125: Log cabin furniture!

Recently, readers of this blog may have noticed a trend toward BBQ and away from cabin-building.  Actually, they don't have to be mutually exclusive subjects.  During Burning Pig Festival, held at the Coldholler Log Cabin, roving bands of kids used the cabin as a fort and destination to play and escape adult supervision.  While I smoked chicken for the NPS, I needed a tailgate project and made two heavy, simple, plank chairs that offer the angled comfort of adirondack sitting.  And last week, while several racks of ribs took their time at low temperatures, I crafted two benches.

Both the chairs and the benches are constructed from rough-sawn, full-dimension, 2"x14" white pine boards cut special by Ralph Morgan.  A 10' board like that weighs many pounds.  A couple of them, joined to make a chair or a bench, are enough to hurt a man.

The benches fold out to double their width.  Folded out, they're each 80" long by 29" wide, offering plenty of room for a single sleeper.  Rolled on their 300 pound caster wheels and latched together, they form a platform designed to hold a conventional double-bed mattress.  A rolled-up futon mattress could be stored in a plastic bin beneath the cabin.  

Here are some pictures of Sloan, the boys, and their grandparents, checking out the new furniture.  Enjoy!

Abel makes a mouse ladder

Abel:  "Come on!  See the benches!"

Abel hard at work

Abel gathering sticks

Momomma Mary Sue Despeaux and Dodaddy Mike, sitting

Dodaddy:  "Whatcha thinkin, Momomma?"

Sloan:  "Angus, we can see you!"  Notice the bench is folded out.

"We like it, Michael" 
Testing out the bed -- see how the benches come together?

The boys and their Dodaddy, on an unfolded bench.  Amazing how two benches like that fold up into a solid platform, full-sized, double bed!

"It's sturdy, Dad!"

Mid-air Abel:  "COWABUNGA!"

124: Fall photos at and nearby our cabin

I'll begin this post with a picture from last year (more), taken from the Great Smokies Facebook page.  Instead of more posts of fall foliage as the leaves change down at our 3000' elevation in a few weeks, I'll just update this post, so tune back in!  It'll become a bit of a photo essay...

GSMNP foliage -- makes me want to go kayaking!

Black Balsam looks off the other side of the Great Pisgah ridgeline, toward Waynesville and the North.  Totally have to take Sloan and the boys up there in the next few weeks!  It's just a hop, skip, and a jump from here, but by way of a windy, indirect, remote route up Little Canada, or the Blue Ridge Parkway accessed well South of there, at our county line...

123: Cabin update

For those folk who for a couple of years have been following the journey I undertook, building a log cabin, my recent foray into BBQ might seem like a derailment of sorts.  BBQ type folk or recent readers, just see the archive to understand my point.  Anyway, please stay tuned in for posts about bedmaking and other furniture, lexan for the windows, heat, and beautiful pictures of fall color.  Soon, my little boy and I will spend a night out there in the cabin -- an adventure for sure!  I'll write about it here.

122: Local epic views from a couple of iconoclastic spots

I'll update this post later with more commentary, but here are a couple of stunning shots, one of the view from Mount LeConte and the other of our nearby city, Asheville...

From Wikipedia

121: Smoking a Fatty!

I flattened out 5 pounds of ground pork and beef, covered it with Memphis-style rub, grated Campesino cheese in the middle, rolled it into a log, salted the whole thing with the rub, and stuck it in the fridge to congeal until I slow smoked it on Sunday. In BBQ culture, that and all of its variations is called a "Fatty." Well, I was right and wrong at the same time.  It's true that there are variations of this thing, and some folk do what I did.  But the real deal is smaller -- I practically made a meatloaf without the egg and breadcrumbs.  Here's where I learned the difference.

My bigger mistake was using lowfat ground pork and then mixing it with lots of ground beef.  I basically made a hamburger that had to be cooked long enough to safely eat pork.  I Cooked it around 250 for 3 hours and removed it at 165 degrees on the meat thermometer.  Had it been just beef, the whole thing would have been much tastier served a smoky rare.  The ribs were so excellent, nobody ate this -- it tasted like spicy, overcooked hamburger, although it wasn't dry at all.  With the rub and the cheese, this is going to get mixed with beans and converted into an awesome chili, so nothing was wasted!

All patted together and ready to spend the night in the fridge.

Almost done!  The ribs are at 175 and the fatty is stalled at 140 -- it went up to 165 quickly.
Pretty, isn't it?
Nathan Willard presents the fatty!

Got a bit of a smoke ring -- they were delectable.

YAY!!!!  It's done, dad!

