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"If you want to do something, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. " - Pope Paul VI

Welcome to my TREENUT.NET Web Site.

Here are a few of the things that I've been working on lately:

February 2017: Two new projects in wood. (added to Wood Working pages March 2017)

copy of old milk stool
Milking Stools by Stuart

A copy of an old Milking stool and a slidding top box:

When I tore down the old barn at the farm, I found an old milking stool that we used to use when I was growing up. I'm sure my father made this (and all the other stools) and it was the low, simple, sturdy stool that would withstand being thrown out fo the way by the person milking (and kicked out of theway by the cow being milked).

I decided to make a copy of this basic stool. I used some wood I had laying around the shop. The main part is from the side of an old waterbed from the 80's. When the water beds were no longer fun, I tossed the bladders but I saved the sides since it was nice straight grained Pine or Spruce. I knew I'd find a use for it eventually.

The cross pieces are another kind of pine or spruce from some boards that my neighbor had thrown out (put on the curb) a few years ago. This finishes lighter than the waterbed wood. I have used no stain on this stool; just 3 coats of clear gloss Polyurethane.

Sliding Lid box made from Red Sumac wood.
sliding lid box from Red Sumac wood
Sliding lid box.

A couple years ago the Railroad cut down all the Red Sumac along the tracks that run behind our house. I ran out that night and 'rescued' all the bigger sections of trunk. (They had just left it there to rot.) I split each piece once and stacked it in my shop to cure.

Now I simply sliced off some boards 1/4" thick and this is my first effort.

I found the idea and some basic instructions on the PBS web site for The Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill. He uses these great old planes that I can't afford, so I had to make some jigs for my table saw. I did this more for safety than anything because it's dangerous working with these small pieces on a big saw. It's hard to keep your fingers at a safe distance from the blade without some sort of jig and/or slide.

This wood has a beautiful green tint to it that doesn't really show in this picture. Unlike the red in Box Elder, this green seems to stay with age. My brother made a nice little cabinet out of Red Sumac many years ago and it's still green.

I finished this box with clear Tung Oil (for a change of pace from Polyeurethane.) Just two coats -- for now.

sliding lid box from Red Sumac wood
Box made from Red Sumac

Click on the pictures for larger view.

February 2017 Apple Seedlings

Apple Seeds Stratified
Apple seeds sprouted
after stratification

Apple trees have been part of our family since before I can remember. My parents always had an orchard. Most of my siblings have had orchards both large and small.

Most of these trees were of commercial varieties but many were grown from seed.

( As you probably know all popular/commercial varieties are clones of one original tree of that variety. An apple seed does not produce copy of the apple variety it came out of.

So why plant apple seeds if all the resulting trees will produce terrible (or at least mediocre) apples? Because it's fun to see what you get. And maybe you will get a new variety that is new and different. The odds are probably about the odds of winning the lottery, but still....

One of the trees my Mother grew turned out to bo good enough to patent and it is raised in commercial orchards.

Last fall I collected some seed from some apples we picked at a local orchard. I wrapped them in some damp paper towel and sealed them in a baggies. I put this into our refrigerator and this past week I opened it to check for sprouting.

Apple Seeds Stratified
Apple seedlings

Nearly all the seeds had sprouted so I carefully detached each one from the towel and put them in a transplant flat. After about a week they are doing nicely and have fully developed seed leaves.

In the process of re-foresting our farm I have grown 1000's of trees from seed; Oak, Walnut, Maple, Ash, Spruce, Pine, Poplar 'sticks', Honey Locust, Hickory, Buckeye, etc. But never an Apple.

Until now.

December 2016 UW Hockey to Basketball arena change over at Kohl Center

Kohl center change-over
Change-over
Basketball to Hockey

This fall, I was offered a chance to work on the crew that converts the Kohl Center arena from basketball to hockey and back again for the UW teams. I was curious about how this was done so I took the job.

This whole process takes a crew of about 40 people about 3 hours to complete and everyone agrees that it is "good exercise". And yes, I work up a good sweat.

But for me it's more than just good exorcize. It's been a chance to be a part of a process that's like a well oiled machine. The men and women on this crew move smoothly and surely between all the various steps with the coordination and efficiency of a well rehearsed ballet.

I have been allowed to join this effort a dozen times in the past two months and I am still a novice. Each change-over presents new challenges for me and I learn another part of the process (hopefully, I learn). Mainly I have gotten an appreciation for the work these folks do on a regular basis during the basketball and hockey season. This process is repeated between 45 and 50 times each year.

