Friday, June 12, 2015


Listen, I'm not some professional BBQ pitmaster.  You won't see me on the competition circuit any time soon.  You won't see my trying to sell my rubs or my sauce or claiming that I make the best "Q" in the world.  But let me tell you one thing, I am hooked.  Obsessed even, all in, a certified smokeaholic.

When the smoker is running I'm hovering around checking temperatures, making minute adjustments to vents, and trying not to peek under the lid at what is going on.  When the smoker is cool, I'm watching videos, old reruns of BBQ Pitmasters on Destination America, or telling anyone who will listen about internal temperatures and rub application techniques.  Want to know how I know my wife loves me?  She keeps her eye rolls to a minimum and at least feigns interest when I start rambling on and on about the merits of brown sugar over plain old white sugar.

I think she's trying to wait me out.  This is my typical M.O. afterall, I go (pardon the pun) whole hog into anything that catches my eye, and before I know it, I'm in so deep I can't see anything but the topic at hand.  After I gain a working knowledge though, I'm done, I cast it aside ready for the next adventure.  My mother tells me that I have always been this way, and after 41 years on the planet, I haven't changed a bit. about we talk about Ribs today, shall we?  This is a midweek smoke, and I was actually on a conference call in the kitchen while getting these ribs prepared for the smoker.  I'm going to add "Good at Multitasking" on my next performance review!

I made my own rub, leave a comment if you want the recipe, its nothing too fancy, but it does the job, and its cheaper, by volume, than anything you can buy in the store.  Essentially it has brown sugar, organic sugar, paprika, chili powder, and a few other odds and ends.  Got them rubbed down, and onto the smoker.  Here they are an hour later, I was just spritzing them with a 1:1 apple and pineapple juice mixture.

I wrapped them at the 2.5 hour mark.  I had them sitting at about 240 degrees on the smoker, with a few small chunks of cherry wood for some sweet smoke.  I wrapped them tight and added a little more brown sugar, some squeeze butter, and some honey.

Back on the smoker for an hour or so, then glazed with some Sweet Baby Ray's thinned with apple juice.  After glazing them, I let them sit for another 30 minutes and pulled them.

See that pull back from the bones?  Do you see it?  That means perfection from where I come from.  A quick slice with a sharp knife revealed a nice smoke ring and a moist interior.

I think they may have went about 20 minutes too long before I wrapped them, but they tasted good, and my son, who has become quite the rib connoisseur, proclaimed them good.  So there you go, the fruits of my current obsession.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go watch some videos, you know, because I haven't watched quite enough already.

Go make something with your hands instead of buying it.  Heck, go cook something even, anything at all.  You will love yourself and the way it makes you feel!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trail Magic!

My brother believes in magic.  Not the pull a rabbit out of a hat kind of magic or the saw someone in half kind of magic, but something far far more powerful than that.  He believes in something called Trail Magic.

Now if you are a long distance hiker you probably already know what this is, but if you are like me, and the longest hike you do is a trip from the living room to the kitchen, let me explain.  Trail magic is simply when people who are not hiking provide help or support to those that are.  Maybe its a cooler full of drinks on a hot day, or free rides into town for more supplies.  Maybe its a hot meal on a cold day or any number of things that makes the long distance trek a little easier.

A few years ago, my brother and I started carving spoons and somewhere along the way he started carving a few and putting them in trees along the Appalachian Trail.  Wait..he put spoons in trees along the Appalachian Trail?  Yep!  Maybe you found one?  Lately they look like this, but more often than not they are the same color as the trees they were carved from.

Last year he carved 50 spoons that he left along the trail.  Some found new homes, and some made it only as far as the next campfire.  No matter what happened to them, I can promise you that everyone who plucked one of these spoons from a tree felt the tingle of a little bit of trail magic.

The weather has started to turn cold, we've already gotten our first snow of the season, and temperatures have dipped down into the teens a few times.  The Barefoot Carver hasn't slowed down though, most nights when he isn't at work, you can find him out back in his shed.  Listening to some Jimmy Buffet and carving spoons by the stove.

