Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Workshop: "Throw something out? What?"

Before new cedar siding was applied to my house a few years ago, twenty-year old board and batten siding had to be removed. The pine boards were used for several other projects but the batten, or 2 inch wide wood strips, were piled onto my back deck and covered with a tarp for future use. Only now am I making use of them.

["The green stain shows up but the house looks fine and dandy to me."]

Several times I thought of burning them all but couldn't bring myself to burn more than two or three cracked ones. I tried using a few for birdhouses but the green stain required at least two coats of primer and coloured paint. Then, about 6 weeks ago, a worthy idea finally came to mind... log cabin style birdhouses.

["Old barn board looks great in log cabins."]

["The perch is unique. It's off the end of a broom stick."]

Slowly but surely the pile of battens under the tarp is shrinking. It would shrink faster if I hadn't also found fine old barn board under the same tarp ("Oh, this will look just dandy too!") and if I hadn't purchased five new sheets of barn board recently to see how the new wood would compare with the old. But it's shrinking nonetheless.

["New barn board is easy to use."]

By spring I should have the deck cleared - no more tarp - and a basement full of log cabins. And so it goes.

Photos by GH


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Friday, December 28, 2012

Gordie Boy: Twinkly self-portrait

I've been told I have twinkly eyes but it's hard to tell by looking at photographs because I'm usually the one using the camera at our house.

This self-portrait is illuminating. I may have twinkly eyes or I may just be standing in line with the florescent lights over my workbench. It's a tough call.

Photo by GH


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The Workshop: "Locking up is postponed"

This has happened before many times. I say one thing and do another. Though I recently said I would lock up the shed after finishing two batches of birdhouses - that have dominated my time for the last two weeks - another plan is afoot.

["New barn board is easy kap-easy to cut and assemble"]

The batch (of six) made from new barn board is finished, red trim included on each unit. And the batch (of nine) made from aged barn board is very nearly completed. Another day should do the trick.

["Aged barn board makes my work even easier"]

["A cedar roof is a pleasure to apply. No sanding needed"]

That being said, while adding lovely cedar rooves and aromatic trim to a few houses yesterday a wee idea popped into my head. "Gordie," the idea said, "you know where to purchase 800 - 1000 year old western cedar for fifty bucks per board and you received $100 from Betty (my generous mother-in-law) for Christmas. What a lovely set of birdhouses you could make!! Do it. Do it. Do it!"

I think I'll do it. Then I'll lock up the shop.

Photos by GH


"Then I'll lock up the shop." I say that now.

Do ideas stack up in your workshop too?

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Favourite Photo: The lure of the French River

Friend Don Kelly stood upon a bridge overlooking the French River back in August and didn't know I was snapping pictures. I think I see a faraway look in his eyes.

It is a beautiful area and definitely worth a return visit in 2013. We talk about guiding a canoe down the river together. If the trip pans out I'll let you know.

Photos by GH


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Fun and Fitness: "I'm in big trouble"

I exceeded my 'fitness goal for the week' for each of the last three weeks, i.e., I collected more than 100 points per week by riding on the exercise bike, playing hockey, walking hither and thither, etc.

["Last week - excellent. This week?"]

But I haven't collected 1 point this week and I've over-indulged at the supper table and with snacks in front of the TV for the last 3 - 4 nights. Building birdhouses in the shop and sipping coffee at Chapters while browsing the 'bargain book' aisles doesn't count I'm afraid.

Though I know I'm in big trouble (I don't think I'll collect 100 points over the last three days of this week) I also know I've collected a lot of extra points over the last few months. Conflict and resolution will likely sort themselves out in my mind by Sunday evening!

Photo by GH


Are you taking life a little easier this week? Feeling guilty?

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Workshop: "A lock on the door"

Five cabins need to be 'trimmed up' - then they'll be done - and nine more need to be sanded, assembled and trimmed up. Then I'll be done and I'll put a lock on the workshop door! At least until March.

Of the final fourteen, some will look like the model below (finished last night):

Before the trim -

After the trim - 

["What can one do with old hinges?"]

["Stained glass windows provided by friend Don Kelly"]

["A touch of class? What will birds think?"]

Will I share pictures of the final fourteen. You bet.

Photos by GH


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Rare Family Photos: Ida Belle - one of a kind

In a photo from February, 1961 my grandmother (on my mother's side) kneels beside her two stellar companions, Judy and Boozie. Ida Belle (nee Gordon) Catton was born to Scottish parents, lived in Norwich, Ontario most of her life, without a husband since 1930, and never remarried. She was a constant in my family's life and I see, hear and remember a few significant things when I study the photo thoughtfully.

I see a stone path behind her, leading to a backyard garden and one of the last functioning outhouses in my hometown. She happily rejoiced when an indoor toilet was finally added to her Stover St. house. I recall that the bathroom - and toilet seat - were as cold as ice in wintertime, but at least the new room saved me a trip outside.

I see my mother Edith Jane in Ida Belle. Same narrow shoulders and slim figure. I'm pretty sure I don't look like my grandmother (I think I look more like her mother, Lydia Jane Gordon), but I see similarities in our shoulders and arms.

I hear her voice in the midst of lively family chatter around my mother's dining room table. Ida loved to play cards and had a chuckle that went up her sleeve. And because of a story told me about the day her husband Lorne Catton died, I can hear the lonely wail that leapt from her throat after the terrible news was delivered to her.

She carried on. She had to, because she had four children. The Catton family lived on nickels and dimes for many years and grew up with a remarkable, creative work ethic that, in my humble opinion, lives on to this day.

Once she asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her a new car. She got it for me. It was five inches long, made of tin, and painted up black like a police car. Because I was a teen I didn't place much value on the gift, though I thought my grandmother was pretty clever and made jokes about 'my new car'.

She was clever alright. Reliable to a fault and resilient too. And altogether lovely.

Photo of an old photo by GH


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The Workshop: 'Log cabins' on the brain

It doesn't happen often, but because a sturdy piece of old oak created a lot of smoke while I cut it on my table saw - enough smoke to attract attention from a neighbour or two - I purchased barn board (two 8-footers) for future birdhouses. I then drew up a schematic (as I call it), detailing how to cut the boards into logs and slats - just so - in order to minimize the waste.

["I was given the bamboo. Is it useful? I'll think about it"]


Today, after cutting the barn board and sorting and sanding scores of pieces, I assembled a half dozen fresh log cabins. And I produced almost no waste.

The cabins look AOK as is, and the red paint (please see below) doesn't look too shabby either in my humble opinion.

Trim will be applied soon, i.e., windows, chimneys, telephone poles, perches, etc. Nine other cabins still need to be sanded and assembled (some w cedar rooves: I look forward to seeing how they'll look), so tomorrow will be another busy day.

Sharp-eyed observers will notice there is an old chamber pot under the white bench above. A kind-hearted neighbour gave it to me, knowing how much time I spend in the shop. I didn't say 'no' because I thought it would come in handy... as a conversation piece, of course.

Photos by GH


Are you doing last minute projects in the workshop?

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Friday, December 21, 2012

The Workshop: "I'm busy and dusty and happy"

I created a tonne of saw dust recently while cutting and sanding materials for a batch of eight log cabin birdhouses. A thick layer of it covered every surface within 10 feet of the saw, including me, and my wife soon tired of hearing my lame joke of the week: "Sorry I'm late for supper but I couldn't find the light switch in the shop."

["The last of the cabins with a solid, white roof"]

["The last with a solid red roof but the first with hearts and birdies"]

I'm now just seconds away from continuing work on a batch of nine more cabins with slatted rooves. I think the cedar slats will make a very distinctive lid and help me rid the shop of bits of rescued cedar that have been 'hanging about' for quite some time.

["The cedar slats should look awesome and last for years"]

Here is something I've learned while making cabins: Just about every scrap of lumber I've collected (or rescued from the curb, etc.) this year can be used for logs and slats. Easy kap-easy, and it does my heart good not to throw stuff out.

Even tough wood from knot holes will look at home as perches, in my opinion.

More pictures to follow? Count on it.

Photos by GH 


Tidying up your shop before Christmas?

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Prose: "Snow is on the spruce boughs"

Snow is on the spruce boughs
Squirrels are on the prowl,
But homes with solid porches
Are safe from winds that howl.

Some scenes outside my window
Have a wondrous tale to tell,
And white upon the spruce boughs
Reminds me all is well.


Photos by GH


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Climate Change London: "Squirrels are on the prowl"

I saw the thick thick layer of December snow this morning and raced for a pencil. I wrote: "Snow is on the spruce boughs, squirrels are on the prowl." Then I stopped because I couldn't quickly come up with a word that rhymes with prowl.

I also thought, when will NASA post the average global temperature for 2012?

According to their website, their monthly and yearly results are posted automatically and I'm predicting I won't see the 2012 result until mid-January. I know last summer was quite hot but that' might not lead to a "hot town, summer in the city" trend. And I've been told by members of the cold conservative circle that global warming is over ("If there ever was such a stupid thing", some will say) based on a cooling trend somewhere. So, NASA's yearly results will fill in more of the factual story.

Until then I'll enjoy the thick thick layer of snow and try to finish my latest poem.

Owl? Scowl? Towel?

Link to NASA for more climate change details that affect London.


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London Birds: Stock the feeder

I'm very glad snow appeared upon the ground - and my bird feeder - this morning. I needed a reminder.

