In 1996 when I met my husband, I had completed a biochemistry degree at the University of Ottawa, and was halfway through the respiratory therapy program at Algonquin College. He worked in the information technology industry but had deep roots in farming. Within 18-months of meeting we were married, owned the farm he grew up on, and I was pregnant. In fact our child was due on the last day of my 12-month internship at a local hospital. Luckily she wasn't eager to be born so I had a chance to finish, but only by a few days.
Spending time a lot of time on the farm with my in-laws was different for me. My parents were diplomats and my upbringing could not have been more different. My in-laws were very nice people but it was not a world that I was from and it took some getting used to. What was very nice however was the fact that their world stopped when my daughter showed up - other than breast feeding I had a lot of free time when we were there because aunts, uncles, in-laws - everybody wanted time with the baby. Within 4 years we had three more babies...
My father-in-law and I developed a very close relationship over the years. He was a lover of the outdoors and especially loved working in our woodlots. Every year he would cut a few tractor trailer loads of logs. He would do this using an ornery 2,000+ lb Belgian draft horse named Jim - he would skid the logs out of the bush one by one. Jim was not a pleasant creature to men (other than my father-in-law) but was very nice to women and children. My father-in-law thought that he might have been abused by a previous owner, a man, and therefore developed an incredibly unpleasant disposition. In any event my husband was not big on bush work at the best of times, and Jim's presence made him even less interested. I started going out with my father-in-law on the odd occasion when he needed help skidding. Eventually he started using me for bigger and bigger jobs until I ended up learning almost everything about logging. He taught he about chainsaws - sharpening them and choosing which one to use for what job. I learned how to fell a tree, in fact I could put one down almost anywhere I wanted (within the confines of the laws of physics). He also taught me to harvest with causing as little damage to other trees as possible. One year we kept a bunch a logs to build a new post and beam machinery shed. We brought in a portable sawmill and created massive 20 foot long square beams. Later that year we actually built the building and it was during that process that my attraction to woodworking started.
We spent a lot of time going back and forth between the farm and our home in Kanata. I didn't immediately have time to take classes because the children were still young and my husband worked incredibly long hours. My husband eventually found an online woodworking learning site called "The Woodwhisperer" for me, and that was a life-changing moment. The site was hosted on Youtube and had dozens of learning videos about virtually every aspect of woodworking. The host, Marc Spagnuolo, seemed to be teaching to people with my knowledge level so it was absolutely perfect. I started buying tools on Kijiji and soon I had a fully equipped shop and was capable of just about any project - or at the very least confident enough to try any project. I admit that there were a few less than successful pieces in the early days but since my father-in-law heated with wood they mysteriously disappeared... I have upgraded most of my stationary tools at least twice now with the guidance of a friend who is in the business. I now have all the big tools like a Delta Unisaw, a 20" 3 HP Planer, an 8" by 6' 3HP Jointer, a 17" Drill press, a 3 HP Delta shaper, and the list continues... I used to work in my garage in Kanata but the local by-law officers found a rarely-enforced weird law forcing people in our sub-division to always maintain 2.6 by 5.7 meters of available floor space in their garage. They decided to enforce it with extreme prejudice on me and put me out of business for a while. In fairness I was starting to outgrow my garage and the time had come to get my own commercial space. I now have a woodworking shop less than 1KM from my home so everything worked out in the end!
I focus only on outdoor furniture as seen on my web site www.ottawacedarfurniture.com. This allows me to take advantage of the many contacts that my husband and I made thanks to the 4 decades that my father-in-law spent in the logging industry. We know many small cedar mill owner operators and these people save their best wood for us. We have access to clear eastern white cedar that looks spectacular. I now only work with this type of wood. It takes stain well and its weather-resistant properties make it the perfect choice for the Ottawa area climate.
Please check back in on my blog on a regular basis. I promise to have lots of pictures of new projects!