Fast forward to late winter 2012. The lull that follows hunting season had set in as we braced for the wintry weather that never seemed to come. Short hours of daylight provided ample opportunity to daydream about the next great project. With my son, Macon, having recently arrived on the scene and Byrd's son, Hudson, soon to follow suit, talk resurfaced about the necessity of having a hunting cabin. The requisite planning meeting was arranged and after copious amounts of beer and wings, we felt that we had what we needed to move forward. A flow chart.
Before we get into the flow chart, some general knowledge of the site is helpful. The Blacksmith Shed is comprised of three main areas; an upstairs bunkroom, a living room, and a shed-like area that housed the actual forge. It was determined that our approach would be two-fold. The forge area, or workshop, was to become the run-in shelter post hunt. It would be well suited for this task, especially once it had doors, windows, siding, and we got the accumulated junk out of the way so that we could actually walk around. We would first focus on this area while attempting to simultaneously deal with the most egregious issues concerning the overall envelope of the building.
|Workshop after half a day's cleaning efforts.|
The flow chart identified the project's short term goal as having the workshop area operational by next hunting season. The hope is that the natural momentum generated from this space being usable will in turn breathe life into the rest of the Blacksmith Shed. Work commenced. After a long day's labor, Byrd and I had the workshop area clean, relatively speaking. There was much debate over what relics to keep for future use as I would set aside items to save and Byrd would then set them in the tractor bucket. I managed to retain a handful of cool artifacts and some important hardware like the barn door hinges.
|Finally, room to move.|
Forgoing other glaring issues, we decided to next deal with the floor situation. The workshop floor consisted of century-old dust that would form a suffocating, noxious cloud at the slightest disturbance. It was decided that some sort of paver situation would be ideal given the future goal of one day having a mechanism for fire in this area. We dug out the floor using the small Kubota and then backfilled with farm sand placed in compacted lifts. I made some calls and struck a deal on some reclaimed bluestone with one of our masons. Using some bricks we already had on hand, Byrd and I built a hearth one Saturday and laid the bluestone the following Sunday.
|Sand swept joints as the finishing touch.|
We then encountered a stroke of luck during the next phase of the project. I had been agonizing about the heat source for this space since the project's inception. An open fire would likely burn the building to the ground. Building a masonry fireplace would entail a great deal of work and a better foundation than what we had already built the hearth upon. The old woodstove in the living room would be too small for the workshop space - and besides then we wouldn't have one for that room. And on and on. I expressed my consternation over the issue to Bryd. He pointed out that there was an old barrel stove in the barn up the hill from us. We negotiated our way to the back of the old grain barn and that is where we found her. Dust particles danced in rays of sunlight streaming through cracks in the old white oak siding. Like a vision from the mist, there she was... the most bad ass woodstove I had ever laid eyes on.
|Wood stove at the shop for prep and paint.|
We had taken the stove back to the shop after obtaining JoJo's permission for use. The stove had belonged to Uncle Byrd and was used to heat his 3,000 square foot house. I had no doubt that it would take the chill off the 300 foot workshop space where we planned to relocate it. As I began the prep work on the stove, Jay put a bug in my ear about a minor deficiency in that the stove lacked an appropriate cook surface. The more that I thought about this, the more that I knew that he was right. I loaded up the stove and took it to City Welding where we encountered a second stroke of luck, of sorts.
I had gotten to be good friends with Jean at City Welding in the process of doing business with them. For those of you who haven't met Jean, she can be rather intimidating at the first impression, and the second. She is tough as nails as you might expect someone who runs a welding business to be. As I said, though, we had gotten to the point where I felt we enjoyed a mutual friendship and both spoke candidly to one another. "Jean, have I got a special treat for you," I said, pulling up with the woodstove in the back of the truck. She explained to me in no uncertain terms that I didn't have a special treat for her and that they were done taking on work. I thought that she was pulling my leg and persisted. She continued to reiterate her position. I then realized with a real sadness that she wasn't kidding; City Welding was closing its doors. I hate the thought of such a local treasure going away; City Welding had been in that same location for over 50 years and was a family business. I backtracked explaining my situation in an effort resembling an apology of sorts given the news. Somewhere through my stammering, Jean cut me off and told me that they would install the cook surface piece I had envisioned. It was the last job City Welding would ever do. Good ol' Jean.
The following weekend, Gordon and Fitz met me out at the farm to help unload the freshly painted woodstove complete with the newly-installed cook surface. Fitz mostly worked the sand pile and left Gordo and I to do the heavy lifting. That afternoon, following a thorough inspecting of the chimney, we lit the first fire in the woodstove. The Blacksmith Shed had a heart beat.