A craftsman's ramblings on making art, food, love and adventure

Month: January, 2013

MINI…PickupMan

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I read a blog a while back bemoaning the disappearance of a 1970’s vintage 45mpg pickup truck. I remember the little VW diesel pickups and can’t imagine why we don’t see some modern version of that efficient hauler today. In my day to day life as a cabinetmaker and maker of things I am the proud owner of not one but two big-ass American V-8 GMC trucks.

Truck people like my trucks…I unfortunately am not a truck person. Worse yet I am a ‘not a truck person’ who owns two trucks and a new home in the country some 30 miles from my shop (this is the dark underbelly of bucolic life…big commuting!). Granted…I need a truck from time to time but honestly most days the monsters travel pretty light. Add to this a sizable dollop of eco-guilt plopped on top of my smoldering wallet every time I pull up to the pumps in one of my beasts.

Well friends…meet my new truck… a sweet 2009 35 mpg MINI Cooper Clubman. No…I didn’t ditch the GMCs but I do park them most days in favor of the funky little gas sipper. Eco-guilt is assuaged for now and damn if this thing isn’t a flat blast to drive.

Best yet, the little MINI and I just made our first pilgrimage to the Home Depot contractor’s loading dock. Anyone familiar with this bastion of American truck prowess knows that this is the place where building supplies, testosterone and horsepower meet in a daily dance of territorial chest beating and metaphorical butt sniffing. While I am in general a gentle-man…I am an unquestionably a large man so when my MINI and my 250 lbs frame rolled into ‘the zone’ nestled between a Ford F250 and a Dodge Ram to load a flat cart full of concrete blocks and sand…the dazed looks of the ‘hammer swinging set’ were priceless.

Until some enlightened auto company picks up the pickup where VW left it some 40 years ago…me and my MINI are going to be regulars at the big box rodeos for some time to come.

Immigration Reform

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Please meet our motley crew of illegal immigrants…

We are blessed to live on a beautiful 11 acre parcel with a critter-filled 2 acre pond in front of our house. We call this mini-Ponderosa Wagmore.  Normally this time of year our little pond is frozen solid and the sensible water fowl have either flown off to warmer climes or if domesticated… not opted to run away from home just as winter’s grip begins to stiffen. This crew seems to have done just that!

What we have here are 3 African Geese, 2 Khaki Campbell Ducks and 1 Pekin Duck…no…before you ask smarty-pants…no ‘partridge in a pear tree’. This crew literally sauntered across our field this fall and took up residence in our pond. No visas…no passports…no job prospects. We thought they would wander off soon enough…perhaps their people-parents would come looking…nope…just swam around with not a care in the world. They mixed gregariously with wild ducks and geese until the skim ice started to form…the sensible birds saw this as a definite sign to vacate. Not our little gang of delinquents!

So now what? I know…let’s buy them a bubbler to keep a bay in the pond open all winter…build them a custom lean-to at the shop and buy a couple hundred pounds of cracked corn to walk out to them each day. So here we are…foster parents to a veritable UN of water fowl. Who played who…I think the winged-ones knew exactly what they were doing…Life at Wagmore bubbles on.

Oh Mom…Kale Again???

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So far the two most significant reoccurring subjects in my fledgling blog-life are dogs and kale. I mean…who doesn’t love the occasional dog post…but Kale…give me a break!

So…here’s the deal…we planted a couple of beds full of kale sometime in early summer. FYI…we checked our records and this super-Kale variety is Winterbor from Johnny’s Seeds. It is now almost the end of January and we are still picking perfectly lovely leaves from these plants!

Last week I picked a bag to bring to my Mom as evidence that… despite the multi-day deep freeze we are enjoying in upstate NY…fresh leafy greens can be something more than a fading memory of a summer long past. So Mom sends me an email a day later telling me about these Kale Chips she had made as her homage to the sun gods (I made that homage part up but I think my Mom will allow me the poetic…or blogetic license).

I have heard mention of these little devils in the past however… despite having controlling interest in several metric tons of Kale…I have never made them…until TONIGHT! Three words for you…EASY AS HELL! Just clean the Kale, cut out the largest part of the stem, toss with some decent olive oil, spread evenly in a single layer on a cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper and put it in a 290′ oven for about 1/2 hour. This action shot above is the whole scene unfolding in real time on one of our styling ‘Chef Boards’ in our Roaring Dog Studios test kitchen (which doubles as the kitchen in our house).

‘Really…that’s all there is to it. Crispy, tasty and I guess better for you than a half bag of Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips!

Forks?…we don’t need no stinkin’ forks!

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Almost every time chopsticks find their way to our table I ask myself why we reserve these most basic and satisfying of utensils for Asian fare. Clams Linguini with chopsticks…why not? Applesauce??…OK…maybe a stretch. Bottom line…gotta love a nice pair of chopsticks…especially when they look like these!

The crew at Roaring Dog Studios has finished our first run of handmade chopsticks. This batch of sticks are crafted in Curly Maple, Bubinga, Wenge and Yellow Heart hardwoods. I hope to have these up on the roaring dog studio store this weekend.

Sneak Peak…part 2

We have been busy over at Roaring Dog Studios…I mean not regular busy…I mean really busy. Today maybe a little less busy since we started the day at about 10 below and our wonderful 1896circa foundry building stays a little more closely connected to the outside temperature than sometimes we might wish…like now! Overall like I said…really busy.

Check out this beyond cool cutting board for the cook with style and chops…the removable grain-matched tray actually has rare-earth magnets embedded into the joint to keep the tray aligned with the board to smoothly and oh-so cooly slide your chopping stuff into ahead of a trip to the saute pan or soup pot.

You know you want one…you need one. Should be on our shopping site in the next few days. There are only 6 in existence as of today so keep close.

VB Carrot1-C VB Carrot1-A VB Carrot1-B VB Garlic 1-D VB Beet1-E VB Beet1-C VB Beet1-D

Quilt Welding

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So…I’m taking a welding class in support of the evolving Roaring Dog Studio blacksmith shop. Thus far this has involved several hours of basically unsupervised time in a welding booth each night with just a hint at education. A couple of nights ago the assignment was to ‘lay down overlapping beads of weld on a piece of plate steel’. Yaaaawn! Started welding and realized that ‘overlapping beads’ did not have to be dull…no…this could be fun!

My wife Carolyn is a quilter…pretty much a kick ass quilter. What more would a quilter want from her nocturnally welding husband??? Why…a five pound solid steel quilt square of course. Who says romance is dead?

Seed Dreams

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January in Cato NY….Dreams of our summer garden…can you smell the fresh cut basil???

The mailman is delivering seed catalogs…a little winter-porn for the soil starved gardener! This weekend Carolyn and I will succumb to this lustful tease…the wonder of seed to table never ceasing to touch something primal inside of us.

Meet the Roaring Dogs…Part 3

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Say Hello to Scott Hoehn! Scott is the most veteran of our crew and has been nothing short of indispensable to me and to our companies through all of our evolutions. Roaring Dog Studio’s big sister CabFab has depended on Scott’s tireless design and logistics talents for a number of years. With the birth of Roaring Dog however it is obvious that Scott is truly in his element. With a passion for textural design mostly in textiles, Scott has taken the lead on creating many of the inlay designs now finding their way into our prototype products.

This picture taken this afternoon at Roaring Dog’s shop finds Scott actually installing the inlays that he designed only weeks ago on his computer. It is not lost on any of us how fortunate we are to be able to conceive and execute these handmade pieces from start to finish with our hands and minds fully engaged throughout!

Stick It!

Chop Stick 4G

When the Roaring Dog crew started designing and prototyping our new Sushi Board series, it only seemed logical that we would make a few chopsticks too. As it turns out, chopsticks are easier to make than cool inlaid sushi boards so while the big stuff still simmers…we have chopsticks…Lots of Chopsticks! This week we will play around with a nifty integrated stand for the sticks…the design for which lives only in my cluttered brain. Hope it does not dissolve before Monday.

These Roaring Dog Chop Sticks from left to right are made in Bubinga, Curly Maple, Yellowheart and Wenge.

Meet the Roaring Dogs Part 2

Lori in a Sticky Situation

Meet Lori Holmes…designer…builder…logistics master mind and one hell of a chop stick maker! Lori has been with Roaring Dog and our sister shop CabFab for several years now. She had a brief hiatus away but as all smart roaring dogs do…they come home to where they are loved…and occasionally fed! Lori came to us originally from her management role with Pier 1 via a local college architecture/design program. The smile you see…not fake! This woman sprinkles good cheer around our shop like a cloud drops rain. Behind the smile is woman with talents in all areas of our businesses. She runs our hardwood sales business Lakeshore Hardwoods, she is currently setting up our shipping and receiving department for Roaring Dog and the rest of her days are filled with all manner of woodworking adventures.

She’ll probably be mad at me for telling you this but around the shop these days we call Lori ‘Curly Cherry’ in honor of her mane of curly red locks and one of our favorite hardwoods!