Recently I’d provided a Thunderbird update, which was perhaps about impermanence. The funny thing that was occurring to me, perhaps captured even more in the idea of the phoenix, is the persistence of patterns across rising and decaying instantiations.
This is just a stack of scraps, on the one hand. It is in our minds that we desire to assemble scraps into meanings.
It might be something of an exaggeration to call it that, after all those being a type of massive structure built in ancient Mesopotamia, but nonetheless.
And what is it?
Taketh thee first 4 canisters of flaky layered Pilsbury Grands. Do not be feint of heart. Prepare several pounds of savory viands. In this case it was a parts of a tri-tip roast, a London broil, and some sirloin tips, browned tender with garlic and onions. Prepare also an warm and inviting sauce. In this case it was a combination of two sauces, the first being of 5 onions, 40 dried and homegrown tabasco peppers, and a quart of last years tomato harvest sauce. The other sauce was that from the ‘Heavenly Pork’ served at Easter, again tomato based, with thoughtful heat, black beans, and a depth of flavor. Full of warmth and nuance when combined.
Piece together eight of the biscuit dough pieces as a sheet. Layer on sauce, meat, shaved asiago, and spinach. Repeat. Repeat. Lather and rinse if you must. Repeat. Put it in the oven. 375. Cook till dough in the middle is fully baked. How long is this? Consult your proven oracles.
Let it cool. Slice.
Pictured slices were cut in thirds, all in all yield was about 16 servings. Froze most, awesome background snack to have available.
Mark my footsteps now good page, follow in them boldly!
For the last dozen years or so I’ve used a red oak wooden spatula, found on eBay, I think it was priced at four dollars. The fellow selling them had several for sale and I’m certain that he made them himself. I have an intuition, perhaps false, that he did not receive a lot of love at home for these labors of love. This post is in part to say that the what was made was perfect. Thank you, and not only for the that tool, but the inspiration and the knowledge that one can just, jiffy-quick, make your own.
Australian beefwood is a wonderful wood. It grows now, I think invasively, in Florida. Storm damage creates some supply here in the US. I received a large piece several years ago for my birthday. A small cut-off was all that was needed.
Tung oil, of course, with limonene, my default simple finish.
An emerging Buddha offers it to your attention.
As for yew, a wood noted for strength and flexibility, of English longbow fame, I had several yews at the front of the house and saved some trimmings. Same idea, a trivial making, quick, useful.
I won’t belabor the narrative. Simple things speak for themselves.
For several years the chainsaw Thunderbird stood as the figurehead of a display garden, a garden mostly of rocks but sometimes of flowers.
Wooden Thunderbirds, however, at least as rocks see things, are notoriously temporal. Fleeting even, the brief buzzing of a mosquito. Even what a rock would consider the tiniest bit of time, a blink, and soon gone it will be.
The rocks voted to establish a semi-autonomous Republic. They elected a piece of petrified wood as their leader. Perhaps this is progress.
There is high excitement and much amazement among the stones. Who would have thought this possible?!
The aging Thunderbird was given a beautiful, quieter spot to complete his return to the Earth.
Strange things happen. I had a nondescript piece of limestone that had been lying around for years, not that I’d ever noticed it make misrepresentations, accidental or otherwise. This is generally true of stones. Anyway, it was soft for a stone and seemed to suggest that it was quite carve-able. Why not? I’ve carved several creatures of stone over the years, amateurishly, and they always come out chimerical, cat-pigs, dog-bears, Beethoven sphinxes, such that I really no longer much try to steer the thing tightly into a vision so much as I discover – not what it was meant to be, for such would be far above my pay grade – but rather what it seems to be. This endeavor was no different.
Poor thing, before eyes, seeming to be some sort of alligator pig, perhaps even a razorback alligator pig. Why struggle? It’s almost likely that evolution has already tried most possibilities. Roll with them.
but of course there’s a right amount of primitivism (there’s a conceit for sure). I favor the look of something that might have been found on an archeological dig. What did this creature mean to those who carved it?
Could a baby one be a pet? I get a sense, as a chimera-critic might, of a creature possessing both scary and a funny aspects.
Funnier yet, after carving it and then doing a little bit of web searching (not soul-searching, mind you, though a very wise soul thoroughly searched might be the lens through which any truth might be divined – or not), I stumbled upon the Andrewsarchus, albeit mammalian, about as close to an alligator pig as our earth has produced (ok, maybe some hippo cousin could be closer but I’ve not seen it). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrewsarchus
While we’re busy with Jurassic Park and recycling mega-fauna perhaps this creature deserves a chance. You know it would do a great job helping control the global problem of feral swine. OK, maybe at too great a price.
