Monday, June 3, 2013

Spike Carlsen: The Large Joys of Small Projects

My wife Kat and I live on a semi-small city lot in the semi-small river town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Given the semi-smallness of it all, our self-sufficiency projects tend toward the small; perhaps “miniscule” would be a better word. We measure the output of our vegetable garden in armloads rather than bushel loads. When we tapped the lone maple tree in our front yard this spring, the yield — when boiled down — amounted to one lonely pint of maple syrup. Kat canned jelly last fall, and we could count the number of jars on the counter on two hands.

But that hasn’t stopped us from getting dirt under our fingernails. Indeed, we derive huge satisfaction from these small forays into self-sufficiency. As you most likely do, too. So when I began designing the projects that would go into The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects (it’ll be released in spring of 2014), I was determined to include plenty of projects for those with semi-small goals, yards, and amounts of spare time. This flowerpot smoker is one such project.

The smoker is made from readily available materials, many of which you might have lying around. The smoking chamber is made from a pair of clay pots, and the heat source is a cheap electric hot plate (maybe you have one left over from college?). The rest is odds and ends. As with any project where you're using ordinary products in an extraordinary way, take extra care to build the smoker and use it carefully.

The 5-pound brisket I cooked on the smoker’s maiden voyage spent about 8 hours in the brining pan and 4 hours on the smoker. The results were fabulous. And of course having used “done-it-myself spice” — a spice you can't buy in any store — made it taste all the better.

If you can’t wait for The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects to come out, google the words “flowerpot smoker” or visit a site such as for more information.

Rough illustration © by Elayne Sears
for The Backyard Homestead’s Book of Building Projects, Spring 2014

Have a scrumptious, hands-on summer!

— Spike Carlsen

Spike Carlsen, author of Woodworking FAQ, has been immersed in the world of woodworking for over 30 years. He ran his own construction and remodeling company, was executive editor at Family Handyman, and has written hundreds of articles for numerous publications. He currently writes “The Great American Woodworker” for American Woodworker. His book, A Splintered History of Wood, won several awards and was selected by NPR as one of their “Best Books for Holiday Giving.”

No comments: