Friday, February 10, 2017


We got the most beautiful snow the other day. Heavy and wet so it stuck to everything. It was gorgeous.
Even the chicken fence looks pretty
Cooper was exuberant as usual. And I got to use the "run" feature on the camera. Stop-motion photography!

Look at those ears!

A wonderful walk in the woods that day. And we were fortunate enough to not lose power. The utility company came through just a few days before to do tree cutting maintenance and they did a great job.  Actually, they really did. I know a lot of folks have horror stories about them decimating the tree line or leaving a big mess, but these guys cut respectfully, cleaned up appropriately, and set aside the stuff big enough to turn into firewood. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

More bling for the tractor - forks!

Our primary heat source is our wood stove. And we love it. What we don't love quite as much is handling the firewood. Our business process improvement background tells us to streamline the process. In this case, that means minimizing touches. How many times do you touch (move) the wood? How can you reduce those touches?

You touch it when you cut it down, when you buck it up, when you split it, when you stack it, and when you move it from storage to use areas. And there is inevitably a pile step or two in there also.

Last year's overflow wood
That's a lot of touches
We decided a good way to reduce touches would be to change how we stack and store the wood. And to do that, we needed to make a small capital investment in tractor bling. We bought forks for the bucket. 
Getting in position to put on the forks
We have lots of wooden pallets - you can get them for free if you're willing to scrounge around a bit - and we used some to form an open-front wood bin.

Cooper helped
Ta da! A wood bin, or pod as we're calling them
 Then we moved it next to the wood pile.

Carefully positioning the forks 
Carefully placing it by the pile
We filled it up and then moved it to the front porch (our "use" area).

Wood on parade!
Attractive? No. Easy to reach from the front door? Yes.
We typically kept two 10-foot long wood racks on the front porch for easy loading to the wood stove just inside the door. It would take 5 bucket loads to fill each rack with Chris getting the wood from the storage area, bringing it around to the porch, dumping it on the ground, and leaving to get another load while I filled the rack. It'd take nearly two hours to fill both racks and it always seemed to be miserable out when the racks needed to be filled. Now? Yes, it took a bit of time to fill the pod, but it was easy to pick up and drive it around, easy to set on the porch, and no unloading was necessary. 

We'll continue this method for this year - load the pod from the storage area, move it, use it, repeat. But! Here is the awesome part. Next year when we gather firewood from the forest, we can bring the pod with us and load it in place. Then we can simply put it in the storage area and grab it when we need it. Yes, we'll need lots of pods, but as mentioned, pallets are easy to come by. 

We're finding that a full pod is a bit heavy for the tractor bucket (it's way out there remember, so the leverage ratio is a bit off). We'll likely have to only fill the pods 2/3 full to make that easy to move. But I think it's going to be so much easier in the long run. Many, many, fewer touches. Woot!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kitchen - the drawers near the stove

The drawer stack next to the stove is intended to hold cooking related items: knives, hot pads, pans & lids, you know, the usual. When I had the small tool chest there I found that the shallow drawers worked great for holding an amazing amount of stuff without it jumbling together. So that's how I designed the wood drawers too; a stack of five drawers with the top two being 3", the next two 6", and the final drawer 8" (or thereabouts, there are some decimal places in there to make everything fit properly). I used my super scientific method to come up with the heights - I measured my pans and left a margin for growth. 

After drawer design the next big question is what will you do for pulls, right? I was leaning toward using rocks like I did on the mudroom cupboards. Rocks are easy. We have them all over the property and the streams kick up some really cool ones that are smooth enough to actually glue to. I'd been testing a couple in the kitchen for months to make sure they'd stand up to normal wear & tear. They did and I liked the look. Then I realized that I liked the look against painted drawers, not against natural wood. Against the cherry they just sort of disappeared. So, out with the rocks. 

My next thought was to use antique silverware. It's readily available and relatively cheap (especially when compared to designer drawer pulls - holy crap! those things are pricy). There are tons of examples on Pinterest but most of them seemed to have you drive a screw through the utensil to attach them to the drawer. I didn't care for the look of the screw head so I decided to see if I could make it work with flat head bolts and super glue. 

I collected a bunch of old spoons, forks, knives, etc. I decided which ones I wanted on this stack, figured out where the bolts needed to be for the test pull, glued it on and tried it for a couple weeks.
Checking position 
Performing a trial
I'm pleased to say that I not only liked the look, it worked. So we moved on to the other drawers.

Good thing we hadn't put on cupboard doors yet
Here's the finished stack (note that poly has not yet been applied to the drawer fronts, that's why they're not as dark as the carcass). I used a variety of soup and sugar spoons here. I've got a great selection for the other stacks too - antique grapefruit spoons anyone? Butter knives. Table knives (the rounded kind, not the pointy ones). Ice tea spoons for the long drawers. It's been fun finding them at antique and junk stores, and I even got some from my Mom. 

I'm inordinately pleased by this
Positioning was a bit tricky. You can't just drill holes at a set interval and attach the pulls. Some spoons are longer or thinner than others and you have to choose where the bolts go. So if we end up hating this, it's gonna be ugly to go back to standard pulls. For that reason we've decided to stop building drawers and move on to another project for a few months. I want to really test these and make sure they won't pop off during normal use before I put them everywhere in the kitchen. 

Some close-ups of the drawers and pulls. I love all the old spoons I found. They've got so much character.
The 3" drawers - knives, hot pads, other utensils
The 6" drawers - shallow pans & their lids
Bottom drawer, 8", deep pans & their lids
And here it is from a distance. I sure hope this works because I really like how they look.