The Anne of All Trades Blog: Adventures and Updates

The 3100 finally has a name!

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In June, I had the incredible opportunity to buy my dream farm truck, a 1953 Chevy 3100. My grandpa and I had always planned to restore an old truck together, but he passed away before we got the chance. When I graduated from University, I restored a 63 mustang in his honor, but I had to sell it while I was living in Asia.

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This truck seemed too good to be true, and for a couple of months, it was. As it turns out, when I went to register the truck, there was a title issue which prevented me from transferring the title into my name. I’d done my due diligence, from as far as a lay-person could tell, everything was in order with my purchase, but when I went to register it, all kinds of red flags started going up. To make a very long story short, I’m now on a first name basis with everyone at our local and state DMVs and there have been endless visits to their offices, endless paperwork, and lots of phone calls. The whole situation has been very frustrating in and of itself, but most frustrating is the fact that I can’t start any of the major renovation projects on the truck until the title is clear. That said, it being an old truck, it does need a little fiddling here and there to keep it running in the meantime, and of course I’m happy to oblige.

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Earlier this week, my little buddy, Chairman Meow, who’s been shop and farm cat extraordinaire for seven years, the cat who followed me like a dog, slept at the foot of my workbench in the shop, and ran to greet me when I pulled into the driveway, passed away suddenly. Chairman was my first pet stateside, a gift to Adam and I while we were engaged, and to say we were very attached is an understatement. He was a constant in our young marriage, he made the move to the farm with us like a champion, and he lived the best life a cat could live, and none of that made it easy to say goodbye to him.

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A few minutes after I got the news about Chairman, however, I got the call that the truck was finally mine. I decided to name the truck the Chairman in my little buddy’s memory- a reminder that even on the hardest days there is a silver lining to look for.

Posted on October 8, 2018 and filed under Adventures and Updates, Blog.

Outdoor Kitchen Update: WOOD FIRED PIZZA OVEN!

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After another extremely busy few weeks on the farm (hello summer harvest! hello new animals!), the days are shortening and the mornings are a little chillier. We've been enjoying more farm to table dinners than ever before thanks in big part to the huge inspiration that came with the first step in my dream outdoor kitchen build- the installation of a wood-fired oven.

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To make room for the 1100 lb brick oven from Authentic Pizza Ovens, I had to pull up a few boards on the porch and build a sturdy stand. The stand is a little sparse for the time being, but that is intentional, I wanted to be able to easily work around it for the rest of the outdoor kitchen rebuild, which involves replacing the deck, adding roof cover, building an enormous farmhouse table, and installing a food prep and bar area. Ideally, this outdoor kitchen will become our more-used kitchen. Fenagling that enormous thing up there was quite an adventure in and of itself, but thankfully, when my own tractor failed to lift it, my buddy Clint was able to trailer his tractor over to lift the oven and get the oven mounted on the stand.

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I spent five days "curing" the oven, building increasingly hotter fires inside it so as not to dry it out too quickly and crack it. By day five, I had a major hankering for wood fired- EVERYTHING. And so I've spent much of the last few weeks experimenting and doing a whole lot of entertaining. 

Though I've been doing a whole lot of cooking and baking my whole life, folks online started getting a whole lot more interested in my recipes when cooking with fire got involved, and, really, I can't blame them for that. To that end, I have actually also started a cooking segment as part of the homesteading topics covered on YouTube, and the first was, naturally, my mom's failproof dough recipe. 

As is the case with every project I tackle trying to restore this old farm to its former glory, I’ve got my work cut out for me. To add strength to the stand, I used lap joints. The stand will eventually be fully enclosed, with wood and pizza paddle  storage underneath, but I will wait to do that after I’ve replaced the deck. My biggest priority was getting the pizza oven lifted to it’s final destination so I could use it this harvest season, and as long as I can use it to cook, I can make do with everything else until I can finish the rest of this project. I got it mounted and cured just in the nick of time, just as the tomatoes and basil hit their peak.

If you haven’t already guessed, I LOVE to cook. I grew up in a house where the making and eating of dinner was a family affair, and I was su-chef in my mom’s and grandmother’s kitchens as soon as I could walk. My family spent much of my young life living and traveling abroad, and my first experience with wood fired ovens was baking bread with my babushka in rural Ukraine, when I was a kid, and I was hooked. I loved stoking the fire and the smell of burning wood and baking bread.  I’ve had plans of building a wood fired oven from scratch on the farm since we moved in, but there are so many other, more pressing projects I’ve had to deal with before I could get to a quote “luxury” project like that, that I started looking into commercially produced ovens, and that’s how I came across Authentic Pizza ovens. There are tons of sizes, styles and price points available, and I chose the one I did because I didn’t want to be limited to cooking pizzas in it, this is actually going to become my primary oven. Authentic Pizza Ovens are handmade in Portugal, they are beautiful incredibly well built. And, this model especially, is a total tank. Such a tank, in fact, that I couldn’t even lift it with my own tractor, I had to hire my good buddy Clint to haul his tractor over and help me out.

