Finch House

Well, I didn’t see my shadow. But Phil’s handlers determined that the ornery groundhog did.

After road tripping to Punxsutawney, PA back in college to witness the phenomenon that brings that podunk town to life one long weekend each year, my view of Groundhog Day changed forever.

It was snowing. People came from all around, bundled up in warm clothes and weird hats that you couldn’t help but gawk at, to catch glimpse of the most famous groundhog in America. (You may want to fact check that.)  By the time 7:25am rolled around in Gobbler’s Knob, most people had pulled an all-nighter, passing time or passing out until Phil was dragged out of his cage and held up for all to see. I remember losing my voice and getting sick soon after. And I also remember the spotlight on Phil.

Yes, it was snowing. Common sense told me that Phil should NOT have seen his shadow. But because of artificial lighting or something that the mayor knew that I didn’t (why is spring late the majority of predictions?), Phil’s handlers declared that year that spring would once again be late.

Best part of the road trip? Anyone celebrating a birthday on Groundhog Day got this awesome gift. It’s still my favorite mug.

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Whether Phil legitimately saw his shadow or not, I saw a glimmer of spring a few days ago. It was a crisp winter morning and I woke up to the song of a cardinal piercing the air. After only hearing wyotes cry at that hour for months, I was pretty ecstatic. After all, it’s been a cold and dismal winter. When you get excited by a patch of blue sky, knowing that there’s a chance that the sun will peek out, and you contemplate driving to where you see the sun shining like you’re chasing a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow, you know it’s been a long season. And maybe you need to get out more.

While I didn’t see the cardinal, the song gave me hope that spring will come. It always does.

This finch house was a custom Christmas order for a dear family I grew up with in New Jersey. It was built specifically to attract finches and provide a shelter and safe nesting place for those beautiful little birds.

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There are surprisingly many requirements needed for a finch house, from the size of the opening to ventilation to the necessity for rough wood on the interior.

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Made from reclaimed cedar and other wood remnants, the house was finished with a naturally-felled branch perch, black walnut bark lid, and moss.

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It’s been a rough winter for many, and for many reasons. Even though the air is now quiet, void of any bird songs, and it’s snowing again, I know that the sun will eventually shine, the birds will come back, and there will be new life. (Hopefully in this bird house.) But for now, on this particular morning? Life is good. I’m thankful for another year, despite being harsh to this aging vessel that houses my soul, and for another day drinking coffee out of my favorite mug that has shared too many sunrises to count with me.

Hold your head high, heavy heart.  “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” ~George Iles

Hope is such a beautiful gift.

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Adir-onic Sofa Table

The Hudson river not only separates Vermont and New York, but the Adirondack and Taconic mountain ranges. And while custom Adirondack furniture has saturated stores west of the river, I rarely see it across the state border in my neck of the woods.

Curious to attempt this style, I invested in a new tool that has quickly become my favorite.

Meet Big Red:

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It’s a gloriously oversized pencil sharpener on steroids.

Once I got over my fear of the torque (visions of my shoulders dislocating gives me a healthy respect for the RPM’s on this beast), I realized quickly just how incredible this tool is. Even more awesome? It’s from a lumberjack website. Yes, there really is such a thing.

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I’m officially hooked. Between Big Red, my new drawing knife and an endless supply of downed trees from a harsh winter, once the weather warms a bit in the shop, there are endless options. (Wearing gloves while wrangling Big Red is a disaster waiting to happen.)

Here is a little glimpse at my next project with these new tools:

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The commercial interruption is over.

I love the look and stability that the ol’ tinker toy assembly method lends to Adirondack-style furniture.

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Since I’m in the Taconics and not Adirondacks, I’m not sure if I can call this an Adirondack table. Soooooo…Adirondack style + Taconic trees = Adir-onic table.

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It’s the perfect height for a sofa or loveseat.

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The top is finished with linseed oil and 300 grit sandpaper, showcasing the beauty of the natural slab.

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Love the look of Adirondack furniture but not the hefty price tag that comes with it? Shop across the river with me. This sofa table is the first piece in a new furniture line by NATURE CALLS.

It’s amazing what you can do once you have the right tools. Yep. Another life metaphor.

Adir-onic Sofa Table: $275

Posted in Reclaimed wood, rustic decor, Wood slab

The Redneck Butler

The sleepy town of Arlington, Vermont: famous for inspiring Norman Rockwell’s work and for having some of the best trout fishing on the east coast, thanks to the Battenkill river that winds its way lazily through the quiet valley.

It’s home to a little over than 2,000 down-to-earth people who favor flannel over floral patterns. It was recently named the #1 small town in Vermont by http://www.onlyinyourstate.com.  “Visitors love this town and the locals love the vibrant community spirit.” YES.

I have been connected to this town since I was a child. It’s the closest thing to heaven on earth for me and is the epitome of happiness. From the smell of the air to outdoor activities readily available in all seasons and all weather conditions to the friendly people, this place seems to bring out the good.

Which is why the horrible crime that took place last week has shaken this idyllic town and its community. It would rattle any town, but this sort of thing hasn’t happened in Arlington in over thirty years. A woman was brutally murdered in her home a mile away. The killer still hasn’t been caught. The presence of the local & state police and media vehicles outnumber the cars that usually drive on 7A at “rush hour.”

This sort of thing just doesn’t happen here. But it did.  People are understandably on edge and guarded. In a town where I have felt so safe for so long, I now wake up to every little noise I hear and scan the dark woods for any movement. It sucks. Safety/security is one of my top cravings in life.

But in the midst of the chaos and fear, there are still moments where I’m reminded of how great the people of Arlington are. Like yesterday.

I hear a whistle.  It’s 45* – a heat wave for these parts right now, and I’m enjoying a balmy day working in the garage with the door open. I pop my head out and see my neighbor up on the ridge.

“Need some grit?” She calls to me.

I glance at the gravel driveway that has been a solid sheet of ice for the past four weeks. “I’ve tried. I think this is as good as it gets for right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arlington moves the community skating rink up here.”

“Hey hon, go grab your shovel and some buckets. I’ll pick you up in a minute. There’s free grit in town to take care of that!”

I do as she says and soon we’re bouncing down the mountain in her pickup. We pull up to a mountain of grit near the hardware store. As we load five-pound buckets and she does it with ease, I feel like a soft flatlander for the first time in months. She sees me struggle and comes to assist me as I swallow my pride. Vermonters are tough.

I expect her to drop me and the grit off in the driveway when we get back up the mountain. Without a word, she starts to pull buckets off the bed of the truck and spread the grit. I expect her to keep half for her driveway, but she doesn’t stop until we have covered the entire driveway with all of the grit, except a bucket that she places by my walkway for the next storm. She nonchalantly tells me to get more buckets from her shed whenever I need them and drives off.

My eyes well up.

THIS is Arlington: The town where a neighbor doesn’t think twice about spending time and energy to teach a greenhorn the ropes and offer a helping hand. Where the same neighbor, concerned a few snow storms ago that I was stranded, plowed the driveway to make sure I could get out if I needed to. Where an 84-year old man will call from 3/4 of a mile away to make sure I still have heat up on the mountain and to check to see if I’m ok. Where another neighbor will bring up the mail to me. Where a local friend who relocated to Myrtle Beach still calls to warn me about the weather forecast and to make sure I’m safe. Where you will typically see one or more of Norman Rockwell’s models, now in their golden years, at any local event.

Given the recent events, it’s only fitting to publicly release one of my pride and joy pieces, inspired by a fellow Vermonter, adapted by another carpenter, refined by a chef, and then built by me. It’s a community piece. (It takes a village…) “The Redneck Butler” debuted this past summer at Green Mountain and Adirondack shows. It proved to be a great conversation piece and one of my best-selling items. Who would have known.

So what exactly is “The Redneck Butler”?  Why, it’s your universal bar tool! An all-in-one opener. Wine corkscrew, bottle cap opener, and foil cutter all wrapped up in one rustic little crazy package. This durable piece will outlast all of your other bottle openers. Great for camping, hunting camps, porches, or as an ice breaker when everyone is congregating in your kitchen and you aren’t sure what to say.

Go ahead. Leave it outdoors all year long – it doesn’t matter! It’ll still do its job. That’s what matters. Built from the outdoors for the outdoors.

There are three versions available:

“The Redneck Butler” – made from reclaimed Arlington trees (corkscrew, bottle opener, and foil cutter):

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“The Baby Butler” – a smaller version (corkscrew and bottle opener with a magnet so you don’t drop those caps in the mud) available in…drum roll…hand-painted CAMO! Naturally.

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(Complete with a redneck mani, courtesy of staining today.  One of these days I’ll wear gloves.)

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And then…

“The Bourgie Butler” – yep, the “high end” version of the classic redneck for all of you classy-er peeps out there. (My classy BiL gave me a look when I told him this was the high end version when I broke this out to use at Christmas.)

