After 4 years keeping bees, I’ve finally been able to harvest some honey! This is really “part 1” of the Honey Harvest video, because I’ll be making another video next week showing how to extract and process the honey with a centrifuge. I’m hoping to keep more hives at the farm next year, and am excited to have found a local mentor who will coach me a bit more in the process of keeping bees.
The Anne of All Trades Blog
As some of you may know, I’ve been keeping our chicken flock in a lean-to off my woodshop for the past three years. It was meant to be a temporary solution, but three years suddenly went by, and they were still in there. My shop always smelled like chickens and my roosters made for quite the soundtrack in all my woodshop videos. I’m very happy to say the birds have an awesome new space of their own, which means another super awesome thing: The lean-to off my shop can now be turned into a blacksmithing shop! Some awesome benefits of this new Growing Back To Eden style chicken coop are that it’s very low maintenance cleaning-wise, and that the chickens now have an important “job” on the farm: Stirring our compost pile. A single bird can move several yards of compost per day, and if you know anything about composting, you know how important it is to keep the pile turning. Enter: chickens, and a whole lot less time spent with a pitchfork in my hand. The compost also generates heat, which will help the chickens throughout the winter.
This is a fairly open coop design, and wouldn’t be ideal in a high predator population area, but thanks to our amazing flock watchdogs, the alpacas and donkeys, we haven’t lost a single bird to a predator in over two years.
Check out the build videos below!
This week, my friends Steve, Jeff and I made Roubo style frame saws intended for resawing and veneering timber by hand without a bandsaw. This is a great project to practice basic woodworking joinery and carving, and if your new year's resolution involves a gym membership, skip the gym and make some veneer with one of these beasts! You can get the frame saw kits we used to make these from Blackburn Tools: http://www.blackburntools.com/new-too...
The farm has gotten a major makeover, with a new roof on all the buildings, a new chicken coop, more work on the tiny house, and a huge excavation project putting French drains around the barn and in the livestock’s heavy use area. I’ve also been renovating another building on the property that will become a metal working shop for fabrication and blacksmithing. The barn interior also got a makeover in the form of new stalls for the animals, and they are SUPER happy with both the dry land in front of the barn (thank you french drains) and the clean, warm stalls inside the barn. All those projects have been EXTREMELY time, effort, and money consuming, and have really stretched me, but I’m thankful the work is done, and even more thankful for the friends that showed up to help with various projects and made them a whole lot more fun. I’ve learned these past few months that I can work physically harder, and fit way more into my days than I ever before thought possible.
As is always the case in the summer months, my furniture production schedule was basically non-existent, but I did manage to eek out a few things- some hand forged tools, a bookshelf, a Roubo style frame saw, and, in the after hours of a class at Greg Pennington’s shop in Tennessee, I was able to get the bones of a dining room chair together, which I finished up at home. Next on my workbench is finishing the modern rocker that I made in class that same week at Greg’s.
As some of you may know, my husband Adam was in a bicycle accident in August. He is healing up well, and with a bit more physical therapy, should be back to normal by Christmas. It’s great to have him feeling more himself again.
There is a WHOLE LOT of awesome stuff coming down the pipes over the next couple months: a woodshop tour now that the space is fully complete, a Christmas craft special, harvesting the rest of our 2018 honey, the completion of my fabrication shop and blacksmithing shops, completing my Modern Rocking Chair, the first in a series on my 1953 Chevy truck, and a whole lot more. Looking forward to sharing it all with you, stay tuned!!
If you haven’t already caught my last couple of videos, check them out below:
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.
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.
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.
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.
This post is in partnership with Joseph Carr Wines. They have invited me to share my journey and to celebrate it with a glass of wine.
It’s 1:30 a.m., and I’m sitting in the rocking chair I built last winter next to a roaring fire in the woodshop, drinking a glass of wine, listening to the rain outside and looking at the bookshelf I just finished building across the room.
