Friday, November 26, 2010


We gave thanks on a dreary, rainy day yesterday, but despite the weather the inside of the house was cheerful and steeped in the smells of cooking onions, sage, and garlic.

Squash, corn sticks, cranberry sauce and turkey brine was prepared on Wednesday. The rest we prepared on the day itself- mashed potatoes with butter and garlic; green beans; turkey gravy; giblet stuffing; and of course the bird itself.

We had a wide variety of squash to choose from. We ended up eating the Hubbard on our plates and the pumpkin in a pie.

Sam enjoyed his new Johnny jump up. He loves being able to "stand" and watch what is going on. And of course the jumping.

The family poses before digging in.

And afterwards, feeling full with delicious food and the warmth of family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making Wood Smaller

With rain in the forecast for the afternoon, I knocked off a little bit of painting before breakfast, and then after my second cup of coffee, headed outside to make big pieces of wood smaller. I've got two projects in my sights- a quick build of a pair of saw benches, and then a piece of furniture that should give me plenty to work on through the winter. It's a small bookcase with glass doors, out of cherry.

Making big wood smaller. The wood I am using started out looking like this:

Prunus Serotina (Black cherry)
(c) 2002 Steven J. Baskauf

I bought it milled from a man who lives just a mile or two from Louis Bromfield's Malabar Farm in central Ohio. This guy owns a small mill and saws lumber from trees on his own farm and those nearby.

I rough cut the pieces I will need and then fired up one of my few nods to modernity, a Dewalt surface planer. Most of the wood I use is either straight from the sawmill or sometimes rough planed, oversize. I spent about two hours planing up the pieces of wood to nearly-finish dimension. All finish work will be done by hand.

Here is the prodigious pile of shavings created by the Dewalt. This tool is used outside only!

And here is the resulting stack of lumber. It is now in my shop, where the moisture content will adjust from being outside in the garage to that of the house. I likely won't do much work between now and the holidays, but it's nice to know this beautiful cherry lumber is waiting for me in the shop.

This bookcase will be built along the lines of one built by Christian Becksvoort, which he detailed in an issue of Fine Woodworking magazine many years ago and which was reprinted in his book In the Shaker Style: Building Furniture Inspired by the Shaker Tradition (below).

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This photograph is of an uncle I never knew.

Arthur Ohman, my maternal grandmother's big brother, grew up the older son in a large family of Swedish immigrants in the cold northern reaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, along the shore of Lake Superior. He came in the middle of a pack of 8 siblings. Born in 1894, ten years before my grandmother, he was of age to register for service when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Though he did not die in the war, I thought today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, would be a fitting time to honor him with a few remembrances of who he was.

Despite his service away from his small village home of Skanee, he returned there and remained there his whole life, and seemed satisfied to do so. He never spoke much about his service during the war- at least not to his young nieces. Perhaps not surprising, and also perhaps typical of his generation. But the result is, I don't know how he served. He could have been driving an ambulance in France or filing papers in Chicago. He could have been like Hemingway's Nick Adams, returning to Michigan to find something within himself.

He was a smart man, and good with figures. He became the manager of a bank in the nearby town of L'Anse. Somehow he managed to commute the 15 miles between home and L'Anse, even through the deep snows of winter.

He liked quiet pursuits. He was a fly fisherman, and owned a small cabin on the banks of the Huron River near his home. He preferred the quiet contemplation of trout fishing to his brother Walter's hunting. He also ran a sugar camp in the late winter. Drawing sap from the maple trees, he spent his spare time in February and March making syrup which he would share with friends and neighbors. This photo shows him fishing on the East Branch of the Huron River near his camp.

Uncle Art, as my mother and her cousins knew him, also enjoyed singing, and particularly liked humorous songs, many of them in Swedish, which he would sing to amuse the youngsters at holiday gatherings. He also recited poetry, and my mother's earliest memories of Robert Service's "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" were from her uncle.

We still have Harry & David boxes that Uncle Art sent for Christmas to my parents when they were first married. He was thoughtful like that, and had a quiet sense of humor.

This final photo was taken within a year of his death in 1960. He died while on a fishing trip in Canada, drowned in a canoeing accident which I think was brought on by a heart attack or aneurysm. My grandmother kept very few paper documents in her life, but among her collection is a small bundle of letters- condolences sent to her after her brother died, from people who knew Arthur Ohman.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Awesome Aunties

We had a visit from my sisters Jane and Ellen this weekend. Ellen was attending an education conference in town, so I encouraged Jane to come too. We had a great time visiting, although the weather was downright miserable. The first snow of the season came early and we ended up with a couple of sloppy inches of wet snow.

That didn't stop us from ice cream at Malley's, lunch at the Biermarkt, and plenty of time for them to spend with Sam. He didn't mind at all!

Sam and Jane, Sam sporting a new bib to catch the dribbles.

Sam and Ellen getting a workout.

Pumpkin pie! Grandma's recipe (prepared by me), Mom's crust (prepared by Jane). Yum!

Jasmine helped out too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sitting in Anticipation

Sam is in great anticipation of a visit from his Aunt Ellen and Aunt Jane this weekend. So he thought he would try to sit up straight.

So he tried...

And he tried...

And he tried again.

Until he finally got it.

YAY for aunties!