Craig Wisner

Archive for January, 2011

One More…

Joy Division, Transmission

The Velvet Underground- Sister Ray

Oh my, I think it’ll make me go bananas.

The Family Circus!

No More Years! Cthulhu for President, 2012!

More Chickens!

The last of the ladies are here now, also purchased from Wes.

First up, we have Poppy, a Barred Rock hen.  Poppy is almost two weeks old.  They’re brown egg layers.  She looked a lot like a small penguin when she was born.

Poppy, Barred Rock hen.

Next is Chuck, an Araucana.  Araucanas are known as the “Easter Egg Chicken”, famous for laying colored eggs ranging from turquoise, to olive, to brown.  Chuck is exactly one week old today.  Nice eyeliner.

Chuck, Araucana.

Finally we have LaLa, the sweetest and most docile of the bunch.  She’s a Buff Orpington and will turn a golden-yellow.  Also a brown egg layer and one week old today.

LaLa, Buff Orpington.

It looks like we’ll be calling it quits with five, though we’re tempted to get one more.  They’ve all bonded with each other well, no pecking or dominance issues.  Surprising, considering Pip and Chum are now three times the size of the new ones.

Pip is in a very awkward stage; not quite grown, feet too big, feathers growing in weird places.  She starting to get her comb (ridges between eyes above beak) and ear lobes.  Her wing feathers are almost allowing flight.  She’s by far the largest and reminds me quite a bit of a small dinosaur.  She’s definitely the most inquisitive of the bunch, constantly striving to see what’s going outside of her box.  She’s ready to eat human food now, as is Chum.

Pip, Rhode Island Red, just over 3 weeks old.

Chum is a bit smaller than Pip, thought the same age.  She’s not quite as strange looking right now.  She reminds me of a hawk.

Chum, Brown Leghorn, just over 3 weeks old.

Everyone’s healthy so far, it looks like we have a good batch.  They’re pretty tame now as well, very comfortable perching on a finger, thought they don’t like being separated from one another.

Los Padres, Father and Son, 1/22-1/23.

Setting forth into a sea of golden grasses, the sun getting low, extending shadows, a breeze beginning to stir. We pass a few quail hunters and wish them well, talking quarry and who’s seen what, where, when. My son stands on the periphery, a boy amongst men in conversation; he has nothing to contribute, yet looking up to us, he’s obviously interested in the tone his father strikes with the two other men. He’s learning without knowing he’s learning, soaking in life. I will likely have a more profound effect on him than he or I will ever know. Nearly 20 years after I lost my father, I’m still discovering the subtle ways in which he helped shape me.



This trip is for the two of us, to talk, to walk together, to share a sunset and a fire, coffee and tea in the morning. I can still hold his hand, though I’m sensing it’s not for much longer; he pulls away a little faster than he used to. It’s not that he doesn’t want to hold my hand, it’s that he no longer needs to, at least not as often. And the sadness dawns on me once again that our time spent holding hands is limited, that there will be fewer and fewer fires at which he curls up in my lap and starts to nod off. He doesn’t know this yet, he feels no sadness for the inevitable shift that will come in our relationship as we age.




So I have to take this time we have, make time for us to have, to make it count, to make it something we will not forget. I’ll bear the discomfort of a 70 pound boy on my lap at dinner beside a fire for the fleeting opportunity to feel him there a little longer; soon it will be another man sitting across from me. It will not be bad, but it will certainly be different.



We stay up late into the night, winds picking up in the pines, temperature dropping sharply. It still makes him a little nervous when I leave into the dark for firewood but he does a good job of playing it off. Eventually retreating to the tent, we couple our bags as best as we can and he uses my arm for a pillow. A long, black, restless night for the both of us, the wind flapping the tent too loudly to let us settle in. My thermometer reads 27 degrees, by 4 AM I’m thankful for his warmth. Tired of waiting, we agree get up in the dark to get an early start. I slither from my bag to boil the water; we share our drinks while looking out the door at the sunrise.




And we’re back home before we know it, back to chores and video games and the various distractions of daily life. But we’ve managed to carve out just a little time for each other again, good time, slow time, time spent purely together. The type of time that we’ll remember when it counts.




Beautiful Boy.


Los Padres National Forest, 1/22-1/23. Trekking for an easy overnight out of Lockwood Valley to Pine Springs Campground.