The only down side for me is that many of these are scheduled to begin at 10:00 PM following either a hockey or a basketball game. This, of course, is past my bed time but I guarantee there is no falling asleep on this job.

Click on the picture for a time-lapse video of this procedure.

Click here for story from On Wisconsin. It is somewhat dated but much of it is still applicable.

November 2016 Added a NEW PAGE titled: "Bat Houses."

2016 Bat House
Rocket Bat House

Hey, my bat houses actually work.

15 years ago I built a bunch of 4-chamber bat houses and hung them at the farm. I'd pretty much forgotten about them until past fall when I finally verified that bats were actually using them. Since these house are now showing some signs of age, I am inspired to build some new houses.

Check out this new Bat House Page for more detail...

September 2016 additions to the "Moth Man" page.

2016 Season:

mating through cage
"New" Bag strategy
Click on image to enlarge...
  • 2016 was an extraordinarily early year for Cecropia moth emergence. My first moth in Madison Wisconsin eclosed on May 27, 2016.

    This year was the first year that Kathy in Polk County Wisconsin had a mating pair that produced eggs. She got a bunch and she tried to raise them all. She was more successful than she dreamed and by the time they began to spin she was totally burned out.

    My luck wasn't as good. I had a mating pair but I was traveling north to the farm in Polk County when the eggs hatched here in Madison. I'm afraid earwigs got all the young caterpillars. I knew this was a danger so I gave a couple dozen away before I left and took a dozen with me to the farm and put them on trees up there. This left me a little short so I Kathy was kind enough to give me some of hers.

    mating through cage
    Mesh Laundry Bags

    New Bag

    Kathy discovered a new system for baging the caterpillars on the tree branches. She found mesh laundry bags at Walmart for only a couple dollars each (two for $7.77 ). These already have a draw string and there's no sewing required. (my old bags were made out of window screen and had to be sewn into a bag.) I don't know if the mesh is too big to keep out earwigs but these could certainly be used for caterpillars in the second instar onwards; when they're past danger from earwigs.

    Please see Moth Man page for a description of the use of mesh (screened) bags for raising caterpillars.

  • 2016 highlights (from my cocoons located in Madison):

    • May 27: First of my Cecropia emerged t- Male.
    • May 29: Second and third Cecropia emerged - both Male.
    • May 30: First Female.
    • May 31: First eggs.
    • June 27: Last Moth emerged - female.
    • July 31: First caterpillar spins cocoon. (Yes, that's July 31 -- incredible!!)

September 2016 additions to the "Foresting the Farm" page.

A Bad Year for Nuts:

Oak trees on UW campus
Campus Tree Seed Source

Perhaps the late frost, that killed so many apple blossoms in Southern Wisconsin, also hit the Oak trees. Perhaps it's merely an off year in the normal cycle of nature. Or perhaps the oaks are marching to the warming trend that has pushed all other things natural two weeks ahead this season and the squirrels have already harvested the crop. For whatever reason, there are no acorns to gather this year as the students move in for the fall semester. This saves me from the role of "that old guy who picks up acorns".

As I do this each year, I wonder what people think. I try to plan for any questions with things like; "I'm gathering samples for my research on the Acorn Weevil (Saccoglossus kowalevskii) -- the little worms that grow in acorns and bore a perfectly round 1/8" hole in the nut to escape." But in the end, nobody seems the least bit interested in what I'm doing.

Only once, in the 20 years that I have been doing this has anyone stopped to ask why. That was many years ago and it was such a shock that all I could manage to say was; "I'm planting a woods."

<Click on image for larger view >

 

2015 seed bed
2015 seed bed

Last years crop - where are they now?

Last fall (2015) was such a good year for gathering nuts. I collected Red Oak, White Oak, Shagbark Hickory from campus and Warner Park (close to my house.) I put these in a seed bed in my back yard garden the same as I have successfully done for many years. I lay the nuts on top of good composted soil and covered them with 1/2" mesh screen to keep the squirrels away. But this year I got lazy and did not frame the bed with 2X8 boards. I just lay cedar rails on the ground and stapled the screen to that. The rails were not thick enough to raise the screen above the nuts.

The squirrels defeated this system. They burrowed under the rails to get at the nuts under the screen. They reached through the screen and used their teeth to cut the nuts into small enough pieces that they could pull through the screen to eat.

