Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Effects of Lake Effect Snow

When the wind is out of the Northwest and the temperature is around 20 or lower you can count on lake effect snow. This snow is usually quite dry and fluffy and easy to move. The clouds form bands that pass overhead like waves so that the snowfall is alternately heavy and light. Although the snow is fluffy it can pile up at the rate of several inches an hour.

I once asked a friend of mine who uses a snowscoop to clear his driveway why he never got a snowblower. His response was that he had never seen anyone operating one who looked like he was having fun. Inevitably the snow is blown back into your face and find yourself wrestling with to a misery wip (the oldtime loggers term for a two handled crosscut saw). This year I built a covered cab for my tractor complete with a polycarbonate windshield, windshield wiper and plastic sides. While it's not quite as comfortable as the warm cab of a pickup truck, it is a huge improvement over sitting atop an open tractor. I could have bought a heated cab for for about 4 grand, but I elected to spend a little over a hundred bucks and build one myself.

Winter evenings are long, but they're good for woodworking in the garage. Here I'm gluing up some oak boards for a rocking chair seat. I've never built a chair with oak before, so I am interested in seeing how it turns out. One of the advantages of oak is that because it has an open grain it finishes very well with 120 grit sandpaper. Tight grained woods like cherry require much more sanding - typically beginning with 80 grit and progressing through 120, 150, 180 down to at least 220. If you really want to make it shine you should continue on to 320, 400, & 600 grit. Oak is much more forgiving because fine sandpaper scratches disappear in its porous surface.

The beginnings of two chair seats. I'm planning to add a wide lip in front to make a long curved slope for your legs to rest on and another in the back as a riser into which the back slats are joined - similar to rockers I have seen in Finland. Oak has another interesting property: if you wet it with a vinegar in which you have soaked steel wool, the wood ebonizes - turns black. I may play with that also.

Last summer our garden was invaded and overrun by pumpkins. We watched them choke out our beans, dominate our potatoes and humble our corn. When we tried to fight back we were scratched by their rough vines and mocked by their explosive regrowth. So we bided our time, waiting to take our revenge.

Here is what a pumpkin looks like that has finally met its match. It has been disembowled, cut up, baked, skinned and ground into mush...

And to add insult to injury, poured into old peanut butter jars. Presently we have thirty jars of pumpkin mash in our freezers. Each jar will make one pumpkin pie. Do the math; we're getting the last laugh. The canning funnel shown in this picture, by the way, is one of the most elegant inventions I know of - simple and effective. It does what it was designed to do so well that it is joy to use. After years of trying to fill jars like these with things like crushed strawberries without spilling any on the outside of the jar, this little device makes it ridiculously simple. If you don't have one you need one.

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