Nothing is Ever Finished

We have just finished another firing with a group of enthusiastic potters. The weather is glorious and warm in the sun, with no wind, so a good night for a frost. The firing went very well, even a little bit quick, so we will wait to see what the results are next week.

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The night before the firing and just after I had written that Nothing lasts, nothing is ever finished and nothing is perfect. The heat shield on the door of the wood fired kitchen stove fell off at the end of dinner. The bolts holding it on had rusted away. I was stuck for just one second with a 2kg piece of red hot steel plate coming free and having to deal with it unexpectedly. Trying to stop it landing on the wooden floor of the kitchen. Fortunately, I installed a piece of thick copper sheet onto the floor in front of the stove, just in case any red hot embers might cascade out of the fire box on some occasion. This has hardly ever happened, but does occasionally. I’m glad that I saved up and did it when I did, thirty years ago, because I probably couldn’t afford to buy such a sheet of copper now. The copper looks great, has lasted well and on this occasion, might just have saved the house from burning down. I man-handle the glowing lump of red hot metal outside and into the ash bucket using the ember shovel.



IMG_0778In the morning, before everyone arrives for the next workshop. I’m up early and down in the workshop drilling out the corroded screws and re-tapping the threads to suit the stainless steel bolts that I keep in stock for kiln building purposes. It takes me about 45 mins to clean it up, dissemble it and then figure out what I should do to cobble it all back together again. The old bolt holes are well corroded and packed with swollen, rusted bolty remains. I find that it is next to impossible to reconstruct it as it was, without moving up from 3/8 whitworth  to 10 mm. metric bolts, which I don’t have in stock. I decide to drill right through and use a longer, but thinner bolt. this works well and should last another 20 years. Probably longer than the remaining life of the rest of the stove. I get the door back on the stove just as the first of our guests arrive.


Small progress, problem solved for the time being. It isn’t perfect, it won’t last, it isn’t finished.


Fond regards from the imperfect Steve the stove bodger

Delivering a Kiln, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A Kiln Delivery, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
I have just finished another kiln for a customer. It’s a beautiful thing. There isn’t anyone capable of making anything like this in Australia any more. All the skills are gone. We are a country of importers of cheap junk these days. Everyone wants something for next to nothing, or even cheaper. This may sound rather jaundiced, but how else do you explain the rampant rise of Bunnings and Ikea, and all the other Chinese import companies. Power tools for $12 each, of course they are not going to last more than 10 minutes.
Note to self – don’t buy cheap plastic junk! I try and buy only things that I really need, and if I really do need it. I try to buy something of quality, that will last a very long time. I don’t throw things out until they are really worn out, and then I try to recycle them into something else if I can. Finally, if it is really organic and wholesome. There is always the compost heap or the metal recyclers if it isn’t?
This kiln is not just beautiful. It’s solid and gorgeous. I’m very proud of it. I spent a lot of time on it. It will last its owner for all of her life and then someone else’s as well.
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I do a lot of organising before I set out to deliver a kiln. If the site is close enough, I go there and check out the site myself, but if it is a long way off. I usually do all the organising by email. Images sent back and forth of driveways nd other access points. Measurements of gates and shed doors height and widths etc. I try to think of everything, but there is always some sort of surprise in store for me. You never know who will turn up to “help”! See ‘The Best Laid Plans’ posted on this blog on the 18th of March this year.
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We get started early. I use my friend Dave who has a big truck with a ‘Palfinger’ crane. He is a real gentleman and takes such a lot of care with everything that he does. I really trust him completely in matters of lifting heavy things. I shrink-wrap and load the kiln onto my truck the day before and then drive it up to the drive way near the road, where Dave’s big truck can get to, to lift it off my little truck and onto his, for the long trip to its new home.
Because we are so efficient, we arrive at the site a bit early and manage to reverse in through the narrow gates, then down to a spot quite close to the garden shed, where the kiln will be housed. The clients are there to greet us, as is the local tradesman who they have engaged to help us. The kiln comes off the truck and across the lawn and into the doorway of the shed without a hitch. Dave can manoeuvre the crane with a tonne hanging from it at a 13 metre distance to within 1 cm! It’s always astonishing tot me how much accuracy he has developed with this machine over the 30 years that he has been doing it. This is how it is all supposed to be. everything considered. However, you can never really know what the local drunk and the crazy neighbour will do when push come to shove. On this occasion, they are nowhere to be seen and everything goes as it should. Dave lowers the kiln across the lawn and down onto the kiln shed slab. He is so professional, carefull and accurate with that crane. The kiln is lowered down directly onto the pallet lifter in the shed, so that I can wheel the kiln into position without a hitch.
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We install the flue kit and seal the roof and we are all done. Everything sweet and precise, all done without a hitch. This is how it is supposed to be. What could possibly have gone wrong?
I’m home early and have time to do a bit of weeding in the garden, then a clean-up in the kiln shed ready for the next wood firing workshop.
Everything as it should be.
I’m gratefull!
So completely different from the last time.
Best wishes

Nothing is Perfect!

We have just had our latest wood firing and all went well, as usual, thank goodness. We do our best, but we can make no guarantees, only mistakes!. We found that only a few pots made from an imported Japanese porcelain clay dunted. Glazed only on the inside too. Maybe that was the problem? Apart from this it was a very good firing!

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After the firing we get out and about and get stuck into some timber cutting and splitting. I’m up and out early with the chain saws, long before any one comes to help. Chain saws are dangerous enough without anyone else being around to watch out for and keep at a safe distance. We split about half of the 40 or so lengths that I have cut and prepared, but then the throttle lever on the splitter motor comes off in my hand. Cheap Chinese made splitter! So work has to come to a halt for the day while I fix it. We spend the rest of the time stacking and moving all that we have split over to the kiln shed. When everyone is gone. I take the splitter motor to bits looking for where the bolt or screw has fallen out. How could the throttle lever just come off in my hands? I can’t see where it has come from. Where it ought to be, but there ought to be an obvious spot with tell-tale wear marks, to indicate where it belongs. A place with a missing bolt! Just like in an Agatha Christie novel. there ought to be some clues, but the more I look, the less I know. I can’t believe it. Surely I’m not this inadequate and simple that I can’t see a missing bolts hole. I have removed half the engine, the air cleaner, and part of the carbie!

All the mechanism is installed under the air filter on one side and the muffler on the other. All the linkages are under the petrol tank. Everything is hard to get to and nothing is clear. There are metal wire linkages and tiny little, fine wire, return springs. I can’t see where any of it really belongs and to make it harder, the days are so short and it is starting to get dark.