Don't feel like waiting until spring and hoping to find one along the trail?  Go check out his Etsy page and see what he has for sale.  You can also contact him from his website linked above in this post.  The magic is the same no matter if you find one of his spoons hanging in a tree along the Appalachian Trail or you order one directly from him.  They are all hand made, one at a time, from locally sourced wood.  He'll never make enough to make him rich, but each one will certainly enrich your life just a little bit.

I've got a few projects in the works that will make it to this page soon enough.  Until then, make something with your hands, I promise you it will change your life.  Until next time, Peace, Love and Trail Magic.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WSM Smoked Pork Butt

I know this isn't wood working, or even bushcraft, or even something that I threw together in the garage one night, but my last post is tied directly to this one, so here we go.

Barbecue is one of those things that I never get tired of eating.  Ribs, pulled pork, chicken, beef, you name it, if it is cooked over charcoals I love it.  There is something special about cooking on a grill, food just seems to taste better, at least to me.  I've been wanting to get a smoker for quite a while.  My gas grill needed to be replaced anyway, so instead of getting another grill, I decided on the Weber Smokey Mountain.  I got the 22.5 inch model, I figured you can cook small things on a big grill, but it doesn't work the other way around.

My first cook on the WSM was three racks of spare ribs, and while they came out pretty good, it wasn't the best thing to start with.  A brand new WSM runs a bit hot, and I think ribs are much more unforgiving when it comes to temperature changes and such.  I need more practice just using it, so we will revisit ribs another day.  Technically this was my second cook on my WSM, but I tried to focus on the details and make sure it came out right.

I loaded the charcoal ring with a full load of Kingsford charcoal to get this party started.  I had a few pieces of dried Oak laying around that I cut into small pieces and split in half.  I spaced them evenly on top of the coals.

On top of these unlit coals I added half a chimney full of white hot coals and assembled the smoker.  It should be noted that I filled the water pan with water, despite learning that you don't have to use water, I thought that for the first few cooks I would use it.

Yes, I know that gas grill is dirty.  Yes, I know it is REALLY dirty.  I'm a bad grill owner, sue me.

I put the lid on the smoker, opened the top vent all the way open, made sure the bottom vents were open as well and let it come up to temperature.  I closed the bottom vents almost all the way when it hit 225 on the dome thermometer, and it stabilized at about 250 pretty soon after.  With nothing else to do, I took a deep breath and put the two seven pound butts on the smoker, closed the lid, said a prayer to the temperature gods and closed it up for 6 hours.

I got boneless butts, I just didn't read the package well enough.   I tied these with a few loops of natural fiber string.  When the butcher takes the bone out of the butt he leaves a large flap of meat in its place.  You have to tie these back together so you get equal cooking across the whole butt.  Next time I will find bone in butts for sure.  I had opened the butts the night before, seasoned them with a mixture of salt, black pepper, and garlic powder and left them in the fridge over night.  I made some home made dry rub, heavy on the brown sugar, with no extra salt added. I used black pepper, brown sugar, raw sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, and some chili powder in my rub.

When I checked the butts after 6 hours of cooking, with me only making small adjustments on the vents to move the temperature around a bit, I took them off after making sure that I had hit an internal temp of 165.  I brought them in the house and wrapped them with aluminum foil.

I sprayed them with apple juice and wrapped them tight.  They went back on the grill and cooked for another 3 hours before I opened the grill again.  My plan was to check the temperature and then have them cook another hour or so.  When I checked it though, they were both sitting at the 200 degree mark and I knew they were done.  I pulled them off the grill, vented the foil just a bit to allow them to cool some, then re-wrapped them and let them sit for 2 hours.

I pulled them and just mixed a little of the rendered juices back in and finally after a 9 hour cook plus 1 hour of prep and 2 hours of rest, I had more pulled pork that I knew what to do with.  

I made some home made cole slaw and baked beans as side dishes, and everyone just loved it.  Even my daughter who is notoriously picky when it comes to food.  My neighbors liked it as well.  I was pretty proud of myself and look forward to my next cook.  I'm thinking of making some smoked macaroni and cheese, and maybe some pulled beef.  I can't wait.  Go make some food!  Remember, the most important ingredient is always love, add plenty of that and you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Just a Spoon

I've been noticing a trend lately in the spoon carving world.  I think its a natural thing but the complexity and amount of decoration is rapidly getting out of control.  On one hand I think its a good thing, it shows that the craft is progressing and that people are stepping away from just making spoons and moving into the world of spoons as art.  Allowing people to express themselves creatively through their craft is a great thing.  On the other hand though, I think that this movement toward decorative spoons can be intimidating for the new spoon carver.  I mean how are they supposed to even come close to the chip carving and kolrosing techniques of the master spoon carvers?

Getting into the game of trying to see who can make a better spoon doesn't interest me.  I carve spoons to use, to cook with, to stir a pot of food that I made for my family to eat.  I have a spoon on my desk, in a jar, that Barn Carder made for me a while ago, and to be honest, I can't bring myself to use it.  Now, if you ask Barn, he would probably say to get it out and use it right away.  Because that is what a spoon is, its a tool, a utensil, it is made to be used.  I think though, that if I had one of those highly decorated spoons I wouldn't want to use it either, and frankly that's a shame.

I haven't carved a spoon in a while, I mean a long while.  I can't even tell you why, there are a bunch of reasons I think, but at the end of the day, its because I let life get in the way.  I found my way back, and although I may not be carving a spoon a day or anything, I've picked up my knives, sharpened them, and am carving again.

My latest spoon shows what happens when you don't carve for a while, techniques and tricks that you had learned sort of go by the wayside.  It has some shape issues, some handle issues (like always) and its not the prettiest thing to look at, but it will stir a pot just fine!

Its been a busy few days around the house here, we are getting some painting done, both inside and out.  My clean garage is filled again, and I need to get out there and get it straightened up.  It is what it is, life goes on, go make something with you hands, you'll feel better!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

DIY Cornhole Boards

It's been a while since I posted here.  I was lost for a while, my brain consumed by a single thing.  Something that didn't involve wood working, carving, or even creating really.  Just the glow of a computer screen in the dark.  I'm back though, and better for it.  

Thomas Huxley penned the following quote:

Its how I want to live my life.  I want to keep learning about things.  If you let your brain become so focused on a single thing, something that ultimately requires no thought, your creativity begins to get choked out, it fades away and all that you are left with is nothing.  Enough about that though, we aren't here for philosophical discussions regarding creativity, we are here to embrace our inner (or exterior in my case) redneck and make cool stuff!

Have you heard of cornhole?  Its a bag toss game where you throw 1 pound corn filled bags 27 feeet onto a board with a 6 inch hole cut in it.  The object of the game is to score 21 points before your opponent does.  It's like horseshoes without the swirling metal U-shaped rings of death.

In any case, I walked into the kitchen the other day and my wife asked me if I could make a set.  I said, without thinking I might add, that I could, and was off to my local Home Improvement store for supplies!  Well, wait, lets back up, I was off to YouTube for a few tutorials.  Then, armed with a list of supplies, headed out.

A cornhole board is simply a 2x4 box with a 1/2 inch piece of plywood attached to one side.  9 inches down from the top edge is a 6 inch diameter hole.  There are two legs attached to one end of the board that raise the back edge of the board 12 inches above the ground.  That's it.  It's pretty easy to build.

I used oak furniture grade plywood for the top.  I could have gone cheaper for sure, but at the same time, I saved time on sanding.  I used wood screws to attach the deck, and I think for my next attempt I will try to use pocket hole screws.  I counter sunk the screws, filled the holes with wood putty, and then sanded the entire top surface.  In any case, putting the boards together was pretty easy, from start to finish it took maybe 45 minutes.  Once finished and sanded, both boards got two coats of primer.  I sanded between coats and sanded the final coat until each board was nice and smooth.  I also painted the sides at this point as well.

At this point, you have to figure out a design.  It's truly up to you.  Do whatever you want.  I decided to use Red, White, and Blue for my boards, but you could truly make any kind of design that you want.  I painted the entire board with two coats of water based white paint and when it was dry, used painter's tape to put in my design.

 Painting takes a long time.  It isn't hard, its just time consuming.  I had to paint three coats of each color, letting each coat dry for about 2 hours before painting again.  I used a smooth finish roller to put on the paint, it worked pretty good, but I still sanded both boards when I was finished painting.  I pulled the tape off after letting the final coat dry for about 2 hours.  It worked well, there is a little bleed through near the top of the board, but all in all I am pretty happy with the results.

At this point I put 5 coats of polyurethane on the boards, sanding lightly (very lightly) with 400 grit sand paper before the last coat.  They are done now, sitting in the garage until tomorrow night when we are going to play on them.  The hole project took about 5 days, but the majority of that time was waiting for paint to dry.  A single set of boards is probably 8 hours of work spread out over 4 or 5 days.  During that time you could just as easily make three or four sets of boards, maybe more, if they had very simple designs.

I missed posting here, not because I have some huge fan base or because I think that I am some amazing writer, but posting here means I made something.  It means I learned something.  See you on the cornhole fields, happy tossing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Broken Token

I'm an IT guy by trade.  I work in the Telecommunications industry, setting up and managing call centers for clients all over the US.  Well, to be fair, lately it has been mainly in Minnesota, but I did go to Phoenix a few months ago.  I'll do whatever my clients need me to do, from building call flows to deliver their calls to the correct agents, to building menus and automated systems that allow their calls to be handled without ever talking to a real person.  It's not very glamorous work, most times its pretty boring.  I'm either in the upstairs office of my home or in a random hotel somewhere, eating badly and not sleeping enough.

To gain access to the secure networks of my clients they often issue me a Secure Token generator.  Its essentially a key fob that generates a random 8 digit number every 60 seconds.  I use that number, along with an 8 digit PIN, and a password to log in to the systems I administer and support.  At the moment I have three separate token generators and they all look identical.  I needed something to help me keep them separate.  I figured color coding was the key.

Before I left home on Sunday, I grabbed some scrap pieces of 550 cord from my scrap box and attached them to each token generator.  Sitting in my hotel room tonight, I took a few minutes to tie those scraps into some cobra weave bars.  I don't have anything to cut the loose ends with, nor do I have a lighter to melt them if I could cut them, but they will work until I get back home in a few days.

In a few minutes and a little scrap 550 cord I was able to make something that will allow me to keep each token separate and look pretty cool at the same time.  You know, it doesn't have to be something amazing.  It doesn't have to be insanely complex.  Just making something, and not buying it, not spending money on something that you can easily make yourself, gives you a great feeling.  Try it, you'll like it, I promise.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Return of the Fishing Bracelet and Soup!

Just a quick post here tonight, well this morning. Wow!  I need to go to bed.  I lost track of time sitting on the couch tonight working on a new fishing bracelet?  What is a fishing bracelet you ask?  Well, its a survival bracelet, made from 550 paracord, that contains some fishing line and a few hooks inside it.  Other than some of the wrapped line showing through the holes in the cobra weave bracelet, you would never know that it contained 25 feet of 50 pound test line and two number 10 hooks.

In other news I have been eating more soup than you can shake a stick at these last few days.  Soup?  When it is 95 degrees out still and 100% humidity in the great state of Virginia?  Yep!  Taco Soup.  Seriously, go get these ingredients.  A single batch cost me $13 at the grocery store.  It easily fed my entire family, with enough left over for my wife to take in her lunch and my son to eat as his "snack" before going to bed last night.  The recipe is deceptively easy but the result is amazing.  Quick!  Go make some!


1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15.25 oz.) can sweet corn, drained
1 (12.5 oz.) can white chicken breast, drained
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 oz.) can green enchilada sauce
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot.
Heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
Serve with tortilla chips.