Category Archives: DIY

Some such summer as it is

This is the 2017 Summer Solstice sunset from Conneaut Harbor’s “Mud Pit” Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Life sort of just rolled over my head and got parked there for the last many months. Rolled over me and left a smear of Grease Hog and 2790 splashed up one of my pant legs. I know that the skin on my leg as tuned white and will start to itch/burn as the fluid dissolves it’s way towards neutrality or chemical resolution, which ever comes first. I can never remember. These days I cruise through Erie and clean carpets in empty (and full) apartments and houses. We only run 3 trucks, upwards of 13 hours some days. Usually at least 10. It took me a while to figure out how to do things before I was able to do them without having to think about them. I had to make it a muscle memory and recover physically from bringing my carpet cleaning muscles into shape. (Mostly core) I’m no expert or anything, but chances are I can clean your carpet real good. I cleaned the grout in the kitchen tile with the truck from work and found out that the tile aren’t brown or grey. I have no memory of the grout lines when I moved in here 13 years ago. Turns out that they are BABY BLUE!!! Sometimes there is such a thing as getting stuff TOO CLEAN. I don’t know how I’m ever going to keep them clean now. ugh

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Once the muscles stopped hurting and I could move on my “weekend,” I made some progress in the barn. 10 scoops of 1/4″ screened bank sand, 20 1/4″ screened yellow native clay and 3 large forks of hay/straw.

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I wanted time to see if it would just fall off the vertical Phrag before I brought anyone else in to help.

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The seem along the top of the wall still needs attending to but the walls seem to be staying up. Remarkably, they haven’t really checked the say the 1st layer in the Seedhouse had.

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All the windows are secured with “chicken wire” and most of them are open now. it smells good and is bright and airy in there. Chickens being chickens, they mostly get it that they need to go in the door they came out of… most of them get that. 3 or 5 still get stuck in the barn every night instead of going through the coop’s exterior door. The goats have the run of the rest of the barn, except the feed room and the milking parlor.

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We took Maly walking the other day and there’s a chance he saw the fishes slowly positioning themselves close enough to catch the potential cat food or Frito that may or may not be inbound. They stayed far enough back that if Maly had seen them, which we kind of doubt, he couldn’t have gotten them anyway.

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Ding Ding Ding, end of round one

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Yesterday saw the end of our first batch of syrup making. Leah slaved away at the cooker and stove for what seemed like days on end. With the weather in the mid 50’s and lower 60’s for most of the week, the sap had stopped flowing but there was the risk of it spoiling on us if we didn’t get it cooked down. This meant that we had to get it cooked, soonest. Because of that, we dragged the propane cooker out of the basement and brought the sap to a boil on it before putting it into the big cook pot on the rocket cooker. Not what I would have preferred to do as propane costs money that winter keeps in short supply. But we make do. When the temperature drops back below freezing at night and the sap freezes, only the water freezes, not the sugar. This allows us to pull water out without expending any energy. It also speeds the process along. That didn’t happen this time. Which has to be one of the oddest things I’ve witnessed in the years I’ve cooked sap. Remember, we are in the Northeastern corner of Ohio, and this is JANUARY!!! Why the temperatures are that high is beyond me. But no matter. We got a little over 2 gallons of syrup and the season hasn’t officially started yet. Here’s hoping for a long one.

 

Let the Sap Flow

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The weather outside has certainly turned to the weird. My folks, who live in western Central Ohio, had a low of -2 F just a couple of nights ago. And though it didn’t get that cold here on the shores of Lake Erie, we are facing temps in the 50s tomorrow or the next day. Up and down, up and down. Like a regular ping pong ball. What that means to us, here at the farm, is that the Maple trees will be giving up their life blood in the days ahead. Now, I know that the going wisdom once said that the day to tap trees wasn’t until February 15, we have been tapping our trees in January for, at least, the last few years. Any time the temperature goes above and below the freezing mark can be considered Maple season. So we put out our 20 buckets.

