as january runs on and february approaches there are some small signs of spring, in spite of the temperatures which remain obstinately only just around freezing. the days already seem much longer and the robins started singing a spring song over a week ago. in my garden the first snowdrops are in flower.

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today the sun came out and we had blue skies, about the third day without gloom and dark grey cloud this month. as we walked away from the house, a huge pack of geese flew over, two big vee shaped skeins

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followed by tens of small vees, family parties. the two big skeins continued on towards the east, but the small groups turned and flew north.

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crossing the main road at the top of our lane we enter a different parish, through a little wood doubly bisected by the crossroads. hollies have colonised the southern side, and there is a rookery in the tall oak trees looking out to the east.

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hedgerow trees are in old to middle age around here, although there are some babies growing.

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an ancient oak that won’t see too many more winters I suspect. there is a lot of new hedge planting around, and not so much collapsed hedge from the heavy snow; the existing hedges are full of tough blackthorn and hazel.

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along the lane a big flock of chaffinches bobs and ducks from tree to hedge and back to tree as we walk along.

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all the hazels have catkins now, just waiting for a spell of warm weather to open up and release their pollen.

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the alder tree has both catkins and last year’s tiny cones which stay on the tree all winter until their seeds are dispersed in the spring.

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a tall ash looms over a high hedge of hazels down by the meadows near the Grove.

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this small wood has many beautiful mature trees; here oaks bandy snake-like branches above our heads

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Tilda is sure there are bunnies around, but there’s nothing to be seen.

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the Grove flows up the hill and at the top the cloud seems to extend out from the trees.

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more handsome giants along the track.

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at home again, the kiln has cooled and can be unpacked. this firing was a little different, in that I started reduction earlier than usual, when the pyrometer was reading one thousand and ten centigrade – it will have been a lot cooler in the lower parts of the kiln – and for the next eighty degrees or so, the reduction was very heavy and smoky, with a lot of lilac flashing in the flame – potassium; I suppose it could have been from the potash feldspar in the glaze. the black olive glaze came out much better, matt and full of little spots of rust meshed with silver grey, less of the olive greens.

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the shino, which was not thick enough to crawl, picked up a blue grey tinge, probably from excess carbon during the early heavy reduction.

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some of the copper/tin/dolomite glaze were nicely greeny-orange, but at the back next to the flame, it came out a dingy greenish grey, and the flame made a nasty mess of the pot next to it. on this tall flared pot the glaze worked nicely; the combing gives it plenty of edges to break from green to orange rust

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and on this cone shaped vessel with porcelain inlay, the flow and drip of the glaze has combined well with the pale spots; I am very pleased with it.

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this one is made of the terracotta earth clay from Torrejoncillo I brought home from Spain, and I glazed it with the barium/china clay which normally comes out creamy white with yellow ochre tinges; usually it picks up a slight greenish cast in the firing from the copper glaze. this time the green is quite intense.

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here you can see the blue grey colour of the shino, and it is nicely complemented by the orangey rust natural to this glaze and emphasised by the iron in the dark stoneware clay.

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and here you can see the whole firing, except the one I threw away.