A decade or so ago, the farm workshop was a pig farrowing barn. But today no swine smell lingers. Now when you walk through the doors, you catch whiffs of cut wood, Danish oil, sap, and wood glue. No oinks, but the whir of saw blades and the scratch of sandpaper. And instead of pigs, you'll meet Bruce, the farmer turned artist, working away on his latest wood project.
"Well, I was bored," says Bruce with his big smile. "I retired and I needed something to do and to keep out of Judy's (his wife's) way."
What he found was a hobby that keeps him both busy and challenged. His shop is littered with scrap wood, printed versions of project ideas he's found on Pinterest, pieces of paper with scribbled dimensions and important notes, and a variety of stains and paints he's been experimenting with. His shop isn't messy, man - it's creative.
Since he started, Bruce has become an expert in Pinterest, browsing the idea site for anything new and challenging, for things to make just for fun and for things that make practical sense for the farm.
Some of our favorite pieces are his mosaics, which are made from old pieces of scrap wood. He painstakingly cuts each small piece to size and shape, then glues them all together according to a preset pattern. These projects can take a few hours or a few days, and Bruce has created them in a variety of sizes and shapes, from the large barn quilts that hang in the barn to smaller pieces in a variety of designs, including a feather that hangs in my house. (And upon visiting his shop to write this blog, I found more feather pieces, which means I'm going to have quite a few Bruce originals in my house!)
And the practical projects he's worked on have been just as great. Bruce made napkin holders for the tables that we use for our public events, sanded and stained some beautiful old pieces of wood for our bar menu, and made all of our high chairs. So many of the pieces we use on a daily basis have come right from Bruce's shop.
In the past few months, Bruce has been working on smaller projects to sell during our fall season, and also spent about a week making a grand throne, which the Easter Bunny will have the honor of sitting in at our Breakfast at the end of the month!
For Bruce, tinkering away at projects and coming up with new ideas is a great way to stay busy and have fun. But like most of the Vespermans, this hobby is also about finding a way to contribute to the farm's business and history, and so many of his pieces reflect his attention to and care for the farm where he's spent his life. From re-purposing old barn wood that keeps this history of this place alive to making pieces that enhance the experience of people enjoying the farm now, Bruce isn't just one of the most useful guys on the farm, he's also one of the sweetest.
This story is part of 15 Year Features series to celebrate 15 years of Vesperman Farms' fall season. If you'd like to read more, click on the "15 Year Features" category!