I have been so occupied with small projects lately I forgot to do an important task on my lengthy 'to-do list'. I.e., buy a large bag of mixed seed for my bird feeders.



The task will only take me five minutes. Coffee at The Roaster... two bags of seed at Tuckeys' Home Hardware. Easy kap-easy.

["I'm glad too I live so close to the
corner of Coffee and Hardware"]

Photos by GH


Is your feeder up and running?

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Favourite Photos: Quay Street Brewery, Port Huron

Last Sunday my son Paul dusted me off and dragged me out of the workshop for an afternoon. Smooth move too, I say. 90 minutes later he plunked me down at the bar in the Quay St. Brewery just on the other side of The Canada - US border.

["We parked on Quay St., beside a graceful metal sculpture"]

I was soon surrounded by the house specialty - a sampler tray of eight brews. "What do I do now?" was not a question I had to ask. I just had to select one 5-ounce glass at a time in a leisurely fashion... and sip away. It's good work if you can get it.

Two hours and one delightful lunch later we walked back to the car, but not after I'd snapped a few pictures of the brewery's east wall. It was home to a few hop vines (lower left of building), a rare sight in my experience.

Though the few cones I picked did not survive the trip back to London in my coat pocket, one or two photos remind me of the day's rare outing.

I should ask my son to dust me off more often!

Photos by GH


On Saturday night I sampled one small glass of Great Lake Brewery's Winter Ale. Yummy.

Have you sampled a good beer lately? Which one?

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Climate Change London: "What does a warm hat mean?"

Last Friday, within a 10-minute time span, I spotted three warm hats atop heads - human and non-human. To me the hats were a good sign. Winter is coming. Needed cold weather is coming ("It kills the bugs," my dad used to say.) And Santagoyle is coming to town.

Two hats I spotted atop pedestrians crossing the Thames River. The last was atop the hard round head of a quiet, stone-faced man, who can be seen daily crouching on a neighbour's porch in Old South, using both hands to (apparently) keep other small bits of stone-work warm.

Some people in the cold, conservative circle will take these hats to mean that global warming is over, that a natural cycle of earthly cooling is now well under way and the human population should continue to drive the economy as we have since the end of WW2. Business as usual. No need to worry about environmental concerns expressed by a growing number of others.

As we know, there have been cooling trends in the past, even a few short ones in the last 100 years. For example, average global temperatures were cooler in 1991 and 1992. After that, however, the warming trend grew ever steeper. The change in global temperatures have evened off on occasion too in the last century, but to say a significant cooling trend is now underway - as do many inside a cold conservative circle - is dangerously foolhardy and ignores the evidence related to averaging global land and ocean temperatures since 1880.

Please link to NASA records for more detailed information.

Photos by GH


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Fun and Fitness: "Monster Monday works for me"

Last week I knew there was trouble ahead - so I wrote about it, of course - but I found enough time in my busy schedule to collect 100 points for exercise. (4 - 5 minutes of exercise = about 1 pt.)

["When I reach 800 'extra miles' I'll take 8 weeks off!"]

And Monster Monday certainly helped me reach my goal. For two Mondays in a row I cycled 40 miles on my exercise bike and fit in more cycling, walking and hockey when I could, enough to collect 114.5 pt. two weeks ago and 109 last week, and enough to set two consecutive new records for 'extra miles' (N.R.).

["I cover 40 miles in about 2.5 hr. That's a good reading time"]

This evening - to keep the streak alive, I plan to go for another long 'Monster' ride and read another chapter or two of 'The Day of Battle', Volume 2 of The Liberation Trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson. Good books and Monster Mondays are working for me!

[This book is 'Recommended Reading']

Photos by GH


What works for you?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Climate Change London: "One fat millimeter of snow"

Yesterday, if you'd looked north on Wortley Rd. in the Village after coffee time at The Roaster, you would have noticed a hefty layer of snow, our first of the season. See atop the car on the right. See atop the tarmac on the left.

["The ground isn't frozen yet, but global warming is over?": Photo by GH]  

Though the final global average for temperature for 2012 isn't in yet (at least at NASA) the fat layer of snow I saw yesterday will likely encourage some to say that global warming is over, the earth is experiencing a cooling trend, there is no need for climate change alarm, all is well with the world. And that's in spite of the fact that, though there have been several cooler years that followed on the heels of warmer years in the past century, the trend has been upward. Though 2011 was, on average, cooler than 2010, it was still clearly the 9th warmest year since record keeping began in the 1800s.

Global warming has had a long lifespan, and we're still not sure what all the ramifications of climate change (or instability) have been or will be. And to say - because of a bit of snow or a cooler year on the heels of a warmer one - all is well with the world, so do as you will, is not a wise move.


Is London in a warm belt?

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