This past November a local fellow was retiring. His business had been building custom cabinets and built-in furniture for yachts. He wanted to sell off his wood pile quickly and had priced it massively below what one would pay for such lumber in the open market. I was very lucky to have found and taken his offer right away.
There were two 16/4 8 foot pieces of maple
The pile on the floor in the foreground, mostly live edge maple and cherry, some ash. I have no special thing for live edge but it’s not disqualifying.
and lastly the big bonanza pile, same mix, with bonus maple monolith (side right).
For a while I am no longer constrained by short supply of wood. If only it were the same with time itself.
Silver maples are often multi-trunked. They grow rapidly and are given, at some point, to just falling down. This one had six trunks and was quite ill-tended when it became mine to tend.
Getting that diagonally standing trunk to fall properly took a fair amount of contemplation. It fell just as desired, though, landing on the lawn and not over the stone wall.
Eventually I undertook the ‘mighty’ task of digging out the stump. One autumn, as children my siblings and I were once tasked with digging up the stumps of a dozen locust trees. That was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life, of what a person or persons could do, and of what it took to do it. Axes, shovels, ingenuity, each in good measure, and heaps of effort.
Thanks heavens for the chainsaw, is all I can say, not that heaps of effort are still not required, especially for trunks of this size, but as a force multiplier. With just an axe this would have been nigh on too monstrous a task.
Very vexing to the chain, and perplexing to me as to how the circumstance arose, was the rock inside the wood – that’s right, rock inside the wood, below. Live, learn, and buy new chainsaw chains as needed.
As you can see below, even with all the trunks cut away, that’s still about 5 or six feet in diameter of trunk area.
Earnest application, is all I can say, over the course of a few beautiful April days. The soil was so exquisite and the light on it so nice, that’s what made me think ‘garden’.
Full of promise
By May, with rose bushes, tomatoes, Siberian iris, celery
First rose in bloom, iris too. Peppers added
By July, with red yarrow, cosmos, datura. Over-planted, as I tend to do, but fun.
It was very productive. Mostly tomatoes and roses. The celery proved very vigorous too.
Expansion plans abound for the coming year. What a joy.
A surprisingly epic tale is to follow. Whether it is educational or not I do not know. I know that I learned a great deal, if such is possible for one who considers most erstwhile knowledge as mere information. I share with the fragile hope that you will gain something, something that otherwise would have been difficult to gain. No pain, no gain, they say (smiling emoji).
It began with an innocent ominousness. That’s right. Perhaps the refrigerator is tired? Notice how it’s leaning to the left? It refused to speak of how it was feeling. Normally, as in always, it had stood straight.
Closer (intrusive and destructive) inspection revealed that it was not so much the refrigerator but the floor that was having the problem.
I trust you will notice the glorious 5 x 7 beam that seems to rest at an improper angle. Failed in the line of duty. Broken, rotted really. No longer suitable for use as designed.
Perhaps it becomes clearer now.
Not obvious in this picture (because it’s not there) is the fact that the middle beam was even more severely compromised. Unsaveable, a lost cause, gone caput. To restore this pantry to its former functional state, that’s the journey this post will narrate. Below you can behold what I came to fondly describe as the ‘bridge of doom’. The refrigerator had fled, of course, into the space behind that wall on the left – a peculiar space four feet wide and fourteen across (fourteen deep if you just looked into it) left there to keep firewood indoors. Of course the refrigerator needed to be visited several times a day, and from the kitchen, from whose door the photo below was taken. Therefore each day, with due attention to balance, several times I would traverse the beam, sometimes hands full, asking myself why why why was it not worth temporarily making a safer way. The challenge, of course. That which does not destroy me, etc. I’m very glad to report a mishap count of zero, not that this justifies my decision making process.
Getting down into the pit and looking under, toward the kitchen. A thin layer of wet earth on top of bedrock outcroppings, simple wooden 4 x 4’s, rotten at their base, and then another stone cross wall perhaps 10 feet in.
It gave me many hearty laughs to see the devil-may-care precision with which these underlying/supporting walls were constructed. What is good enough? Our friend Boris would know, may he rest in peace, but who even remembers Mr. Gudenoff now? Good enough certainly were my tools of destruction – my Grandfather’s sledge hammer, two Japanese pull saws (one ‘timber class’), and old oak-handled pry bar, a standard hammer. These worked great.
How quickly (three weeks?) from despair to hope? Would that the time were so short for the many, that the causes were so delightfully addressable. A most industrious neighbor. who in addition to farming also runs a sawmill on his farm, cut the new 5 x 7 beams, notched them into place, shored up the new beams as shown below, and supplied the planks that I might complete the decking. This was an utterly fabulous turn of events and one for which I remain most grateful.
Some of said planking below, prior to deployment
Ah but rot, rot and conscience and good sense – what can one do, when beholding rot, too much rot, but address it?
