Driving into work when the plum blossoms are out…amazing.

Holy cow–it’s kinda like I’ve forgotten about this blog, right? My apologies.

Building a new non-wheelchair normal and working at a full-time-plus job and investigating neat new technologies AND trying to do art (and and and) eats a giant hole in my 24-hour day, just enough to put blogposts rather far down the to-do list. I’m gonna fix that.

So this is a quick, get my feet wet, get everybody back up to speed post. Apologies if it’s kinda boring. Here’s the news:

I’m up to 76 degrees. Yay, me. Well, yay me and my physical therapist, Brenda, who is sweet, funny, and absolutely determined to see me ride a bike someday. (And yay to Nathan-the-Resident-Carpenter, who firmly ushers me into the Wilderness to build up my strength)

This is my Milotic, showing good taste by posing in front of the April Surgeant. That will mean absolutely nothing unless you play pokie…

Small aside: I was told I’d be lucky to get past 55 degrees of flexion in The Leg’s knee due to damage and scar tissue. That meant I’d always have trouble going up and down stairs normally, and stuff like biking or squatting or crossing my legs would be impossible. You need at least 90 degrees to step up or let yourself down on steps, and more than 100 to ride a bike (think about it).

76 degrees means I walk almost normally, I CAN go up stairs leg-over-leg like normal people if I’m careful (down is still very difficult and painful). I’m getting farther and farther in getting the pedals to go all the way around and over the top on a bike, and I’m walking about a mile/30 minutes a day. So we’re getting there. I’ll never be able to kneel–no one with a knee replacement does that without pain–and I’m probably forever banned from my beloved soaking tub. But with luck, I’ll even be able to flop onto the floor and get back up without scooting over to the stairs for help.

I’ve (again) taken up Pokemon Go to get out and about and force the “at least a mile a day” bit, and I’m about to achieve Level 36 (at level 32, they start accusing you of Pokemon addiction). Yesterday I evolved my Feebas into a Milotic, and I’ve got a lot of totally destroyed gym raids. I’m walking my Shelgon because I can’t find any Bagons running around, and a bit miffed that my next research quest requires evolving a Magikarp into a Gyrados when I already have three of the beasts. My pokiebag is getting full.

None of that will make any sense to you unless you’ve played Pokie, so more apologies. OTOH, I’ve never actually watched Pokemon or read the comics or whatever (the Resident Carpenter was dumbfounded: “You’ve NEVER watched Pokemon? Where were you living?”), so I haven’t the faintest idea WHY you’re supposed to do all this stuff, or why so many of these characters are terminally, slappably cute…except that it seems to be a Japanese cultural thing. MY dragons are terrifying goremasters; these are Barney the Dinosaur with Teeth.

The RC (an accomplished gamester who prefers mayhem-rich video games where the object is to kill everyone else and become the last serial killer standing or something) watches my poke-hunting with mild amusement and nobly refrains from suggesting I play a game that takes real skill.

Nathan and two of his three best friends, Nikki and Monty (this is a pre-Willow photo). Sadly, Monty died a couple of weeks ago.

Very sadly, Nathan’s dog Monty died. He was a sweet fellow that Nathan rescued from neglect, and even Lola liked him (although she was careful not to show it when Monty was looking).

He was a very old little dog so it was probably his time, and he had a wonderful last few years, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I will miss him a lot; we’re thinking about a puppy. Monty was a little bichon frise; I’m thinking more along the lines of a Newfoundland or Belgian Malinois.

Negotiations continue.

We THINK Willow the Squirrel is pregnant! She went through a rebellious teenager phase where she attacked Nathan’s hands but cuddled with the rest of him–he regularly came in with a finger bitten down to the bone. Then, about a month ago she resumed normal “I adore you, Nathan” relations and went back to eating pecans and dried cherries on his head. Lately, he’s been noticing prominent nipples on her belly, and she’s getting fat, so hopefully baby squirrels are in our future.

Willow comes and goes freely from the house, still coming in for nuts and treats, but always sleeps out in the backyard in one of three nests she’s built. She has a special RC-only call, a kind of bark that translates to, “Nathan, get out here NOW!” When he hears it, he drops everything and shoos off whoever she’s pointing to, usually another squirrel or a crow. She rewards him with a cuddle, while he promises “No one will EVER hurt you, sweetheart!”

Willow may be the only squirrel in the world with a 6 foot 3 human bodyguard.

The cats are up to mischief. (Hardly news) When I first came home from hospital, we discovered that Lola had bullied Nikki almost to death (literally), and relations between them were extremely strained. Nikki wouldn’t come out of the entry hall closet and only ate if food and water were brought inside. Nathan took her in hand, got her out of the closet and into his lap, and they’ve been nearly inseparable ever since.

As part of her therapy, Nathan started letting her into the backyard to play–wearing a harness and leash–and Lola followed shortly after. Outside, Nikki becomes the bully and Lola the submissive, and the two cats are back to sleeping next to each other at night. We had been having trouble with Lola slipping out the door and hiding, but one night she did that when no one was looking, and spent the night outside, freezing. Now she’ll go outside but keep a wary eye on the back door; if one of us goes near it, she dashes inside. Smart cat.

One problem: The cats are convinced that Willow is dinner. So far, Nikki has chased Willow across the garden and trapped her in a bit of leftover drainage pipe, crying. The Resident Carpenter intervened, and spent a half hour coaxing Willow out of the pipe. A week or so ago, Nikki found Nathan’s office door open (we usually keep it closed so Willow can come and go from only that room). She immediately boxed Willow into a corner, and had her barking for help.

Lola has discovered the bidet’s electric eye and it’s now her drinking fountain

We need to find a way to convince Nikki that it’s bad manners to eat family members. Suggestions welcome.

Another issue, more easily solved: Lola appropriated the bidet toilet seats. These things replaced the standard toilet seat during the renovation (I didn’t know how disabled I would become and thought they would help). They gently warm your situpon while doing bathroomy things, then issue gentle sprays of water and air to clean things up.

They have an electric eye to sense someone approaching, and will briefly spray water to coat the bowl and keep it from getting dirty. Lola has discovered this, so if the lid is left up, she’ll jump up into the bowl, wave her paw at the electric eye, and enjoy her own personal drinking fountain. The water bill does not appreciate this–apparently Lola is very thirsty–so now the rule is “LID DOWN!!!”

Try getting a male to remember to leave the SEAT down, let alone the lid…

I’ve started gardening (or at least nodding approvingly while the RC outlines his plans). Winter winds unleashed the patio table on all our container trees, destroying many of the pots and leaving them naked, in bare dirt, but it seems most of them survived. The apple tree is producing blossoms that suggest we’ll get at least two types of apples this year (six are grafted onto the stock).

Last year’s long-term planting efforts paid off–two of the grape vines are already setting fruit, the apricot, cherry, and tangerine trees are going to town, the potatoes, rhubarb, and sorrel are growing like weeds, and we’ll have a truly heroic berry patch, with currants, raspberries, and more blueberries than I’ve ever seen on those bushes (assuming all those blossoms actually make food).

The mushrooms, alas, are prolific but disappear before they’re much above the ground (we have morels, chanterelles, and oyster mushrooms). It seems we have a couple of tiny mushroom-chomping bunnies living in the bushes. Nathan has suggested to Nikki and Lola that rabbit hunting is NOT on the list of forbidden activities, and bunnies are NOT family, but so far nobody’s taking him up on it.

How neat is that? All my silver/copper enamels organized into little jars, by color number. I’m scaring myself.

The studio is nearly done. Well, the inside studio, anyway. It’s actually two rooms that Nathan’s stuffed with extra storage and tables (and two drawer bases from IKEA hell that nearly had me in tears). The main studio room will hold glass and clay sculpting activities, as well as electronics (computer, monitor, media sources, dehydrators for metal clay, plus a Curio for cutting and etching materials, and a toaster oven for baking polymer molds).

The jeweler’s bench. Haven’t used it much yet, but so far it’s a wonderful place to work.

The outer room holds my jewelry bench and enameling (which I’ve gotten into in a BIG way), plus Nathan’s torch and lampwork equipment. I’m just starting to investigate engraving for champleve work, so I’m making space for that, too.

Out in back, the studio shed will be primarily for coldwork; the Wazer waterjet cutter will live there, along with a forthcoming DIY CNC machine, a 3D ceramic printer, and a combo 3D scanner, printer, laser cutter, and milling machine. Add in the usual suspects–tile saw, ring saw, lap grinder, belt sander, and handworking table–and it’s going to be pretty full out there.

Nathan’s first knifemaking class is turning out well–this was his work in progress after the first session.

It’ll get even fuller when Nathan’s forge is set up in the backyard. I gave him a blacksmithing class for Christmas; turns out he is some kind of genius at forging and has impressed all his teachers. Where exactly we’re going to put a furnace, 300-lb anvil, and a lot of hammery-slammery tools I’m not sure, but I’m hoping the neighbors enjoy the ringing sound of steel on steel at 3 in the morning.

Not that I’m into wilderness, but even I have to admit that cruising around in a zodiac, fishing pole in hand, has its perks…

I’m fishing and getting into the great outdoors. Sorta. Walking on uneven ground is difficult for me, but Brenda-the-PT suggested trekking poles, which are sorta like ski poles for dirt, and now I can zoom around on the beach or clamber over rocks with relative ease.

We go out in the zodiac, seeking salmon and bass and ling cod and other finny comestibles, but so far the ones we’ve caught are all native. Native in Oregon means “put me back without hurting me.” I’m wondering if edible fish actually exist, and also what THEY have been eating…at least on the Willamette River superfund site.

We’ll go mushroom-picking soon; I must confess I spend more time taking pictures of my surroundings than actually hunting for shrooms. Some small part of me is still wondering if you can actually eat stuff you don’t buy in a grocery store.

Initial tests mixing base metal clay (bronze, brass, copper, steel). Tricky stuff, but really beautiful.

Sterling bamboo pin I made for my sister. I’m liking this clay stuff.

I’m slowly getting back to art. Dennis the Denver kiln is still mostly buried under reconstruction stuff, but I’ve been making small silver and enamel pieces (that’s what everyone got for Christmas), and investigating the use of base metal clay. It’s gorgeous stuff, but very finicky to fire, so I’m running lots of tests to take its measure.

I need to master silver soldering, and enameling on metal may be the single most difficult artform I’ve tackled to date. It’s everything I’ve learned about glass plus things I’ve never dreamed of in metal, PLUS putting them both together.

An amazing number of things can go wrong, and–unlike glass–you can irretrievably ruin an otherwise pristine piece with one too many firepolishes.

There’s an international enameling conference coming to Eugene, Oregon this summer and I’m all signed up, but seeing the work of some of my classmates is more than a little intimidating.

I liked this one enough I kept it–face pendant with an Ethiopian Welo opal.

I’m starting at the bottom and have about 20 years to go before I even approach their level. Eeek!

I’m far more confident with metal clay, and will probably teach one or two classes this summer at Nathan’s forge (a fair percentage of their students decide forging is too physically taxing, so they want to introduce a non-physical form of metalworking).

Glassmaking is still a ways off, mostly because we have to finish the studios first, but the projects are lining up. I want to make a headstone for Monty’s grave–I’ll do a mixture of kiln carving and enameling, I think, on the underside to protect it from weather.

My friend Carol Carson, that amazingly gifted glass artist, has a commission to do a fused-stained-glass window series for a local church. These windows are HUGE–4×8 sheet of plywood huge–and they’re going to be gorgeous. And inspiring.

I’m thinking I need something like that for my living room clerestory windows. While not on the scale of Carol’s, they’re on the biggish side and Carol’s too busy to make some for me. So…an incentive to get back to kilnforming!!!

Idea is to pull the two pieces of quartzite slab apart, fill the recess with river rock and top with glass. We’ll see if that works.

Besides, I need to FINALLY complete the family room countertop (more about that here). The stone fabricators installed the back (larger) part of the split quartzite slab, leaving the smaller front piece free. I’ll make a glass insert to fill in the gap, and have decided on a challenging design that will need some thought.

I want to gild the plywood base of the counter, add polished river rock, and top it with cast glass. Then I’ll get it cut to exact specs (it helps to have friends with BIG waterjet cutters), and probably HXTAL to adhere it to the stones and set it in place.

I’m making test runs with stones now; it appears that I’ll need to cut many of them in half lengthwise to get them sit flat and low enough in the recess to keep the casting practical. I’m still working out how I’ll actually put things together.

Obviously, you can’t take a picture in the house without Lola

My first thought was to simply epoxy the stones to the counter, make the mold over the fixed length, and then fit the finished glass into the recess. There’s too much room for error that way, though–if one of the stones shifts or I missed an undercut, I’m sunk.

Instead, I think I’m going to have to do this the finicky way–get the stones the way I want them in the recess, take the mold, and then CAREFULLY number each stone and its position. Then I’ll glue them into the finished glass, flip it over and attach it to the counter.

I think. OTOH, my original idea–of using edge-stacked-and-fused 3mm glass with some kind of enameling on the sides–is still at the top of my mind. I like the presentation of strips of clear glass, stacked on end; there’s something almost sensual about that mass of material. And it would certainly be easier than the river rock idea.

So…more to come.

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