Lately, I've had some wonderful experiences with folks who are artisans, craftsmen, or who're just really amazing at what they do, taking time and care to make things perfect, and I find it really inspiring.

First up, there's my dad. Tim Killen has been making furniture for nearly 50 years. He's made all the furniture in his house, my house, and my brother's house. He teaches woodworking to whomever is interested in learning. He blogs at Fine Woodworking about using Google SketchUp for design planning, even with period furniture (and he was possibly the first person to use SketchUp for this purpose - he was certainly a pioneer with this new application). The amount of time and care he puts in to each piece is incredible.

Right now, he is making us a new bed. It's been in process for a month or so. It's made of primarily Sugar Pine, though I got a note from Dad today saying that the interior slats (the part no one will see but us) is being made of "straight-grained fir that was milled from an old tree at a winery." Pretty incredible stuff. Here is the bed in progress. I can't wait to show you what it looks like when it's finished (Dad does a pretty amazing job of finishing his pieces, too).

I asked for a simple style, and Dad came up with this interesting headboard that 'floats' where it joins the frame (I'm sure I'm saying that wrong) so that temperature fluctuations will allow it to expand or contract. He also decided on the pencil posts, which I love.  Dad's an artist; he's practicing a skill that very few people use any more. We appreciate it so much - each piece of furniture is a work of art.

Then there is our own work in progress - the chicken coop. We downloaded plans from The Garden Coop, and they are just really thought-out and well done. Tom has done a lot of work figuring out parts and supplies, while my dad has already ordered the redwood from the lumber mill. First up, we have to dig the foundation and the trench where the hardware cloth will be sunk (to deter predators). I anticipate starting that on Saturday, and it will be back-breaking. But it will be worth the effort, to have such a well-made coop and run.

Another shout-out: To Passmore Ranch, located southeast of Sacramento. They farm sustainable fish such as sturgeon and trout. I read an article about them in Sunset magazine, all about how they provide fish for the famous chefs in San Francisco. I contacted them about making a sort of CSA for fish, for my parents for Christmas. The folks there were incredibly helpful, and worked to make something just for me. Today my parents got their first box of fish, which included recipes and a small jar of salt from Oregon.

Mom said the fish had been overnighted in ice, which I expected, but that the wrapping was lovely as well. Passmore Ranch didn't have to make it pretty, but they did. Also, they charged me less than they said they would, and didn't charge me until they knew my folks were satisfied. Now, that kind of care and attention is going to make me a customer for life. Meanwhile, my parents will get a different kind of sustainable fish each month, even caviar when it's in season!

I've also been thinking a lot about a question that my brother asked me when we were taking a tour of my garden. He asked, "Do you have enough salad greens growing to have a salad every day?" And I waffled, because I was thinking that we have enough growing for EACH of us to have a salad every day (though really only Tom and I are having them that frequently). And as I was waffling that answer through, I realized that I had planned it that way, and I was pleased with myself for having the result I planned for months ago. I planted just enough. All that thinking and calculating and yes, even worrying, paid off!

I'm also proud of myself in the kitchen lately. I'm making loads of recipes from my new cookbooks, but I'm taking care not to waste anything. For instance, I bought buttermilk for a pork recipe which we had last night, and I used the leftovers in biscuits to have with chili tonight. We had ricotta in a homemade pizza last Sunday, and I'll use the leftovers in chocolate ricotta muffins tomorrow. I'm getting better at thrift. I'm also getting better at baking. I have a 'thing' about flour on my hands. In the last week I've made homemade tortillas and biscuits, and both required a good amount of flour on my hands. I'm building my tolerance!