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Then, finally, it dawns on me. It hasn’t fallen off because of a missing bolt or nut. It has simply shattered in half from metal fatigue and the rest of it is still all attached. It has cracked in half. I need to remove more of the engine to get all of it off, so that I can weld it back together again. I can’t do it on the machine, next to the carburetor, and all that fuel! I take a couple of photos as I go to remind me later on when I’m re-assembling it. So that I can get it all back together again in the right order.

Years ago, I used to write all of this kind of thing down in my day book – sort of diary thing, but now I just take photos. Because I can! When I was young, my first car was an old, classic, red, MG sports car. When I had to pull the engine down the first time. I wrote everything down, step by step and recorded all the detail that I thought was going to be necessary to re-assemble it. I numbered and bagged all the parts in sequence. I had never had to do anything like this before and my father wasn’t much interested or even around to give any guidance, so I just muddled through with the help of my older brother, who also had absolutely no experience of this kind of motor mechanics, but make encouraging noises and was supportive, especially when it came to lifting the donk out. We were completely incompetent and naive, but we managed to get it all back together again and it worked! it was quite a triumph for us. Especially for me.

When it was all done and back together. I had one nut left over, and to this day I still don’t know where it belonged. but the car still worked! Nothing is perfect!

Today, I get this small engine all stripped down and then set about welding the shattered pieces back together again. I think about making a new one, but the thing is so complex and folded in so many different places with so many holes and little tags and bits sticking out, that I decide to just repair it. Nothing is perfect! I don’t know how long it will last. Nothing lasts! It is only very thin pressed metal material. I can’t give it too many amps. I don’t want to burn a hole through it, and I can only weld one side too, because it has to have a flush face on the other side, so that it will swivel properly on it’s seating.  I weld it as best that I can, after testing the amperage on a test piece, so as to get the best result. I get good penetration! What more could a man want! But there is a little burn-through in one spot on the weld, so I have to grind it back a little to get it flush and smooth.

I manage to get it all back together before dark and back into the shed. It’s a bit of a rush, but there are no medals for giving up! I give it a trial run and it works OK. Time will tell if it continues to work for the long term. I go up to the house in the dark and the key snaps off in the lock. This is just what I need! One of the joys of living in a 122 year old house is doing the maintenance. I leave it till morning to take the lock off and fix it in daylight. I can’t see well enough in the dark and fixing locks, with all the fine moving parts is something that needs to be done in a clear frame of mind and good daylight. Fortunately it isn’t too difficult and it turns out to be something that I have had to do before, so it is relatively simple and straight forward and it is all back into working order pretty quickly and before lunch time. Nothing is perfect and nothing is ever finished.

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Because crap things always seem to come in threes, at least that is how it appears today. The water tank springs a leak. It has been leaking with a slow drip for a year or more now, but today, it springs a proper leak and The Lovely comes in to tell me that as she walked past the tank stand just now, and it felt like it was raining. This happened a couple of days ago too and she thought that she might have been imagining it. But today she is sure. We go and have a look. The timber tank stand deck is all wet underneath, just as it has been for a few years now, where the slow drip is, but now there is a little fountain pissing from the far side. It’s only very tiny, but it is surely a leak in the side of the tank now. I get the ladder and check it out at close quarters. The water has corroded through the zink coated corrugated steel sheeting. My highly imaginative and creative thinker thought that she was imagining it a few weeks ago when she felt a little fine water spray on her as she walked past the wood shed near by the tank stand. At that time, she imagined that it might be a cicada pissing from high up in a tree, or some other explanation. But now we know that it is real and not imagined. It’s a very tiny, fine spray of water from the pin prick sized hole, but once these things start. It’s always terminal.

I order a new tank, it’s all so specific these days. The height, the diameter, the colour, the inlet, the outlet side etc. It all goes on and on. This is not a current or popular size and configuration however. We will have to go on the waiting list. He rings me back the next day, They have one of those in stock it seems and so I can drive in and pick it up. Amazing! It has to be pretty much the same, because I don’t want to have to change over all the plumbing into a new configuration. When working up a 6 metre ladder. right at the top, it’s scarry enough.

I ring my friend Dave with the crane truck. he can come very late today on his way home. I drain all the water out of the tank and strip it of all its fittings and connectors. I swap all of these onto the new tank. Now we have no water in the house to cook, wash or flush with until it is all put back to rights. I hope that Dave doesn’t forget. He rings to say that he will be a little late, but he is here before dark. Which is good, if you are working on a narrow ladder rung, right at the top of a 6 metre ladder, up from the ground, you don’t want to be doing it in the dark.

It all goes smoothly and all the fittings that I swap over are all in the correct place and in the right direction, or orientation for further use.

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The old tank comes down and the new one goes into its place without a hitch. I only have to reconnect the inlet and outlet pipes.

Once it is back in place, Dave leaves for another job, I have to start the pump to refill it with water again, so that we can get on with our normal life.

The Wet One thinks that this tank is only a few years old. I think that it is probably a bit more than that, but not too old. Not more than ten years!  Nothing lasts. However, when I check out the paperwork, it turns out that it is actually 20 years since we put it up on the tank stand. The earlier tank had lasted 21 years and would have lasted longer, but the tank stand rusted out first and fell, crashing to the ground with the water tank still on it. Needless to say, neither survived, nor did the wood shed that it landed on.

I’m just a bit concerned that this new water tank is made of plastic and not galvanised steel like all the others have been. I wasn’t ever happy with the first tank that was made of galvanised steel and sealed with lead solder! But it did last for over 20 years and our first storage tank lasted for over 30 years, but the zink finally corrodes and they start to leak, so we replaced them with new ones. These newer tanks were made from zincalume coated steel, so couldn’t be soldered, that’s good, but they had to be sealed with silicon rubber glue. Not too happy about that either. Nothing is perfect! The last metal tank that we bought was lined with a plastic membrane heat sealed on to the inside of the zincalume sheets. It was called aquaplate, but didn’t last any longer and it was silicone sealed as well. Nothing is perfect!

Plastic is in everything. It’s OK while it lasts, but what will happen to this plastic tank when it finally gets eaten away by the sunlight or what ever is its fate? Can it be recycled? Al least the steel ones can be. I still have and use my parents old galvanised steel water tank. They bought it second-hand in the fifties, so it’s been in constant use in this family for over 60 years and is clearly a lot older, it shows no signs of corrosion yet. It was made out of thick steel plate and hot dipped in molten zinc. That was a product made to last. I have been told that it was a ships tank, but I don’t know. In future I may have to weld up my own tank and get it hot dipped galvanised, just like I do with my kilns. I like things that are made to last as long as possible.

