Stacking Firewood the Old Way


I have been spending the past several days cutting, splitting and stacking wood. Fortunately, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous here in northern Minnesota, perfect for cutting, splitting and stacking. It is an exhausting job. During the summer some strong storms rolled through and knocked down a lot of trees. Ultimately, they were turned into saw logs and piled up for me to cut into fireplace wood. I have made a pretty good dent in the pile. The pile in the photo at the bottom of the page is about one third its original size. I still have a ways to go yet.

I stacked the split wood in a large round circle rather than in rows. That way the stack stays up without any end supports. Once the stack is high IMG_4995enough I put loose pieces in the middle. It is an old world method of sacking wood and it works quite well.

The wood is mostly poplar and spruce. I will burn that in the fire ring outside. The oak, ash, and maple are stacked near the house and will be used for heating in the house.



Make a Planter from a Discarded Weber Grill

IMG_4283 It all started when I decided to tidy up the clutter of junk that had accumulated behind my garage. One piece that I came across was an old 18 inch Weber grilling kettle. The legs were gone and the receptacles that hold the legs on had rusted off. The grates were gone and the metal clips that hold the grates were bent or broken. Clearly, the kettle would never be used for a grill again. Then an idea invaded my thoughts. I could use it as a planter. All I would need would be some wooden legs. The vent holes in the bottom would help with drainage.

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To hold the kettle I collected up some short pieces of 2X6 all about 7 inches long and cut a 22.5 degree angle on each end. When 8 of these are fitted together in a circle they make an octagon with a center that is a perfect size to drop in the kettle. It was then just a matter of making some short legs with 2X4s. A little paint and some casters on the legs completed the project.



For planting, I put a piece of garden fabric over the vent holes in the bottom to keep the dirt from falling out. Then I added several handfuls of wood chips to help with drainage. Along the sides of the planter I added some Styrofoam insulation pieces to help keep the plant roots from getting too hot. A metal container generally does not work well as a planter without some sort of insulation. After that it was just a matter of filling the container with potting soil and putting in some plants.

I only had a few plants on hand to put in the planter. I will want to add a few more to fill out the space. You can see my finished product at the top of this page. It is sitting next to the matching chair that I made a while back.

I invite you to visit my curios store where you will find a number of unique items for sale.

Rustic Bench From Scrap Lumber

IMG_3707Pictured at the left is  a comfortable outdoor bench I built from scrap lumber. The bench is quite comfortable to sit on and I have begun to make a slight dent the pile of scrap wood that I have accumulated.

There is always a certain amount of leftover material from the various construction projects that take place around my home. It seems there are always short pieces of 2X4s or an odd shaped piece of plywood that has no use in the project. Most people dispose of such scrap in some rational way but I have always had the nagging thought “you never know when you might need a short piece of 2X4 or an odd shaped piece of plywood.” So, I tend to save all the scrap and pile it up on one of the back lots. Over the years the tangle of boards has accumulated. I not only have a huge pile of such scrap, but I have several of them.

Here is a photo of one of the piles. It is not the biggest one but it is the one most visible. Weeds have grown up around the other piles making them difficult to see let alone actually find them. I suppose I should find a way to dispose of all that scrap wood but there is always that nagging thought that keeps coming back. It is my dilemma. IMG_3704

The bench is of simple construction. I just made two rectangular frames for the end pieces (short pieces of 2X4s) and then nailed boards across (an odd shaped piece of plywood) for the seat. I added some braces and made a simple backrest. Although simple, it took a lot of time to make. That is because most of the lumber was twisted or warped. I guess that is why it was in the scrap heap to begin with. But that’s OK. Most of my wood working projects end up being mostly wood putty anyway.

I decided to paint the bench. Under my work bench I found some opaque brown oil paint that I used to paint the old cabin some 15 years ago. The old cabin isn’t here anymore. It burned down a while back. But I still have the paint. The paint seemed to be OK but I had to stir it for 45 minutes to get the solids back into suspension. After years of going through freezing and thawing cycles the solids had settled to the bottom to form a thick, stiff mud.

You might notice the red paint on the borders of the bench. That is just some of my foolishness. I had about two fingers of red paint in a quart can and I wanted to use it up. So I painted the edges. I thought it might give the bench a little more character. Now when I look at it, it looks like it’s smiling at me.

The bench is actually quite comfortable. My plan is to make a few more benches and place them along the walking trail that leads through the woods. I walk the trail every so often but knowing there is are benches every so often for me to sit and rest will make the walking more enjoyable.