Preheating these ovens actually takes about the same time as preheating an electric oven, especially if you jumpstart the process with a torch.  It takes a few tries to get used to controlling the temperature of the oven based on the amount of wood added and moving around the coals efficiently, but just like driving stick, it quickly becomes second nature. Those first bites out of the oven were pure heaven, so reminiscent of so many awesome memories from my childhood, but also just super rewarding to see some of my longterm dreams come to fruition.

I used my mom’s failproof dough recipe and some farm fresh ingredients to make what I kid you not was the best pizza I’ve ever tasted in my life. That pizza was followed by the best cinnamon rolls, then the best steaks, and now I’m basically just walking around the farm all the time looking for more stuff I can cook in that oven.

Yes, it’s a tad more cumbersome to cook in a wood fired oven than an electric oven or even a gas powered bbq, you need to have enough foresight to light the fire in time for it to be hot when you’re ready to cook, but you can save about 25 minutes in heat up time if you use a torch, and since I’m outside all the time anyway. It’s not hard to make a few extra trips over to the oven in the day to tend the fire, especially knowing the delectable goodness that will be my reward if I do.

Authentic Pizza ovens makes a gorgeous oven that is built to last. Though I loved the idea of building my own oven, getting a ready made oven was quite literally the difference between being able to start cooking this summer as opposed to waiting two or three more years before I could set aside the time to do so, so it was a no brainer for me to opt for a ready-made oven and take a couple days to build the stand and get the oven properly mounted.

A few notes on the things I’ve cooked thus far in the oven- the pizzas- use a ton of flour on the bottom of the crust, it helps enormously when it comes to sliding the pizza on and off the peel. Never walk away from the oven, your stuff cooks FAST in there. I’ve never made 6 minute cinnamon rolls before, but there you have it. When cooking steak, I pre-heated the pan on the cooktop before adding the steaks and putting it all in the oven. I don’t know if that’s a necessary step, but it gave me peace of mind.

So I hope I haven’t got you drooling too much with all this food, I look so forward to tackling the rest of this outdoor kitchen build later this year. As always, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by, make sure you go out and make something with your hands this week. Cheers!

Posted on September 3, 2018 and filed under Blog, DIY and Home Renovation, Farm / Garden, Adventures and Updates.

What happened to the Hand Tools?!

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I got an email recently that made me realize that while I've been running around like a crazy person trying to start a business, finish writing my book, run my farm and keep my family alive, I haven't been doing a great job of keeping all my audiences apprised of some of the key "behind the scenes" things that might seem relevant, especially those following along specifically for the handtool woodworking and fine furniture building. For those that don't want to read this entire post, here's the quick answer: I don't do fine woodworking/handtool projects in the summer. Between the farm and my traveling teaching schedule, I simply don't get the shop time and focus required for large scale, complicated projects like that. My woodworking mentor, Frank (who is 97 by the way), has always told me that in Seattle, if the sun is shining, we stay out of the shop. I take full advantage of every sunny day we get to do construction projects around the farm, work in my enormous vegetable garden, snuggle my animals, cook outdoors, can, and preserve our harvests so we can eat well through the winter. Summer is also the time for nightly bonfires and long chats with friends and family. Mandolin playing in the sunshine, and trying to fit a huge mountain of work in the in between times.

If you'd like to know more about my business, and how things have changed for me over the past few months, check out this interview on the Made For Profit Podcast https://madeforprofit.com/episode55/ 

Some fun summer highlights thus far:

  • Teaching handtool basics at Port Townsend School of Woodworking
  • Buying my dream project truck, a 1953 Chevy 3100
  • Working the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Open House
  • Assisting Ashley Harwood with her week-long turning intensive at the Center For Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine
  • Building a tiny house on the farm with my best friend April for my mom, who has always dreamed of living in a tiny house.
  • Cultivating our four season garden
  • Building an outdoor kitchen (pictures to come)

So for those who are here just for the handtools, stick around, they'll be back for a few really fun projects this winter- another windsor chair, a dining table, another hanging cabinet, and more. For those expecting ONLY handtools, this is a gentle reminder that my handle is Anne of ALL trades for a reason- you can expect snippets of huge range of stuff on my channels, from the restoration of my 1953 Chevy farm truck, building my metal shop, working with the animals, processing the alpaca fiber, expanding the garden, continuing the restoration process on the farm, expanding my blacksmithing efforts, woodshop adventures and outfitting the rest of the tiny house. 

