and go get the wire. It took me the better part of the day to get the wire, go grocery shopping, put Maggie on the dialysis machine, and hook up the wire especially since while we were at the store the power went out and since there doesn't seem to be anyone left on this earth that can function without a computer, no one could check out for almost an hour.
We passed the electrical inspection now we will have power soon and only six weeks until Ketners Mill in Whitwell, TN (one of our biggest wholesale to the public shows). Time to get busy making pottery as soon as the power company gets here in a day or two we will be able to fire our kilns. I hope their big truck can fit down that trail I cut.
The electric company truck came and hooked up the power line without incidence. Now it's time to get busy and we did. That pole just looks good standing there to me especially since it took me almost five weeks from the first phone call until the power was on.
We started getting ready for Ketners Mill by throwing and making as much greenware as we could in the first three weeks. During which time, I made five of our best looking glazes and then ran out of suitable buckets that had lids. We've been saving buckets for a while and some buckets are better then others.
The day after the power was turned on I fired the first bisque fire and the kiln only took about four hours to reach the desired temperature of one thousand six hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Which is a good time for a used paragon kiln. It is only 5.1 cubic feet inside and that probably had a little to do with the fact of it reaching temperature so fast. Of coarse, the kiln didn't work so good when we bought it for one hundred dollars, but it didn't cost anything except a little time to fix. Thank you Lord God.
I made the table under the greenware on the table in the photograph below. The table has really good heavy duty wheels on the bottom and two shelves, underneath the table top, for us to place the hand thrown pieces of green wet and very soft pottery until they dry enough to take them off the bat and put them in the wet box.
I'll try and explain what was wrong with that kiln when we got it, and we got two however the other is 17 cubic feet inside and a Blue Diamond for three hundred dollars, that is another story. OK there are four elements inside this kiln. The kiln runs on 240v (volts) single phase which means there are two hot wires and a neutral. Each hot wire is 120v to the neutral (the white wire) and 240v hot to hot (the red and black wire).
The paragon kiln has two control switches on the front each switch controls two elements. The first time I plugged in the kiln I turned on the top switch and waited one to two minutes and both of the top elements started to turn red (that made me smile at the time) so the top works I shut the top off and turned on the bottom switch. It took all of three or four seconds for one of the elements attached to the bottom switch to turn cherry red and the other didn't even get hot ?uh-oh?
Perhaps, that is how and why there was melted clay in the bottom of the kiln and the elements looked like they were just replaced and fired maybe once. I took the control panel off, after unplugging the kiln of course, started looking at the wires that run from the switches to the elements and what luck it looks as thought someone connected both of the hot wires to one element and both of the neutral wires to the other element.
As I explained above that would cause the element with two hot wires to be running on 240v and the one with both neutral wires to be running on zero volts. After fixing the connections the kiln worked great for five fires then half of it stopped working one of the elements on the top switch and one on the bottom.
Wouldn't you know it, we only had a matter of days before the showing of our work at the Mill the kiln was loaded with two-tone glazes the touchiest glazes we make and the kiln stops working half way through the fire which if it got hot enough means everything in the kiln could be ruined. I was quit upset that night and the kiln was to hot to trouble shoot until the morning. So I had a few too many glasses of wine that night.
The next day Me, my hang over and all, went down to the studio to see what could be done to fix the kiln. I had said many prayers the night before if those elements are burned out I wouldn't be able to get any more beautiful pottery finished before the show.
To be continued
Below are some pictures I took of our cactus when it bloomed click on the picture to use the big picture to set as desktop background or just enjoy.
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Clay and the Bible
Isa. 45: 9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
Jer. 18: 1-6 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
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