I have never claimed to have any knowledge at all about welding.  That is not to say I haven’t stuck a few pieces of metal together, I have, but it was mostly sticking electrodes to my work and not much joining of the intended pieces of metal.  Things never looked very good and the jobs usually took a lot of grinding so that things didn’t look like they were stuck together with globs of black Playdough.  Perhaps it is my own inability to produce anything of beauty from metal that makes me admire so much those who can, but I have always had a desire to understand how to harness the energy created by that small electric arc.

But this year I had a couple projects that would require a lot of welding and I wanted the joints to be strong as well as look good.  So it was time to do a little study.  The 1st thing I did was check into taking a welding course at our local community college.  It looked extremely interesting but cost more than I wished to pay and required many evenings away from home.  I next went to our local library and checked out several books on welding, reading them from cover to cover.  This gave me a general understanding about welding but I still had little working knowledge about different kinds of electrodes and their uses.  So where did I turn? “ YOUTUBE”.  There is a great deal of information to glean from this resource.   I found a wealth of videos that helped me in my understanding of welding.

Next, Matthew and I made a trip to our local iron and steel dealer, returning home with 23 pieces of 24’ long square steel tubing of different sizes.  All these had to be wiped clean of the oil that keeps them from rusting in the steel yard.  It was then time to get out the tape measure and the chop saw and start cutting.  In fact there were over 150 cuts to be made with the saw.  And every cut had to be dressed up on the grinder.  I’m sure you can guess by my laying out of the pieces that I will be building a new iron fence.  Here I was still brainstorming about how to put it all together.

Now was the time to put my new-found knowledge to the test.  I wish I could say that I never stuck another electrode to my work (I did) but the YOUTUBE videos served me well and things really went quite well.  Here I am welding up some individual fence panels that will be bolted to the posts.

Next the posts had to be cut and brackets welded onto them.

Several sacks of concrete mix and cans of spray paint later, I had a very nice garden fence.  Below I am welding the last of over 500  individual welds.  It happens to be attaching the latch to the drive-through gate.

Well, I’m still not a welder but I believe a man can do about anything he puts his mind to.  Janis and I are very happy with the result!  It looks good and will outlast me.  Now all the old wood and wire fencing behind the new fence can come down.

There is still another welding project to come, but that is for another time.  By the way, the welder I am using is an old Lincoln Electric 240 volt AC stick welder that I got for free.  There have probably been more farm repairs made with one of these than any other welder made.  It is a no frills welder, but it certainly gets the job done.


Well we may have got all the firewood split and stacked under cover… but starting fires with pieces that large is no picnic.  Of course it can be done but it takes lots of newspaper.  The simple solution, as anyone who has ever lit a fire knows… is kindling.  After 30 years of utilizing wood stoves, I have definite preferences when it comes to the type of wood I use for kindling and cedar wood gets my vote.  It has enough resin in it that it lights easily and it splits like a dream.  And the easiest and best place to get that in this part of the country is from old cedar fencing boards.  Usually they have been out in the sun for years, are very, very dry and easily obtainable.  This year it was even easier because a freak windstorm on December 30th blew down 175′ of our 217′ cedar fence, leaving me with an ample supply.  I cut the boards into 6″ lengths with no knots and use a meat cleaver to split them.    At any rate, it doesn’t take long to fill the kindling box.  Here is a short video of the job.  Our dog Bonnie likes to help with the wood.


For Janis – My Love, my Lady

A Love Like This    by Dan Folgelberg

Lady      by Lionel Richie

Making Memories of Us    by Kieth Urban


I Love You Janis


Well this year we decided to try something different.  If I was to follow my usual pattern when it comes to fire wood, one of two things would happen.