However, I’m also aware that nothing is ever finished, nothing lasts and nothing is perfect.

You live and learn!

Best wishes


Fruits of the Solstice

We have been keeping up the citrus experiments. Each evening we try something new. The Lovely has been trying out some more ideas with citrus jelly. She uses oranges, limes, lemon, lemonade and tangelos. Whatever is ripe and plentiful on the day.
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Citrus Jelly
375 mls. of Juice
125g of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of gelatine.
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Squeeze 375 mls. of Juice from the above fruit. Use whatever mix of citrus fruit that you have.
Take 125g of sugar and dissolve it in 100 g of hot water. Stir to dissolve.
Zest some of the skins into the sugar/water mix.
Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons of gelatine powder in 8 tablespoons of cold water. Sit the small bowl of gelatine and cold water in a bigger bowl of hot water to encourage the gelatine to dissolve.
Once the gelatine is dissolved, mix it into the sugar water and both into the fruit juice.
Stir well as it cools down. Once cooled, place in fridge to set into jelly. It may need to be stirred a few more times during the time in the fridge to stop the gelatine settling out.
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It’s very easy to make and to eat. It goes very well with either ice cream for desert or yoghurt for breakfast.
Candy for grown-ups
I was recently given a bag of old fashioned citrons by a lovely friend. She tells me that her husband makes marmalade from them. I try them for marmalade, but I think that the flavour is rather too strong. So I decided to try my hand at making candied, citron peel from them. I use candied peel for adding in with other dried fruits when baking some cakes. particularly for panforte or sometimes in muesli.
Candying fruit is an easy thing to do in the background while you do other things in the kitchen at night.
This is a pretty standard recipe and technique. You can use any thick skinned citrus.
Candied Citron Peel
Cut the citron fruit lengthways into quarters and again in half into eighths, cut out the centre of the fruit to leave the white pith and peel.
Place in a saucepan and cover with water, then bring to the boil for a few minutes, maybe 10 or so. Discard the water and refresh. this removes a lot of the bitterness. Bring back to the boil and simmer for half an hour or so, or until softened.
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Drain off the water and weigh it. Add 1kg of sugar for every litre of water or part thereof proportionally. Return to the stove and bring back to the boil and let it simmer for another half hour or so. Leave to cool in the liquid over night.
In the morning drain and leave on a drying rack to dry, or place in stove on rack and dry for an hour or so on very low, with the fan on, if you have one?
The strips should be dry enough now to ‘keep’ in a jar in the fridge without going off.
You can roll them in caster sugar if you want to. I don’t.
Don’t dry them too much or they will become rock hard.
Winter is not just the time time for citrus. The avocados are in full crop just now too.
They don’t really ripen on the tree. It’s best if you pick them a week or so before you need them. So The Lovely picks a few each week, so that there is an ongoing supply available.
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It’s an easy and quick lunch to slice over toast with a squeeze of lemon and some freshly ground pepper. Our good friend Toni Warburton comes for the weekend firing workshop and leaves us some smoked trout to put on top.
Yum! Thank you Toni.
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Best wishes
from The Candy Man and his Sweetie

What a Privilege it is to be a Tax Payer!

We are smack in the middle of our winter, wood firing program, we have done 9 weekends in a row and still have quite a few to go. I am spending a lot of time cutting, splitting and stacking wood for each firing. It takes about a tonne of wood to fire the kiln for the 20 or so hours for the kind of quick firing that we do here for these workshops.
I get out early and spend a few hours cutting the logs to length to suit the firebox length that I need for this kiln. I spend the next 4 or 5 hours splitting the logs that I have cut. I was busy in the morning with other jobs, so I am a bit late getting started into this job. Still, it has to be done, so I get stuck in. It’s a bit foggy and misty/rainy, but once I get into it and warm up. I don’t notice the rain at all.
Splitting wood is a bit mind numbingly repetitive and ever so dull, but what can you do?. After a few hours, I’m a bit over it. But there isn’t enough split yet, so on I go. It’s getting late and a bit dark now, but I push on when I shouldn’t, but I think that I need to do more. Its stupid, but on I go into the dark. The pile of logs is getting smaller on the fire-wood pile of split pieces is getting wider and taller.
Suddenly it happens. I’m way too tired and should have stopped an hour ago. I catch my finger under a piece of wood in the splitter.
Immediately, I stop the downward motion of the blade, but its too late. The pain explodes like a cracker in my mind. There is a flash-light like burst, but not towards me, it’s from the inside my head outward. My vision isn’t affected like it would be with a camera flash. There is no burnt-out hole in my vision. Instead, there is a ringing, although strangely silent sound, with a flashing stab of pain.
Somehow, a piece of wood, that I had in a tight grip in my hand, has somehow slipped, or been wrenched, from my grip. It flips around and over, twisting my wrist and then comes down hard on my other hand that was supposed to be holding the log secure!
How could this happen? I can’t even imagine that this is possible. The pain is blinding and a little nauseous. I can’t even understand what has happened, I’m stunned, but I know that it is serious. I am sufficiently aware to know that I should shut down the motor of the splitter before heading to the house to wash my hand and have a good look at my finger in the bright-light of the kitchen.  Luckily, on this occasion, here is no broken skin, no blood, but my finger is still numb to this day. Some sort of damage that I hope will eventually repair itself and grow out.
I remember an earlier event of a few years ago, when I really did do myself some serious damage with the splitter. That time I caught my finger under the edge of the blade and it was dragged in and under by the protective glove. I try to pull back on my hand, but the machine is stronger and the glove is caught in the blade. The pain is so intense that I can’t describe it. I’m blank. There is no real memory of it at all. It’s all gone into the file marked ‘don’t go there’. I can remember that it all happened so slowly. I could see it all happening in slow-mo. It all took seconds to happen in replay, but over so quickly.
I’ve crushed my finger. There is no doubt. I gasp it in a vice-like grip with my other hand. I am suddenly in shock, but I can still remember that I had the presence of mind to stop the machine, kill the motor, and take the keys out of the tractor, before heading for the house. I usually wrap everything up in a tarp to keep it all dry in case of heavy dew or rain, but this is different and I just walk away. I know that it is too serious to be bothered with the trivialities.
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I can’t get my glove off. It’s wet through and stuck to me. I can’t bear the thought of shaking it off or pulling it off. A piece of my finger might comer with it!. Is it wet with blood or sweat? I don’t remember it being wet beforehand. I’m gripping my hand so tightly, that I’m cauterising it. I don’t mean too. I can’t help myself. It’s instinctive. I head for the house. I walk in and Janine knows straight away. She grasps her mouth. “What have you done now”!
I often come up to the house with some sort of blood stained head or hand that isn’t any sort of real problem. When you are focussed, and want to get the job done, you just push on and get it finished and don’t let any little nick or scratch deter you.
I say “What blood?” and we go from there. It’s always so superficial. Boring even!
But this is different. I know, that she knows, that I know, that I’m hurt. I haven’t cried since I was a child, but this makes my eyes water a little. I’m far too quiet too. She knows. She goes to get the car keys. We’re off to the hospital.
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, but it’s a bad one this time. I thInk that I might need stitches”
I ease the glove off over the sink. It isn’t blood that is sticking it on, but sweat. It’s crushed out of shape a bit and the numbness is starting to wear off now and it’s hurting like hell.
She drives and I sit and shiver. I’m feeling quite cold now, while only a few minutes ago, I was hot and sweaty and very busy. I want a drink of water, I’m parched, but The Lovely say no!
“You’re in shock and it’s not good to drink anything, just in case you need surgery and anaesthetic. So I sit and shiver it out for the 25 minutes it takes to get us to Bowral Hospital Emergency.
The triage nurse see us coming through the outer doors and comes out from behind her desk to meet us. She ushers us straight through a side door and into some sort of cubicle. So much for all those poor people queued up in the rows of seats in the waiting room! She says to sit here and someone will come. They do. I must look bad, to get this Ryan-Air style priority seating. The nurse comes and asks me some questions that I don’t remember. Janine isn’t here now, she’s back outside. I’m cold and alone. Eventually the Doctor comes. He looks at it and asks how I did it. He flinches! He tells me that I’m stupid! I already know that.
You’ve spent 10 years becoming a doctor. Tell me something that I don’t know!
He responds. “I’ve seem fingers come off in accidents like this. You are very lucky!”
I am lucky. I know it, and I am very stupid with it. I know that too! I should have stopped an hour earlier. But didn’t. I am so fortunate.
However, I’m also aware that if I had lived my life, stopping when I should, and not working extra time, doing over-time and more! Doing too much. working into the dark. Not stopping for beak times and working to rule, then I wouldn’t own my own home by now. You have to put your arse into gear and work hard if you want to get ahead in this Brave New World of part-time, unregulated, contract work and self employment.
The doctor starts to clean the wound and gives me a series of injections around the site. A local anaesthetic. But it doesn’t work very well and I can still feel the needle go in and out, and be pulled through, with each stitch. It hurts! I ask if this is normal and he answers that there are some places that are very hard to anaesthetise fully and this is one of them. He gives me a few more shots and it is a bit better, but still quite sensitive to the needle and thread. More of a sort of prickly sting, than a real pain. I’m not about to complain. I’ve seen the third world, I consider myself so lucky that this has happened here.
Eventually, it is all cobbled back together. X-rays reveal that no bones are broken, but a lot of damage has been done to the knuckle. He warns me that it will take a while to heal and that I should go and see my regular doctor on Monday.  I get a script for antibiotics and pain-killers. It doesn’t look quite normal any more, but at least I still have it. It ends up taking over a year to loose sensitivity and another year to get back to normal function. To this day, if I bump it during the winter when it is cold. It stings and aches for ages.
I’m a very lucky man and I know it. But this is the price of independence in the Brave New Deregulated World.
At least the hospital is clean, the service is fast, excellent and sterile. I’m not in the third world now!. It’s also completely free. I’m amazed. I should pay something. If I went to a doctor, if one was available on a Saturday night. I’d have to pay him or her.  I am so very grateful that such an amazing service is available. I want to pay someone for this incredible service. But No, I can’t, it’s totally free to citizens. This mind blowingly complex and efficient service is apparently covered by my meagre taxes.
What a privilege it is to be a Tax payer!
I am so grateful!
fond regards from ‘Lefty’ Harrison

Marmalade for Busy People

The solstice draws near, the days are cool and short. The mornings cold and misty. Mrs Grey Thrush is out and about celebrating this cold, cloudy, misty, drizzling morning. She flys down and serenades The Lovely with her beautiful haunting melodic song. she swoops down and continues from the verandah guttering, then up into the pine tree with her mate. They continue together for some time all around the garden with what might be some sort of call and response? It’s a shear delight on a dull morning.

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During this cool, damp time It’s great to celebrate this colder weather and make the most of it while it lasts. We have had a few frosts, but only mild. Hopefully just enough to spur the older varieties of stone-fruit into fertile flower buds. I noticed the other day as I walked through the orchard, that one of the early peaches has its first blossom out! How amazing. So early.


Mid winter is the time for warm lingering breakfasts of coffee and toast with marmalade. I have been trying to keep up with the citrus fruit this year by making a batch of marmalade each day. Of course I’m not successful at this. It just can’t be done, but I hold it in my mind as an objective to aim for. There is so much to be done. Something has to give. Sometimes it’s cello practice, other times its preserving the garden excess. But the winter firing workshops must be prepared for and made to work smoothly.


This mornings breakfast involved preserved blood plums from the summer with yoghurt. These are so good. Full of flavour, sweetness and the fruity acidic tang of a good blood plum. The colour is exceptional, dark and rich, with a complex texture that is both fibrous and smooth. We have been enjoying them on and off through the year and are now down to our last three jars. It’s a wonderful thing to have a pantry full of preserved food that you have grown and bottled yourself. A great sense of reward and satisfaction just to look in there and see all the colours ,and then to imagine all the concentrated flavours, that you know and are so familiar with. What is really good, is to know that non of it came from a supermarket or chemical factory and non of it is stored in plastic. All recycled glass. our oldest bottles date back to the mid seventies, and they were bought 2nd hand even then.


This week I have been developing the recipe for my marmalade a little bit further. I use more or less the same recipe every year. the only difference being the fruit that i use. Two years ago i was given some honey mercott Mandarins. these turned out to be so sweet that the marmalade was not nice. Too sickly sweet. I like my marmalade to be a bit tangy and slightly bitter, and definitely not too sweet. it has to taste of citrus and the tangy bitterness of the peel. I aim for a nice creamy smooth texture, not too runny, but definitely not stiff and rubbery.

So to this end I did a few experiments. I have always weighed the fruit. 1 kg of whole fruit to 300g of sugar and I use only the juice of the fruit as the cooking liquid. However, the juiciness of the individual fruits varies so much. Especially in regard to when the fruit was picked. I have noticed that the fruit is easier to juice if it has been picked for a week or so beforehand. fresh picked citrus is a lot harder to juice.


I have come to the following recipe, developed from the original one above, but reduced to separate weights of each of the components. recipes That I have read that say take 4 oranges and add ‘X’ sugar and ‘Y’ water aren’t reliable, because the size and the age of the fruit varies so much. I decided that achieve the best result, it would be necessary to weight the separate ingredients; the cleaned peel, the squeezed juice and the sugar individually.

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Yesterdays batch of mixed citrus fruits from the grove turned out quite well following this line of thought. I used;

1 ruby grapefruit

1 myer lemon

1 Tahitian lime

1 seville orange

1 Washington navel orange

1 tangelo and

1 Italian bitter chinnoto

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I have come to the following recipe and method.


Cleaned citrus Peel = 100% = 550g

Juice 83%  of the weight of the peel = 455g

Sugar 79% of the weight of the peel = 435g


1. Squeeze the juice out of the fruit and set aside

2. Strip the peel of all the spent fibrous core, to reveal the peel with a clean layer of white pith.

3. Thinly slice the peel into strips and weight it. What ever the weight of this peel, say 550g. call this amount 100%

4. Calculate 83% of 550g = 456g.  Weigh the juice and make sure that it is 456g, or close to it. If the fruit is a bit dry and there isn’t enough juice, then juice another piece of fruit to make up the difference. If you have too much, drink the excess.

5. Calculate 79% of 550g. = 434g. Weight out 434g of sugar.

Place all ingredients in the bread-maker machine pan and set for ‘Jam’ setting. come back in and hour and decant into sterilised jars while still hot from the oven and seal with sterilised lids. They will make a loud ‘POP’ noise as they cool down and vacuum seal.

I am inclined to add a dash of whiskey into the hot marmalade as it comes out of the machine. Stir it through evenly, just before pouring into the jars.

Technically, sealed in this way, the marmalade should last for a few years, but never seems to last us till next season 🙂

You should end up with a creamy, smooth marmalade that isn’t too runny or stiff, and you don’t have to soak overnight or spend an hour at the stove stirring, or boil the pips in a calico bag. Marmalade for busy people!


Best wishes

Steve and Janine, a busy couple of people

To Get Rich Is Glorious

To get rich might be glorious – but, to be content has its merits too.
We are packed and ready to leave this special place with so much history and future potential. The old and the new worlds are co-mingled here. We breakfast in the street on food cooked on the back of a bicycle and then go looking for a driver. He’ll be here some where along this little bit of road. As we walk along, we are reminded again of how we are seen as being quite exotic here in this remote part of China. There can’t be too many foreigners like us around these parts. This is made obvious to us by a giggle of teenage girls who point and talk about us as we pass. Suddenly, a couple of them run along after us and then past us for a few metres. Once out in front, they quickly turn and take our photo on their phones. Then look nonchalantly straight past us, into the distance, back down the street, as if they are just looking back along the street as if there is nothing unusual going on, just as you do every day! Then, as we get level with them, they turn sideways and snap our image again, but this time in profile, from side on. They run back giggling to their friends to look at the images and chatter and laugh. I turn and wave at them and they wave back, then burst into chatter and laughter once again. We have made their morning more interesting!
We are looking for our amazingly honest driver from the other day. The one who returned Leo’s wallet full of money. We want him to drive us on this last leg of our journey. He was so honest. We find him in a cafe on the corner. A few days ago we paid him Y80 for 4 hours. Today he wants Y200 for 2 hours. I don’t hesitate in agreeing. He was honest enough to return the wallet, which he could easily have ‘forgotten’ to do. After-all, “to get rich is glorious” in China! Or so he has been told. And that windfall wallet, would have been an easy start for him towards glory. But he didn’t and in so doing restored my faith in the goodness of people. So I thank him and think that the Y200 is like a reward for goodness. He’s a nice guy, and I like him. Even though I can’t tell him.
I smile. He knows.
So now I’m finally back home again.
It’s good to see The Lovely again and be back in my own familiar life. My own home, my family, my bed.  I’ve only been away a few weeks, but there is so much that needs to be done. I was busy before I left. Now that I’m back, the work load seems to have multiplied. First, I need to help The Lovely catch up with house work, then, the weeding of the garden and we have several weekend workshops booked over the next few weeks of winter. She has done one while I was away, with the help of our good friend Val, and the next one starts today. So it’s up early to get the portable wood-fired kilns out onto the site. I have built 3 new portable wood fired kilns since we last did these workshops, this time, a year ago. They are a great improvement in speed, ease, size and effort.
The day goes well and the new larger kilns perform really well, being the most productive and popular kilns on the day, turning over the work, faster than the older kilns.
Fortunately, I am home just in time to see the last few tomatoes ripen in the window sill. I cook them with a few of the last capsicums and some garlic, broccoli, pumpkin and lentils cooked in marrow bone stock.
This evening, I set about making a new batch of stock to replenish the skerrick that is left in the fridge. There is something very positive about messing about in the kitchen in the evening, fussing over the wood-fired stove, roasting, simmering, reducing a vegetable and marrow bone stock. There is something so essential and wholesome about it. It warms me! In every possible meaning of the word. In some ways, It defines my existence here, living this, positive, practical, hands-on life. Making something out of (almost) nothing. Creating capital, forestalling waste, making do and in so doing, avoiding buying some inferior mass produced product that is probably bad for you, as all the packaged stocks that I’ve seen are made up with artificial everything and loaded with a lifetimes allowance of salt to boot. What I make is a concentration of leggy vegetables that are on their way to seed, a few marrow bones and some garden herbs, reduced down with a bottle of good, local, red wine, into a firm jelly-like essence of flavour. Using a spoonful of this home-made delight beats using a stock cube of unknown origin and content.
There is a massive frost in the morning. Everything is pure white and crunchy under-foot. This is bad. It will kill off a lot of sensitive plants that were struggling on in the near absolute cold, but it is also very good! It will help kill off all the over-wintering fruit flies and while it is at it, it will ensure that we will get a better crop of apples and pears. Old stone-fruit species, especially apples, need to have a few frosts over the winter to ‘chill’ and stimulate the flower buds and make them fertile, come the spring.
It’s winter and the citrus harvest is now reaching maturity on the trees. There are lemons, Myer and Eureka, plus ’lemonade’ lemons. Then there are ruby-red grape fruit and oranges. Plus tangelos and bitter Italian chinottos. Lastly, there are Tahitian and kaffir limes. They all go in together in a radical seasonal mix of flavour and colour.
I try some new ideas about making marmalade. I make marmalade every year and I always like to try a new variation on the theme. You never know what you might learn. The recipe that I have evolved over the past 4 decades has changed so much that I don’t know what it was when I first started out. I use about 1kg of mixed fruit and use only the juice squeezed from that fruit as any liquid in the mix. I like to peel out all the fibrous pith from the fruit after juicing, so that I mostly use the coloured peel with just a bit of white on the inside. This  is mixed with 300g of sugar and boiled and stirred for an hour. It’s pretty easy and quick, so i can get 4 or 5 batches done during a session. This makes about a dozen small jars. Up until today, I didn’t really know what the recipe was, so this time I separated out all the parts of the fruit and weighed them before cooking. So now I know.
1 kg of mixed citrus breaks down into;
200g  of peel
460g of juice
275g of white fibrous pith into the compost
65g of pips and other discards
Put the peel, juice and 300g of sugar into the pan and boil while stirring for an hour.
That’s it, pour into hot sterilised jars straight from the oven, 10 mins at 120oC. cap with lids that have been simmered for 10 mins at a low rolling simmer. They will ‘pop’ after 15 mins to let you know that they are now vacuum sealed and good for storage for the coming year.
I don’t boil and stir for an hour. I just don’t have the time for it. For the past decade I’ve been using the ‘jam’ setting in the bread maker machine. We have a bread maker machine and have had one for the past 20 odd years. It’s one of the few kitchen gadgets that we own. We have even worn the first one out! But we never make bread in it! We use it for making dough, which we then roll out into bread rolls or a plaited loaf, which we bake in the wood stove, or in this case to make marmalade. It works a treat. The best part is that it leaves you free to get other things done, while it ‘minds’ the jam and it never forgets to stir, or lets it burn or stick. It even rings a bell to let you know that it’s time to bottle.
Winter is the time for marmalade on toast for breakfast with a warm bowl of milky coffee. So french! We talk and plan the days jobs ahead. Wood splitting for the up coming stoneware wood firing is high on the list.
Working hard to make money, takes so much time, that there isn’t anytime left to enjoy the life that I want to live. So I decided a long time ago that it was best to try to live with an absolute minimum of money and have a lot more time for having fun and being more in control of my everyday life. When you get used to doing most things for yourself and making do, you find that you need less money. I guess that one reason is that I’m so tired by night time that I just don’t feel like going out.
This mentally focussed but physically demanding existence has it’s contentments, but non of them are money.
Best wishes

Back from the Lip

We prepare to leave the realm of our Colonel Kurtz of Tenmoku. We kurtzy, as a kurtesy and take our leave. But before we leave the valley completely, we want to spend a day visiting the contemporary potteries that still practice the forgotten art here in this little remote valley. They are reviving the old style here and dragging the lost art back from the brink. Re-inventing it as they need to as they go.

There a still a few potteries here and there around the area, a few either side of the valley and another over the river, plus several in the nearest town. They are all making contemporary interpretations, if not replicas of the old wares. None of them have really worked out how to do the most difficult and rarest styles. Even though they have the exact same raw materials and clays right here on site. We keep on finding the same purple, shale-like material, piled up in great heaps.


The best pots were so very rare, that we couldn’t even identify any broken pieces of shards in among the millions that litter the various sites. Even though our very own Kurtz took us to the actual site that he says was the place identified in the old records. However, we have no way of cross referencing this piece of information and there is no real difference in the nature of the shards here that differentiates this site from some of the others.

We also visit the site of the ‘Royal Patronage Kiln’, The tenmokus made here were incised under the foot, with the mark of the emperor. Something to do with death or taxes! However, this site is also pretty much the same as some of the others. All traces of inscribed foot ring shards have been thoroughly worked over and removed for sale elsewhere long ago. However Kurtz finds and shows us a piece of wadding, that is impressed with the royal mark in the negative, from the foot ring that it supported. He immediately pockets it. Kurtz seems to be laying claim to this site too. Perhaps his family own it? Or have some connection with it. I really can’t determine any detailed information from our ‘charades’.

What there is here is an amazing little piece of information that is quite unexpected. Leo will have to present a paper on this and publish it to get some cred for it in the academic world. ‘Kurtz’ seems to be indicating that we can keep the shard from here, as he seems to own it??? Not too sure about this. Still, we take loads of photographs and record what we can of what we have found. This is a blog and not a peer-reviewed paper. So I’ll leave it there. Conrad would have had more to say on the matter I’m sure. But I’m not Conrad. Our Colonel Kurtz seems to rule in this remote valley, all the way ‘up-river’. And how appropriate it is that he should dress in a US Army camouflage uniform? But instead of finding Conrad’s ivory trader, we find that he’s a blackware trader. It’s not quite the same. In fact the difference is black and white!

All the contemporary potteries that we visit are making tea wares, mostly small tea cup bowls. We are given one, at each of the potteries that we visit. These are small, low value, items around here. But we are very appreciative of the gift and also for the ability to be able to walk around the pottery and ‘take it all in’!
Most of the workshops are quite small and very modest. Everyone of them except one, is using either an automated jigger/jolly machine or a rotor head. We only got to see one place with wheels and throwers. Perhaps this is because the product is sold quite cheaply?
Only two workshops had wood fired kilns and both were the long, inclined single chamber dragon kiln style with multiple doors along the tunnel for ease of stacking. In the valley, there is one site that has been protected from vandals and looters by enclosing it in a fence with an impressive gate.. This kiln appears to have been a tunnel kiln of a similar kind. There are half a dozen sites around the valleys edge, so there must have been a number of kilns here, but they appear to have all been erased by the looters over the centuries.
They were packing the kiln at one pottery. Still using saggars for everything and they were getting very nice results too. There is an enormous quantity of thinly split wood stacked along the kiln. It is very impressive. I wish that I owned it! Not that I wish that I had cut, split and stacked it all. I don’t. I’m finding it hard to keep up the wood supply to our own, kitchen slow combustion cooker, lounge room fire, pottery pot belly stove and wood fired kiln. It’s enough.
The real problem here is me. I attempt to do everything myself. Nobody else is so silly. They are all specialists. There is diversification of labour and skill sets. You don’t attempt to learn how to do it, you just play your own small part in the system and buy the rest! Just  give in and buy everything, whatever you need. This is the age of consumerism and conspicuous consumption. It’s not what I aspire to, so I have to deal with my own problems that I create for myself in choosing this engaged life.
I have managed to cope with this issue of wearing myself out over the last couple of decades, as I’ve aged, by finding and restoring old bits of machinery that would make the hard work a little bit easier. Machines like rock crushers and hydraulic wood splitters, but now, even using them to do the really tough work. I’m still finding it a bit tiring.
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We rejoice in our good fortune and the good will of all those around us who have helped us along on this journey ‘up-river’ into the Heart of Tenmoku Darkness, to stalk the wild tenmoku in its native state and natural surroundings. We have drunk our last cup of green tea from the lip of the tenmoku bowl in its rightful place. Separating lip from lip, I return the bowl to the table. This journey is almost over.
We decide to celebrate with a smack-up meal in one of the little food-sellers shops along the road.
You guessed it, more jowls and bowels – with chilli, Yum!
Best wishes from Marlow and Willard returning from the lip of the Heart of Darkness 