My thirtieth birthday is this week. I’ve done my best to pack as much life into the past 29 years possible. I have a few regrets, but also a whole lot of hope for the next chapters. I’ve traveled the world, worked on fishing boats, behind bars and computer screens, started businesses, failed, and tried again. I picked up a few hobbies and turned them into my livelihood. I’ve reinvented myself multiple times in multiple places and built new lives from the ground up in each new locale.
Seven years ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on my favorite bench playing my mandolin on the waterfront in Taiwan, where I was living at the time. I was sure exactly Who I was and What I was going to do with my life. A recent university grad with a degree in International business and a solid grasp on the Chinese language, I was going to be a business tycoon, traveling Asia and making money I couldn’t even have imagined as a poor kid growing up in rural Montana. I was going to live in a high rise in the city, with every modern convenience, and dang it, I was probably going to be famous too. What. A. Joke.
My adult life has been a hilarious dichotomy, a constant struggle between my insatiable ambition, wanderlust, and the discovery that, in fact, I was not built for city life, board meetings, business plans or untold hours in front of a computer screen, I was made to live on a farm, surrounded by a close knit community, working with my hands.
Every year, life has sped up. This past year seems to have gone by especially fast. That might have something to do with the fact that I did more this year than I did in the six years prior combined. I built my dream woodworking shop between 7pm when I’d get home from work and 2am when I’d fall in bed dirty and exhausted. I shored up walls, became proficient with a sledgehammer, pulled wire, hung insulation and sheetrock and hung lights. I quit my job and went full time working for myself. I traveled to Europe twice, crisscrossed the US teaching and speaking, attending conferences and building relationships. I milked goats and trained donkeys and planted the biggest garden I’ve had yet. I found a soulmate kind of friend and we built a tiny house together. I built shavehorses, barn stalls and outdoor kitchens, whiskey cabinets and writing desks, workbenches and tool chests. I carved spoons and turned bowls. I forged tools, knives and hinges, welded table legs and steel frames.
In 2014, I started a business that failed miserably. There are a lot of reasons why, lack of self-discipline, poor business planning, high overhead, and an as-yet unidentified struggle with anxiety and depression that was getting out of control. I remember feeling so overwhelmed. I was too “busy” for everything I know to be important- family, friends, animal snuggles. I laugh about that feeling of “busy-ness” I had then, now because I cannot, for the life of me, tell you how I was filling my time. I was working twenty hours a week, had a couple pet bunnies and a few raised garden beds. No kids, no debt, no real responsibilities of which to speak. Today, I’m running a business. I’ve got a four acre farm, a half finished tiny house, a 5,000 sq ft garden, 50 animals, I’m writing a book, building furniture and releasing videos and creating social media content like there’s no tomorrow. Do I sometimes get overwhelmed? Yep. Exhausted? I might as well get tattoos under my eyes, these bags are never leaving. But I’m not busy. I’ve realized there is no truth in the statement “I don’t have time for…”
I’ve tried to eliminate the word “busy” from my vocabulary. I’m learning to reframe my thought process to understand where my priorities lie. If I don’t have time for something, it’s because I don’t value it enough to make time for it. I have learned this year that I am capable of infinitely more than I ever thought before. I have a finite amount of time, but even now, am only utilizing a fraction of it productively, and that is exciting to me. As I look toward year 30, I see a whole lot more dreams being realized. I see my business growing and the scalability of my projects increasing. I’m immeasurably grateful I get to live on a farm and build awesome stuff and hang out with so many truly incredible people. I’m proud of the success I’ve found by 30, not in the financial sense, but rather in the “figuring out what’s important” sense. I’m willing to reinvent myself as many more times, learn any more skills I need to be able to live in such a way that the way I spend my time reflects my priorities: building community, being available to family, actively engaging my body and my mind, and being able to stop, smell the roses, watch sunsets, bake pies and indulge in miniature donkey cuddles because Buddy, that is the stuff of life.
It’s now 2:30am and the fire is dying down as I sip the last of the cabernet in my glass and get ready to call it an evening. I love this #sharethejourney campaign Joeseph Carr is hosting and am thankful they’ve given me the chance to sit back and reflect this week. My 20’s sure were a wild ride, and I expect my 30’s to be even better.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.