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I decided to tap a bunch of different trees this year. Rather than going all the way to the end of the driveway for the 2 clusters out there, this time the buckets are all right by the house, particularly at the north end of the house. We’ll see how that goes. Several of the trees are pretty small (8-12″) so they only got 1 spiel. Also different this year, I read on some tapping page or other to try and set the spiels either above a large root or below a large limb. Makes a lot of sense. That and to stay away from trees with any large dead sections. Every year we learn a little more. Like drilling the tap holes to 2″ so that the sap can drain from the phloem, cambium, and the xylem. I don’t think I was drilling deep enough before. We shall see.

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We had freezing rain and then rain on top of the 8″ of fresh powder that got laid down in the last few days. This made the snow, Oh So Packable. Leah made a bearded snow creature (I think it is Old Man Winter) to say Thank You to the trees.

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I just rolled up a bunch of giant balls and stacked them up into a lumpy monolith. Maly said that the stick belonged in his mouth, NOT stuck into the snow. Always the critic. I’m looking a little rangy. Winter. Grown ass adults making snow sculptures. We have a long way to go til spring.

 

Mud floor gets a leg up

coop floor surveyours mark

Tuesday was a big big day. There were 6 people, a dog, 2 goats and most every single chicken at some point helping out. The 4 leggers and the birds mostly just crapped on things and knocked stuff over. Like normal.

My hat in hand, I must thank Stephanie and John from Red Beet Row, Gretchen from Cherry Valley Ecological Farm and Patrick from Octagon Acres. This floor has been staring me in the face for months now. Not doing much of anything but drying out and getting burrowed into by the chickens in their eternal quest for the perfect dust bath. And what have the goats managed to hurl to the floor and smash now? With all these people coming to get the floor done, I no longer had any excuse to put it off, so we did it. Half of the floor the first day any how. It went down quite well. We could mix the cob a bit wetter than I would like to for walls. It didn’t really need to stand up to anything. And this is just the first goat anyways. coop goat prints

With having just finished the first layers on the Syrup Cooker and Mary’s Grotto (later), I’ve found some success with increased durability to the elements by adding a couple of scoops of hydrated mason’s lime, NOT farm lime. This is the same stuff that I used on the outside of the Seedhouse. Only there, the mix with only lime and clean white sand. Here the mix was 50% yellow clay 50% bank sand (both thru a 1/2″ screen) 2 scoops of lime, and a flake of last year’s moldy hay because I don’t have any straw at the moment. I found that not only does the lime harden the clay enough to shed water, the mycelium grows through the clay as it dries, binding everything together in one final explosive embrace. I haven’t actually read too much about what people use in their earthen floors, beyond using elephant dung which is polishable and antiseptic. Who knew? I have lime. So I’m throwing it in everything. I just imagine how the chicken poo will soak into the cob. The smell will be in the floor no matter what. The hope is that the lime will keep the floor together longer with all the shoveling and scraping that will happen in there. It’s not cement. I accept that. I also accept that I can’t grow more lime. The closest mine is in Genoa, Ohio. Closest supplier is in East Cleveland. What will happen in 5 years? Dunno. 50? Beats me. It’s a floor. It’s a dirt floor. In a chicken coop. Whatever happens to it will be WAY worse than anything that will happen to a floor made of the same recipe in my house. I want to see what it does with 50 chickens living on it. Just to see. Same with the Rocket stove. I just want to see what I can do with one in a building that I go into at least twice a day, every day. Or someone does. I got a warning about lighting the stove at -20 F. They apparently hammer out every bit of moisture in them at once and lock the system up after about 30 minutes. It makes sense. 2 different barns. 2 different builders. It’s only set in dirt at this point. coop rocket

As you can see in the above image, I went back out to the barn the next day and finished off the rest of the floor. I had to go back across the street for another load of sand, but by the time I got to the doorway, I had used up all of the clay and sand that we had brought over.coop floor dust box

This is the SW rounded corner of the room. The Phragmites bundles are shown as the basis for future earthen plaster work. I left a corner of the floor exposed to the tamped dirt with a treated 2×4″ frame is set flush with the floor surface so that more dirt can be added as they throw it around all winter. If I hadn’t put this dust box in, I wouldn’t have had enough cob to get the floor as close to the opening as I eventually did. The floor is within 3 or 4 inches of the doorsill, whenever that gets figured out. In addition to filling in the thermal battery and around the firebox on the rocket, I’ll need to go over the entire floor with a finish layer. This will mean I need at least 1 more load of clay and 1 of sand, so I figure there will be enough to get the floor out as far as I need it to be. I figure to set bricks in the cob under the door. Between them and the lime in the clay, I hope to discourage diggers.

Another deterrent to diggers and chicken killers is the mesh that I put up over all 4 barn windows today. This has allowed me to remove the windows from their sashes and allow even more air to move through the barn. There is an actual breeze through the barn now. And I’m content knowing that the varmints can’t get to my birds. And the 6 chicks that hatched 3 days ago. It’s nice having broody hens. She seems to know what she’s doing. There is food and water just out of the frame, and the box has some extremely expensive chopped straw that I paid way too much for at the BIG BOX FARMY STORE. I can make myself feel better by saying that it’s a business expense and I can write it off.

 

Baby barb in Bubba's Shrine

Here is Mary’s Grotto as it appeared in my Mother’s parent’s front yard in the spring of 1967. The child is not me as I wasn’t born yet. My folks were dating, but weren’t married till later that year. The brown sticks to the left of the image are/were beautiful roses that surrounded the Grotto by the time I came along. I am currently wearing the belt of the man who is taking the picture. He passed away last year. This is my Uncle Mike taking picture of his first child. A little girl, Barb. It’s a good belt.

Mary's Grotto

The intervening 50 years were harder on the grotto than they were on Mary. It was the roses and the rose light filtering down on her all those decades. The bottom of the Grotto crumbled to pieces as I picked up, leaving 2 bent sections of rebar hooked out the bottom of the long cement curve. These I torched and bent straight. The cement chunks are left over from the patio/sidewalk/driveway job. I drilled a hole in each of the 2 front slabs of cement and filled in around the rest of it with lime cob. I made the small bowl out of what was left.

Once everything has a chance to cure a bit, I’ll go back and apply a final coat. Depending on how froggy I get to feeling that is. I just never know what I’ll be doing next. Oh yeah. Just so you don’t think Viann didn’t get in on the action. Here is her contribution.

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Never one to let a good turn go unpunished, she must have had a great time once she found the bag sitting there uncovered this morning. She beat that thing into submission. I don’t think all that much got wasted as there was a half a bag there when she found it. When Leah saw it this morning she just asked, “what did you think would happen?” No answer. I knew that she did it because of the white powder coating her horns and powdered down her neck, to her shoulders. Every error, every misstep. Goats, they find them.

Not hot bees

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Leah came and got me yesterday with a note of panic in her voice. “I think the bees are getting ready to swarm!” she cried. Okay, so she wasn’t panicked or crying out. She just sort of said it with some concern. The image is what we found. We sent some messages around and got word back to just chill out, just like they were doing. And to open some doors and windows in order to help ameliorate the situation.

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So this morning we did just that. Granted, the first image was taken at the heat of the day (mid to upper 80s ) with almost 90% humidity. This put the day somewhere between what other people define as “Miserable” and “Why do I live here?” The day was a cooker, don’t get me wrong, but for days like that, winter’s -13 degree kiss becomes all the more unbearable. So if you were a bee, wouldn’t you want the doors and windows open too?

Come to find out, the hive was all out of order in the first place. Apparently the “top” is the thin sheet with the oval cut into it. This goes under the “lid,” which is exposed to the weather. This oval holed sheet does not separate the inner boxes. My mistake. Also, we hadn’t removed the “door reducer” from across the bottom lip of the box. That hive had to be screaming hot, with only the one way in and out. Also, I drilled a 7/8″ hole in the upper frame. This will provide a lot more cross ventilation and it will create new travel patterns inside the box. I hope it helps.

