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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Farmer Builds a Canoe

When the Farmer is on holiday, he often works harder than he does at work. Physically, anyway. And his favourite thing to do when on holiday? Build something.

My husband once told me that if he knew then what he knows now - that an engineer does more than just drive trains - he would have been one. He has built four houses, a barn, a deck, a sunroom, several dollhouses (one of them life-sized) and his new project is a cedar strip canoe.

Step one to this project was getting the old battlehorse table saw out of the basement. It's as wide as it is long, and very awkward to move because you can't get your arms around it in either direction. And it's heavy as a tank. The Farmer tipped it up and slid his dolly under it, then wrapped some lift cords around and under it to secure the thing. Next he called me to come help him lift it up the stairs. He pulled and I pushed, one step at a time, with every ounce of strength we had. It was slow going, but we made it up the stairs without tipping it over onto me. I kept picturing myself squashed at the foot of the stairs like the Wicked Witch of the West, with my feet and arms sticking out from under the contraption.

When we got to the top of the stairs, we realized we couldn't get it through the door. "How did you get it downstairs in the first place?!" I asked. The Farmer deduced he probably put the saw and other heavy items like the freezer in the basement before putting the door - and possibly the walls - on. He had to let go to run out to the shed for a screwdriver and hammer. "Don't move," he said, as he slowly released the full weight of the table saw onto me. I held my breath for a minute, then my muscles started to shake, and finally I started to giggle, just as he reappeared in the doorway, tools in hand. Finally we got the thing up and out of the patio door, down the porch stairs and out to the shed, where the canoe would be built.

I keep waiting for our Cree friends to show up. They would probably have some advice on the easiest way to go about building a canoe. We'll have to wait until goose hunting season and see if they appear, unannounced, on our doorstep as one or two of them do every year. The Farmer bought three books and studied them enough to get the gist of the operation - but he still occasionally comes across some interesting obstacles. For example, after building the skeleton frame for his canoe and then steaming and bending long, thin strips of cedar over that to form the body of the canoe, he suddenly wondered how he would get the finished canoe off the frame. "Doesn't one of your books tell you how to do that?" I asked. He shook his head, a little doubtfully. I'm not convinced he read them in their entirety. After all, how can one stick to "Canoe Craft 101" when "50 Shades of Grey" is waiting on your beside table?? I suggested he search through YouTube for a how-to video. He just stared at me. Oh yeah. The Farmer thinks computers are for work. Period. He never logs on at home.

On Sunday, the kids came over for dinner. Andrew and Anastasia wandered out to check on the progress of the canoe. Within about 5 minutes Andrew had figured out how to get the canoe off the frame without busting up the interior skeleton. Sometimes it just takes a second set of eyes.

Personally, I don't know why we need to preserve the skeleton. It isn't like the Farmer is going into the canoe-building business. Next, he set about his search for various unique brass do-hickeys and thingies for the canoe. He didn't have to look far. The Aylings Marina in Merrickville is a treasure trove of paraphernalia for antique boats. He even shopped local for the canvas outer covering of the canoe. Joe Sparling at Kemptville Fabrics had some hidden away in storage: it has a strong smell so his wife wouldn't let him keep it in the store.

The happy sound of sawing and hammering has been coming from the shed for weeks. The canoe is now wrapped in canvas and the Farmer is trying to figure out a way to shrink-wrap the fabric. This should be interesting.

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