William Gibbons Jr
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2020 12:48 PM
To: william's email list 2018
Subject: Two Year Project Stalls

Greetings to each of you,

I originally intended to get this email ready to send out last Tuesday, right after Labor Day. But, stuff happens, and hours fill up. I hope every one of you had an opportunity to enjoy the holiday. I have often been amused that even though we call it "Labor Day," the way most of us desire to celebrate it is by taking the day off work for a final hurrah of the summer with a mini-vacation. I sort of took the day off by going on a drive-about to take pictures, and enjoy our last likely 80 degree day of the season. Fall can give us an occasional warm up, but this was a break from what has been commanding much of my time recently, which is the reason for this email. 


On May 15, 2019, contractors for the city were taking down some trees on Bridge Street. This one stood right next to the driveway of the Center. We also had a dead tree in front of the building which had just been cut by the time I took this particular shot. My guess was they were preparing for the sewer and water line replacement project the city had been talking about for a few years.

I approached the workers, as they reached the Center, about being able to have the wood left for the non-profit to build some additional (what I refer to as) Lincoln Log benches. And, I showed them the ones already by the back porch. The cutter who appeared to be in charge said sure. But, when the worker picking up the logs arrived, I discovered it was an all, or nothing, deal. 


Here is what I call a Lincoln Log bench. I did this one some years ago. It sits on the other side of the driveway, about where the back porch is at the Teaching & Sharing Center of Grand Ledge. 

(This picture was taken in August 2019)


The driver, and claw handler, of the truck which came to pick up the logs explained they normally do not agree to leave the wood because in the past people would change their minds afterward, causing them extra work. Since the cutter had already agreed to donate the wood to the non-profit, he said he would stand by that as long as we took all the logs. They were just going to dump them on a wooded piece of company property, and not use them for anything. So, it did not matter to him where they put them. He could just as easily drop them in our driveway as long as they all were done at once. Five trees had been cut that day. 

  Even after regularly working on it.
The pile was still sizeable a month
later in June 2019.

That tool you see is an old log
roller I used to move them.

By the middle of July
I had selected most of
the logs I thought would
work for the bench seats.

But, the entire driveway
past the front porch steps
was still filled with logs.

  The intended location for most
of the benches was a concrete
slab on property just behind
the Center which has been
provided for our use.

In July 2019 I had also cut a bunch
of leg pieces for the benches. 


The idea was to create an outdoor teaching area. There was a lot of excess wood I needed to cut, and move, however. So the start of August 2019, found a long line of logs stretching from the front porch to the back yard. 

I found it interesting back in May when the logs were first piled in the driveway. I had five different fellows stop by to ask what we were going to do with all of that wood. They had a clear interest in it for heating. I explained about the benches, and offered each if they were willing to help us make the benches, they could have the excess to cut and split for firewood. No one accepted. 

It reminded me of a childhood storybook. I think it was perhaps titled The Little Red Hen. My recollection is she was looking for help baking bread without success. 

  By the end of August
I finally had all of the
logs on the ground.

It was a lot easier than
cutting them stacked
on top of one another.

Mid-September found me still
struggling with a few very large
sections of trees not needed.

One piece in particular stretched
all the way across the driveway.

So I asked people to spread the
word it was available to anyone
willing to cut it, and haul it away. 

  Toward the end of September 2019
I was mostly moving logs out of
the way so we would be able to
utilize the driveway during Fall Color
Cruise & Island Festival. We had
a new shed arriving, primarily for
storing the equipment/supplies of our
 Michigan Living History Encounters
branch, which is part of the festival.

The fellow who volunteered to bring his bigger chainsaw, and cut the seat logs lengthwise, did not show up on any of the several days he said he would. He did show up once for a few moments to show me how he saw himself in a dream cutting a strip of bark on each log to start the process. But, that was it. So, as FCC&IF approached, I rolled the large bench logs back next to where the new shed would sit. I elevated them a little on 2x8s to cut down on possible insect, and water damage, as they would likely need to sit there through the winter. 

The second week into January, we had one of those thaw, rain, snow, flood, get cold, freeze all at once events. These next four shots were taken on 1/12/20. 


Spring finally arrived. The Bridge Street new sewer and water lines project started in earnest confirming my guess of why the trees had been cut down. Then Covid-19 decided to make its debut into the world sending everyone's life into a crazy spiral.  


The logs sat uncut while,
little by little, I started to
remove the bark which was so
stubbornly clinging to them.

Then (below) in May we had
a very significant rain. Which
did not at all resemble the drought
like conditions the summer would
bring here in Grand Ledge.






In mid-July, I got sidetracked
when the sewer project foreman
recommended the shrubs in the
front of the Center should be cut
down, as their roots would likely
continue to be a problem.

The T&SC board took his advice,
and since I was already working
with my chainsaw, I said I could cut
them if others would dispose of them.




By the end of July 2020 (above), I had finally decided to risk cutting one of the seat logs myself. I have often joked, I could not cut a straight line with a chainsaw if my life depended on it. Which is not a problem when all you are cutting is firewood. But, when I am using a 16" saw on a larger than that log, and have to cut one side, then the other . . . well, it was not beautiful but it was close enough that with a lot of sanding the two pieces were usable. 

Still, that left me with six more logs. Plus, my chainsaw was acting up. In spite of the ongoing presence of the Covid-19 pandemic, I decided to call Don Taylor. It was his brother-in-law who had taken that remaining huge log I offered in the fall of 2019. Don made the arrangements, and came along then to help with the cutting. I saw his ability to cut a straight line. He had said then that, even though he did not own a chainsaw himself, if the fellow who volunteered to do the cutting did not follow through, since they were getting a lot of free wood out of the deal, I could call him to help. He would borrow a chainsaw if needed. 


Don came by on a Saturday the
first week of August and cut two
of the logs. He indicated it would
be three weeks before he was
available to help with the others.




My neighbor Mark, had offered in
the past that we could use his 10x20
tent if ever we needed it. I woke up
one morning thinking it would be a
good idea to have a covered work
space, since weather can have a very disruptive influence on outside work.

By August 13, I had put spar urethane
on the underside of all of the cut logs.


Donna and I had a 24x26 old silver
colored tarp that Mark and I put
over his tent for added protection.

The day before August 18, when this
picture was taken, high winds ripped
that tarp from one side to the other
along a seam. It took me a couple of
days to take it down, and turn it into
two tarps, before reutilizing it.




By the first few days of September
2020, all of the logs cut thus far
were sanded, had spar urethane
on them, and were ready to be
put into place. Jerry, a young man
who works at the Sun Theater, was
walking by the Center, and took a
few minutes to help move two seats
over to the places in the yard for them.


That is when things stalled. Contrary to general impression, I do not actually like woodworking. I occasionally will help build things. And, I am fine cutting and splitting wood for firewood when I have the time. But, even with modern carpentry, I am more of the rough carpenter. I do not have the patience for finish work. In this case, I have neither the skills, nor the tools, to do the job properly, even if I had enthusiasm to do so. Using my chainsaw, and a one and a half inch chisel, I tried to fit one of the seats into the legs. It is how I did it years ago on the other two we have on the property. I was once again reminded why I had told myself then to never take on the project of making another bench. I (somewhat) finished the one I was working on (below), but at all four contact points I had to use wood pieces as shims to stabilize the seat, so it did not shift when you sat on it. Those become weak points for weather and insects. 


Well, this is where things stand.

I am not willing to ruin all the work
done so far, by plunging forward in
spite of my lack of skills, tools, and
a general absence of enthusiasm for
the finish work remaining to be done.


  On September 6, 2020 I moved the
concrete blocks that the benches
would sit upon into position, and
turned the seats upside down to
make them temporarily more stable.

Then I decided I would compose and
send this email to see if anyone out
there enjoys woodworking, or knows
someone with the skills, and tools,
who does, and might be willing to help.


As of September 12, the area inside the tent does not look like the above picture. Don Taylor cut the remaining logs that day, and we moved them into the tent work area. I now have five more seats to prepare. When working with the chainsaw, or other power tools, my focus needs to be completely on what I am doing. But, when I was working with the chisel, I had time to ponder over the whole two year process . . .  

There were those who did not show up, but I am amazed that when I actually hit an impasse, God would bring somebody along. In one instance, when the logs were still piled on top of each other, I could not proceed until one log was out of the way. I could not use the log roller, or a 2x4 as leverage to move it because of its position. An acquaintance stopped by to ask if I had seen a friend of his. In conversing I mentioned my dilemma. He walked over. Bent down. Then lifted one end of the very large log until it was upright, and he could push it out of the way.  

I watched a PBS show the other day about how our brain works. I think "bias" was the word used, but basically it was talking about how our natural defaults kick in when we do not have the time to think about our choices. That could explain why I impulsively asked for the wood the day I saw them cutting the trees down. If the trees are already coming down, I hate to see them just go to waste. There was not time to remember how much I disliked the amount of work it took to do the other benches, only the fact that I could see them in their finished form where I was standing. I like them (even if they do need spar urethane upkeep just like a wood boat). 

Then there is the whole outdoor classroom concept. Why I had that idea grab hold of me, when I did actually remember how much work even one bench was, baffles the mind. Then I thought, what a shame we could not have had things in place already when Covid-19 hit. When all of a sudden every child was being schooled at home. An outdoor classroom might have given an occasional change of venue in a stressful situation. Maybe not. Only God knew it was coming, and while I felt some inner pressure to try to accomplish it in 2019, it was not meant to be. 

It might not get finished in 2020, if no help steps forward. At some point, before the snow flies, I need to return the tent to Mark. My current goal is to have all the pieces ready with at least one coat of spar urethane on them before subjecting them again to the harsh weather. Insects did a little damage on some of the ones not yet protected last winter.  


That is it about the benches. I was going to attach a copy of the IHS groups time availability sheet to this email. In His Steps groups is the other new major project I am currently working on. This sheet (front and back) provides information about the groups, as well as being a practical form to use in organizing groups. At this stage, I am not trying to organize anything at the Center. I am simply trying to get the word out about the program, and let people know they can use it without our involvement if so desired. I have been giving copies to friends and family to share with the churches they attend. Since this email is already fairly large because of all the photos, I will send a second email right away with the attachment. Please share it.  

As I said in an early Covid-19 email, even though the Center building is closed (the board of trustees decides when to open to the public again), we are around, and believe in sharing. No one needs to try to face the challenging days ahead alone. I am as close as your phone. 

May God guide each and every one of us through these unsettling times, and keep us mindful of sharing. 

Godís peace,

Acts 5:29

If you have any problems with the pictures showing, this email will be online as of Thursday, September 17, 2020 when I change my picture of the week. Select "What Is New" or "Newsletters" for the link to it. 


This is the attachment that was sent as a separate email. The jpg files are saved in their original size. Here, they have been reduced in dimensions for display. If you print from the webpage, you get the smaller size. To print the original letter size (8.5x11) right click on each image. Select "save as picture." Once the files are saved in your computer, they will print their full sizes. 

Online note: This document was created in Microsoft Word 2013. If you would like a copy of the original emailed to you, simply email me your request. 



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