LOST

in this case an acronym, “L(ive) O(ak) S(ide) T(able)”. More obscure would be to combine the non-leading letters … iveAkIdeAble. All that would be missing is that which is lost.. 🙂

I had a nice piece of live oak, roughly 4 feet by a foot and a half. In the living room there was a piece of cumaru atop four milk crates that served as a side table. I love milk crates for their utility, configurability, etc, but don’t think it proper to live in a milk crate constructed world, first class for a third world though it may be. The fullness of time gradually plays out and so I came to this creation. The first idea, knee-jerk, was to give it four legs, much as tables are wont to have, pictured below with the pieces held in arrangement by gravity, a very temporary arrangement.

I shared the idea. Generally the feedback received was the legs weren’t right. Ever attentive to nuanced appreciators, let me say that again, a-sketching I went, looking to appease the collective muse. We know that sometimes rationalists don sombreros. I think that’s what the muse was getting at, that the standard four square didn’t really go with the free flow top.

The drawing seemed to satisify. Undertaken was the challenge.

One of the four legs I turned into two feet, another repurposed as a crossbar. The wood of all these not live oak but rather of fairly old (harvested originally ~1820, upcycled from a fallen barn in 2020, born from an acorn likely sometime in the life of that scourge of indigenous “Christopher Columbus”.

My preferred woodworking principle is no metal. While screws are strong their aesthetic is so weak. The ankles here got me in trouble, relative to those principles. I used half inch dowels from the bottom up into the legs. Those didn’t stop the unacceptable level of play. A better design could have solved but I’d rushed forward (or backward) too fast. From the bottom again I drilled shallow 3/8 holes and inside those drove 3 inch screws, two for each leg. High stability was achieved. I plugged the 3/8 inch holes with bits of walnut dowel. Sin hidden but not much of a fig leaf. The same sin repeated in attaching the leg assembly to the table top. Behold the shame!

Kind eyes see differently, or at least one hopes. Compromises ignored, the result appears decent to me.

and so there is the tale. My primary learning was to be a little more cautious in assumptions about the functional characteristics of a design. I like the table though, it’s just an easy show off of a nice piece of wood.

All the best to you dear readers.

Corner seed sprouting boxes

Yes, that’s what they are, or at least what they’re intended to be.

I wanted a place where I could start seeds outside away from the incredible weed competition introduced by the natural soil around here. I did not want to use pots, having only had success with them for established plants. I wanted to harvest the best light available in the backyard (south and west) and I wanted to have them well raised above ground level. One back corner of the barn seemed to satisfy the location requirement. I figured I’d create light lean-to posts and notch the planter boxes into them. No doubt there were other design options but these roughly were my choices.

in the barn I used an old 8×8 to emulate the outside corner of the barn. Note that it’s only affixed to that corner right at the top. Low commitment, easy to remove for whatever reason. Cutting the notches was educative. Jigsaw didn’t have a 45 degree capacity. Angle grinder a little (!) imprecise. Ryoba.

Making the boxes was fairly rudimentary, no great artfulness required. Setting them into the notches however revealed 1) how important it is that the notches are at the same height, that the vertical face of the notch is plumb, that the horizontal face is level, and that the notches themselves provide too measly a mechanical advantage to be proud of the outcome.

Witness, therefore, the support brackets, tested for both as level unto to themselves and that a spanning piece (as a box is) also level. When I say level I mean to within one degree. I’ve recently started using a digital level and have been pleased and amused to know that my natural sense of level is within one degree. Close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades they say.

Deploying was easy. Selecting and leveling two granite feet, screwing top of assembly to corner.

And last, of course, to fill with the various rare and exotic seeds whose germination and ultimate magnificence remain undemonstrated. Planted were

The nice flowering vine Thunbergia, these particular seeds from Ukraine. The local supermarket parking lot had an array of them and I was stalking them for seeds but one October morning they’d all been removed, redirecting my quest.

Creeping false holly. Very interesting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaltomata_procumbens. It’s a solanaceae so it’s in my realm of fascination. Seems like a wonderberry but supposed to taste more grape-like. I look forward there.

Wonderberry itself, a la Burbank, basically a solanum nigrum on steroids. Berries are bigger though.

Naranjilla, something I’ve only gotten to fruit once after a tenuous indoor overwintering.

Cute little cannibal tomato (uporo), best with long pork.

Porcupine tomato, I’ve had some success with these. Beloved amongst the angry solanaceae sub-tribe as rippling with ferocity. Consider as decorative, treat with respect and they won’t attack.

Another angry sub-tribe member, biker gang name ‘Malevolence’. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanum_atropurpureum. Consider as decorative.

Tamarillo, aka tree tomato. I’m 0 for 5 with these across the years. Certainly will keep indoors once temps fall, if/assuming they germinate.

Eucalyptus Neglecta. I love these. I usually have success sprouting and they grow fast and strong. Where I’ve failed is trying to get one to overwinter outside in Zone 4/5. Seems that at roughly 10 degrees F they just can’t take it. Gearing up for more creative approaches.

And so there you have it. Will report back on the outcomes. May your summer be as excellent as I hope mine to be.

Dreamship

Please forgive, dear reader, what will be a fanciful tale with many competing themes.

As a young adult I’d jot down little fragments of muse, one in particular that’ would come back to me with some regularity … “At the helm of the Dreamship, Odysseus has time to wonder”. Little doubt this was a cosmic framing intending to rationalize the confusion and indecision of youth, that while one may have captaincy of the journey of life, that one might not know what to do with that command.

Throughout life one has probably engaged in various perceived heroisms, of doing long and hard and far things, things that take one far from home. Eventually though there comes a time where one may desire to return (of just get to) the place where one belongs. Then the seemingly simple journey, the journey home, is undertaken and whoa – it wasn’t supposed to be that hard. Storms, Sirens, enchantresses, serpents, even a Cyclops, such an unimaginable wealth of adversities arise to obstruct the journey! The strategems and navigations and good fortune required to get home may be far larger than ever anticipated.

That we navigate life in a sea of dreams, that the sea itself transcends our expectations and our power, that at most we may be lucky and successful captains of that journey, aye – having a steady dream ship would be a tremendous asset. And so begins the tale.

I sought to build a proper bed frame. Post and beam I thought, for such is a redoubtable architecture. I purchased two 20 foot red oak 6×6’s. One I had ripped into 3 x 6’s and then halved each to have rails. The other I cross sectioned into 3 and 4 foot columns and mortised in such a manner that the rails could fit, roughly a six foot by six foot platform. I envisioned joists spanning the rails, purchased five 2 x 6’s for the purpose, as well as sheets of 5/8″ plywood and 1/4 inch masonite to act as decking. A stout base indeed. For the head and foot boards I went into the countryside just east of Augusta where an old couple who made maple syrup also cut and sold lumber. From them I bought four 2 x 10 x 5/4 x 8′ red oak boards. That was in 2020. The project came to a stall with COVID and because it was hard to get the rails to fit the mortises as one person and my methods for cutting the tenons was juvenile and inferior.

Musing never stops though, nor dreams. Supposedly there is much that can be told by how the brain is resonating at any given time, as well as the variations across time. We do know that when dreaming, theta waves predominate.

Fancy struck, looking at the waves stacked as above, that if the space between each wave (from the bottom up delta, theta, alpha, beta, gamma) were itself a board that one could cut the edges to match examples of the waves, so that the bottom edge of the lowest board of the headboard would have the edge of delta and the top edge of theta, that the second board a bottom edge of theta (matching the top of the bottom board) and a top edge of alpha, and so on. The headboard could be constructed so that the height where one lays ones head is right at theta. Fanciful, yes.

Fancy continued to strike. A dreamship, is it? How will it be powered? Of course it must be powered by wisdom. From whence? Why from whence all wisdom emanates. Where is that? Uh, uh … Athena? Jeez, really? Really. And by what agency will this power be vested? Um, um … Owls! Oh no, really? Really!

I began to recruit wooden owls. I know, I know, is crazy, but sometimes one has to follow an idea to actualization – that’s one reason ideas can be so dangerous.

There were other owls, owls that did not make the cut. The sketch below summarizes the final idea.

