Friday, September 20, 2013

There Once Was a Boy From Maine

There once was a boy from Maine,
who couldn't quite settle his brain.
He squiggled and squirmed
and learned all he could learn
to drive his poor parents insane.

- Joshua Klein, 2009

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ukulele Restorer Howard Greenberg

I recently got back word on the finished project from a student of mine. Howard called a while back to inquire about lessons on French polishing and amalgamation of coatings. He is an emerging ukulele restorer working in Northport, Maine with luthier Neal Flewelling.

The early nitrocellulose lacquer on this uke was in very poor condition. We worked through inpainting losses with shellac and dyes, then moved to amalgamation with very slow evaporating solvents. This process wet the existing coating again and allowed the cracks to meld back together. We had a few sessions together. Howard, with his visual art background, did all the work. I was just there to offer tips and to be a cheerleader.

Howard is definitely a skilled technician. It seems he does high level work that both he and his mentor Neal should be proud of. If you have a uke you would like restored, I recommend you contact Howard at

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Name that Rooster, and Start Breathing Again!

If you add up our meat birds, our old layers, and the new generation of layers we have 119 chickens at our house. We needed another chicken like I needed another hernia.

On our property, the clucking of the hens harmonizes with the bleating of the goats beautifully but we felt it needed one little touch to complete the aural composition. And besides, what’s a flock without a rooster?

Saturday morning we called our friends over at Quill’s End Farm and inquired about extra roosters “in stock”. They told us they had more than enough roosters and offered one to us. When we stopped over there Alexander skillfully wrestled an elegant Silver Laced Wyandotte and placed it in our travel crate. (If you are not sure why I said “skillfully” then you’ve never tried to catch a chicken before. Try it and you’ll understand.)

I am not sure that we are totally settled on his name yet. Eden wants “Garlic” and Julia and I vote “Tertullian”. We are not ones for naming all our chickens but there is something so distinctively personal about a rooster that they seem to need some sort of dignified designation. In past years we’ve went with names of preachers (eg. “Spurgeon”, “Sproul”) or of early/biblical church fathers (“Polycarp”, “Barnabas”, “Timothy”). What do you think this dapper fella should be called? Any ideas?

We’ve got 2.5 – 3 cords stacked finally. This is very close to what we need to heat our little house through the Maine winter. I bought 6 cords of log length this year so that we’d have enough for campfires, the earth oven, and maple syrup tapping in spring. Since open sunny/windy space is kind of a premium on this side of the house, we decided to try a Holz Hausen. This is apparently a German design for a wood pile. It is built round with the walls always tilted down into the center. Then the middle is filled with verticals leaning slightly out to counteract the pressure of the walls. When these principals are paid attention to, the structure is very stable. The theory goes that the verticals create a chimney effect, drawing air in, thereby increasing the speed of drying. The truth of this claim is dubious but it sure is nice to look at. (Not to mention saving us space!)

I just completed this fall front desk in the studio. Lid was cracked into pieces, drawers busted and warped, finish water damaged, feet broken, mold growth on secondary wood, screws stripped, lopers stuck, etc. This was a pretty comprehensive job. I wish I didn’t have it so long in my studio but I have to admit I was a little intimidated by it before starting. These kind of projects are always one step at a time. Needless to say I am pretty happy with the way it came out.

Speaking of intimidating projects, I’ve just begun this 19th century sea captain’s lap desk. Disaster of disasters. The roll top canvas is shot and things are warped. The whole mechanism is jammed and stuck. This is sort of a puzzle to figure out the most intelligent and sound repairs.

Eden’s been working on his letters. The long one that looks like a caterpillar is an extended/expanded ‘E’.

We feel the brisk fall air coming upon us quickly. Nights are chilly now. Sweater weather for sure. This time of the year is always so bittersweet for us: The seasonals and tourists with their conspicuous presence have all gone home. Gardens are slowing down. Daylight diminishes noticeably everyday. Cleaning out the wood stove, you begin thinking about picking up your poetry again.

It’s funny when you begin to see your breath again. I believe that some years I am convinced I’ve been holding my breath since spring. The whirlwind of spring/ summer is so overwhelming that it’s easy to work, work, work until you crash. Fall is for crashing. Fall is for breathing again. I am always relieved when these fall nights remind me to breathe again.

The heavens are glad.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Hummingbird, the Hatchet, and the Harvest

The other day Julia watched a beautiful little hummingbird fly in our front door and get his beak stuck in a window screen as he tried to escape back out. As he was releasing himself Julia snatched him up. We got an opportunity to see the creature up close before he flew off. What a treat. What a wonderfully made creature. This episode reminded me again of back in Bible College. One day when I was hanging out with Julia a bird flew into one of the conference rooms. It was panicked and flying into all the windows and without hesitation Julia pursued the poor soul scooping him up. As she released the bird, I thought, “Wow. This girl is amazing. I gotta marry this one.” I still feel that way.

As the summer season comes to its close we are putting by the year’s harvest. Julia has been processing greens, elderberries, apples, and amazing peaches from our wonderful tree next to the greenhouse. We’ve been loving our new bread oven too.

Work in the studio has been moving along regularly. It has been a challenge to balance all of the summer needs. This lifestyle is so incredibly seasonal… not only the gardening but this rural furniture conservation practice. A large number of the houses around here are occupied only during the summer months. That means when people are here… there are here. I’ve gotta be available. Repair to this corner that got smashed and weaving a new rush seat are examples of what has been taking up time in the studio.

Our meat birds are two weeks old now. They are no longer cute fluff balls. Now they’re odd looking eating machines. Yes, these are the Cornish Cross Frankenchickens. These birds have been successfully bred for meat production… almost too successful. These guys have had all the common sense bred out of them: you actually need to moderate their food or they will harm themselves with overeating. It is sad but as long as you act their common sense and take care of them they can live a good life.

Went to the famous Blue Hill Fair this weekend. We went for two things: the Monster Truck show and the Ferris wheel. The monsters trucks got rained out but Eden enjoyed the ferris wheel, driving the cars, and the carousel.

Since I have been working on our firewood, Eden felt he needed an axe too. I decided to make him a wooden hatchet. The head is maple dyed black and the handle is ash. He’s been loving it. It’s perfect for splitting cedar shingles for kindling. It’s pretty much good for nothing else except making Eden look manly.

Thursday morning we went to the rally in Bangor for Alorah Gellerson. DHHS has behaved disgracefully threatening to take her child because she fed her baby a homemade goat milk formula. Not on our peninsula. Never. I am so blessed to be a citizen of one of the Maine cities that has declared Food Sovereignty reaffirming our right to “produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of [our] choosing."

Here’s an article about Alorah’s situation: Penobscot Press article.

And if you aren’t already passionate about it learn about the Food Sovereignty Movement here: Documentary "You wanted to be a Farmer"