Available in black or natural (and by natural, I mean natural – like naturally weathered from whatever the umbrella handle that served as the medium for this went through. Reclaimed wood creations, people. It may not look bourgie, but did you see its cousin? ‘Nuff said.)

 

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All of the wood is reclaimed. All of the hardware is…well, hardware. From the hardware store.

And they all come with a “corkscrew protector” so you don’t impale yourself. You’ll thank me if you are the type of person who keeps one of these in your purse or vehicle. You never know when you’ll have an impromptu picnic or decide to go camping last minute and you need a Butler. Or if you go tubing/kayaking. (If you’ve seen the Battenkill in the summer, you’d understand.) Butlers float!

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As we are hit repeatedly by negative things that try to steal our happiness, remember that there is still good in the world. A “vibrant community spirit” perhaps in your town. Kind people willing to put you before themselves and risk throwing out their backs for a couple buckets of grit so you don’t break an ankle. Friends that stand by your side 1,000 miles away. And wonky, little gadgets that make opening a beverage just a little bit easier.

Choose joy, my friends.

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Shipping is available nationwide!

“The Baby Butler”: $12 (+ shipping)

“The Redneck Butler”: $19  (+ shipping)

“The Bourgie Butler”: $19  (+ shipping)

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood, rustic decor

Double Ladder Shelf

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What’s better than one six foot ladder to hang/display stuff on? TWO ladders, attached with hinges at the top, made out of reclaimed barn wood with removable shelves. Oh happy day. I really don’t want to part with this piece.

Since I work so much with reclaimed lumber, it takes some time for things to register in my brain when I lay my eyes on “new” boards in Home Depot. It doesn’t seem like it’s the same material. There’s just something about a strong, old board with a lot of wear and tear from life.

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The wood used for the ladder shelf is no exception. There are tunnels from carpenter bees, notches from only God knows what, and weathered areas where the sun baked it for an unknown number of years. There are cracks and crevices but the integrity of the wood has not been compromised.  All of the wear and tear only enhances the final product and truly makes it one of a kind.

Yeah.  My kind of lumber. I will always feel more at home surrounded by a pile of wood like that instead of a pile of new boards from the lumber yard. It’s like staying in your childhood room instead of a hotel.

The double ladder shelf easily folds up, which I’m really happy about since this is going to its new home in another state this weekend.

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New year, new ideas!

The sky is the limit with custom orders. This was requested by someone who sent me a photo from Pinterest and asked that I make something similar with my own twist on it. If there is something you’ve seen in a photo or pin that you’d like made for your home, please let me know!

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Double Ladder Shelf: $65-$125 (price varies depending on the size). Please email me for a quote!

Posted in barn wood, ladder, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor | Tagged ,

Birch log holder

My parents received a lot of homemade gifts from me when I was young. There are still a few shelves in their family room where glass doors protect these “vintage” (cough, cough) pieces. A small bike made out of recycled metal. A rough Noah’s ark formed from potter’s clay with unidentifiable animals. Play Doh versions of the three M&M&M’s decked out in our 80’s garb, rocking equally 80’s hairstyles, sitting side-by-side on a bench made out of popsicle sticks, caroling away.

So when my sister told me about the handcrafted item that she and her husband wanted for Christmas, my inner child surfaced. Once the Turkish metal base was purchased, the rest of the piece came into focus.

I’m always looking for an excuse to walk the woods and drag nature home with me. The birch logs were hand-picked from blown down trees. Since they had recently fallen, much of the white bark was still close to its beautiful original color and free from insects. (Probably the biggest request from my sister. “No bugs!”) Pine cones were chosen with equal care. And since they wanted it to be low-maintenance and reusable, it was completed with some swag (a.k.a. fake pine branches, a set of mini-lights, and rustic bell garland).

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It’s easy to become wrapped up with consumerism over the holidays. And if you manage to not become sucked in, there is still constant pressure to do so, regardless of whether you live in an urban or rural area. Just turn on the TV before the holidays or walk into the Home Depot and you are hit with the message, “Buy, buy, buy!” Building personal pieces this season helped me keep my focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s kind of hard not to reflect on the greatest gift of all as the year comes to a close while walking on an isolated trail in the snowy woods looking for pine cones, or while sitting in my shop with Cloverton’s version of “Hallelujah” haunting the silence. So thank you to those who placed orders over the holidays for one of a kind gifts like this birch log holder. It reminded me of what grounds me – the only secure thing this imperfect world can offer.