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By the autumn of 2023 I fully recognized that the execution of this idea was considerably above my woodworking skill level. I was fortunate though in that a world class woodworker had moved to town. He had an open house, his open-mindedness was noteworthy. After talking for a few weeks he agreed to undertake the project. Also around this time there was another excellent woodworker who was retiring, from whom I purchased a wonderful flitch-cut walnut log. This would be relevant because I’d decided that alternating the wood color in the headboard and foot board would accentuate the design.

The magical realism element of all this bears some note. So how does a dreamship of this nature actually work? First one lays ones head on the pillow. So far so good. Then, or soon thereafter, or eventually, if it’s destined, one will begin to dream. This is like turning the ignition of a car. Vroom, vroom – the owls awake! We know that they’re in constant conversation both with each other and with their patron Athena. The theta waves produced by the dreamer are their fuel. Step on the gas and, because we know that dreams are trans-dimensional, of course the ship can fly through walls, can fly anywhere really, to any imaginable place and through any configuration of dissonances. Vroom vroom! A children’s book could/would be suitable here, “Dreamship Adventures”, but of course the larger and realer picture is that we all do it anyway, navigating to our dreamt-of destinations in life.

I love the actualization, pictured first sans owls.

and then ready to voyage

I feel deeply fortunate, privileged, and thankful to have been able to bring this about. I feel a sense of duty to bring to this marvelous platform dreams and choices within them that befit the wonder of possibility. It may be that the idea of home is less a particular physical destination and more a deep comfort in capacity, that one can navigate to where spirit and desire wisely suggest. This ship may be as the magic feather was to the beloved Dumbo the elephant.

Towering Whirligig

Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Babble, you say. Babel, I say.

Last Summer I had a long (10 foot) and wide (18 inches) piece of Ipe delivered. Breaking down the pallet yielded seven 10 foot 2×4’s. In the backyard there’s a patch that’s wild with vines: grape, bittersweet, Boston Ivy, and woody nightshade. I’ve long enjoyed watching vines compete. I thought perhaps to make a trellis.

Proceeding with little planning (that’s the norm) the ten footers were angled and braced. Some extension was crafted in the typical reach for greatness.

I dwelt a little on what should cap them, some great statue perhaps or a spooky Illuminati symbol, or worse. Ultimately I deemed these too message laden, but a wind sculpture, aye, might just be the ticket. Etsy.

A little wrangling and to the top it was affixed.

It still needs to be set standing more straight but the main task is accomplished. Whereas John Lennon favored the watching of wheels there are so many, and watching the wheels that choose which wheels to watch is so meta. I behold in peace the whirling and do not lament that I may or may not witness the fall of the tower.

Video soon to follow or a link to the website that will watch continuously and archive the footage in perpetuity.

Downstairs Bathroom Saga

It was when the walls began to melt that I had a sinking feeling. Clear eyed I’d go back each morning. Is this really happening?

Homasote and pin hole pipe leaks are incompatible bedfellows. Homasote is such a lowly thing as it is and pin hole leaks are insidious. Depicted below are the first stages of tear down, showing no less than four layers of wallpaper, said homasote, and that which is underneath. The homasote had acted as a sponge, carrying the moisture several feet from the corner and fostering a vigorous growth of black mold.

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That corner contained a wide drain pipe, hot and cold feed going up, an several wire conduits.

Witness that wet green. And yes, the ceiling too. After finding the leak(s) my friendly neighborhood plumber replaced the failed copper with pex.

No less than seven rodent skeletons (it’s a very old house) were found in removing the old sheathing. One perhaps was a now extinct dire rodent.

I had help with the new walls and ceiling, a mirror cabinet and nice cherry casing for the pipe run. I was prepared to celebrate. I even trimmed the window, the door, and the baseboards in cherry all by myself.

Not so fast, Rabbit. In the course of temporarily moving the toilet and sink to allow the work to be done it was discovered that both of these had slow leaks, leaks that had to some extent rotted the floor boards adjacent. Without fear of wind or vertigo I undertook to replace the floor using the ample stocks of cherry wood in the barn.

Of course removing the floor meant once again taking out the toilet and sink. Showing subfloor after removal.