120: "Smoke" on the Mountain

     These mist covered mountains     
          Are a home now for me.          
     But my home is the lowlands     
          And always will be...          
          Mark Knopfler          

Recently, I've digressed into discussions of smoking meat, and lots of it.  We even cooked a pig in the clearing atop the finger ridge overlooking the log cabin, where children played as I tended the BBQ.

The word, "smoke," is evocative around here.  We have Smoky Mountain High School, myriad businesses bearing that name, and even my wife Sloan's biannual conference that she conceived and organizes and tied to the local setting with this moniker.  And then we have the National Park.

Ever wonder where the Great Smoky Mountains get their name?

The Coldholler Log Cabin sits well above the lowlands, in deep shade, facing North, on a small spur flanked by higher, laurel-choked shoulders, nestled against the steep headwall of a cove at the narrow tip-top of its longest hollow, or "holler," a ridgepocket really, one of countless hidey holes or wet dark cool hidden green notches in an seemingly exposed landscape where tall knobs promise full visibility but whose folded terrain and dense canopy and namesake shrouds of misty low clouds cloak a thousand secret places.

Here are several photos that illustrate my description, all just recently taken within a hawk's minute-long flight from the sky above our own ridge line, borrowed from Facebook (see attributions):

By Keith Miller, Blue Ridge Parkway September 2011

Nearby in the Smokies...

119: Adding a firebox!

Cooking with gas, low and slow, in a large, indirectly heated smoker, can accomplish much.  I've achieved a smoke ring too -- the small stacks and the heavy burner guard that makes the heat indirect while catching grease and burning it off fill the chamber with smoke.  But I'd like to use wood and charcoal.  Soon, I'll add this firebox, and then I can temporarily cap the near chimney, draw smoke across the cooking chamber, and try for some competition-quality BBQ!

October Update:
My auto mechanic, Tommy of Tommy's Auto Repair, is a genius -- he's a go-to guy for Subaru issues, and he's also an expert on Toyota, especially 4x4 trucks.  For work on any kind of car, he's efficient, honest as the day is long, and not overpriced.  We've been going to him for years.  

Turns out he's also a BBQ fan and built his own cooker.  And, he does fabrications and specialty work on ATV and other off-road vehicles used for racing.  Aware of what I was doing because he's one of my sources for advice, he offered to do my welding here, and he did a great job.  His son and protege in the shop, Chad, did much of it.

Instead of fabricating a box, I bought one at Lowes.  Not happy with the "Char-Broil" brand name, I asked Tommy and Chad to create a name plate and weld it over the logo.  I decided to call it "Big Jack," after my big father-in-law (Jack), who had the main cooker built for me, by an old, low-country SC farmer named, Hub," in the first place.

Last night, in the rain (had to move it under cover), I threw a chimney full of blazing hickory lumps and some hickory chunks into the firebox.  I put on the only meat I had thawed -- some skinless chicken thighs.  It maintained 150 for 90 minutes, and the smoke whistled out of the chimneys but also seeped from tiny places all around the cooking chamber, effectively flooding the grill area and strongly flavoring the chicken.  While I had to finish it off for 10 minutes in a cast iron skillet, I think two chimneys would easily reach and maintain 225-250.  For higher temperature cooks, I can always crank up the gas to supplement.  We're cooking!

Tommy and Chad, genius runs in the family
Next cook -- October 15 -- steaks and ribs, over hickory, with a little temperature maintenance help from a propane tank:

Flashing keeps my open venturi from blowing out on a gusty day.

I drilled and slid an oak log over the 3/4" pipe that cotter pins onto the side to serve as a handle that prevents me from leaning over the cooker during a flare-up or when igniting gas.

I built a table/cutting board out of oak.  It just slides into the open ends of the steel framework of the trailer, and it pulls out to travel in my truck.

The night before, we cold-smoked (150d) these steaks (generously supplied by Nathan Willard) on hickory and then seared them for 3 minutes on each side on the gas grill.  Yum!
Looking through the grill into the firebox, through its flue... This is what the meat sees!
Smoke ring!  and these were smmmmoooookkkky!
I tacked a knife magnet onto the cutting board shelf.
Better picture of the new handle...
Soaking some hickory...
Named the cooker after my FIL, "Big Jack."  He like to BBQ, and he had the cooker made for me by an old farmer named, "Hub."  I guess it's a HUB smoker.
Big Jack, smoking away.
Out-of-focus shot of my new firebox, with soaked chinks of hickory sitting on Kingsford Competition Charcoal.
Looking over the venturi and down the 48"-long burner.
Looking down 15" to the 1/4" thick steel heat baffle over the burner.  I cooked a 140lb pig for 17 hours at 225d using this, and it worked like a dream! 
Ribs!  About to start cooking.  See the smoke exiting the flu?  That parking lot smelled GREAT!

About Me

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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.