  1. I would come home with the 4′ lengths of wood, unload them and think to myself – “Boy, I’m sure glad that’s done.”  I would then procrastinate with cutting it into stove lengths until bad weather forced me to do something, which would probably mean cutting up part of the stack and leaving part, breaking it up into several days separated by a month between each, finally getting it all cut up around March or April when I don’t need it any more.  I would split the wood as I needed it each evening as Janis fixed supper, making the splitting of firewood a part of EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WINTER.
  2. The second option would probably be to get all the logs cut up into stove lengths and stacking the whole lot.  This would also mean going out into the cold every evening as Janis fixed supper to split the night’s and next days firewood.  Still making splitting a part of EVERY SINGLE DAY OF WINTER.

Another side to my “modus operandi is that I have never made provision to stack our firewood under cover and so we regularly have to deal with wet wood during times of snow or rain.

This year would be different!  We were going to split it all and we were going to get it under cover – Man, that’s ambitious (at least for me!)  It would all start with getting these 5.5 cords of pine cut into 18″ lengths.

5.5 cords waiting to be cut up

Matthew and I tackled the project with gusto, making both chain saws sing.  Here we have done half and are just getting started on the second half.  The saw dust here is about 5″ deep throughout the area.  We sifted all of it through a screen of poultry netting when we finished and got 5 barrels full of great pine bedding for the laying hens nesting boxes and to spread over muddy areas.

Matthew keeping at it

I really wanted to try and get all this wood split up before stacking it this year.  We also had a large pile of seasoned elm to split up that was stacked at the far end of the field.  If you’ve ever tried to split dry elm, you know that it was a job for some heavy duty hydraulics, so I called the local rental agency to get the largest splitter they had.  It turned out to be a 30 ton splitter that we rented a few years back.  You can see a picture of it here.  We rented it at 10 AM and split the elm until dark.  We started in on the pine at sunrise the next morning and got about a third of it done.  This means that we still had 3.6 cords left and no splitter.  About that time my neighbor came walking up to see what all the noise was about.  After chiding me for renting the splitter he graciously offered to bring over his little electric “DR” Splitter.  I was happy that he offered but I did not think a small electric splitter was what I wanted.  Ed only burns wood to supplement his gas heat and probably burns less than  1/2 cord per year.  I really didn’t believe that any tiny electric toy would get the job done, but Ed persisted and ran home and a few minutes later he appeared on his lawn tractor pulling this little DR.  I’m sure that had he looked closely he would have noticed that I was suppressing a smile.  This thing was so small that even being mounted on a home-made trailer, it was too close to the ground to work with.  I had to set the trailer up on log blocks so that Janis could sit down and run the control comfortably.  There was simply no way this could split all the wood I had left. Even with the 30 ton splitter, the ram would get so hot we couldn’t hardly touch it.  I was sure I was going to burn this thing up in no time at all.

Teeny, Tiny, Baby, Splitter by DR

My smile disappeared as I plugged in the extension cord and Janis manned the control.  I was amazed at what this thing would do. It was faster than the big rental unit and with it being so much smaller, we were able to move around it faster as well.  The pile of split wood quickly began to grow.

the DR splitter

This little “Toy” quickly proved to be a genuine work horse.  I kept expecting it to get hot but it never did.  In the end, it split about twice as much as the large splitter and never missed a lick.  Ed did let me in on a little trick that I think will help anyone who uses any size of splitter.  He keeps a block of paraffin wax with the splitter. Any time the machine slows down, you rub a little wax on the splitter wedge, which lubricates it allowing it to easily slip into the wood.  It speeds up the process noticeably.  My neighbor has several DR products and I know he is a believer in the company.  I have to say that I am now a believer as well.  One fantastic advantage of this quiet little splitter is that you can hold a conversation without neighbors a half mile away hearing you because you are trying to be heard above the roar of the gasoline engine.  Janis and I just talked about all kinds of things and before we knew it … the job was done!

Well, we now have 5 cords of pine under cover with a half cord outside along with 2.5 cord of elm.  It’s all split and stacked.  I think I will enjoy not having to go out for that task every day this winter.  In the picture below you can see a stool by the block, which is where I split kindling.

All split and stacked

In the patch of sunlight you can see the shadow of my ax handle.  It is stuck in my splitting block outside.  That ax will be lonely this winter… and I do not plan to console her.