Cherry for the floor milled accordingly.

Cut to fit and again prepared to celebrate – but

the old subfloor, not rotted but tired, very tired. Screwing through the cherry to hold the boards down, the screws would not bite but rather spun, endlessly if so twirled. Vexation in heaps. Decided to replace subfloor as well, with two fit cut sheets of plywood, 1/2 + 3/8 thick to emulate the thickness of what was being replaced.

But observe, on the left of the toilet drain where the old subfloor had to be cut, that if a new floor were placed there, there’d be no support. Maybe a new floor joist in the wanting spot? At this point it was largely a journey of amazement anyway.

just to the right of the blue pex above note the notch I carved to support said new joist.

said new joist, of lvl.

and sparing you the minor challenges, this time arriving at success. Here it is fully tarted out, with a new sink no less.

Learnings? Not to underestimate, of course. Underestimation is the hallmark of the optimist. I have often too bright a regard for what is possible and too little a realistic sense of what it will take to actualize.

Rehabilitated

Eight years ago or so I completed my first chair, a custom design Adirondack chair from some very nice mostly oak dumpster wood and various scraps. It used my preferred methods – no screws, dowel and glue joinery only.

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There turned out to be a big however, however. Thankfully it was I who experienced the failure of the chair. It had been serving outside for several years and sitting in it one evening, I guess the weather had wrought rot to where the front legs adjoin the seat joists, kr,kr, kerplomp! Not far to fall and nought really but the indignity of failure as the injury. Learning, ah yes learning, that’s how to look at it. I’d discovered yet another thing that didn’t work. Good at that!

I did not want the story to end that way. The pieces quietly taunted me in the barn. Eventually against the grain I went – “Screw this” I said to myself. And so indeed I did. Everywhere a dowel had been, or nearabouts, I placed instead screws.

Sanded it down again, painted the default blue/purple

and while all may not be right with the world, at least this crinkly corner is corrected.

I’d call this an example of patience and perseverance. Of course larger questions always hover, as to whether what is it that is worth being patient and persevering about. Such questions edge toward being imponderable, though avoiding them is at ones own peril. I follow the feeling of the thing, as if things had feelings. I can ponder now in chair replete with lessons.

December Adjustments

Referencing back to ‘October Organizations‘, specifically the piles of wood on the right, there are positive functional adjustments.

This may look devil-may-care, but far from it really. Pieces requiring proper stacking are stacked (ok, that was hasty), the pile itself can be circumnavigated, and the long table top aspect is at the right height to double as a temporary workbench.

Here it is layered in protective scrap 2 x 8’s. It served nicely to harvest boards from the wiggly cherry standing in the background.

Primitive Joys

A few years ago the floor in the pantry of my 200+ year old house fell in. The old paint had strong sense of having served admirably, and the wood was surprisingly viable. Couldn’t toss it.

Cleaning the barn this past month I decided to do something with the old boards I’d saved. How much utility will be garnered, that’s quite unclear. The process however, and the naive delight of just making something(s), those make it all worth it.

October Organizations

Began with clean up of the barn. A great pile of wood, long at the center of the barn, was sorted. Cinder blocks were allocated, 2 x 8’s were cut. A place in the basement was made and they were set atop the 2 x 8’s that in turn were set atop the cinder blocks, all in reverse order of course. This activity, un-pictured, caused the usual reaction by the local wooden Buddha community.

and how could it not be so, will such a magnitude of space liberated in which to exercise freedom?

Now what to do with such freedom? Heavens, there really are no limits except time and strength and blood and vision, boundless really. I guess then to reach heavenward, at least colloquially, a good first step.

There was a ten foot long wooden pallet that had arrived earlier in the summer. It spoke of not being garbage, of wanting to be involved in a higher enterprise. So be it, my ready answer, a trellis thou shalt become –

Probably sixteen more slats before fit for deployment. There is a small plateau on the southwest side of the yard, the grapevine plateau, all of 18′ x 10′ that seethes with grapevines, also bittersweet, Boston ivy, woody nightshade, a great richness of vines. The trellis will be set there to host a great dance of coexistence.

Stay tuned.