It never rains but it pours, they say.

For about two weeks this spring, I was casting about for something to keep me busy in the shop while it was doing just that outside.

I swept up a winter's worth of sawdust.

I polished my handsaws.

I dug all the gunk out of the gears in my table saw that had been preventing me from making true 90-degree cuts.

I sorted through the burgeoning collection of hardware and other metallic litter that piles up despite my best intentions. I can't seem to part with it.

I even took down the screen door out front and hauled it to the shop for completely unnecessary refurbishing.

Then, just as the skies were clearing and I finally could tackle the gardens in earnest, all manner of projects came my way.

The little tea box was my own fault really. My buddy and I had a five-years-since-we-met anniversary coming up, and the traditional gift on such a momentous occasion is wood. Pretty much played into my strong suit.

I thought of doing a carving for her, but Mindy already has one. Same for the puzzle boxes. In fact, even her kids have my puzzle boxes.

So, because she's a caffeine addict, I made her a little wooden box in which to keep it her tea.

I was in the midst of carving TEA into the lid (so Mindy wouldn't mistakenly fill it with garlic or rusty nails, I suppose) when my neighbor, John, showed up at the shop door with an order for "ammo boxes."

I've been making the rustic little boxes for the past three years as rewards for young sharpshooters. They're actually shadow boxes, sized to hold the cartons that shotgun shells come in and other dead-eye paraphernalia.

I assume the graduating seniors who get them then graduate to meatier targets than clay pigeons.

Making the ammo boxes is simple, but then he told me the awards banquet was in two weeks.

Oh, and you don't have to worry about getting that staff done, John said, pointing at the four-foot length of diamond willow that was lying on the workbench.

He'd been whittling and sanding it for nearly a year, carefully gouging out the dozens of cankers for which that scrub tree is valued by the owners of canes and walking sticks, before he turned it over to me for finishing.

John wanted to add it to his own large collection of canes.

Three such pressing shop projects wouldn't have been an issue just a couple of weeks earlier when I was bored silly and would have welcomed anything to play with.

But it also was eve of planting season.

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Here in my corner of the Great American Desert, the frost-free date is May 10. That's when you can safely plunk your tomatoes and peppers into the ground, when you can seed your cucumbers and annual flowers, when frost-sensitive summer bulbs can be planted.

I had all of that to do — as well as a house to clean, laundry to do, lawns to mow and a front screen door to paint and rehang.

(Thought I'd forgotten that, didn't you?)

So, the anniversary was coming May 7.

Planting day was May 10.

The young gun nuts' banquet was May 15.

Did I make it?

Frankly, it's a wonder I don't have ulcers.

(Send your questions to HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, Neb. 68501 or email