Oh Beautiful

For spacious skies, giving loft to every bird.

Dinosaur eagle with war potatoes

Ring-necked motley bird

early birds

Martian insects, perhaps?

sainted birds

and trees of course, each one a home for so many

Happy 2022 everyone

Accidental Andrewsarchus?

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.

Thank you dear reader.

Supply of Wood

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.

2021 New Garden

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.

Collapse, rebuild

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.

What syllable are you seeking?

Vocalisimus, in the distances of sleep?

Speak it.

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.

Bits approximating Haiku

Please do not confuse these with haiku, or art, or anything but what they seem to be. I’ll declare that sometimes the brevity of a 17 syllable expression attracts my muse – I mean, really, if you can’t get it across directly, you probably can’t get it across.

this pen does not write.
it spits at unwanted moments!
Out, into the trash!

The three that follow reach back a ways, yet each reappears in my reflection now and again.

slow thaw, mists thicken
snow mass, quiet puddling
darkness – skunks emerge

How can I share the recurring moment? Spring is in the air but the great piles of snow that the plows have made, they are melting and giving off mists and puddles. Mists rise from them but also, and inevitably, there is a smell, a smell of skunks – and it comes from the fact that at such a time of year skunks also emerge from wherever they have been for the winter. These phenomena as so closely tied. Any magical realist would suspect a causal link, and surely, since skunks emerging cannot have retroactively produced piles of melting snow, it must be, it must essentially be, that melting piles of snow produce skunks. Post hoc ergo propter hoc! Squeal with the delight of insight! Ahegm. Yet still, when I see the mist and my feet are wet in the puddle and I smell the smell, I remember how hard it is to capture and share the truth.

I’ve taken my swings.
Now I behold the diamond,
empty in the sun

This one, desperately imperfect and personal, accepts the passing of my father. To have taken ones swings, in baseball talk, is to have had ones turn, to be done. Baseball was his passion and main metaphor. Being done, one might look at the empty field (a diamond), to reflect. Lo, it is empty. but here my imagination jumps, and I think of the emptiness of which Buddhist speak, emptiness as a feature of Reality which cannot be understood as a concept, nor can it be described in words. I think of being done and trying to understand what it is that has been done. I feel close to beholding a diamond. I am thankful for the warmth of the sun. As a haiku this is probably unintelligible, but at least as a personal reflection, it comes back to me.

As this tree rises
unquestioning to the sun
may I also rise

It’s a deep thing that I notice in trees, how it is that over the years they reach (towards the sun, toward some actualization of possibility, towards destiny), and how they reach at each moment, breathing the air and gathering water and nutrition from the earth, growing, how it is utterly unquestioning, this actualization. Utterly.

Good Morning dear reader. May you as well rise without question.

Table 4

This was so easy. A nice piece of cumaru. An old Singer treadle sewing machine base. Two pieces of 6/4 oak to offset to the proper height. Oak affixed to tabletop with dowels at slightly off right angles. Base attached to oak with 2.5 inch hex topped wood screws.

Corners traced from top of cookie tin. Edges rounded with a router. Finish is the usual – sanded to 220 grit, tung oil and limonene.

Now if only the treadle could be connected to a generator to supply power to the desk. Could be a fitness desk. For the moment though, it serves happily.

Box 20. Free flow

A story will be told, probably here, about a local bridge of doom. This is not that story.

You see, the floor in the pantry had begun to fall in because the beams beneath it, all save the one pictured, had at least partially rotted. The floor was three layers of wide planks. Those planks cried out that they still had life, that they were not ready for the fire. Sometimes one must go with the flow (probably more often than is often understood). In the kitchen, the trash bag had been domiciling in a cardboard box. The stage was set.

Of course no nails, as has been my method of box making. I cut the the corner runners from some scrap, glued and doweled them into place. I measured not once. I swizzled and re-swizzled, dithered and dithyrambed. In no time at all, and with a very innovative hinge, Box 20 emerged.

Note the irregular placement of the dowels. Their angles are also divergent. This is so that any particular whack/injury cannot call forth a systemic failure. As much as any given dowel may wish to surrender to a given force, it’s brethren will disagree. This is strength by non-alignment. I prattle.

Thar she is, finished with the usual tung oil and limonene. Smells awesome, if you like that smell. Of note, you should be able to see, above, that the hinge is of rope.

At first I wanted to make a classic dowel hinge. This requires a little bit more planning than the flow state usually affords – also, the pride (amount they stick out) of the protrusions on the lid was insufficient to get the drill bit aligned with the line of the would be wooden hinge. Scratch, scratch, scratch… what if the hinge were … not a straight line. Unthinkable! Or not.

An additional benefit of such a hinge is that it’s relatively unbreakable. Whereas, if a person were to casually sit on said trash box, a dowel hinge might break and cause considerable consternation. Not so the go with the flow rope hinge. Simplicity, benefit, joy.

Righteously recycled, deployed.


of a sort. Hard to say why. A post in front of the house once held a sign – I don’t know what the sign said, I was not here then, but clearly the post was meant to hold a sign. Words, oh unrighteous words, this is this and not that, as if words capture essence as opposed to suggestion. Wallace Stevens, even though he extends the idea to images, understood how little is left after fullest evisceration – “To-morrow when the sun, For all your images, Comes up as the sun, bull fire, Your images will have left No shadow to themselves”

So should I remove the post or put a sign there, and if a sign, what sign? For some time I dwelt on this. Unrelatedly I’d been looking at old farm equipment and found myself drawn to rotary hoe blades, the more tines the better – to me they had a sun-like sense, a spinning blazing sun-sense, a vague suggestion of the incomprehensible power of the sun. From this coincidence of musings my solution arose.

Rustoleum, of course, irony notwithstanding.

And then a tiny measure of endeavor, to bore a peg hole at the top of the post, to fashion a peg with a bulbous end, to affix the hoe sun to the post with the peg, to set it back in the ground.

Of course dust is the final outcome, but along the way, for a brief and shining set of moments, we make our gardens and pray that the sun grace them.