About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

Memorial Castle Project — RIP Mister Duke


Hello and welcome to the blog.  It was a sad couple of weeks.  Mr. Duke, the beloved black tomcat, had to be put down on January 8th.  Though I only had Duke a couple of years, he had a loving home and provided purrs up until his passing. Duke taught me that black cats are anything but bad luck but a lot of people won’t adopt based solely on fur color.  I’d take another in a heartbeat!

Without going into detail, there was a sign that it was time.  When I got him to the clinic, we sedated the kitty and he looked so comfortable and relaxed.  I opted to leave during the final IV.  The last memory was a pleasant one.  I’m sure gonna miss my “Little Bubby”.  I had bonded with him and as two old bachelors, we seemed to understand each other so well.


My tiny little woodworking area at home. The paper plates are post-it notes…


As of the last post I had started working on Castle Duke.  The project is now nearly complete.  It was one of those jobs you only do an hour or two at a time.  About all that is left now is filling cracks, sanding, and painting.  Jenny continues to be fascinated with the construction and will surely take her place there in a week or so.


After building the stairs, I used this little scrap of plywood for her to lay on while the castle was being constructed.


After Duke’s ashes were returned to us in a velvet pouch, Jen-Jen and I slept next to them.  She would howl and curl up by the bag.  Somehow she knew this was her pal.  The ashes are now in the urn.


The velvet pouch provided by the Anamosa Vet Clinic


The castle itself was not too difficult to construct.  The base, column and stairs were finished first.  The next step was to make the castle itself out of 1/4″ thick oak and birch plywood cut on a scroll saw.  I joked on Facebook about how this castle is built out of better material than my mobile home!


The base and board on which the castle rests.



Building the main compartment was the next phase.  It wasn’t difficult and it was accomplished in an afternoon.  The two towers on top took longer and I became quite familiar with them after having to redo the larger one.  (Grrrr!)



A not-so-flattering picture of Jenny. She’s been a brat and often had to be put in the other room during sawing and drilling. She would even try to slap the hammer as I was pounding nails.


The trim wasn’t all that difficult to do around the doorways… just tedious.  After that it was a matter of cutting about 48 battlement blocks (the little angled, square pieces)  A battlement is where you hide behind and from where arrows or bullets are launched.  Each required 2 cuts.  There were also 14 fence posts that had to be notched out as shown below.



Notching out the fence posts (so the base board fits into them). Done all with the scroll saw, this was tricky…


The flag sitting on a block was an experiment.  Flag holders will be refined and made for both towers.  There will also be windows on each tower and the wall to the left of the bottom opening.  There are also tiny mirrors and other decorations for after the castle is painted and carpeted.



Next on the list is cleaning and putting tools away.  It would be nice to have the kitchen table back.  Then comes the finishing work and painting of the castle.  It’s been an truly enjoyable project and therapeutic, to say the least.  When the weather warms, the shed is going to get a good cleaning and there are plans to make some other wood items outside using the new scroll saw.


RIP Duke!


This endeavor has kept Jenny and I off the street and provided a really cool artifact for future cats to enjoy.

Thanks for visiting today.  Safe and happy camping!  Hopefully it will be possible to get back out there and camp again soon now that this castle job is winding down.  Take care!


Brad and Miss Jenny
Jones County, Iowa


 86 total views,  9 views today