So the most exciting news is that we, after over a year of living in Little Yellow with no heat source, are getting a woodstove. That’s right, heat! What a concept :D Actually I’m so behind that as I write it’s sitting beside me, but more about that in the next post.
First there was some work to do, because I didn’t leave space for a heater in my house when I built it. I figured ‘I live in California. I’ve got sweaters’. You may recall that I never planned for a refrigerator either (not sure how the logic worked on that one), and I wouldn’t consider either of those decisions among my top ten best ever.
While I do live in sunny California, my spot on the coast seems to be about 52 degrees ALL THE TIME. Which puts a pretty damp damper on whatever theory I may have had because happy, perishable food likes to be colder than 52 degrees and happy, perishable people like to be warmer.
As a result, the tiny fridge I bought last year after my failed ice box and zeer experiments (nothing like molding, sandy flower pots to store your edibles) had to live outside and under the trailer because I didn’t allow anywhere for it inside. Same ‘where do we put it?’ deal with the unplanned stove, only this time around what we had to work with is a little prettier than a plastic mini fridge.
However I fought it, my lovely old school desk was the weakest link. It’s been acting as a table between the bench and the edge of the kitchen counter which turns out to be the only feasible place in the house to put a little stove.
I first thought we’d have to get rid of it which made me very sad because it’s Little Yellow’s only piece of proper furniture, but the end, I imagined life without a table would be about as sensible as life without a fridge or a heater and I decided to keep the cast iron legs and build a smaller desk/table top so it could stay.
I found the most beautiful piece for it at a funky old place that has huge wood carvings of bears and totem poles and a sign that says ‘firewood’, just off the highway going down the hill to town. I’d driven past it a hundred times but this was the first I’d stopped to check it out.
It’s owned by a sturdy, cheery Swedish man named Magnus with a cocked wool hat and an orange chainsaw that he seems very fond of. Lucky for us, he had a pile of Chinese Elm slabs that were absolutely gorgeous and we scored the smallest one, a Eucalyptus stump for wood splitting, two round oak stumps for cultivating mushroom dowels (that were given to me at the Philly workshop last year by some wonderful attendees) and a few pieces of tiny-stove-sized firewood for $50.
As I heard him chatter away on this and that, I found that listening this older Scandinavian carpenter talk about wood slabs felt very familiar. His accent, trade, and enthusiasm for Little Yellow reminded me so much of Flemming that I could only smile, such a nice thing to revisit my memories of him.
Chinese Elm is a wood I hadn’t heard of or used before, but it looks awesome finished and came out a rich, dark gold that compliments Flemming’s pine counters very well. But first, several hundred hours of unnecessarily complicated cutting, sanding and filling cracks.
I’m fortunate to have access to my boyfriend’s Uncle’s garage down the street, but I felt a bit useless working in a different place with different tools that have different quirks from what I’m used to. I guess I’ve become a tool snob. Well, I’ll take it, because boy I miss my dad’s garage. Most notably the endless clamps, flat work surfaces and table saw…Anyway, everything worked out and I got it all done in a very long afternoon. Sealed it, screwed it to the cast iron legs and viola! Instant (7 hour) table :D
On the subject of sealing, I found myself in the same situation as last time when I tried oil finishing my counter tops. No amount of any type used could keep the grain from raising and changing colour after so much as one minute of water contact, so this time I was prepared. I soaked the surface several times with a sponge to let the grain raise evenly across the whole top, sanded it down one last time, and oiled after.
It’s a wonderful table. As frustrating as it was to be out of my element putting it all together, I’m rather proud of how it turned out and I love love love the raw edge.
I’ve been back to the firewood place a few times since to show Magnus pictures of the finished product, then to pick up some firewood for our new stove and I’m so grateful each time to see him there. It feels like I’m getting a second chance to learn from another fascinating and talented carpenter as I never did with Flemming. These men are surely two of a kind, and I’d bet if they ever got together in the same room the conversation would never cease.