I hope you will take the time to look at some of my other handiwork at my store “Really Cool Jewelry for Men.”



Dried Apples


Several years ago I planted an apple tree on our Northern Minnesota property. I planted a Haralson apple tree as it is one of the few apples trees that can survive the climate this far north. It is a full size tree, not one of those dwarf trees. It’s about 20 feet tall. The Haralson apple was introduced by the Minnesota Horticulture Research Center in 1922 and was named after Charles Haralson, a superintendent of the U of M breeding farm.

The tree has survived, sometimes struggling and sometimes flourishing. One time a few years ago a bear broke off a large branch leaving a significant wound in the tree trunk and in another year the leader stem mysteriously broke off but the tree continues to survive. It produces heavily one year and then lightly the next as is normal.

This year we got a bumper crop of bright red apples. We had a long cool wet spring and a long warm fall. Both are important to apple production in this climate.  And, this is the year the tree would have heavy production.

So, now the question is what to do with all the apples. Of course we will just store a lot of them. They store fairly well. In addition there will be apple sauce, apple pies, apple crisp and whatever else I can find to make with apples. What ideas do you have for using the apples? Right now I am drying apple slices. They make great snacks.

Check out my on-line garage sale at Sirocco’s Curios. You never know what interesting you might find.

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The Park Bench

Park BenchMy project for this week was to recondition an old park bench that I had in storage. The finished product is at the left. I bought the metal components for the bench at auction last year and they have been laying in the garage since. I didn’t pay much for them; it seems that no one else wanted them. I thought it would not take much to bolt some 2X4s across for the seat and to make a wood frame for the back.

Well, it turned out to be much more work than I anticipated. That seems to happen to me a lot. I found that readily available dimensional lumber does not fit in the cast groves of the bench sides so I had to rip 2X4s to fit. That takes a lot of time and it makes for a lot of sawdust. In addition the bench seat is curved so I ended up using my block plane to shape the wood a bit. The metal parts were rusted so I had to clean, prime and paint them. It just turned out to be more than I wanted to do. But it came out OK.

I don’t know why I get myself into these projects. They usually consume more resources (time, money, and energy) than if I just went and bought a finished product. Well, I guess actually I do know why. I like to work with my hands. I need always to be making something, or repairing something or repurposing something. Just buying a finished product seems so benign. As Monk would say, “It’s a blessing… and a curse.” Now, I need to decide where put this thing. It’s very heavy.

When I am not fixing or repurposing something you will usually find me in my little studio making adornments for sale in Sirocco’s Trading Post. Stop in to the trading post and take a look around.

Native American Winter Wonderland

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It looks like we will have a white Christmas at our Northern Minnesota outpost after all. This is the home of Sirocco’s Curios. Winter finally arrived when just a few days ago we got our first significant snowfall. Winter has been slow to get underway here and I was beginning to get a bit worried. We have been in a drought situation for over a year now. There was not a lot of rain or snow last year and it was unseasonably warm. It is still too warm. The snow came down in big giant flakes and collected on the trees. There they froze giving rise to a picturesque winter wonderland. I snapped a few pictures and added one here for you to see.

When I am not sitting in the cabin and looking out the big picture window at the winter wonderland, you will find me in my little studio working with beads, leather, and silver fabricating various adornments in the Native American style. I just recently completed these two necklaces. You can find these and other such items in my on line store, Sirocco’s Trading Post. I invite you to stop in and take a look around.

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Metal Backed Lawn Chairs

ChairsOne thing we like to do at our north woods cabin is to sit out by the fire pit with a nice big fire going. We talk family issues, tell stories and make smores. We Native Americans are quite good story tellers, you know. Although in my case I am probably more of a bull shitter rather than a good story teller. Oh well!

What I don’t have is good chairs around the fire pit to sit on. I have some of those fold-up canvas chairs that work OK but I have to get them out and then put them back each time. I prefer something that can just stay out there all the time.

I had one old metal chair that I had repainted and that one worked out nicely so I decided the solution was to buy some old metal backed chairs and recondition them. I like working with my hands. I have been visiting garage sales, junk stores, and antiques shops looking for the old chairs.

So far I have found only three that I could get for a good price. I sanded them, primed them and painted them. You can see them in the picture. I think they came out quite good. They are all a different design and all a different color. I still need about three more. They are somewhat scarce though.

I invite you to visit Sirocco’s Trading Post where you will see some of my Native American handcrafted wares. Just click on the link.