2015 seed bed
2015 seed bed - after 1 season.
  1. Lesson (re)learned: The sides of these beds need to be buried a couple inches into the ground to prevent tunneling -- the squirrels will not dig more than an inch down before giving up.. And the screen needs to be supported at least an inch above the nuts to prevent reach through -- but not so high that the sprouting trees will form leaves before the shoots get above the screen. In the past I've had the screen at least 1 inch above the nuts which seems to sufficiently discourage the squirrels.

<Click on image for larger view >

August 2016 additions to the "Foresting the Farm" page.

Trailer and new tree
Getting settled

Second summer in travel trailer on farm.

We are spending more time at the farm so I have been paying more attention to the area around the old barn where we have 'temporarily' parked our trailer. We kind of like it here and are reluctant to move it to the site of our original plans.

Trees in Cages.

Part of this effort is to add some trees to the landscape (surprise). I've planted a handful of Oak around the yard and enclosed them in wire fence cages. After three years growth you can see how well they are doing without competition from the deer browse. This success has prompted me to build more cages and begin installing them around seedlings on the rest of the farm (as time and money permits).

Re purposed Corn Crib.

Trailer and new tree
Old Corn Crib.

 

The Bat Houses:

About 10 yards from the trailer sits an old corn crib. The bat houses on top were installed over 10 years ago and everyone always asks if there are any bats living in them. I could never tell for sure so on the night of August 18th. I decided to watch (like my mother used to do) for them to fly out for the evening. Just at dusk (@8:10), within a 15 minute period, 13 bats flew out of three of the houses. (3, 9, 1 respectively from the far left, center, and far right houses). It was quite a show. They look so big coming out of there. i wanted to cheer.

The Bird Feeder:

In Madison, we spend a lot of time on our deck, watching the birds at the feeders. So this spring I put up an old feeder I found at the farm inside the old corn crib. Everyone up here complains that they can't keep bird feeders because the deer and the bear will tear them down for the seed. I'd like to see either of these animals get inside this corn crib.

Within 2 weeks we started seeing birds (we fill the feeder with black oil sunflower seed (purchased through Endeavors Birders Select program). So far we've had Finches (golden, house, purple), Chickadee, Grosbeak, Downy Woodpecker, Nuthatch (both white and yellow breasted), Cardinal, and even a Pileated Woodpecker. This is a large feeder but it only takes a week for the birds to empty it so whenever we return to the farm the birds seem to be waiting to be fed. The chickadees and finches call to us from the trees and it only takes a few minutes for them to return once the feeder is filled.

Bird Houses:

I built some birdhouse from the barn boards from the old barn. These were occupied by a pair of house finches over the summer. These birds sang the dominant song in the trees for most of the summer but they were all gone by mid-August. I have cleaned these houses and will see what returns in the spring.

Corn Crib:

I cleaned all the trash and old weeds, etc. out of the corn crib exposing a nice concrete floor. I hung some "wind chimes" on the north side and set up the old antennae from the house roof for the birds to perch. I added a hammock for me to nap on and cut some boards for the doorway. This crib is now multipurpose -- with much potential for more....

House and Yard

Trailer and new tree
Farm house in a new light

This spring we received notice that our current tenants would be moving out. We were astonished at how the house and yard had run down over the three years they lived there. I take some responsibility for this because in my preoccupation with the trees, I haven't paid that much attention to the house and yard.

Too many trees too close to house and power lines.

Last fall I contacted a tree service to take down a Box Elder tree that had grown between the house and the power lines feeding the house. Even though it was over the power lines the electric company wouldn't take it down because it was too close to the house and they don't have insurance for such work.

This was a wake up call for me to have to pay someone to cut down a tree. This tree had snuck up on me and in order to prevent that from happening again, I cut down 5 trees south of the house. These were Walnut, basswood, and maple. They had grown so big that the yard below the house was pitch dark even during the day time(and apparently too tempting a place for our renters to throw their garbage). Some of these trees I had to rope so they wouldn't fall on the power lines. Now they are all down safely and I blocked up and stacked the wood and dragged the brush into the lower field to rot.

Now the grass can grow. Now the shrubs can grow. Now the yard is much more warm and inviting. I look forward to planting some perennials and maybe even some annual flowers and vegetables.

Trailer and new tree
Two huge OLD apple trees down

Gone - the last of the old orchard.

My parents planted apple trees wherever they set up housekeeping. As I was growing up much of the area between the house and north to the windbreak was filled with apple trees. Greenings, Macintosh, crabs, and many more. Just north of the driveway there were two Beacon trees. These were great apples that we started eating while they were still small and green and continued eating as they got big and red and sweet. They were crisp and good and probably some of my favorite apples.

When they built the big shed all these trees -- along with Mom's great flower gardens -- had to go. All except for the two Beacons. My mother and brother planted a new orchard on top of the hill to replace these lost trees.

These Beacon trees have grown past their prime. They were too tall to reach all the apples and they produced more apples than they could support. So the apples were small and blighty and not very good to eat. Many branches were dead and the apples fell on the drive way and made a rotten mess. For many years my brother has said; "We should knock down those apple trees." This spring I finally did.

The end of an era passed with no fanfare. This is the only memorial. The removal of the trees has exposed a beautiful rock wall (retaining wall for the big shed) that was buried in the shade from those trees. And the yard is much brighter. I have retained one shoot growing off one of the stumps and a walnut that has planted itself next to the other.

<Click here for more from the woods in 2016...>

 

August 2016 additions to the "Grandpa's Kids" page.

2016 Baker Family Reunion in St. Croix Falls & Centuria, Wisconsin.

Trailer and new tree
Line of Descendents of 10th Child

Descendents of Oscar Roland Baker (the 10th child of Maj. Joseph Stannard Baker). These folks are just a small sampling of the group that attended the 2016 Baker Family Reunion in St. Croix Falls over the weekend of August 3-5.

Every decade - or so - all the descendents of Maj Joseph Stannard Baker gather for a weekend party. These are usually held "out east" but this time the party was brought back to the town where Maj. Baker raised most of his large family -- 10 children -- were born and raised.

<Click on image for larger view >

Trailer and new tree
Poly and Ruth's kids

 

Ruth and Poly's kids:

All of Maj. Baker's children have passed on by now and this picture contains all of his remaining grand-children (children of his youngest child; Oscar Roland, of whom 6 are still kicking.

Left to right: Stuart, James, Winifred, Roland, Lorna, Daniel. (Natalie passed away 1/1/2001.)

<Click on image for larger view >

The Gallery

Friday the Baker clan gathered at the Baker Orchard in Centuria for games, stories, conversation, and a display of artwork created by those present. I offered to bring some samples of my woodworking and was asked to write a description of each piece which would be used in making labels.

I brought three items: An eight legged stool, a pedestal stand, and a milk stool. I wrote a description of each talking about the origin of the wood and the fact that they were all inspired by my brother Roland's designs. I think these are unique designs and wanted to give credit where it was due (I knew that Roland wouldn't bring any of the originals). And, if you follow this blog you know that I place a great deal of emphasis on the story that goes along with each piece of furniture that I create. "Every Stool has a Story."

So, as I walked through the Gallery I was amazed by the talents of my relatives and then I saw my submissions and the labels on all three read:

Unitiled
Wood
Stuart Baker

I was very disappointed. Silly of me, I know.

June and July 2016 additions to the "Wood Working" page.

Trailer and new tree
Milking Stools by Stuart

Three Milking Stools after a design by Roland Baker:

This summer I tackled a design that I've been looking at -- literally -- for years.

I built the first out of White Oak. You can see some of the sap wood along the base. I messed up when cutting the bevel for the top and just went with it. I think it gives it a Japanese look. <More>

The second stool is Red Oak and Black Walnut. I was still learning how to join the legs and had to make a few adjustments in the technique. I am continuing to use 'interesting' wood with nice grain patterns and knots when possible. <More>

The third stool was made out of some old Red Oak. This board had been well weathered and was originally slated for garden stakes or something pedestrian like that. After sawing off the outer few millimeters I decided to try using it for a stool. I learned more about how to get the legs right while building this stool. <More>

The Oak for all of these stools came from Polk County, Wisconsin."The Baker Sawmill 54824"

The Walnut for the second two came from my wood pile. These logs were harvested by a tree service somewhere in the Madison area. I noticed how pretty this wood was and rescued it from the furnace.

<Click on image for larger view >

Stool and model
Model Stool and 1st copy

Here is the first stool next to the original that I used for the model.

<Click on image for larger view >

 

That's all for now. I hope you have enjoyed your visit. -- Stuart