Seagulls circling overhead

I circle below

Running a track into the sunrise

Lungs full, the clock slows

Circles; magnifying distance, stretching time…

18 laps, 19 laps, 20 laps…

Sheet Mulching

My friend Ben first told me about this technique.  To prepare a bed that’s overgrown with weeds, first sheet mulch it with cardboard or paper.  I’ve tried both and have had great success, cardboard being able to successfully kill off bermuda grass and dandelions prior to planting.  The process is simple:  hoe the bed and lay down cardboard or paper in a thick layer.  Cardboard takes longer to decompose but works better at killing weeds.  It also attracts far more worms.  My current preference is brown builder’s paper as our beds are now in good shape and I want to plant right away.  After laying the paper or cardboard, soak it thoroughly.

Soaked brown paper in bed.

After soaking, cover in topsoil/compost and water it again.

If weed activity was bad, cardboard is better.  I found it takes a good month for the cardboard to break down.  When it does, however, the soil beneath has a ton of worm activity and really good moisture.  If the bed was in good shape and weeds/grass were barely sprouting, paper is enough.  When using paper, I plant right away, cutting holes through the paper when the plants go in.  In this bed I’ve also buried two watering jugs for watering (see post on watering jugs).

This bed is planted with white kohlrabi and iceberg lettuce.

So far this technique has yielded really good results for a couple seasons.

Po’ Boy Small Game Point

As nobody local stocks Judo Points and I wanted to hunt for jackrabbit this weekend, I’m left to my own devices.  Through a little research I’ve found many different ideas for homemade small game points; washers behind field points, drywall T-nuts with screws and rubber washers, modified .357 and .38 shells, and best of all, bottle caps.   Given an ample supply on hand, the bottle caps are the obvious choice.  Today it happened to be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  The green will go splendidly with the green vanes and nocks on my Easton Carbon Storm arrows.  Such things are very important considerations.

I dub it the Po’ Boy.  While I’m hardly the inventor, show me a copyright.  For greater authenticity in the future, I’ll use Coors Light caps.

Simple job:  find an unbent bottle cap and clamp it centered in the drill press.  Using a 7/32″ bit, drill a centered hole.  De-bur it and place it behind a field point, screw it down tight, and you’re done.  I was initially concerned with which direction to face the edges of the cap, whether to place it cupped forward or backwards.  I’ve seen this technique referenced online, but never any pictures or details about which way the cap goes on.  I figure that if the edge is facing back, the cap is more prone to bend, possibly causing the edge to cut the arrow shaft.  By placing the edge forward, I also assume I’ll get better stopping power and cutting action.

I tested a few at 20 yards, shooting a 4″x4″ paper on a bale.  My bow is shooting at 65 pounds.  Surprisingly, I found no real difference in accuracy at this range.  Even more surprisingly, they seem to work really well.  I thought at this draw weight the arrow would obliterate the cap, likely ripping it in half; instead it stayed firmly attached and I got only 2″ of penetration into the bale.  These hit really hard.  By comparison, with a field point only, I’m getting at least 24″ of penetration on the same bale.  It looks like these will work well for small game as well as for keeping misses from getting buried too badly in the earth.

Unused cap with field point.

Bottle cap on a cheaper carbon practice arrow after one shot. No damage to arrow whatsoever.

Unlike Judo Points, these are obviously a one-shot system- which is fine, given the ease/cost of making them.  Having a few arrows outfitted and a few spare caps in the pocket would be fine for a morning hunt.

I’ll post further results after getting out in the field.

Dark Side of the Lens

Epic Vegan Slip.

I went vegan starting on the first, comfortably going for a week with no major willpower issues or backslides.  I sat through a beef-eating barbecue with one of my wife’s legendary cheese, olive, and salami spreads, resisting great temptation.  To test my faith even further, I find myself at my in-laws on Sunday, starving after a long run, faced with an Armenian spread of lula and all the sides.  Again, I resisted.

And then came Monday, a stressful day at work, tired, hungry, fighting traffic to get home…and it’s over.  Since then I’ve had two bowls of cereal (who doesn’t like Rice Krispies?), two servings of eggs (for a total of five), and two grilled cheese sandwiches.  At least I didn’t eat a rack of baby-backs.


But my faith has returned, I’ve talked myself out of talking myself out of going vegan, and at least for now, and I’ve quieted the insidious little carnivore and dairy-eating voices in  my head.

Relax, let’s start again.

I swear it’s like trying to kick drugs, probably worse; I haven’t seen a Have Some Heroin billboard lately.

Icehouse Canyon to Icehouse Saddle, 1.9.11

This run comes in at about 8 miles and ~8000 cumulative feet of loss and gain.   Great morning in the sun and snow, glad I’m feeling well enough for harder runs again.




Microspikes and trailrunners freakin’ rock.

Shirtless snow trailrunning! This is what we call “winter” around here. Strangely, everyone else was decked out like they were climbing K2;  hardshells, big packs, crampons, axes, snowshoes.  Needless to say, I got a few looks.

Baldy from Icehouse Saddle (about 8 miles and +/- 8000 feet from the car).

Completely stoked on the day.

Chickens are here!

We picked up our first two chicks from Wes’s Pets and Feed in El Monte yesterday.  I can’t say enough good things about Wes so far; very knowledgeable, friendly, great to work with.

So far we have Pip, a Rhode Island Red (large brown eggs).  She was hatched Tuesday, 1/2/11.

Next is Chum, a Single Comb Brown Leghorn (large white eggs).  She was also hatched on the 2nd.

They already show distinctly different personalities, Pip being larger, more energetic, and noisier.  Chum is far calmer, trying to nestle under Pip to sleep every chance she can get.

They’re a lot of fun so far, the kids are really enjoying it.  We have them inside in a cardboard box, running a 60w lamp for warmth.  The floor is simply paper with a rag to sleep on and a small, shallow dish for water.  Feed is just sprinkled on the floor.  We’ll run the lamp 24/7 for the first week, then switching to nighttime only, and eventually down to a 20-40w bulb for night.  After a month they’ll be ready for the coop.  In the second week we can start introducing human food- veggie scraps, fruit, rice, noodles, pretty much anything non-meat/dairy.  If all goes well they should be producing eggs by this coming June.

We’ll be picking up the next batch of chicks sometime in a week, having about a 1 month window to add new ones to the group before creating a pecking order and problems.  We’re still looking to get 2-3 more; one Ameraucana, a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a Black Orpington.

Here are a few images of the coop and run.  I was able to build it entirely out of recycled wood and old paint, the only things being purchased were the hardware, roof corrugate, and wire.  I’ll show images of the inside of the roosting area when it’s done- I still have to put in some boxes, branches for roosting, and get pine shavings.

At this point we probably have $40 invested in the coop and $15 for chicks and feed (chicks were $5 each).

A Fallen Giant

Paul Soldner, 1921-2011

I was in the middle of a ceramics demonstration when a co-worker walked in and handed me the LA Times obituary for Paul Soldner today.  I likely wouldn’t be a ceramics teacher were it not for him.  Soldner was one of the major parts of the puzzle, a key influence on my path towards becoming a ceramic artist.  He was my teacher for a period of time, a great source of inspiration, as well as the teacher of my teachers; his influence is hard for me to escape.  Anyone that knew him would likely say the same, professing their admiration for him, not just as an artist, but as a human.  Beyond clay, Soldner inspired me to follow my own path, seeming to be one of those rare individuals that confronted life entirely on his own terms.  I believe I first worked with him when he was a guest artist at Pasadena City College under Phil Cornelius in the mid-nineties.  I was wedging and preparing all the clay that he was using to throw during his demos.  I’ve always wondered what’s happened to those pieces…I have the great pleasure of knowing I had a tiny bit of my hand in them.  I’m truly fortunate to have known this man.

Paul Soldner, Pink Vessel, 1979, thrown, altered clay, slips, stains, oxides, 8 x 10 x 5 inches.

Kumano Kurouemon

The Bear of Echizen.

My hero, so far away.

I’ve been looking at a good deal of his work again lately, admiring new pieces (especially the “Devil’s Arm Shape” vase posted here!)  and browsing old interviews, my appreciation completely renewed.  I remember the first I had heard of him; many potters I knew dismissed his work as eccentric but it immediately nailed it for me.

His work hangs over me, an certain aesthetic that I don’t believe I’ll ever have the ability to achieve; his kiln, clay bodies, and glazes are all beyond reach given what I have access to.

I believe all artists have those few they look up to, the artists that really speak to them, keep them humble, keep them striving, yet all the while knowing they may never arrive.  I want to say that I don’t intend to copy his work, I certainly haven’t directly tried to do so at this point, but is this really an honest statement?  When I discovered him, it was the discovery of an aesthetic that I wasn’t sure existed but had been searching for, unknowingly, since the beginning.  How can one not be profoundly influenced by an artist that holds this place?  How can one not begin to feel that everything is merely an attempt to achieve what someone else is already doing?

Art.  Dammit.

Natural Ash Glaze
(Devil’s Arm Shape)
35.5H x 17.2W cm