Here’s the trick. Part of me thinks I’m a complete idiot for doing this, but the entire time I was drilling and opening and prying and examining the box and it’s parts, both Leah and I were totally unprotected. No mask/safari hat. No hazmat suit. Just open it up and go about the business at hand. We were out there first thing in the morning so everything was cool and calm at the box when we got there. My memory of my Dzeda working the his hives will be forever with me. He didn’t not care if he got stung. He just knew how to not get stung. Don’t upset things any more than necessary. Do what needs doing and be decisive though gentle about it. Much like doing a head to toe, full body assessment on a trauma patient in an ambulance. Thorough, complete, no mucking about. As apposed to getting all weird about it. Be it hesitance and fear, or ill intent and mischief. These critters would know the score. They smell me more than I smell me. If they smelled even a hint of malice or fear, they would have nailed me. I never gave them that. I was just something that was repeatedly getting a little too far into their flight path. This, however, changed once I started manipulating the hive itself. I knew that I was upsetting things when I was working at getting the door spacer out of the way. They had already glued it into place pretty good and I needed more than a little effort to break it free. All the while, the buzzing around my head got louder and louder. I don’t know if everyone came home and were blocked from getting through or as a response to an alarm call. But they were there. Leah, wisely a step or 3 back away from the hive, said that the bees were a cloud around me. From my perspective, just a little less than arms length from the bottom of the box, I saw some extra bees, but traffic didn’t seem to slow down or speed up all that much at the door. As soon as the spacer had been removed, I stood up, and the cloud was gone. PooF! The angry buzz was gone. Everything was just as suddenly “Okay.”

Then we took the boxes apart and moved the ‘top’ to the actual top of the uppermost frame. The “new” frames are all clean up and seem to be getting used, if only a little, so far. Having moved the massive restriction from the box, I’m hoping things will progress at a better rate. Totally for their sake. The honey they are making is all for them. At least at this point. If they make WAY more than they can use, even on a harsh -20 winter, then we might take a frame off once everything is settled. Only time and the season will tell that one though.

Everything is fine?

fine1
fīn/
adjective
  1.  of high quality.
    “this was a fine piece of filmmaking”
    synonyms: excellent, first-class, first-rategreatexceptionaloutstandingqualitysuperiorsplendidmagnificentexquisitechoiceselectprimesupremesuperbwonderfulsuperlative, of high quality, second to none; More

  2.  (of a thread, filament, or person’s hair) thin.
    “I have always had fine and dry hair”
    synonyms: thinlightdelicatewispyflyaway More

 noun
  1.  very small particles found in mining, milling, etc.

adverb

informal
  1.  in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well.
    ““And how’s the job-hunting going?” “Oh, fine.””
verb
  1.  clarify (beer or wine) by causing the precipitation of sediment during production.
  2.  make or become thinner.
    “it can be fined right down to the finished shape”

    So apparently the formatting for wordpress hates me today.

  3. I can’t seem to get it to knock off this numbering thing.
  4. I’m stuck in what feels like history class from when I was a kid.
    1. I can even put things in closer

though I’m pretty sure I’m stuck here

Oh, uh, I have no idea what I did, but now the entire thing is correct and it looks like i’ve just made all that up. really I didn’t.

