Planning the Workshop – Part 1: The Journey

Planning the Workshop - Part 1: The Journey

What makes the perfect workshop? Is it a fully stocked dedicated work area with all the name brand tools? Is it a toolbox with the basics that you take out on the kitchen table on occasion? Or is it the knowledge and assorted tools acquired over many years?

Growing up, I was always around tools of some sort in what I would call “makeshift” workshops. Whether it was in my family’s garage which my dad had all the essentials (and then some) or in my Pépère’s garage which had just that much more. We made do with what we had and that is where we learned how to be resourceful, create, tinker and fix things.

Building a Knowledge Foundation – Learning from my Dad

For as long as I can remember my dad was always fixing something rather then discarding it for something new and shiny. I would say that this was possible due to the work space he created in our double car garage (and yes, it did house our family vehicles) and the resourcefulness he learned through his rural upbringing.

I can safely say that my ability to work with devices and learn how to use them is based on the foundation that I learned from my dad from an early age and will be forever thankful for that.

Building the Tool Chest – The Basics

When Christine and I got married, all we had were what I would call the basics:

Screwdrivers, Pliers, Socket Set and Hammer

  • Toolbox
  • Hammer
  • Screw Drivers
  • Socket Set
  • Pliers
  • Measuring Tape
  • A few other odds and ends.

These apparatuses serviced us well for the first few years of marriage. We could easily store them in our condos and they provided us with the ability to assemble furniture easily, hang picture frames and do the odd necessary repairs.

Expanding the Tool Chest

Once we moved into our house in Calgary, we quickly realized that we were going to need more “whatchamacallits” to help service this new-to-us home. We had so many projects on our list, each requiring one or more new tools we didn’t have to complete them. Now we had the space to store more and a reason to expand our collection, but where to start?

An endless budget wasn’t in the cards, so we needed to be careful what we bought. Decisions to buy tools that would serve us not just for the current project but also future projects were made a priority. We also waited for them to go on sale rather then paying full price when buying new and borrowed from family when possible. If renting was an option for specialty tools and more cost effective then buying, we rented.

Toolsets for painting, demolition and woodworking were needed to complete our projects. Here’s a list of a few we acquired at this stage of our journey:

Chisel Set

Pry Bar Set

  • Hand Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Corded and Cordless Power Drill
  • Angle Drill Adapter
  • Pry Bar
  • Wrecking Bar
  • Orbital Sander
  • Level and Speed Square
  • Earth Tamper
  • Drill Bits and Auger Bits
  • Various Shovels and Yard tools
Applying Knowledge – Learning by Trying and Doing

Trained as a Mechanical Engineer, I love to learn new things and the art of solving problems. That is what makes me tick. So, when it came time to find a solution for fitting three children in two bedrooms my problem-solving skills kicked into high gear. Will the two older kids share a bed, will they have each a single bed or should it be bunk beds? When looking at the room size, bunk beds were the right solution for us. Our research was getting us nowhere for the budget we had set aside and the quality we wanted, especially considering our children’s safety.

Solution: I decided to design them myself with a lot of research. I made up hand drawn plans so I could show Christine what they would look like before going too far. Once we had the general direction agreed upon, I proceeded with cost estimates, cut lists and hardware and material selection. The build process was a huge learning experience, especially when it came to following my own designs (which I did change throughout the build), making effective use of the workshop I had setup and utilizing the tools I had.

Looking back at this project, here is what I’ve learned:

  • Gather your research information and determine which is accurate (not all sources are to be trusted) and apply it to your design and/or build process.
  • Determine what tools you have and compare to what tools will be required to complete the project. (I ended up buying a router and chisels for this project… The router being less useful once I got into the build process.)
  • Determine the logistics of the build. (I had to constantly adjust my workspace as I had to share it with our vehicle.)
  • Determine whether you can build the project in your workshop and move it or will you need to reassemble it elsewhere. (I needed to build the bunk beds in the garage, disassemble them and reassemble in the upstairs bedroom. This required the ability to disassemble the beds.)

Single Twin Top Bunk with Double Bottom Bunk - In ProgressBunk Beds Complete with Staircase and Additional PlatformToddler Demonstrating Safe use of Staircase and Handrail

Expanding Knowledge – YouTube, Google, Blogs, Etc.

Throughout my journey I’ve used different ways to expand my knowledge. I’ve asked my dad for advice on what worked for him and I’ve used online resources and platforms like YouTube and Blogs. You may choose to find a mentor and learn from them or you may simply want to learn from books (yes, they still exist!). Below is a list of the YouTube Channels (all active at the time of writing this post) that I’ve found very helpful, knowledgeable and entertaining in helping get to the next level of my woodworking hobby/future business.

To Summarize

Bunk Beds second edition with Two Twin Top and One Double BottomThere is nothing more satisfying then encountering a problem, researching solutions to the problem and then solving it without having to hire someone to do it for you. Gaining a good solid foundation on how to work with tools and within a workspace is essential. In my case, this was learning from my dad but in your case, it can be anyone. Acquiring or having access to a basic tool set is also critical in starting to apply what you’ve learned. The best way of solidifying what you’ve learned is by trying and doing. Then, as with anything, continuous knowledge growth will help you get better and try more complex projects.


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

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Rhubarb: An Education (with Recipes!)

Rhubarb: An Education (with Recipes!)

Cut Up RhubarbA show of hands, who else loves rhubarb? It is one of my favorite edible plants to grow (as I mentioned in our post Urban Gardening on Our Country Plot), not just because it’s delicious, but also because it’s so easy to maintain, can be harvested multiple times throughout the summer, and is packed full of vitamins and minerals.

Did you know that rhubarb is a vegetable? I didn’t, but if you think about it, it makes sense, as fruit for the most part develops from the ovary of a flowered plant. Rhubarb finds it’s origins in China, where it’s been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and over time, the plant’s popularity slowly spread throughout Asia and Europe. It was brought over to North America in the late 1700s.

How to Plant

Growing rhubarb is very straight-forward. It can be started from seed, but by far the easiest way is to plant a crown or budded piece. It is very resilient, but it does not particularly like disturbance, so plant it in a permanent spot in your yard. Pick a moist, well drained area in full sun (though it will tolerate semi-shade) and plant the crowns or buds approximately 1” below the soil level. Water well throughout the summer, as rhubarb needs sufficient moisture to thrive.

Harvesting

Resist the urge to harvest rhubarb in it’s first year (not an easy feat for me!), as it will allow the plant to become established. After the first year, harvest by twisting the stalk at the base of the plant. Don’t gather more than half the stalks at once (another difficult task for me) as over-harvesting will reduce the plant’s vitality. A word of caution: only the stems are edible. The leaves contain oxalic acid which is a toxin. Simply trim off the leaf and throw it in your composter (yes, the leaves can be composted, as oxalic acid is not readily absorbed by plant roots).

Recipes

What kind of person would I be if I did all this talk about how wonderful rhubarb is and not leave you with a couple of recipes? Below are two of our favorites. The first is a recipe that the Tétraults have had in their family for generations, a delectable cake smothered in heavy cream.

Official Tétrault Rhubarb Cake Recipe
  • Print Recipe2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups rhubarb mixed with 1 tbsp flour

Topping

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9” cake pan and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder. Add buttermilk, butter, egg, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, and then on medium for 1 minute.

In a separate mixing bowl, prepare the topping by mixing the butter, cinnamon and brown sugar together. The mixture should become crumbly. Set aside.

Spread rhubarb mixture into the prepared pan. Next, pour the batter into the pan on top of the rhubarb mixture. Sprinkle mixture on top of the cake. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm in a bowl with a healthy dollop of heavy cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake Muffins

This is a fantastic muffin recipe, and when you add a little rhubarb, it makes it just perfect. Follow Sugar and Soul’s recipe below to the letter, but exchange the 1 ½ cups of strawberries for 1 cup of strawberries and 1 cup of rhubarb.

Strawberry Coffee Cake Muffins

We hope you enjoy these desserts! Let us know what your favorite rhubarb recipes are in the comments below!


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

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