Spring is here

Life is a mix of endings and beginnings all mixed and intertwined.

This week I picked the second last cauliflower. We ate it raw with a little mayonaise. Snappy crisp and so fresh. It couldn’t have been fresher, with the garden just a couple of minutes walk away from the house.

These cabbages and cauliflowers are the last signs of winter still clinging on in the garden. This red cabbage will be pickled and storred away for summer salad lunches.

Finely shredded and packed in jars with hot pickling vinegar, it will keep for up to 12 months or even a couple of years. But it never lasts that long. Once I get a taste for it, I can finish off a whole jar in a week.

I ended up picking a second smaller cabbage and making up enough to fill 4 jars.

Spring is here and I have been planting out seedlings in the garden.

I’m hoping that the frosts have finished…We bought a pot of sweet basil a week or so ago and left it out on the back verandah… It all shrivelled up in one night. It was just too early.

Now, a few weeks later on, we have tomatoes, more sweet basil, capsicums, chillies, egg plants, blackjack zucchini and yellow button squash all in and taking off.

I have also just planted out seeds of the first beds of sweet corn, green Lebanese zucchini and cucumbers. 

It’s been a busy two days getting all the fallow beds weeded out and into the compost, then digging them over to get out some of the more stubborn roots like mint and tarragon.

Half of the garden has been mulched with compost and it is all looking good.

The spinach, lettuce and leek seeds that I put in a few weeks ago are doing well and starting to respond to the warmer, longer days. We even picked the first asparagus.

I spent half a day last week making more pot boards from old bits of flat, wide wood that was laying around. The top of an old dresser, the doors off an old wardrobe, both scrounged from neighbours on the way to the tip. More waste forestalled. Then 4 red stringy bark planks that I have had put away since the 80’s that were destined to be doors on a kitchen dresser that I was building in the pottery. The dressers all gone in the fire, but the 4 wide red planks remain, It’s a good thing that I never got the doors built, so the timber is now some of our new pot-boards. The main thing is that they are straight and flat and clear-grained.

A very big thank you to Len Smith, who gave me all his Makita power tools after the fire, to help me get going again. They have had quite a bit of work during the building phase, but they are being very useful all over again now.

I have been making dinner plates and other flat ware, as well as bigger pieces for the next wood kiln firing. The sericite is still giving me some issues with cracking on the wide flatware.

This brittle, non-plastic, short, ground-up, rock dust porcelain can be a bit temperamental if you don’t dry it very slowly.

I’ve also been making some bigger tankard style mugs for the wood firing. I’m using a blend of clays that I have developed specially for the wood kiln.

This body has a small fraction of iron bearing clay that will respond well to the fire and hopefully give a nice warm toasty blush on the unglazed surface.

We haven’t really done enough research on this yet, but I’m going on what I learnt over many years of testing from before the fire. 

Now everything is different, and all the suppliers of minerals have changed. Everything needs to be re-tested. I was very lucky that my friend John Edye retired and sold me a lot of his dry, powdered glaze and clay materials. They are all names that I recognise, and know how to use and blend to get a good result. These materials are helping us get re-started again while we sort out the new recipes with the new materials.

The good news is that my Show at Sturt Gallery almost sold out! Just one piece remained unsold when I went down to the Gallery this morning to pull the show down. This is my best ever exhibition result. I’m very pleased.

Another pug mill drama happened last week while I was pugging the recent batch of wood firing clay. The old pug mill gearbox or shaft collar appeared to seize up. I cleaned it out and stripped it down. I’m getting pretty quick at this now. I even bought myself a 21mm rachet spanner to speed up the process. The shaft collar was very tight, presumably from corrosion, but that wasn’t the problem. Even with the barrel and shaft removed, the gear box is very noisey and only goes a few turns before the electric motor overloads and cuts out. I have no time to fix this now. It will have to wait until after the November Open Studios Weekends are over. I ended up hand wedging the last of the batch of wood fire clay. Luckily, the wood firing body is based on a plastic kaolin and is soft and easy to knead by hand. I’m too old for this, and my wrists are feeling even older!

The pug mill parts are all cleaned and scrubbed and stacked in the corner until I can get back to it. I’ll need to remove the motor from the gearbox and test them both independently to work out which unit is causing the trouble and needs the work.

I celebrated my triumph of hand wedging the woodfire clay, by cooking a Thai style dinner entirely from fruit and vegetables from the garden. My only purchase was a can of lite coconut milk.

We have loads of leeks at the moment, so made a risotto style veggie meal with a load of leeks and a garden vegetable mirepoix stock.

Between the garden and the pottery, there isn’t any time for much else. We cook what we grow and fire what we throw. I’m trying to keep my life as simple as possible. Minimising my meat and salt intake. Maximising my vegetables and grains, cooking with just the minimum of olive oil, and after all this I could just so easily be hit by some of Elon Musk’s space junk or be run over by a bus.

Nothing is ever finished, nothing is perfect and nothing lasts.