So Leah and I were talking about something in the car the other day and she asked me if a thing was fine. It’s getting blurry now that I’m trying to re-hear the conversation. “Was it fine?” or something like that. I sort of mumbled, “ya gesso.” and a drip of sweat fell from my nose onto my shirt. Which launched us into the meaning, and usage, of the word FINE. While I recognize the many applicable meanings, what I think of most often in reference to the word FINE is just sort of ho hum. No complaints really. No problems. Functional adequacy. (I just made that up) Nothing special to write home about. She threw back at me that there is a Class distinction in usage that isn’t fully conscious on my part. My dad used the GI bill after his time in the USMC and learned how to lasso numbers and get them to do what he wanted. My sister got that from him. I did not. Not that anyway. I got other things from him. But she got the numbers. My father is part of that great AMERICAN DREAM that the Greatest Generation believed in. His father, my grandfather that gave me my last name, got a gob with no significant education (maybe finished high school but I’m not entirely sure) in a Tool and Die factory in Youngstown OH. The factory moved to Conneaut is 1948. Because of his skills, he, like my steel worker other grandfather, was ineligible for the draft to serve in WWII. Essential services. They were made to feel good about their not fighting in the War to End All Wars 2.0. They weren’t cowards. They made a living and provided all the things they were supposed to, per that AMERICAN DREAM. I would imagine that household was fairly loud (Italian) and undoubtedly got pretty physical at times (3 boys). Grandpa watched his boys go off to the Marines (2 of them) and then a different 2 get college educated. The dreamers in the family weren’t my father. He got a numbers job with the State and turned that into one with the Federal Govt. Private Contractors were Civilian Employee back in the early 80’s. So he made enough of a living that we never wanted for the basics, not ever in my memory. So according to the terms of the American Dream, he/they did it right. And I can’t argue that. They did what they “knew.” Especially my grandfather and his Greatest Generation. Regardless of the ultimate cost.  Our lives weren’t hot new cloths and the latest sound system and dirt bike and a zipper jacket for everyone. Not that kind of money. But enough to get it done. My childhood was not brutal or a struggle by most any standard. I grew up a pink skinned boy in the 70s and 80s. Back the, being such a person gave me an advantage that I didn’t really know about for many years. Things were turning towards the toilet and they had absolutely no clue how weird it would all get. But the thing I remember asking my mother about that rings loud and clear after at least 35 (closer to 40) years ago was, “What class are we?” “Oh,” she replied, “there are no classes in America.”

Well, no. We were all taught this. Boot strapping your way to the top. Rags to riches blah blah blah. And here the big circle closes, we were shown that we as NOT Elites simply could not understand what made something FINE. So we blew it off as serviceable. We were shown movies and told stories about how the elite live. Of kings and queens, Tzars and Brahmin. I caught on at some point that this was not and never would be my world. Fine things were only ever glimpsed in museums or in images in TV shows or magazines. Never tangible or accessible. Fine of that sort was fairy tale. It’s that elite FINE that is unobtainable for the great unwashed.

“How’s that shirt fit?” Fine. “How does it feel?” Fine. “What do you think of the style?” Fine. Now set that conversation against a different background. Make it a costume made silk and linen designer shirt that retails for $900. One of those ones that go under Armani Suits. Brooks Brothers and all that. That is a very different FINE.

Drinking a cup of home brewed tea out of one of my cups is undoubtedly a different16th century Nipponese Tea Bowl

from drinking it out of a 16th century Bowl used in an actual Tea Ceremony. For one thing, I like the way I make my tea. The 1 tea ceremony I went to back in 1981 was interesting but I was 11 at the time and pretty overwhelmed at just being alive and drawing breath to really pay attention to just how amazing it was to live as an 11 year old in a little island in the Pacific that had been invaded by my people and was in the process of still occupying the land that was already in the midst of several hundred years of occupation. (Okinawa is a distinct people and culture from either Japan or China) So yeah. How well do you remember one more cool thing from when you were 11? I’m amazed that I even remember it. Flying sideways off a trampoline in gym class? Seared into my memory forever, up to the part where I lost consciousness. Tea ceremony? Yeah. I guess.

So all of that, right? True class warfare sort of stuff. Well. No, not that far reaching. But it is a usage distinction that is bred not taught. I was never taught to appreciate the feel of great/fine clothing or how it feels to interact with fine foods or furniture. The stuff we had was fine and we went on with things. And most likely is comes down to that lack of breeding, but from my perspective, that tea bowl, pictured above, that’s priceless and more that 500 years old, works exactly with the same utility and function as a Styrofoam cup pulled from a sleeve. Both vessels are fine. And it really depends upon who you are asking. I know things about pottery so I have an understanding (very course and base) of how pottery can ascent from the realm of craft into the place of ART which is so amazingly rare as to be nearly nonexistent. (think 1 in 1000 thrown cups might be clear of form and line and glaze true and hold form and just be effortless to hold and interact with in terms of balance or the way it stimulates my finger tips where I’m touching it and my lips and tongue where I press my face to it to consume fluid that flows across an area of that vessel to meet my mouth. Proportion texture form volume all contribute to experience. Why else are there 900 styles of beer wine booze glass? What exactly is a high-ball? And does allowing the pilsner to speed up flowing down the long glass introduce it to the back of my tongue first and does that really allow for a fuller appreciation of the more subtle flavors?

Or is it all exactly bullshit?

It’s a cup. It’s a shirt. A car has 4 wheels (usually) and gets me from point A to point B. I got to drive a 1968 Chevy Corvette Stingray. All original and the head liner was hanging down just a tiny bit and touching my head. While I did not get to OPEN ER UP!!!! I could indeed tell that this car was about the most ridiculous, ill conceived means of moving about that I had ever been in. There is no back seat. And it did have a trunk because it was not a convertible. Driving it wasn’t a stupid thing to do. Not at all. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do either. I was taking it to get brake work done. But I could just tell that new, spanky squeaky new, this thing was a rocket. A rocket with nothing but open roads ahead. Must have been an awesome illusion. Same illusion someone gets in a Bently or Rolls. It is a car. It’s fine. I have never been a Rolls or Bentley, so I’m guessing. Sure looks like a car. Still gotta change the oil. They break when the hit things. Whoop dee doo.

I guess I was just never introduced to the world of fine things. My world was full of things that were fine.

As an aside, I did learn a thing or 2 about boots. White’s Boots has been making their product if Washington state for a century. They know what they are doing. Custom built boots are the shit. These suckers cost me all my discretionary funds to keep in shape and in soles. If there is an issue, send them back and for a cost, they re-build them from the ground up. New boots. Boots that are fine. Fine for fighting forest fires or digging holes or walking around the block. But I prefer heavy boots. My idea of fine in this case is particular. imagine working an 8 hour shift washing dishes are Applebees wearing an Armani suit. Not fine. These boots. Totally fine. Please, don’t get me wrong, these ARE NOT $8000 boots. No No No. Nothing that stupid. They are just the exact same boot that people, men for the most part, have been stuffing their feet into for a long time. They figured it out. If there is a Chippendale version of boots, I don’t really care. I’m fine with them how they are. Did I neglect my step-daughter because I did not encourage her to look higher above the horizon and appreciate the fine things in life? Is that something that is even do-able? Does any of this matter? I’m willing to bet that no one in an Armani suit, sitting in a Bentley, is wearing White’s boots. They just aren’t. And I imagine that my thinking a car is a car and a shirt is a shirt is the entire point. I’m too stupid to even care that there is a difference. I guess being this stupid has it’s own benefits. I don’t have to pay the up keep on one of those monsters. Can you imagine what the insurance costs? And you know they have most than just liability. They have the kind of insurance that spells out how they can take whatever body parts needed to rebuild the Bently owner from other party. Regardless of who’s fault it is. I mean, I guess that’s fine.

 

Syrupocalypse be damned

While I am the one fully responsible for this spring’s volcanic eruption https://trilliumcenter.org/2016/03/04/syrupocalypse/

I feel like I’m making up for it this week.

 

I ran the soil through the 1/4″ screen this time. Luckily I had Leah helping pound the stuff into smaller chunks. That took a minute, let me tell you. Hanging in Yaz’s timber framing shop is a quote that makes too much sense.  I’ll butcher it from memory. “Love of a craft is measured by one’s ability to revel in it’s tedium.” I see that and my back aches. I know it’s true. I am objective enough to know just how much I’m able to revel in that tedium on any given day. Luckily, the last 2 days have been one’s where the tedium is well worth it. Even shed a bit of blood.