It’s a hard line, to say what is sufficient. For this whole project I’d decided that the mission success criteria would be a minimum of 5 and ideally of 20 or more years of function, at minimum cost, inasmuch as I (continue to) hold larger plans for the re-doing of this whole space but at the moment that project must wait. I happened to have some lovely red oak 6 x 6 orts, however, and one of exactly the right length was in the barn.
Hope increases as these bits of good fortune accrue.
As it had been, I decided to stick with the three layers of decking. The first two laid the long way, divided on the center line so that of could remove the floor in halves if such a need were to arise.
An extra bonus was to re-use some of the old decking as shelves where the refrigerator was. But wait! I know your eager mind has had the fate of the refrigerator as a significant and unabandoned thread. Fear not. As with most projects, they grow. I was aware that simplest would be to put it where it was, but because the wall between the firewood cubby and the pantry was not in the long term plan anyway, and the firewood cubby by itself was providing no utility, and a larger pantry would be more useful, well – the refrigerator would go in corner of the firewood cubby space and therefore be brought back into the pantry by the destruction of the wall. Voila! (some emojis).
A brief shout out has to go to the ‘slick’ below, a old word for a wide chisel, as well as to the oscillating multi-tool. I learned about this tool from the industrious farmer. I asked if it had a simpler name, as no one wants to say “Hey, do you know where I put my oscillating multi-tool?’, but if there is a secret name for it he either did not know or would not share. This, in my piggery, I christened it an Omt. Do not attempt to guess how I divined the name. I’d never had or knew of omts. Sublimely useful.
This epic sure goes on, eh? It took months, several nights a week, some weekends. Below find the wall to be destroyed. Layers of paint and wallpaper and horsehair plaster, cottony insulation, some wiring
Sparing you then the many photos of intermediate destruction, please find wall removed and thus refrigerator re-integrated into pantry. The old door, now a door to nowhere, was left at the request of my daughter. No worries, the whole space is temporary and experimental. Of course.
There was still much to learn, however, especially regarding the place of humility. The original pantry floor had no insulation beneath it. The room never seemed cold, but then again there was no reason to spend any time in it. Spending time there made it very plain that it was borderline icy on cold days, that the refrigerator was lifting the temperature of what it contained. So up came the carefully laid board (but there the fact that I had not nailed them down was a great thing) and I now had to lay insulation between each of the 3 foot segments between the beams.
In order to accomplish this, and to have the pink side up, it seemed that staples just were not doing it, and that some sort of slats would do much better. Pile of custom cut slats below, pre-nailed even. Detour city, but in the name of better outcomes.
Last panels before being placed. Notes on virtue of forethought. And as for fiberglass dust? I ask not.
Note now the ceiling, multi-layered, the dangling wires, and
the floor – quite discontinuous
challenges, at my (low) skill level. I took it ploddingly, addressing each problem directly but without much thought on the overall unity. If function is first how far off the mark could this be? Below the outlet in the ceiling, but essential and convenient to the very patient refrigerator.
an even uglier but nonetheless functional outlet placement –
and again sparing you – this time of the details of ceiling and floor unification (I know, you’re welcome), we get to a colored floor. Much debate has raged, and it seems that the perception of the color of the floor is greatly skewed by gender. Only the colors blue and purple have been reported as being seen.
Shelves in the same color
You may recall the stencil footprints around the door in the bridge of doom picture. When I’d moved in, the stencil itself was taped to wall, as if the stencil-er had been called home suddenly. I took it down and set it aside, not knowing that more was meant for it in this life.
I remain very tickled by these, as I am by the little entryway below No doubt you are aware that if you give a mouse some building materials, he may build a neo-classical Greek revival entryway, in keeping with local architecture.
Now that black wall – it was not meant to be a black wall, but rather the blackness as a backdrop for some wonderful non-representational art.
All stories, this one true, weave into thousands of other stories. Much was learned in re-building this pantry. The log slices above grew profound mold, mold that no bleach or ammonia could remedy, so down they came. The pantry is far better than it was, however, and I richer and thankful for the experience.
OK, so that out of the way. This is to share a potato-evoking live oak cutting board. It does not represent dream frontier long sought jewel, at least to my imagination.
The rough draft below. It’s live oak from Florida, a fallen down tree. The density is the noteworthy thing.
Next, each side with shaping, sanding (to 220 grit) and finishing (food safe tung oil and limonene) complete.
And lastly, deployed. Zooming in and examining you’ll notice that little cracks in the wood probably make it not ideal as a cutting board, hard to truly clean. Perhaps a cheese board, or perhaps just not to worry.
Just as in cooking, if you start with good ingredients and do little but let them speak for themselves, the result is positive and natural.