Garden Bounty

We are fans of squash, both summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, etc. —  her zucchini crush pizza is to die for) and hard winter squash, and Mrs. Barn’s harvest this year was really impressive.  We think it is enough to get us through the winter.  She shredded and froze a lot of the summer squash for use in cooking through the winter, and this mound of winter squash will appear on the dinner table with delightful regularity over the coming months.

Beans?  Great.  Tomatoes? Meh.


D’s Chair

Recently I was asked by a fellow congregant to repair his wife’s favorite chair, a small upholstered piece (that might have been used as a trampoline by the grandkids).  Regardless of the actual genesis of the damage, the front seat rail had its joint snapped off at the proper left end and pretty severe distortion was the result.

For a project like this I use an exceedingly cautious approach since I am not an upholsterer.  Removing the dust panel from the underside of the frame revealed the extent of the damage.  Wowser.  The rail had blown apart at the joint, and one of the dowels had also snapped off.  Repairing this was a good reminder of why I am trying to be retired from the biz.

My expert opinion based on almost 50 years of fixin’ furniture was, “Yup, it’s broke.”  Both the dowel joinery between the rail and the leg and the concomitant glue block had busted loose so I set about getting it right.

Stay tuned.

Readying For Winter (blog back on track?)

After a couple solid weeks of working my way through the pile of cut and drying bolts of wood, splitting hauling and stacking them to various location on the homestead, I note that winter now has my permission to descend on us.  I’ve got about 1-1/2-to two winters worth of firewood ready for burning, with another two-plus years’ worth felled and on the ground up on the mountain above the barn.  I’ll start cutting and hauling that next month to begin drying on pallets until I get around to splitting that too.

The “window” in the firewood crib was left open so Mrs. Barn could view her flower garden while rocking on the front porch. That void will be filled this week.

Being a southern California gal and enthusiastic gardener to boot, Mrs. Barn is singing the blues about the upcoming season.  Given the work done last year to the cabin it is MUCH tighter than in previous years, and she even was heard to utter comments that it was too warm in the cabin at times last winter.  Truthfully, I think the dearth of daylight is more distressing to her than the cold.  Time to get out the happy light from the closet.  And maybe revisit the subject of building her a greenhouse.

I am totally prepared for heating the shop, too, with far more firewood and bags of coal than ever before.  Since taking this picture I re-stacked the firewood to move it back a few more feet from the stove, and added a loose-stack wall of concrete blocks to serve as an additional safety feature between the stove and the wood.

Now all that’s left is to winterize the yard equipment and finish assembling the “Tim the Tool Man Taylor-worthy” snowblower I bought to clear the driveway since our plowing guy retired.

Then the really chilly weather can start.  We might be in Ol’ Virginny, but we have had at least a couple of sub-zero nights every winter.  Last year was pretty mild, but this being 2020 I can only imagine what the coming winter will be like.


I think I am back on track blogging-wise, more or less.  I still do not have Photoshop up and running but found a good work-around for simple photo editing with Corel Photo-Paint, CorelDraw being my preferred vector graphics tool.  I can’t do anything really complex with Photo-Paint, but I can crop and re-size which is all I need 99% of the time.

There are still a couple of minor hiccups with WordPress but for now I can keep moving forward.  Thus I expect to resume posting three or four times a week for the foreseeable future.

Wish me luck.

Step Forward, Step Back

Compewdermeister Tim and I managed to find and intersection in our schedules last night and had a short but productive TeamViewer session so he could fix the problems with the WordPress template.  In the ensuing email he reminded me that our template is old in the tooth,  I have no idea what those implications mean.  But, WordPress does work.

As I went about formatting some pictures for a new blog post I discovered that while WordPress did work, Photoshop does not.  I suspect a forced update to my Windows 10 system is the culprit.  I truly despise it when I am working on this or that and I get a pop-up notice telling me that a required update is going to occur right now, and Microsoft takes control of my laptop until further notice.  In this case it took several hours to do whatever it was doing.

In short, I can now import images into a blog post (this is just a test image) but I cannot manipulate them fully at the moment.  I will re-install Photoshop tonight to see if that cures the problem (I use an ancient version that still uses CDs for the software).  If not, I will try to find a work-around.

Stay tuned.  Sigh.


Blog Template Progress

Webmeister Tim has determined that apparently the latest WordPress update has resulted in near-universal corruption of the blog’s bajillion files.  So, until he gets the structure and content replaced/rebuilt I will have no capacity to insert images into any posting nor make any replies to Comments.  You may leave Comments but I will have to cut and paste your eddress to reply directly by email.

I’ve actually got a few posts written that are awaiting images, so I am anxious for the problem to be resolved.  I want patience and I want it now.

A Windows 10 update was inflicted involuntarily on my machine yesterday so who knows what screw-ups that will cause.  I love compewders, I especially love them at the bottom of a six foot deep hole.

WordPress Glitch

I was trying to post a blog last night and all of a sudden the WordPress template will not allow me to import images into the text.  In the past whenever I faced a WordPress glitch I would just close out the page and re-boot the compewder and it would go back to work.  But not this time.  So, I gotta get this problem solved before I can proceed.  Any thoughts?

Not Radio Silence

I got a note last night from Mike, one of my dear friends and frequent consigliore, noting the paucity of blogging over the past month or so and concerned that I was recuperating from another injury or some such.

There’s nothing wrong, but actually very little going on that is bloggable.   And, since the blog is not the primary vehicle for my commentary on the state of the church, culture, and nation (about which I have a great deal to say but confine that to my large circle of private correspondence), there has not been very much to write about here.

My leg is nearly 100% recovered from my little episode with rolling the lawn tractor over on myself.  There is no pain from movement or use and only a tiny bit from contact on the inside and outside tips of the ankle, which took the brunt of the impact.  I’ve been able to put on my shoes without difficulty for ten days.  No point in recounting the slow and steady improvement, although the ever-changing psychedelic polychromy was quite the thing.

The work on the book manuscript continues to slog along.  It has been and remains far more difficult than any writing I have ever done, keeping in mind that for almost thirty years I had to write monthly and annual reports for the Mordor bureaucracy, an excruciating experience.  So nothing noteworthy there.

I’m reviewing the 34 hours of Gragg video steadily, but again it is taking a lot of time and energy to get through.  Having  video running is one thing, watching it carefully to determine edits and chyrons is a whole ‘nother level of attention.  It is exhausting in its own way.  Nothing blogworthy there.

I’m about halfway through firewood season.  Who really needs to hear about my daily truckload of cutting, splitting, and stacking this winter’s heat?  Another handful of days and I will be done, and post the obligatory photo of tons of seasoned hardwood bolts.

A few of the periodic distractions at the bench are moving forward, but not enough to blog abut them yet. At least one of them will show up in posts next week.

Thanks Mike, for reminding me to not go “radio silent” while reveling in my hermitude.  I’ll get more interesting soon, I promise.  But for the past few weeks, I’ve had little to say so I chose to remain mostly silent.

Changing Course Equals Success

Going back to the drawing board for my self-fabricated plywood yielded excellent results.

The problem presented by my previous attempt, unique in my experience of making several other plywood pieces from veneers, led me in a different direction.  Given the performance needs of the completed panels the obvious option of hammer-veneering the laminae with hot animal hide glue was not a realistic option as the panels need to perform in a variably hostile environment.  Instead I went back to an old favorite for this sort of gluing — marine epoxy.

I repeated the same steps as before using another couple of sheets of the prime ash veneer but substituting old favorite West System Epoxy for the PVA, eliminating any delierious moisture response in-process.

The results were entirely satisfactory, yielding 5-ply panels just under 1/8″ and 7-ply approximately 3/16″ so I can now proceed with the project.

Spectacular Failure

Quoting the title of my least favorite song from probably my most favorite current band, I recently had a spectacular failure on something entirely mundane in the shop.

The locus of the action was my Kindle.  I love having a Kindle, the ability to download and have a multitude of audio and textual books in-hand on a wisp of a tool is intoxicating.  Plus, I can make the font size as large as I want, no small feature for someone with my eyesight.  However, the Kindle is not a particularly robust tool and I fractured the screen soon after getting it.  Nevertheless I continued using it without incident for a year until the design flaw in the re-charging port caused the unit to fail entirely and I replaced it.  Mrs. Barn is on her second Kindle for exactly the same reason.

When my new Kindle arrived it was instantly apparent that the geniuses at Amazon recognized the re-charging port problem and upgraded the hardware considerably.  Still, that would not really help me if I abused the unit physically to the point of breaking it.   So, I decided to make a lightweight rigid case to house it.  I had looked at a number of manufactured cases and even bought one but remained unsatisfied, hence my desire to make my own.  I might have used some 5-ply 1/8″ aircraft plywood but unfortunately my inventory of this esoteric and very expensive material was inadequate for the project.

Instead I tried making my own, an undertaking I had engaged in numerous times.  Over the years I have accumulated a sizeable pile of veneer sheets and this was a perfect time to consume a tiny bit of it.

Cutting several pieces from the long veneer sheets, I glued up some 5- and 7-ply panels using some PVA adhesive.

I stacked the wet panels on top of each other with a sheet of food wrap between them, as I done done many times before.  Since I do not have a veneer press I added flat cauls and a couple hundred pounds of firebricks on top and let it sit overnight.

What I found the net morning on disassembling the set-up was not what I wanted, to say the very least.  One of the plywood panels’ faces was perfectly flat, but the other was puckered beyond repair, or at least beyond any repair I wanted to spend my time on.  Besides, I have a lot more veneer to play with.

Indeed, this was a spectacular failure.

Back to the drawing board.  Stay tuned.


Coming Distractions

As I continue plugging away at the book manuscript, reviewing and editing the Gragg video, and pinstriping the Gragg chairs in the studio, I have a number of disruptive smaller(?) projects to refresh my mind.

Though not really “smaller,”  since we have had lows approaching freezing it is time to finish off the firewood tasks for the upcoming winter.  I’ve pretty much got the barn situated, with only another hour or so of work left to do.  Actually I got so much firewood there I need to move the pile and put a fireproof barrier between it and the stove.  I’m about 1/3 of the way with the cabin woodpile, so have set aside this entire week to finish splitting and stacking the firewood we will need for a severe winter.  We’re hoping the winter will be mild, but nevertheless will be ready if it is not.

Long ago I started to make a set of stacking octagonal boxes to be another experiment in my quest for faux urushi, and they are sitting on my finishing bench patiently awaiting my artistry.

I’ve got a silverware box I picked up somewhere along the road to serve as the foundation for another faux urushi experiment.

I am determined to finally finish fabricating my invention for an “off” eye rifle scope.  The alternative is to learn to shoot left-handed, which I can do as demonstrated by the dead groundhog that had been sniffing around Mrs. Barn’s garden, but I am right handed and have shot that way for the past 50 years.  I’ve ordered the last little pieces of material necessary and can resume that project any time now.  If the first prototype works like I think it will I will make a similar device for all the relevant tools.

Finally, I need to shim and re-hang the barn’s basement door, build the doors for Mrs. Barn’s clothes cabinet, refinish the dining chairs, finish hanging the remaining doors for the library book cabinets, repair a broken upholstered chair frame for a friend, and begin preparations for next year’s “Build A Gragg Chair” workshop including moving a coupe workbenches up to the fourth floor.  The list is never ending.  I’m 65 and “retired” and still do not have enough time and energy to get everything done.