The mix is the same proportions as before with an addition. 50% local yellow clay/ 50%sand, 2 fat flakes of hay and 2 heaping scoops of lime plaster. The plaster is to start “tightening ” the cob. Or that’s what I’m telling myself. I forced the hay through the 1/2″ screen and discarded the vast majority of the longer and thicker stems. The cob went over the bumpy scratch coat pretty easily. I left the mix a bit on the dry side. The scratch coat was fairly rough so it had plenty to grab onto. Of course the first layer was only on there a day so it hasn’t really had enough time to start drying (read shrinking) Either way, it grabbed on and hasn’t let go yet. The ‘bowties’ seem to be doing their jobs.

The top is made of regular metal roofing that I backfilled under the ribs and secured to the brick with more masonry screws. Not only is it there to hold the pot away from the riser opening, it’s acting as a rain shield for the top of the thing. Not just that, this top is also a chest level razor blade. Or head level for kids. I’m looking for some way to address the sharp horizontal edges. Hopefully the final layer of plaster will be tight enough to serve and I will be able to trim this stationary horizontal guillotine back to a reasonable length.

All the irregularity is gone, replaced with long gently swooping curves. Not so terribly simple as I thought it was. OK, to be fair, I didn’t think curve would be easy. I’ve wrecked enough drywall trying to finish it to know that this stuff is not going to give me any breaks in terms of final surface. That, and gouging the tool into the already smoothed-out cob just past the transition. That’s pretty depressing actually. Feeling the tool turn just a little too much past effective and catching the curve. Digging in just far enough to expose the pebbles and fibers just below the nearly burnished surface. Leaving a hole that it takes 15 or 20 passes to refill with finer materials and leaving no scar. I must have gone around this thing 8x, re-surfaceing again and again. Needless to say, I was dripping with sweat by the end. With all that, the weather reports (and the not so distant booming of lots of thunder) calling for thunderstorms that never unleashed here. Plastic sheet on, plastic sheet off. More disruption of the smooth surface. More strokes.

cooker decoration

Leah graciously agreed to decorate the cooker. She complained that this was only the second time 2nd time she has sculpted like this. The first time being the spiral in the Seedhouse. The question arose as to whether she should build up or cut away. The only caution I saw with cutting in too much was exposing the longer, tougher stems in the scratch coat. She said that she did a little of both. I think it’s quite fabulous. And if this is her 2nd time, I can hardly wait to see what she can do after a few more projects.

cooker with pot

This isn’t the final layer. I still need to put a thin coat of very refined clay and not fiber and a lot more lime plaster and skim it one more time. None of this will be any time soon of course. This stuff dries really slowly here. 87% humidity right now and it never did rain here. The cob, that I used to seal around the bottom of the kiln, is only just now starting to dry out. I probably should have waited for the scratch layer to dry more. Let it crack and deal with the fact that the inner bricks are a single contiguous mass that isn’t going to be shrinking at all thank you very much. The cob is already cracking horizontally, above the firebox. I kind of figured that it would crack there. With the steep transition, I was unable to apply anywhere near as much pressure at that joint. Me thinks, ‘less compression at a really thick spot floating over a 90 deg corner, let’s see what happens.’ Like the adage I picked up the other day, ‘build your barn first!’ Chickens could care less if they are living in a prototype or a finished product. {That’s WAY too abstract for their tiny little brains.} I got the message though. Actually, what I heard, way back in the once ago, was to build the SAUNA first. Instead of last like most folks do. It was 2nd and it’s 3rd incarnation only burned the barn a little bit. Lessons learned. Failure breeds innovation? So yeah, make the worst and most obvious mistakes on things that aren’t quite as important as survival.

My entire life feels like a prototype. I don’t know at what point it will start feeling like I’ve got a handle on things. Leaving public safety constituted my mid-life crisis. I never did pick up my red convertible. Had one all picked out too. Not really.