Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mama Bear

Mama Bear is almost thirty years old.
We could have chosen Papa Bear or Baby Bear but Mama Bear was just right.
1979, new homeowners were we, and the first thing we did was install a wood stove, this Fisher Mama Bear, big enough to fit a 20" log and hold a fire through the night. 300 and some pounds of 5/16 plate steel lined with fire brick, a massive thing to radiate for hours. No reason it won't last for generations.
It was the hey-day of wood stoves, driven by a rise in heating costs (little did we know), and folks were looking for some cheap heat. Vermont Castings and Jotul were the high end. We bought ours from a neighbor 1/2 mile away who had turned his garage into a Fisher franchise.
Of course you had to get some wood for this thing but back then it was almost fun and you could get your friends to go out in the woods and bust it hauling chunks of wood out of the woods just for the companionship and a few beers.
I had a 1955 Chevy pickup painted primer grey with an '87 V-8 engine 4 on the floor that we got for $600. I upholstered the seat with denim and made a walnut sun visor. We were Ma and Pa Kettle 'cept the sucker could haul ass.
My chainsaw was a lime green Poulan that would start nice the first time but never again. So I'd fire it up and work like a banshee trying to cut enough for a truck load before it ran out of gas. If it quit I'd hafta yank and yank and yank and maybe I'd be lucky and maybe I wouldn't. Somebody probably could have fixed it but not this kid from the suburbs.
So now I have a Stihl that starts nice and a different truck from Japan and a wood lot that is not far away and each spring I do this ritual, albeit solo, of bringing in the winter's warmth.
New Fisher stoves are no longer available. They didn't pass the EPA emission standards set for newer stoves and the romance of wood heat faded a bit. It turns out to be a lot of cuttin', haulin', stackin' and ashes and cleaning the flu so folks switched to coal or pellets or back to oil or gas. But they say the stove business is picking up again recently .....

A poem by my friend Jack Troy.

Acorn Dreaming
(for Don and Sarah Braxton)

Last week the crew showed up early,
took stock of three dead pin oaks
up the hill from me, jerked starter-cords,
and had them topped, limbed, and felled by ten,
the first thwacking frozen lawn
like a tossed caber, the biggest ka-rumping
sod like a mortar round. By noon
they lay splayed on the slope,
buzz-sawed into puzzles of themselves.
On his way to the next job,
one of the guys poses with his saw
on a stump's concentric circles,
-Wanna tree-kit, mister?-

I'd offered to barter young white pines
for a half a pickup of thighsized billets.
Around midnight I fed six to the furnace.
Stuffing the last two in before the door
clamped tight I caught an aromatic whiff,
bark roasting on evening's embers,
then slept in the comfort of the undoing.

Releasing ring by annular ring
the heat of seventy summers.
fire unscrolled from bark and canbium.
the repertoire of seasons.
one decade an hour, freeze by thaw
and drought by freshet til by dawn
remembrance radiates
from heartwood's inmost core:
the limber sprout yearning itself vertical.
leafing and heeding light and season.
shedding over seventy years
a cubic acre of veined paper.

Waking. I've dreamed the acorn's dreaming

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gingko Tree in the Fall

October 19th, about 9:30 on a Sunday morning, the morning after a hard frost, the beautiful golden leaves on the Gingko start to fall, a steady quiet stream as the sun's rays warm the air, a constant rustling sound that does not stop until the last leaf is down just an hour later. A little natural wonder we see each Fall.

The Gingko Biloba is a really interesting tree, "a unique species of tree with no close living relatives". Fossils of its leaves have been found dated from millions of years ago. Once thought to be extinct in the wild but now found in two small areas in eastern China. A tall tree from 70-115-' in height. A very unique leaf shape. There are also males and females, the females producing seeds that look nice but smell like shit. It can grow a long time, some specimens claimed to be more than 2,500 years old. Wikipedia -Gingko.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Walnut Bowl

Walnut Bowl 7 x 6 x 13

Nice to get out in my shop and make something again - it had been a while. Worked on this one and the cherry turning one after the other in a two week span. This one feels a bit chunky to handle, not a sensuous piece, but I think it works in some sculptural ways. Intersecting volumes, planes, and lines. The bowl extending from the block of wood from which it was carved...

Cherry Burl Vase

A simple piece - all about the wood - 8" x 4 1/2". I don't do much turning, resorting to scrapers and sandpaper to cover up poor skills. But I wanted to do this one because I was pretty sure the wood would be interesting. I found it while gathering firewood, a gnarly thing on the side of a big log. It had some voids that I filled with an epoxy product called Inlace, an interesting product that has many inlay possibilities.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Making Bread

Made bread today, my usual recipe, James Beard's Oatmeal Bread with Cooked Oatmeal.
I'm not sure when I first made this recipe, many years ago for sure, but it is really the only recipe I have used ever since. I only make bread once or twice a year and since this one has always been so well received I wasn't motivated to experiment.

Its unique characteristic is a wonderful chewy texture. It's a touch sweet with some brown sugar in the mix so is best with butter and jam. A lovely breakfast bread.

I usually have made it along side some homemade soup and the family of four will wolf down a loaf or more fresh from the oven. The recipe (download doc) as written makes two small loaves, only 2/3 the height of a normal loaf. But today I made 1 1/2 times but still used 2 tins. This made a taller loaf that will do nicely for sandwiches.

James Beard's book Beard on Bread was published in 1973 and was his best selling book. Beard (1903-85) was quite a character it seems and has been called the father of American style cooking by some.

If you've never made bread it's worth a shot just for the way it makes the house smell.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Lucy: We the pets stand united in filing this grievance against the ticks of the world who have infested our fair land, latching onto us and sucking our blood. As spokespet for this group I ...

Simon: Hey, hey just a minute, what's this spokespet stuff. I never agreed to that.. that's ridiculous..

Ginger [thinks silently to self]: riffraff, peasants, cretins

Lucy: Well, I just thought ...

Simon: You thought.... that would be a first wouldn't it. C'mon face it Stumpy, if ticks liked brains instead of blood you wouldn't have a problem would you?

Ginger: [vassals, dross, flotsam, lackeys]

Lucy: Gee Simon that's not very nice of you. And please don't call me Stumpy just because my tail...

Simon: Oh here we go again, the big sad eyes, the poor victim. Stumps, give it a rest. It gets old don't it Ginge?

Ginger [wiggles nose, silent to self] I AM RABBIT! HEAR ME ROAR!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mom's 90th Birthday

So Mom turned 90 on the 10th. All her children and their spouses gathered for the weekend to help celebrate the occasion. On a beautiful day we set up outside with gifts and a chocolate cake. Mom was in fine form and thoroughly enjoyed opening her gifts and cards.

DC3 - Lost Beads

Friday morning, 7:45, the city is just getting out of first gear. I sit on a small bench on the Freedom Plaza, watching the sun rise over the Capitol Building, its rays streaming down a still fairly open Pennsylvania Avenue. The sounds are automotive. I look down and see a bead, at first undetected, and then another and another. Someone's necklace broke and beads came to rest in nooks and crannies of the plaza.


for Robin

Not exactly notes from home but I've been in DC for the week. The conference was good - Plone 2008, open source CMS software for those who care. My hotel was just 2 miles from the conference so I wound up walking everywhere, taking in the city, the chaos and the noise, the beauties and the homeless, the beautiful buildings and the litter. I love how the museum/galleries are free, just walk in and see all this wonderful work. I checked out the Hirschorn and the National Portrait Gallery and Memorials on the mall. So many beautiful old churches and classic stone government buildings and statues.
I left Friday late afternoon joining in the mass exodus plodding along in a motorized snake 5 lanes, 4 lanes, 3 lanes, then 2 averaging 30mph stopping starting for a good 70 miles until it finally thinned out. It's hard to imagine doing this everyday. Circumstances might mean I would do it too but it does not seem a healthy choice.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Washington, DC

The Indian and the Lily, 1887First entry - I write from a hotel in DC. Daughter Robin says she will keep a blog of her life in England so I thought I would give it a whirl to keep her posted on life at home. Not much to say but an occasional picture or story ....

In DC to do the Plone 2008 Conference - work related training. Nice story from day one -

After getting my stuff in and parking my car I head to the nearest subway to head downtown and figure out what my routine will be. Waiting on the subway platform I'm checking out an advertisement for the National Gallery of Art - there's an Ansel Adams show that catches my eye but it's not until next year. The one showing now is called The Indian Paintings by George Forest de Brush. Never heard of him but the sample painting is of an Indian with a goose. Much like the one that is on Dad's wall at Foxdale. The print that he had on his wall as a kid and the one that was on my wall throughout my childhood. I get the feeling its the same guy and decide to go check it out. So I hike around downtown near the white house and all the fabulous marble government buildings, find the National Gallery and there I am standing in front of the original painting that I have known all my life. Can't think of another piece of art that would have been more fun to see.