Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What was I thinking?

I'm on day three of the garden gate construction. It has been much harder than I thought it would be. I spent the first two half-days working on sawing out the main corner notches. After completing just the first notch, I was questioning that there must be an easier way! But then by the third or fourth piece, it was going much easier and my cutting improved. Here is a picture of two very different corners, which shows how much better I became at sawing.

I could only do a couple corners at a time and then I'd have to rest my arm. So the concept of this corner is to flip one of these boards over and lock the two notches together at a right angle to make a tight fitting join. That's the term I fumbled around with and didn't know the name of before. Still don't. Anyway, 16 cuts like this one (each one took about 10-15 passes with a triple bladed saw) and I had the basic gate perimeter rectangles done.

Then I started laying in the middle supports. I was originally going to cut them to fit in between the 2x4's and jam them in, holding them with screws from the outside. But I was doing such a thorough job with this other 'new' method I had just learned, so I opted for continuing to work in the same laborious way. And the more pieces I added to the middle, expecting to cut corners at some point and switch to the easier way of attaching them, I continued notching my way along.

It sprinkled rain on and off, interrupting my work sporadically. Then after I finished one whole gate, it cut loose with a heftier rain so I had to scramble to get my stuff inside. These are big! I will need Hubbs' help with positioning them in place to attach the hinges. But that's another day.

To add a little asymetric interest, I staggered a couple of the vertical boards. I will do the opposite stagger on the second gate to mirror this one. I didn't want too many irregularities in the basic orderly design, but I did consider all kinds of options, drawing them out on paper first. In the end, I only went for this subtle 'misalignment'. Just like with the entry borders I constructed the other day, I don't feel like the scale of this gate is apparent. When I stand next to it, I am a foot shorter!

I worked steadily all day and I have a feeling I'll be very sore tomorrow. I was working on the deck, squatting down for most of the work. But thankfully, my back has been feeling very good lately, so I think my chiropractor's last adjustment was a good one! Tomorrow I intend to finish the second gate and stain and install them on the weekend. I hope my next post finishes off with the entire thing completed! Cheers!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


That's the sound of all those days flying by without making any progress on my projects. I haven't done anything constructive in over two weeks! Wow, that's just not normal.

I have purchased most of the rest of the lumber and materials for the garden entrance and gates. Since I'm not exactly the smartest construction worker there is, I had to ask a lot of questions of my father-in-law. I'm very picky and can come up with lofty, complicated ideas at times, but in the end, I need expert advice on how to actually achieve what I want. My F-I-L offered me the use of a much higher powered saw for some of the process. I have a rather nice saw that can do a combination miter, but my hand saw wasn't up to par. So now I get to use this very heavy-duty hand saw (skill saw, circular saw? I'm a girl- I don't know what it's called!) and we were able to stack 3 blades on this saw at one time. That will allow me to make much wider cuts where I will remove half of the thickness of wood from two separate pieces that get butted together at the corners. I don't know what that's called, but let's say it's like a dovetail join only with just one notch on each piece. Seems like extra work, but you know me... complications are welcome in my projects, and I have a feeling it will look more professional this way.

It's not fair of me to blab about something I haven't done yet, nor will I actually be able to make any progress on it until tomorrow. When I last left off, I just barely got the surrounding border started on the garden entrance. I'll work on the gates next, and finish off with the more Japanese touches across the top. I have been discussing this project with a gardening expert friend and she has given me some suggestions of ways to take the garden in a more Japanese-feeling direction. Imagine a section of tea plants, or a water feature or fountain, and I've already been planning the seating area outside the garden next to the chicken pen and future pagoda (storage shed). If any of you have inspirations on this topic, please share them in the comments. I would love suggestions.

So enough with the words, eh? How about a nice picture from this real Japanese Garden I visited? I believe this was in Fort Worth, but it might have been Seattle. I don't remember which. I would love to have a piece of statuary like this to put somewhere in our garden. I shot this picture using high-speed infrared black and white film. I processed and printed it a few years ago when I had access to a dark room. I actually still co-own a complete darkroom with a good friend who lives in Tulsa. It's set up in one of the rooms in his house. Conveniently, I used to live right across the street from him and we spent a lot of time producing beautiful images... well, that was before I moved to Texas. I don't foresee doing work like this anytime soon, but it really is a nice effect, isn't it? This special film 'sees' things that our naked eye can't. For instance, the foliage in this scene was probably a nice rich green color. In regular black and white film, that would read as a medium or darker grey color. But with infrared film, it appears very light, due to a lot of infrared rays being emitted from the leaves. This highly sensitive film does unexpected things at times, but it's results are usually magical and surreal. In this photo, I have hand-colored the leaves a pale, pale green. The ground and stone structure are a tan color due to the light sepia toning I used on the fiber-based print.

Since I won't really have any garden progress to report until tomorrow, I think it's only fair that I share an awesome recipe I made tonight for a family barbecue. I give most of the credit of its success to the awesome Deb Perelman whose blog shares the absolute best recipes at Check it out! She won't steer you wrong! So these beans... they are hot and spicy and bacon-y, and very good. I started with Deb's recipe, using all of the same ingredients, but added a little more of this one and a little less of that one, and arrived at what I was happy with. This recipe makes a lot, so if you're getting together with a group, it would be perfect. For me, it made two casserole pans full. It's so good, I never want to eat canned baked beans again. (Well, let me explain something... these were canned beans, but they were plain, unseasoned beans, not the sweet saucy 'baked beans' to start with. But using canned beans bypassed all the soaking and longer cooking time of dried beans. If you have the time and inclination, you could certainly go that route.)

Hot, Spicy, Smokey Baked Beans
(adapted from smitten kitchen, who, in turn, adapted it from Bon Appetit, July 1999)

6 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon and added oil to make 'drippings')
2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cups purchased barbecue sauce
1 cup dark beer
1/4 cup molasses (I used organic, unsulphured)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 chipotle peppers, minced (from a can, packed in adobo sauce)
or roughly 2-3 tablespoons. Feel free to add more, you numb-tongues out there!
6 (15-16 oz.) cans Great Northern beans, drained

Fry bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings from skillet to large bowl. Finely chop the bacon and add to bowl. Add onion and next 7 ingredients, whisking to blend. Add the chipotle chilies and beans and mix well. Transfer mixture to your casserole dish(es) and bake uncovered for about an hour. Cool 10 minutes before serving. This recipe also called for chopped fresh parsley, but neither Deb or I used it and didn't miss it. You could certainly sprinkle a nice amount on top after it's done, or maybe cilantro. Adding epazote will take care of gas issues (see title of this post!) Have at it, make it your own!

As the weather is going to cooperate tomorrow, I expect to work hard and will show you some garden gate progress in a couple of days. But for now, why don't you make up a mess of these beans and enjoy!