There’s nothing more gratifying than giving or receiving a homemade gift, even if it’s your kid giving you something a little wonky made out of Play Doh that you still have 30 years later…

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Happy New Year, friends. Thank you making 2016 an amazing year for “Nature Calls: Reclaimed Wood Designs.” Please keep supporting small businesses in the new year!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Barn Doors

These barn doors are being installed in an interior design studio near Philly. (Pics of the finished studio will be posted once the full remodel of the space is completed.)

200-year 0ld original barn wood with reclaimed nails on the cross-section prior to the final coat of barn red stain:

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I’ve referred to these as the British flag doors since the client first shared what pattern she wanted. (Yeah. I know. Wrong colors.)

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Single and double barn doors are available in any size, style, flag, or color! Please email me for a quote.

 

Posted in barn doors, barn wood, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor

Wood Slab Art

I swear there’s something in the water that makes the wildlife act all wonky around here. Not that I’m complaining…Diesel is a legend. But the other animals seem to be in direct competition to claim his title while he hibernates.

My neighbor’s dogs have free rein of the mountain. It’s taken some time to remember this, but I finally no longer scream when Sampson, a giant, lovable German Shepherd, trots quietly into my shop and nudges me. (You should know that I have an obsession with the “wyotes” that roam this area. These brazen wolf/coyote hybrids are like scary unicorns. You know they exist because of their eerie howls, but people rarely see them.  So every time Sampson comes barrel up with his 100+ pounds of lovin’, I think that a wyote is charging me.)

Sampson has gotten into the habit of chasing his owner’s car down the mountain in the morning and then coming to my shop to hang out.

A big, oafy dog who loves to play fetch and a reclaimed wood artist who often fetches things for her job don’t mesh very well.

I’ll be walking in the woods with Sampson trotting on my heels to find downed trees to bring back to my shop for projects. I’ll cut the small trunks to the desired lengths and start to pick them up. Sampson will start whining with glee, slobber profusely, grab a tree and run off.

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I made the mistake of laughing when this first happened. Now every single thing I try to pick up, toss on the fire, or even look at while Sampson is there is treated like it’s his personal gift from me.

He thinks it’s a game. I need to break him of this habit, especially after what happened last week.

If you’ve lived in the country for any amount of time, you’ll know that when it gets colder, you begin to wage war against the mice. So every morning, I collect the full traps, put them in a plastic bag, and throw them on the fire pit to have a proper Viking funeral for them at the end of the day while burning my scraps of lumber from the shop. I then go inside and sit in the reading nook to enjoy a cup of coffee before starting my day.

This worked for a few days.

Then one morning, as I’m sipping my coffee, I see Sampson trotting happily past the window with a plastic bag in his mouth, heading up the mountain to his home.

I nearly spray the coffee all over. Jumping up, I run out of the cabin into the cold.

“Sampson!” I scream. “DROP.”

He turns around and stares at me, tail wagging as if to say, “Hey! Thanks for this really awesome gift you left me today! I can’t wait to show it to my mom!”

That’s the LAST thing my neighbor needs or wants to see.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but I’ve created a monster. And I have no one to blame but myself. I ignored the warning signs when Sampson got upset earlier this fall when he saw me in the nook and I wouldn’t come out and play with him at sunrise. It wasn’t just a phase when he took the decorative pumpkins from the porch and threw them around, all pissed off.  It sounded like someone was shooting a potato gun in my direction. I’m still finding piles of pumpkins in the woods where Sampson hid them from me like a sullen child.

And as much as some of his antics drive me nuts, I absolutely adore this dog and look forward to his neurotic behavior daily. He’s taught me to be flexible with my schedule and slow down to appreciate the little things. To share the gems I find in the woods. To be more careful about what I put in the fire pit.

Since Sampson has been running off with trees, I’ve been working with live edge pieces that I got in a trade with a local woodworker buddy who considered these trash. In my profession, I’m reminded daily that there is beauty in every broken or discarded thing.

One of my favorite movies of all times is a short film called The Butterfly Circus. It’s absolutely beautiful and makes my heart catch every time I watch it. And I’ve watched it a lot. (You can purchase it on Amazon or view it for free on YouTube at this link:  https://youtu.be/p98KAEif3bI.)

“If you could only see the beauty that can come from ashes…”

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These scraps have gotten a new lease on life. Some of these have sold, but the rest are at Vine & Branches Gallery in Bennington.

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Great for a mantle, a shelf, or mounted on a wall. Sizes vary from 1-4 feet long. Each piece is sealed with a high-build poly.

That’s all for today. I see Sampson coming.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood