Lucie Thorne House Concert

We held another of our house concerts again on Saturday night. This time with Lucie Thorne. We have a couple of attempts to get her here in the past year, and this time all the stars were in alignment.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon/evening/night. Lucie is a very talented singer songwriter. We have all of her CD’s and enjoy listening to them a lot. So it is really nice to be able to have her here in our house for a few hours.

We particularly enjoyed our private performance when Lucie did her sound check.

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and everybody else enjoyed the full performance, later that night.

Lucie has developed her own individual style, a soft breathy vocal style and such a gentle lyrical guitar sound that she has developed from her hollow body electric guitar, but turned down to the lowest possible level, so that the sound just gently washes over you with a soft reverb effect. She doesn’t really strum the strings, but emotes through her fingers in keeping with the vocal line of the songs. It so individual and idiosyncratic. She is a totally engaging performer.  The music critic from the age described her music as “some of the most simple and beautiful songs you will hear” The Age.

We consider ourselves so lucky to be able to host her here in our house.

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We have already invited her to come back again next year.

Check out her links below for more information on Lucie and her music.

http://www.facebook.com/lucie.thorne

http://www.luciethorne.com

These hot days

We have been enjoying, or perhaps suffering, a few hot days this week.

The mercury hit 44oC on the back verandah yesterday. Far too hot to try and very much that was physical out side or even in the kiln shed. I stayed inside after watering the vegetable garden in the morning. I read a book instead. It was really the only sensible thing do.We had watered everything the night before as well, but as the heat set in and built up, the plants wilted and lay down. By the afternoon the sweet corn was frazzled and its leaves white and papery dry. I hope that it survives!

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It was so hot that even the candles suffered erectile disfunction!

Boxing Day Domestic Meditations

Before we head off to have out Xmas lunch, we are up early to harvest the summer largesse from the garden and orchards. We have been picking a few nice red tomatoes each day since mid December. Our earliest crop ever. Due largely to the fact that I started them off under an improvised cloche in September before we went overseas. This beat the frosts and kept them warm to get them started off earlier in the year. It’s the first time that I have attempted this and it has worked very well.

Now we can harvest a basket full of tomatoes each week. So we have been making small amounts of Tomato passata since the week before Xmas. This morning I put on a Jan Garbarek CD and settle in for an hour to shell a big bowl full of beans the have got away and are not as nice as they could have been if I’d got to them earlier. I have been picking, blanching and freezing them each week to keep up. There are some big scarlet runners, some lumpy french climbers and smaller bush beans. I need to harvest them every couple of days to keep them flowering. Today I decide to shell the larger ones and cook them down into a dish of beans in Tomato sauce.

  

Janine has been chopping and mashing the bigger ripe tomatoes in a large copper boiler to render them down for more passata. This is pretty simple to make. We just cut up the tomatoes, Place them in the pot and mash them with a potato masher and let them boil down in their own juice. After they cool, we will put them through the kitchen sieve to remove the seeds and skins, before re-heating to concentrate the flavour and them vacuum bottle them for later in the year.

 

 

I steal a ladle full of her tomato sauce and add it to the beans in a small pot and add a tiny knob of our home-grown garlic and one of our dried chilis. I set it one small burner to slowly simmer and get stuck into slicing all the small tomatoes in half for drying. It’s a cool morning, so it’s OK to have the stove on.

We are all done by 10.00 am.

Wood Cutting with Chickens, Some Jobs are Slower with Helpers

We have spent the week chopping and stacking wood for the weekend wood firing workshops. No matter where we are on the 7 acres of bush where we cut the dead wood for kiln and house fuel, the chickens will hear the sound of the chain saw and turn up within minutes. Yesterday I was in the most remote part of our land, after bashing a track through the under growth to get to a fallen dead tree. I hadn’t made more than 3 cuts when the first chicken turned up, then a minute later, 2 more. They just love to get in amongst the dead wood and bark to scratch out the termites and insects.

They show no concern for the noise of the chain saw, the flying wood chips or the falling logs. They are obsessed with being first in to get the bugs. With 3 chickens helping me, it really slows me down. I have to be especially careful when I’m dragging logs out with the tractor and heavy chains. They have no fear of me or the tractor and will get right in front of the wheels if there are insects there. I have to keep a very close eye on them all of the time, to know exactly where they are.

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Spring is well and truely here now, with the cherry blossom, but we still had a frost on Saturday night. The temporary cloches will have to remain on the tomatoes and other ‘soft’ seedlings for a few more weeks yet.

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The Hungry Gap Risotto

We are just in the beginning of spring, but there are still icy winds blowing gale-force off the snow, interspersed with the occasional calm, sunny, warm days. The winter garden is almost depleted, with just 6 carrots and 3 leeks left from the autumn crops, but we still have plenty of broccoli and spinach, which have become a main greens, while we wait for the newly planted seedings  in their new/old cloches, to start to produce.

Keeping to my philosophy of making-do and living frugally, I use what we have in the garden to make a risotto. Its a bit of a hotchpotch affair this time, but ends up really delicious and it couldn’t be more wholesome and fresh. I raid the garden for whatever there is today. We have spring onions, parsley sage and thyme, as well a sprig of oregano. I pare off a side-shoot of some old celery. These little side-shoots are the most tender part of the plant at the moment, as the main bush is heading for the sky, ready to bolt to seed in the coming warm weather.

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There are a couple of new asparagus shoots. The asparagus isn’t doing all that well this spring, as it hasn’t rained properly here for two months and the ground is desiccated by the winter gales, drying everything out. We are having to water everyday now, just as if it were high summer.

I return with my basket of goodies and start to finely chop the celery and older spring onions. While I soak some of our dried mushrooms in hot water, they smell delicious and start to make me salivate while I’m preparing the other vegetables. I go to the trouble of very finely slicing all the veggies, as they are no longer in their prime, going to seed, and getting a bit tough and troublesome, just like me.

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Everybody knows how to make a risotto, so I won’t describe the steps in detail, only the variations. I sautéed the onions and celery for quite a while, maybe 15 mins, to soften them through and get them well cooked, adding the fresh herbs halfway through. Next I stir the rice into the oil and get it well coated, but then continue to heat it while stiring until a few of the grains start to ‘pop’. I was told how to do this by an Italian chef. Clearly there are many different ways to make a risotto.

I don’t have any white wine open, but I do have a little red wine left in a bottle from the previous night, so in it goes with the softened mushroom chunks. I don’t have a pot of boiling stock either, but I do have a little jellied chicken stock in the fridge. It all goes in, but needs some extra water to create the needed depth of liquor to lubricate the rice and extract the starches. This needs to be continually stirred with a little more water added as necessary, for another 15 mins.

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It all comes together into a very delicious risotto that reflects the season, and in particular, this windy, dry, time of year.

 

 

 

NBN – Fail!

We got the new, high-speed NBN (National Broadband Network) internet connection today!
I’m so glad to be rid of the old, ultra-slow, fraudband that was supposed to be 8Mb/sec, but was delivered at 0.5 to 1.0 Mb. Fraudband indeed. We paid for broadband, but were given dial-up speeds.
However, now we have the brand spanking new NBN.
We paid for a 25 Mb/sec service contract. But when we turned it on, we found out that it is infact delivered at 5Mb/sec.
That is only 20% of the promised delivery speed! Only slightly better than the 12.5% actually delivered by the fraudband ADSL copper wire service that we are being forced to abandon.
The only good thing that I can say just now is that it is marginally faster, as well as being marginally cheaper than the service that it replaced. However we no longer have a phone line. They say that the VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) will come on-line soon. Maybe tomorrow?
In the mean-time, if anyone wants to contact us. Just use the mobile or send an email. That still works!
It’s a modern world! Get with it! But don’t be like them.
When I say it’s a modern world, what I mean is that the world is full of false statements, over-promising and under-delivering. Hype, cant and empty promises. Miss-labeling, fake advertising and over-charging.
The only lesson that I can learn from all this is don’t be like them!
Be honest, do your best and if you f#@K up, fix your mistakes with a smile.

My New Book – 5 Stones

IMG_7383205 pages, 125,000 words, full colour, soft cover. Written, collated, printed and bound on the kitchen table. A very limited edition hand made book.

I have spent the last few weeks and months editing and formatting my new book. This will be my 6th book and 7th if I include my contribution to Handbook for Australian Potters.

This new Book is titled 5 Stones, and details my recent research into single stone porcelain. The book will be launched by Grace Cochrane at the opening of my show at Watters Gallery on Wednesday 16th of August from 6 to 8 pm. I have a selection of single stone porcelain from all 11 sites on show in the exhibition.

15 years ago, I discovered a white porcelain stone near where I live. It made me think about where else porcelain has been discovered and when. Over the past 15 years, I have travelled to each of the places in the world where porcelain was originally discovered/invented independently from first principles and found that they all had something in common, and that thing was a stone called ‘sericite’. It turns out that originally, porcelain wasn’t made from the white clay at all. Kaolin wasn’t involved. All the original porcelains were made from a special type of stone called mica.
My travels led me to China, Korea, Japan, Cornwall, France and Germany. I even developed communications with academics in California, Alaska and London. Then finally back to Mittagong in Australia. Near to where I started.  I have made my porcelain pieces out of these weird and interesting materials in remote villages, artist studios, back rooms, workshops, even factories. Where-ever I could track down and find amenable people using this ancient technique who were open to collaboration. 
At each site that I visited I made works out of the local porcelain stone, but I also used the opportunity to collect samples of their stone and posted these rocks back to Australia where I could process them myself and make local, contemporary versions of these ancient porcelains. I collected native porcelain stone material from 11 sites around the world and have made what I think are beautiful pots from them, both on-site, where that was still possible and back at home in my own workshop. 
This exhibition shows results of my firings and 15 years of research into these single-stone native porcelains. To coincide with this show I have written a travel journal documenting my travels. My book, titled ‘5 Stones’ will be launched at the opening by Grace Cochrane. The book stands alone in its own right as a travellers tale, as it has its own characters and arc of narrative, but also helps to illuminate the story behind the actual works on display in the show.
I have works in the show that were fired on-site in clean conditions to give very white and translucent pieces and I also have the same materials fired at home in my wood fired kiln with very different results.
4 of the 11 examples are made from porcelain that is no longer available, as 2 of the sites are lost forever and another two have complications.
I consider my self very lucky to have been able to get my hands on all of these ancient and very special porcelain materials. This will be the first and only time that all these porcelain ‘clays’ have ever been shown together in the one place.
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Unglazed and flashed wood fired Arita porcelain
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Wood fired and celadon glazed Japanese porcelain, fired in my kiln in Balamoral.
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Korean porcelain made onsite in Korea
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Woodfired Japanese porcelain
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My woodfired local Joadja porcelain, showing some carbon inclusion on rim and base.
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Korean porcelain stone body, woodfired in my studio.
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Amakusa porcelain from Japan, made in Arita.
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My local Joadja Aplite porcelain, wood fired with a lot of ember and ash contact. The intense carbon inclusion reduces the translucency.
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My local Joadja Aplite porcelain, wood fired with ember and ash contact.