Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beginning Garden Carpentry Lesson One: Don't Cut Off Your Thumb

In August, I took a day "off" and shelled out for some fuel to head north to Love Apple Farm where I enjoyed a day of "garden carpentry skills" with my sister-in-law. With Mr. B's blessing, and thrilled farewells from my children, I headed out the night before class so I could enjoy at least a bit of time with my niece and nephews before bedtime.

First of all, it was really weird traveling without the girls. Sure, it was nice to be able to catch up on my podcasts (current favorites: "This American Life" and "The Moth"), but I found myself talking to the empty back seats and missing the chatter that generally goes on there.

But I digress.

After a lovely, albeit short, visit with the nephews and niece, SIL and I were off to the farm. She's taken several of the classes here, and I can see why; the calendar is full of lessons so many of us could use, but which have skipped at least one generation. As more of us return to our gardens, the information is invaluable, and while there are plenty of gardening books, blogs and web pages, there's nothing like hands-on learning for getting the message through to the garden phase.

Our visit began with a tour of the impressive garden at the farm which supplies local restaurants with organic fruits and vegies. The hillside terrain is actually more difficult than ours, I would think, but the soil is far superior to our decomposed granite challenge. And the climate is entirely different. I'm sure they'd love to have more of our sunny days, and I'd love to have more of their moist, grey days. And so it goes.

Our course was taught by a thoughtful, knowledgeable, generous guy named Thomas Wittman of Gophers Limited. By all accounts, he's all about sharing knowledge. Even though he makes his living, at least in part, by trapping gophers and other garden pests, his website is a wealth of gopher-trapping information. (It's not like there aren't enough gopher-trapping opportunities to go around!)

We talked gophers and gardens, then tools and, finally, helped to build the first stages of a raised bed before heading to the garden to check out some garden entryways in development. My favorite parts included the hands-on introduction to basic carpentry tools, opportunities to try many of them, and the project that put them to good use.

So, what did I get out of the day, besides some giggles with S-I-L A? A Christmas list chock full of tools that could make life a lot easier here on The Farm, some basic carpentry skills, and more confidence toward tackling more projects around here.

These are the tools I really enjoyed and which would save us loads of time on your garden construction projects:

-- waffle hammer - so the hammer doesn't slip off the nail when it's at an angle. I always wondered what these silly looking hammers were for!

-- string line (chalk line) - for quickly drawing straight, more accurate lines (plus, brings back memories of a childhood spent, at least in part, on construction sites with my dad)

-- milwaukee impact driver (oh yeah)

-- milwaukee mini sawzall - the big sawzall is nice, but might be overkill for most projects)

-- Bosch random orbit sander - sanding by hand is great and fine, but takes an age)

-- makita 5.5" trim saw (circular saw) - our big old saw is both heavy and aged. This little saw would fill in the gaps and be easier to use

-- rip fence for skilsaws - learned how to rip wood to get the width we desire; another simple lesson simply taught

-- 6" Bessie clamps - hard to believe we've never had clamps before

-- mini Bessie clamps - for smaller jobs

-- 1.5" Tenon Tool (veritas) - for post projects - lots of post projects

-- Japanese saw - this was really cool for cutting flush wood-against-wood pieces

-- two sawhorses - we're using stacked bricks or the ladder; less than ideal

-- coping saw - for detail that the hacksaw just can't, well, hack!

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