Well, everything is pretty much done with the kitchen remodel, although I have not been very good at keeping you up to date on the progress.   In fact I have not written anything about the project since July.  So today I thought I would show you how the new hearth was made even though it was installed well before Thanksgiving.

It all began by laying out the design on a sheet of 3/4″ plywood.  It is by no means square because we want the hearth to take up as little floor space as possible while still offering the protection and clearances required by codes.  It will not only protect the floor from the heat of the stove, but will also have a place to stack firewood and keep it off the floor.

laying out the design

I forgot to take a picture of the next step which was gluing and screwing cement board to the top of the plywood.  This will assure the tile mortar will adhere well to the plywood and will also give more stability to the base.  In the next picture I have turned the base upside, applied spray-on adhesive and am now gluing down a layer of felt.  This is done so that when I take the hearth inside and lay it on our newly refinished floor, it will not scratch the finish.

gluing on the felt

Here the base is ready to be turned right side up and hauled into the living room.

finished base

We were very fortunate in that my driver at the Fire Department had a tile saw that he allowed us to borrow for as long as we needed it.  This saved us a lot in renting or buying one.  I have done tile work in the past using a “score all” and breaking the tiles but having the proper tools makes the job much more enjoyable and I didn’t ruin any tiles either.  This saw was awesome!

cutting tile

The base has been put into place and we trial fit all the tiles, labeled each as to their position and then removed them.  Also, in this picture you can see the cement board that was attached earlier. Paper has been taped over the floor to protect it during this process.  The mortar has been mixed and is now being spread with a 3/8″ notched trowel.  Each tile will be back buttered with a thin coat of mortar to ensure strong adhesion.


All the tiles are now in place.  You can see that I used plastic spacers to ensure a uniform look.  I used a rubber mallet to tap each tile to ensure it is bedded.

taking shape

At this point we let it set for 24 hours to let the mortar set before grouting.  It is mixed just like the mortar and spread with a rubber trowel.  Paying special attention to fill up all the grout lines.  Excess is wiped off and then allowed to set before buffing any film off the tiles.

spreading grout

In finishing the hearth, edge tiles were cut and set into place.  I then used a diamond bit to cut into the porcelain tile and set this heart shaped rock I had picked up several years ago.  I think it gives the project the perfect personal touch!

I sure do love that girl!

Everything was allowed to set for a week and then Matthew and I set the stove into place.  It was stripped of all removable parts to reduce weight and rolled onto the hearth on a piano dolly. We then were able to lift it straight up while Janis removed the dolly.

Setting the stove

All the panels were replaced, the piping hooked up and we are back in the wood burning business.  There is nothing quite like the warmth of a good wood stove.  Backing up to a heat register or baseboard heater just doesn’t have the same allure!

Finished Hearth

The tile used in this project is the same tile we used for a back-splash on the kitchen counters as well as behind the range tying everything together.

Well the kitchen remodel is finished and the new hearth installed.   Janis an I are now in the process of refinishing our dining room table and chairs to match the new cabinets.  It’s all turning out great!  I’ll post a finished picture when the table is done to let you see how the new room looks, maybe a before and after picture to show the transformation.


Who are these people and what are they protesting?

It’s much bigger than Wall Street!

I have been watching these people and their rhetoric spread across this country like a  bad case of the flu, infecting masses everywhere.  And  I have been puzzled by the whole idea of the Occupy Movement in this country as well as astonished by it’s rapid growth.  I have listened to them as they try to explain their cause and I’m not sure any of them actually know what they are protesting.  In this video, Bill Whittle  explains it all with clarity.  If you have been contemplating joining the movement, I believe Bill has some great advise.

If you have eyes to see and ears to hear!


 99%?… Get real!

Janis and I are now officially grandparents.  And we couldn’t be more delighted!

For those of you who are wondering, the proud parents are doing very well.

1st glimpse of our new granddaughter.

Kalee Taylor Shropshire


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