 

 

Posted on July 28, 2018 and filed under Adventures and Updates, Farm / Garden, Furniture Making.

A Visit from the Wood Whisperer

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This past week, I put the finishing touches on my new shop build just in the nick of time for a visit from one of my longtime woodworking heroes, Marc Spagnuolo, of Wood Whisperer fame. His book, Hybrid Woodworking, was one of the first, most influential books on woodworking I've read to date, joining Chris Schwarz's Anarchist's Toolchest at the top of my favorites list. His YouTube channel and Guild Projects have been inspiring and instructing burgeoning woodworkers since 2006.

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A few months ago, when Marc asked me to design a project to teach in his Guild, I jumped at the chance. The timeline of the project definitely lit a fire under my tushie, because I needed to have a fully functional shop in order to build a fully functional project on a short timeline, so the days the past few weeks have been long and the sleep short as I worked feverishly with my good friend Nick Piloto to get my new shop to a useable state. Of course ever the procrastinator, I was still cleaning the house in my JAMMIES when Marc arrived to my house two hours earlier than expected last Friday. Of course, every girl dreams of meeting one of her heroes in an unshowered, unkempt, jammied state, so that was definitely ideal. Marc instantly calmed my jittery nerves, however, and after he graciously allowed me time to clean up a bit, we got right to work filming and building the writing desk I'd designed (read- jotted some notes on a napkin) for our four day build-off. In between camera takes, there were a lot of laughs, a lot of good conversations, a lot of hard work and thankfully, only a few mistakes, all of which were easily fixable and fantastic teaching moments to boot, and we ended up with a truly beautiful Mid-century Modern Style Writing Desk.

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The joinery is rock solid, the shape closely follows the wood grain, and I've got a fancy new desk to sit at while I finish writing my book, edit videos, and answer the 500 emails I need to catch up on in between springtime farm work. Stay tuned for a build-a-long blog post with the desk, a shop tour, and more in the upcoming week. If you haven't already, hit the subscribe button so you can be sure to stay up to date. 

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Posted on March 18, 2018 and filed under Adventures and Updates, Furniture Making.

WorkbenchCon, Finishing the #SuperShop and a Visit from the Wood Whisperer

After a whirlwind few months, I've got another insanely packed few weeks before Adam and I take a much needed week of vacation at the end of March. This weekend, I'll be at Workbench Conference in Atlanta, GA. If you happen to be in the area, stay tuned on Instagram about the various Maker Meetups and events I'll be attending and please do stop by and say hello. I'm most looking forward to getting some quality time in with my two close friends, April Wilkerson and Ashley Harwood, both incredibly talented female woodworkers who I both look up to and adore. 

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Other highlights will be meeting other makers I've admired from afar and recharging my batteries and getting inspired to hit the ground running when I get home. Upon my return to Seattle, I'll be getting my new workshop as finished as possible in preparation for the arrival of Marc Spagnuolo, the Wood Whisperer, who will be spending a few days filming me building a writing desk as a purchase-able online class for his online woodworking school, the Wood Whisperer Guild. 

For those local to Seattle, Marc and I will be hosting a Seattle Meetup on March 10, 2018 at 7pm in the Wood Shop at Pratt Fine Arts Center 1902 S Main St Seattle, WA 98072.

Looking towards spring and summer, I am really, really excited to have my new shop operational and can't wait to share the many fun projects I've got up my sleeves in the coming months. Thanks so much for following along!

Posted on February 20, 2018 and filed under Adventures and Updates.

Big announcement!!

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I'm super excited to announce that I've been asked to start contributing to Marc Spagnuolo's Wood Whisperer Guild. The plans for my first guild project are on pre-sale now. This is an expansion of the Oak Writing Desk project I built with Jonathan Schwennessen at Homestead Heritage in Texas for Furniture and Cabinet Making Magazine Issue 248 last year. Click here to view and purchase: https://thewoodwhispererguild.com/product/writing-desk/  Marc will be flying up to the farm to document our first video plan project together, and it promises to be a fantastic time and a wonderful build. I'm really excited to share in an in-depth, detailed, well-documented manner more about the projects I take on. 

 

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Posted on January 15, 2018 and filed under Adventures and Updates, Furniture Making.