Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Preparations Continue: Scent of Cedar Everywhere

These excellent eight-foot-long cedar 2x12 inch boards
will last more than a decade outside in the elements for
Valhalla's soon-to-be-constructed organic gardening
beds. No sales to the public though: our goal is to keep
up to fifty combat Soldiers and war zone civilian
workers properly fed with best-quality gourmet
produce they themselves help to grow and harvest
right here on the Valhalla property.
Valhalla now has two cedar "bed" projects going at the moment: constructing frames for the queen, full, and twin sized mattresses currently laying on the floors that don't have their own bed frames yet, and also making raised beds for the intensive gardening program that will be feeding Soldiers and war zone civilian workers by next year. Vegetables for ten people by next summer, and enough canned vegetables and meat to sustain up to 50 participants at a time twelve months from now!

LTC Tom Lombardo and me in spring 2008 when
the 18th Military Police Brigade was headquartered at
Camp Liberty outside Baghdad, Iraq. A black-and-

white version of this very same photograph appears
in the book "Warrior Police"; my coauthor (and now
wife) Chris Fontana have already pledged all profits
from the book to help make Valhalla a reality and a
project that might someday be duplicated all over
the United States to help combat Soldiers and
war zone workers readjust to the civilian world
while learning new skills and also having
wonderful times together in the process.
Parenthetically, our board members Tom Lombardo and Mike Stillwell have been working with the excellent public affairs staff at Fort Leonard Wood in the person of Tabitha Smith specifically to arrange a visit soon by members of the Warrior Transition Unit. These wounded Soldiers are learning how to function either to remain on active Army duty or to return to civilian life.

While we are firmly focused on the larger Soldier population as well as the wounded, this visit tracks well with our Valhalla mission and purpose which focuses on combat Soldiers and war zone civilians including all who served downrange.

When they do arrive we hope to provide them a hunting opportunity as well as a chance to do some improvement projects, many of which will involve wood working including cedar applications.

Small and friendly despite formidable sets of horns,
Scot Highlanders with a curious calf at their side

graze contentedly while keeping a wary eye on
strangers. The calves look just like little teddy
bears, but watch out for their mother's horns...
So far we're not at the point yet where we're logging and milling our own timber, however. That day will come. Now we're availing ourselves of the excellent products milled by Phillip and Marla Fouraker of Yellville. The couple runs a very efficient home-based milling operation on a large, beautiful farm not far from town. They specialize in cedar, red and white oak, and pine. Two Scot Highland cows with unbelievably cute calves at their side grace a nearby field.

I'm holding a beautifully grained future post for a queen bed.
 Keeping my fingers crossed that I measured carefully!
We picked cedar because of its natural beauty, the insect-repellant characteristics, and the glorious scent that now fills the living room where we now have a small stack of lumber drying beside the fireplace.

For the bed frame project we picked 4x4 inch posts with 2x6 inch horizontal members. Because my carpentry is heavier on enthusiasm than expertise, we decided on a very simple, functional design. Thanks to the kind assistance of Criss Blake who trucked us over to the Fouraker mill, we were able to pick up the bed materials (plus lots of extra wood for various projects constantly fermenting in my wife Chris's head). Ultimately we plan to have an old farm truck of Valhalla's very own, but not just yet.

Timely arrival of a DeWalt compound miter saw and a pair of sanders (one belt, one orbital) ordered through Amazon meant we were able to get right to work, even though the weather has turned chilly outside. The Amazon programs offer a lot for a frugality-minded operation like Valhalla. By placing items on a "wish list" we are notified automatically of special sales - sometimes only good for hours - and have been able to get these and a few other bare-essentials tools at significantly discounted prices.

My cravat from Vietnam serves as a field expedient dust mask.
It's the same one pictured above that I wore in Iraq. That piece of
cloth now has three wars and some nasty place in between in
it's history. The patrol cap is Afghanistan vintage from

our "Warrior Policeresearch embeds last year.
Eventually we hope Valhalla will have a full-up wood shop with table saws, drill presses, planer-joiners, and much more for many Soldiers at a time to work with, but for this early start in preparing for their arrival in the spring we're making do with the bare essentials.

Still, where there's a will.... So the first of several bed frames is almost ready for final assembly and use.

Meanwhile, just yesterday, Phillip kindly dropped off the fixin's for the raised beds. I'm very excited about knocking them together so we can get some garlic planted in the ground before the real cold sets in and the other garden beds will have a winter season to age and be ready for planting in the spring.

And it all begins with some cedar boards. Neat.

"No sweat, it's just Joker the Cat again!
Pausing in their raucous morning grazing-parade around the house, the Guinea fowl take time to assess potential threats (and decide, "none here") while very casually relieving themselves on the concrete steps.

"How crude, they're not even using the litter box!" Fastidious Joker has his own evaluation
while looking out the window at his most favorite insect-and-tick-eating 
feathered friends.

Our IRS application for nonprofit status is being processed, 
yet you can still donate to help Valhalla today!

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