Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I’m wrapping up work on book #4, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Building Projects, which will be published by Storey Publishing next year. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have work I love, a wife that offers unconditional support and an editor that gives me lots of free rein.

         The book involves designing and prototyping lots of new things. I’m pretty comfortable with projects that are wood-based, like yard sheds, garden carts and raised bed gardens. I’ve worked with wood for 30 years and have a workshop full of tools and a head full of successes and failures. But some projects involve, what for me is, uncharted territory—like the flowerpot smoker. The only woods involved are the hickory chips that invoke their sweet smoky aroma. And it was here I encountered the sweet smell of success, and a small “eureka” moment.

The flowerpot smoker prototype
A flowerpot smoker is crafted from a couple of flowerpots, an electric hot plate, a small grill and a few other odds-and-ends. I cobbled my prototype together from information on the Internet, bought a 5-pound brisket, brined it overnight and began experimenting.

The meat of the matter

My cooking skills are pretty much limited to things containing the words eggs, pasta and stir fry. In other words, I’m a raging culinary rookie. I’m not at all like my daughter Maggie who can whip up a gourmet meal with one hand tied behind her back and the other holding sweet little Anna. (Read her award-winning Kitchie Coo BLOG for her thoughts on food, love and life.) I don’t have a storehouse of information or a backlog of successes to guide me through new projects. Four hours after switching the smoker on, I shredded the brisket, added a little barbecue sauce and took a bite. Wow—it wasn’t just good, it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted? Why? Because it was flavored with the sweet smell of success.

The sweet smell of success!!

It made me realize that the success I felt as a rookie cook is akin to the success others feel as rookie woodworkers who have just crafted their first birdhouse or outdoor bench. That brisket put me back in touch with the thrill of crafting something beyond ones comfort zone for the first time. And that feels pretty darn good.


  1. Woo woo! Go Dad! I am fully impressed by your newly acquired cooking skills (and humbled by your sweet remarks regarding my culinary skills). You've got another meal you can add to your repertoire. And you are certainly an awesome breakfast cook...think you could cook waffles in the smoker? :-)

  2. That brisket looks great Spike!

  3. I so want one of these in my garden!
    Can you please tell me how to make it I am quite curious and I thought it was awesome! By the way, I am sure it tastes nice (SUCCESS!).

    Yummy waffles!