studio building - a smooth studio floor

Just yesterday, our studio floor got a whole lot more hospitable to actual pottery making.  It wasn't very long ago, though, that the first floor of our studio looked like this:

Yikes.  These days, it's easy to forget how much ledge we worked around to get this building out of the ground!  A couple of weeks ago, it was looking like this inside:

And then Nathan and the guys got busy with the sub-floor foam insulation and tubing for our eventual radiant heat, and things started to look like this:

With the tubing installed atop four inches of insulation, we lined up the crew to manage the pour, and waited for the timing to be right.  As it turns out, by the time we were ready, our road had been "posted" - prohibiting trucks over a certain weight limit- most definitely including concrete trucks- for travel.  (During mud season, as we call it in New England, the messy thaw between winter and spring can make the unpaved roads downright impassable, with ruts so deep, you could lose a small car in them.) Gulp.

Fortunately, we were able to work with our town (thank you, Bethel, VT!) to get a temporary waiver for a very cold morning when the ground- and our yard, for that matter- would be frozen enough to handle two 80,000 pound concrete trucks.  We were good to go.

The crew was here by 7 am, and the two trucks got across the yard without a hitch, thanks to a nine-degree night.  The heavy loads were emptied and the trucks were gone before even the slightest thaw began that day.

The crew was great.  It didn't take long for the initial leveling and scree work to be done.  I set the anchor bolts for the sill plates around the door in the front, and the waiting began.  The crew spent the entire day smoothing and polishing the surface in several intervals as the concrete set.  They didn't pull out of here until 8pm, with a light snow falling all around.

The building stayed warm enough over night, and by morning, we had a hard surface showing good signs of drying and curing.  We'll score the floor tomorrow (to prevent cracking), and start work in the building again on Tuesday.  Having this piece finished is HUGE - now we can proceed with the lower door, and connect the two levels with stairs.  Needless to say, I am very excited about this . . .




Lately, we've been . . .

- pounding six inch spikes into the freshly cut hemlock (milled by our neighbor and carried home in our old manure spreader).  yup, we are busy building retaining walls to hold pounds and pounds of stone against the sides of our kiln.

- talking with another neighbor about using his mechanical bucket to deliver said stone . . . rather than a wheelbarrow, that is.

- realizing that this is the LAST big thing that needs to happen before we light our first fire in our kiln . . . to burn out the form inside . . . wow!

- cutting next year's heat from our winter timber harvest, and loving the contrast of freshly cut wood against the green, green grass (er, burdock) of spring.

- watching our peas, garlic, and spinach emerge from the soil and grow, thanks to much needed rain and a good mix of sun.

- marveling at the germination speed of the nasturtiums in our kitchen, and thinking they will like very much the black gold- composted goat and chicken manure- gift from our neighbors

- sitting on a sizable stash of pottery-in-waiting . . . our largely unfired, glazed, and slipped collection now occupies a large part of the dreaded awfully handy storage unit in our front yard, as well as a good portion of an upstairs bedroom, a few shelves at the studio, the back of one car . . . you get the idea.  (and yet we still have only a very vague inkling as to how full a kiln load we actually have. to say we have much to learn in the coming weeks would be a gross understatement)

- making a reasonably successful attempt (don't look TOO closely) at diagonal ship lap siding on our chicken coop (twelve chicks arrive in two days!!) and being grateful they will spend their first few weeks in a warm box in our mudroom so Becca can find time to finish building the doors, installing the windows, cutting saplings for roosts . . .

- laughing at the fact that we have a knack for acquiring animals at the same time as we have major life events (move out of NH studio, pick up a puppy the next day; approach very first wood-firing after two years of kiln building, get chickens.)

- loving that our small town has, among other things, a family-owned organic feed company from which to feed our chickens, a printing press for our business needs, and one of the oldest continuously operated businesses in Vermont- powered in large part by the water that flows over the nearby dam- for building supplies.  yes, that's right, we're talking about tiny, often overlooked Bethel!  (note: a little town-tour blog-post might be in order)

- looking forward to sharing the countdown to our first firing in the coming weeks . . .



on high ground

In the days since Hurricane Irene made landfall in the Green Mountain State, we have been counting our oh-so-many blessings. Thankfully, our home, property, studio, and kiln were all unaffected by the flood waters that ravaged much of our town of Bethel, the neighboring communities, and our beloved state of Vermont. (Thank you for your concerned phone calls and emails!)

I had joked offhandedly with a customer the day before that I would be putting the finishing touches on their dinner plates the day after the storm, so long as the road to the studio didn't wash away. Well, it did. And it took with it homes, roads, bridges, cars, and crops- virtually everything in it's path. What felt a very rainy day proved to be the worst flooding our state had seen in a century. In the mid-afternoon, the brook that generally runs about 15 feet below our road was rushing over the top, and our upper pond had overrun it's banks. If that was happening here, I thought, I can't imagine what's happening downstream. I didn't drive through the water to find out.

The next day was sunny, beautiful, and heartbreaking. We rode our bikes around our town- to our favorite spot on the river (now hard to recognize), the school ball fields, and across the bridge to River Street, where we saw houses teetering on their foundations, or in some cases, missing entire levels altogether. Our firewood guy (yes, we own 50 acres and we buy firewood) had 600 cords wash downstream. Our favorite organic farm lost 5 acres of crops. The state highway west to our friends' house and our clay supplier completely disappeared for miles.

It's been a very sad and strange couple of weeks, but it's also been amazing to witness the resiliency of Vermonters and see the speed at which rebuilding is taking place (thank you, State of Maine DOT dump trucks!) 

If you're interested in following post-Irene news from Vermont, seeing more photos, or making a donation to help those affected by the flooding, you can click here for more information. 

We'll be donating 10% of the proceeds from our upcoming Open Studio Tour to flood relief. We hope this finds you safe and dry . . . all the best, Becca and Nathan.