A Beautiful Moment

The next day, we are out and up into the valley, wandering over the site. We have only just arrived when a man turns up. News travels fast somehow. Every body seems to know exactly what we are doing and where we are all the time. We sit down at a street stall to grab a meal of noodles and bowels and the guy doing the cooking turns around and pulls out his phone and brings up a photo of a beautiful tenmoku bowl! He knows who we are and why we are here. He nods and smiles and flips through several images. We say thank you, and give him the thumbs up. Smiles all round.
So I’m not too surprised that this guy knows about us. We are the only people on the site in the rain again today. He waves and shouts at us. He is obviously telling us some thing important. We wander down the slope to meet him. He holds out his arms, held high in front of him in a very obvious and determined way. He seems to be telling us to stop whatever we are doing and come down off the site. We meet up with him and he makes a sign that he will hand-cuff us! This is getting serious.
Leo says that he thinks that he might be a policeman. I respond that Chinese policemen don’t wear fake US army ‘cams’ jump suits with USA paratrooper air-corps logos and thongs on their feet!
He motions us to follow him and we go back to his house in the village at the edge of the site. We are now sat down at a very finely crafted wooden table set with tea wares and loads of tenmoku bowls and their fragments and shards. We are now all friendly and tea is made and served. He proceeds to show us his collection of shards and almost complete shards. We ooh! and arrh! appropriately and ask if we can take photos. After our umpteenth cup of tea, I begin learn that if you drink the tea, he is obliged to refill the cup. So the only way to end the ritual is the not drink the tea and leave the cup full. My bladder will burst if I have one more cupful! This strategy seems to work and I’m spared any more tea for the time being.
It slowly becomes apparent that this Dude doesn’t want us taking anything off the site, because it’s ‘his’ territory. He seems to think that he has scavenging rights and he doesn’t want any foreigners side-stepping him. Maybe he wants us to buy our shards from him!
I could be wrong, but this is the strong impression that I get. I can’t be sure, because we have no way of communicating with each other, except by charades. My colleague thinks that it will help matters along if he gets out his lap top and shows this guy that he has been in the US, going to all the great collections of tenmoku bowls. Working with the curators and examining all the tenmokus in their collections, and photographing them all for his research. Building up a data base of all the great pots and recording the various surfaces that have been made here over the 4 centuries that this valley was productive. He has an amazing knowledge of the subject now and is fast becoming the world expert on Southern tenmoku. His slide collection of all the great bowls is extensive and exquisite in detail.
He begins his presentation by writing ‘USA’ on some scrap paper, then shows a general image of a collection, then some of the amazing bowls that he has seen there in close up. Our host is greatly impressed by the images and the information. He calls his wife and then her father, and then the neighbours and their children, all over to look and see. I look on with a wry smile, because what I see happening as I observe the scene from the outside, is a mis-understanding taking shape. What I think they are getting from all this is an understanding that Leo is American, he is the professor at a prestigious institution and that he has a personal private collection of amazing tenmokus! They are all very impressed. Exceedingly impressed! When he finally closes the laptop, the ‘Policeman’ suddenly turns and faces straight up to Leo, face to face, and then suddenly gives him a big bear-hug embrace! There is almost a tear in his eye as he tries to communicate that he is so impressed that he has finally met someone with a bigger collection of stolen antiques than himself. It’s a beautiful moment. Is this a mistaken case of honour amongst thieves?
Suddenly, all the really good bowls that he has ‘found’ are brought out from the special cupboards and we are treated to a display of gorgeous bowls in almost intact shape. Wow! so many really nice objects and fragments of rare surfaces. Next, we are escorted out of the front ’sales’ room and out through the kitchen, outback, to the work area. here are numerous angle grinders and diamond cutting discs on the floor, tubs of water, with bowls and saggars sitting soaking in them. There are several works in progress going on, slowly, carefully, relieving the bowls from their glazed-in provenance in their saggars.
In a couple of ‘bunkers’ in the back room behind him, there are possibly another thousand bowls all stacked up haphazardly waiting their turn to be cleaned and polished ready for sale somewhere. I’m guessing that he probably would like us to buy one, but I already have several original tenmokus before I came on this trip, hence my interest. We are invited to stay lunch and we do. We are even offered home-made wine of some sort that stretches my definition of wine somewhat. I drink a small glassful. That’s more than enough for me, but he insists that I have a refill. I do, just to be polite, but it takes some effort to swallow. After that I have no hesitation in saying NO. I’ve had enough and honor is satisfied. There are sauteed snails, scrambled egg, the usual entrails, bits of pork in black bean sauce and cucumber salad with salt and vinegar.
There are just so many nice pots here and even more in a state of partial restoration, plus lots of interesting shards and special pieces. On the way back to the village we pass a gaggle of geese on the road. They are on their way home too!
Best wishes
from Steve soon to be on his way home as well.

10 Million Shards

We are up bright and early and out into the street. We are foraging for breakfast. There are any number of street food vendors plus a few cafe style shop fronts open for our custom. We’ve had a gut-full of intestines for now. We are thinking of steamed buns, but this morning there doesn’t seem to be too many about. We take a walk through the local market, that is down a lane and along a walk way which opens up into a covered market in behind the main street. You wouldn’t know that it is there except for the stream of people and motor scooters that are coming and going along the narrow path simultaneously. It looks like total chaos in there, but is just the normal too-ing and fro-ing of humanity. We realise that we just have to push in and shove our way through, just like everyone else. No-one seems to have the Western concept, that we were brought up with, of taking your turn. it just doesn’t happen like that here. People aren’t being rude. it’s just the way that everyone gets about when there is a crush, and there always seems to be a bit of a crush.

thumb_DSC00561_1024The market is amazing and wonderful, everyone here has been up before sparrow-fart to get all this produce dug, washed and cleaned and laid out here for our delectation. The pigs have been slaughtered and their bits are all here for us to examine, all steaming-fresh and quivering-warm.
The vegetables are almost still growing, they haven’t realised that they are out of the ground yet.
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Something that I hadn’t noticed before was that most of the fish are still alive and swimming in their paddling pool ponds. An aquarium air pump is feeding bubbles to some of them that need to be aerated. The carp don’t seem to need it.
There are bags of toads and live, dressed or cooked ducks, all there together. The ducks are so sweet. I loved my ducks. Always found it hard to wring their necks, but there is no room for sentiment when your survival is on the line. Buying your meat on a plastic bag is a cop out! If you aren’t prepared to see the life drain out of an animal that you have killed with your own hands. Then you don’t have any right to eat meat. toughen up! get over it!. If you aren’t up to it. Become a vegetarian, but don’t live in denial. This is just straight faced honesty. Not nice, difficult, but real.
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We find our breakfast out on the street as always, we have some sort of bread bun crossed with flat bread. very nice, filled with garlic tops and green onions, with sesame seed on the outside. Then some wantons in a clear broth of MSG, chilli oil and soy. After our breakfast we return to the Village Square and start our negotiations with the local drivers with cars to rent. Out driver from yesterday isn’t available today. All the cars for rent are parked around the village monument at the village centre crossroads, even though there are only 3 roads. It’s a village ‘Y’ road, or 3 ways! the monument celebrates the 12 brave tractor drivers who saved the harvest, or the never ending struggle of the the great helmsman! What ever, We try with all our skills to negotiate an arrangement where by we will be driven around all day and returned here afterwards for a set price. Its not the exact amount that is of concern to me. I can agree or decline any offer. It’s more about knowing what the cost will be and having an agreement that we can all respect and live up to with no surprises or unexpected increases.
We are soon off to the little secluded valley where all the oil spot and hares fur bowls that were ever made in the Southern tradition were potted. There must have been many millions of them. If you think that a potter might drop  or otherwise ‘loose’ a pot every now and then. Dropping a pot or chipping the rim. Perhaps the setting melted in the kiln because of over-firing? If the losses were 1% of the turn-over, even if they were 5%. It’s hard to conceive of the mass of broken pots and saggars that litter this site of many hectares. Even to the depth of several metres. They must have made many millions of pots here, because they left behind many millions of shards!
This little valley has been cultivated over 40 centuries to make a flat level centre, contoured to get a steady flow of water across the terraces for irrigation in the growing period and flood mitigation in the wettest part of the year. This area of China, although a long way inland, is still influenced by the monsoon. We are here in this wettest part of the year. We have to get kitted out in our wet weather gear. The valley is surrounded with low wooded hills. We can make out at least 5 sites around the valley edge that have been extensively worked over by looters over many years. As far back as 1930, an American academic was here to do research and the sites were already well and truly dug over by the locals, who are mining the site, extracting what-ever they can to sell to subsidise their meagre living as peasant farmers. When my colleague was last here in November doing research. It was a clear fine day and the sites were covered with locals mining deep into the spoil heaps of shards, some digging down to 3 or 4 metres, all looking for some little gem to sell off at the markets.
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I walk along the road boundary of the lower edge of the the largest site and start to make a plot of the layout in a very general sense. Just so that I can mentally frame my boundaries, then I start to make a visual survey up one edge of the site. Its not possible to walk straight up the slope. One, it is too wet and slippery, and two, the site is so heavily excavated that I’m forced to zig zag along the high spots in the shard piles avoiding the craters. the ‘workers’ aren’t here today, as it is too wet, but all their paraphernalia is left jotted about the slope. Their woven baskets and plastic bags, including their empty plastic drink bottles and cigarette packets. No one seems to have a lot of respect for the site.
The ‘natural’ base here is sticky red clay, it ‘clags’ to my boots and is very slippery. with an incline of about 1 in 4. I have to be really careful not to slip and fall again. I have already taken one slippery fall and damaged my arm trying to protect myself.
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There is no part of the site left undisturbed, so there is no stratification to identify. It’s all in turmoil, and there are some really deep pits that have been excavated to get down to the bottom (early?) layers. I can’t tell. it’s all been dug over so thoroughly that I think that they are now digging through previous rejects, that were not thought to be saleable years ago when the market only wanted intact pots that were slightly damaged, then it was almost whole pots. Now that these gems are all gone, the site is being worked over again to extract large pieces of bowls that are more or less complete on one side. It appears that finding bowls that are melted into their saggar during firing is the prime objective these days. Since the introduction of cheap Chinese manufactured diamond-faced ceramic cutting discs, it is now possible to grind away the saggar to reveal most of the bowl intact. This is something that was not previously possible with just a hammer and chisel.
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As I traverse the site I get a ‘feel’ for what was made here over the period. There are no significant bowls left here, but there are surely 10 million small pieces of broken shards. The terrain underfoot is solid with broken saggars, tenmoku and red clay. Presumably the clay that these bowls were made from? These people were peasant potters, part farmers, part potters. They were very isolated. It was a long walk carrying two woven baskets slung on a pole over your shoulder to move anything from A to B, along the walking path that led along the stream and up into the valley. They wouldn’t have moved cheap raw materials like clay very far. The kilns would have been built up on the non-arable slopes, land unusable for cropping and closer to the firewood source. We collect a small sample of the clay for analysis and photograph any ‘interesting’ shards that come to light and I plod along, bent face-down, staring intently at the small fragments, filtering all the visual information looking for ‘pattern’ and building up an idea of the product that was created here over the millennia.
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What I’m seeing is a preponderance of brown to black hares fur glaze, with tinges of blue and green where it is thicker and has pooled towards the base. It was applied very thinly and is particularly runny. Hence the only partial application of the glaze on the outside, well up from the foot to allow for running. This kind of glaze smacks of high lime content and low amphoterics. In any ‘normal’ circumstances the high iron content would be the amphoteric, but in this case the glaze and body have been well reduced, so all the iron has become a flux. From the fractured pieces of shards that I examine, I’m getting a picture of an early period of oxidation, lasting well into the firing, thus causing the typical boiling of the glaze, followed by intense reduction, causing the running. The body is dark and sandy textured to rough, through to very rough and examination of the fresh fracture surface is very revealing and quite interesting.
We discover something that has not been previously described in the literature, at least not in English. It will sweeten Leo’s PhD and possibly secure his degree?
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There is a lot to take in and so much to learn. This will take a while to decipher. For the time being I’m fully occupied in photographing everything that I think might be interesting to reflect back on later.
Best wishes