Highland County Maple Festival, 2016

21 March, 2016

Wren and I made it to the 2016 Highland County Maple Festival on the cold, gray, snowy final day – Sunday, March 20. And it was fantastic! Here’s a tree in front of Evelyn’s Pantry, a slight dusting of snow when we got out of the car:

Snowy tree - in front of Evelyn's Pantry!

Snowy tree – in front of Evelyn’s Pantry!

We were right across the street from our old friend Nathan Jenkins, the most personable and talented woodworker you’re ever likely to meet. Last year he made me the first spurtle I’ve ever owned, out of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) wood. I’ve made oatmeal (a.k.a. “porridge”) with it all year. I believe that spurtle will last forever. This year I asked him to make a new one to go with it. The new one is longer and made of maple. I put a picture of both of them together on yesterday’s blog post; you can see it at L’Chaim!

I wish I’d taken a picture of Nathan as he made it, but Wren and I were so busy listening to  him tell us about his work and the things he makes, I never did! And Nathan made Wren  an excellent gift for our nephew – I didn’t photograph that work of art either. I’ll see if I can get Wren to send me a picture so I can include it in a future post.

Everything Nathan had, he’d made himself – it was remarkable. Here’s a picture of him working on his spring pole lathe. I apologize for the garish background on the tent behind him:

The remarkable Nathan Jenkins

The remarkable Nathan Jenkins

Nathan also carved this wooden spoon, which I bought to add to my small collection of spoons I got from him last year; I ate my oatmeal with it this morning:

Hand carved wooden spoon by Nathan Jenkins. I ate oatmeal with it this morning!

Hand carved wooden spoon by Nathan Jenkins. I ate oatmeal with it this morning!

The thing about getting this stuff from Nathan, about getting it at the Maple Festival is, whenever I use it – even in August – it brings me back to the calm, satisfying experience of an early spring morning in Highland County. It’s the calmest, most relaxing place you’ve ever been. Wren described the feeling as “home grown” and that’s perfect. 100% un-artificial. I think they have extra oxygen in the air up there or something. I never feel more alive than We bought our syrup from Back Creek Farms. I bought a big jug, but I know we’ll go through it quick. But I was talking with the owners (there are very few “middlemen” of any variety at the Maple Festival) and they told me their syrup would be for sale in Richmond soon – just check back on their web site! Yay!

For our last stop of the trip every year, we visit Duff’s Sugar House at Fairlawn Farm. I took a few pictures, but none are fantastic. I’ll put them here in a moment. They reflect my own sometimes-odd interests perhaps more than they reflect those of the blog-consuming public. While researching, I found two superb articles about Duff’s. One is from the 2014 Maple Festival. The other is about Duff’s in the autumn. The text is well-written and the pictures are top quality. The first one I discovered is called Duff’s Sugar House at Fairlawn Farm … 2014 Highland Maple Festival. The second article is of equally high quality; I recommend both: FAIRLAWN FARM CELEBRATES FALL IN HIGHLAND COUNTY.

The bleak weather this year made the light soft and pleasant. I took this picture looking across the small pond at Duff’s:

Have you ever looked at a scene as serene and peaceful as this one? My blood pressure drops 10 points just looking at it.

Have you ever looked at a scene as serene and peaceful as this one? My blood pressure drops 10 points just looking at it.

Sheep at Duff’s:

That's what's meant by "pastoral."

That’s what’s meant by “pastoral.”

Of course, I left my dogs at home, but I can’t stay away from dogs long. This Great Pyrenees was a superb ambassador:

This was a GREAT Pyrenees!

This was a GREAT Pyrenees!

Every year we wander around the pond looking in, and every year there are Red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) swimming around in their “aquatic adult” or “newt” phase. If you look closely, you can see its characteristic red spots:  

Red-spotted newt, taking the Polar Plunge.

Red-spotted newt, taking the Polar Plunge.

Also every year on the edge of the pond, prim and graceful in her “bronze” phase, the “Maple Syrup Fairy” gazes serenely upon them as they swim past her feet which just have to be really cold:

She looks so peaceful. But my feet get cold just looking at her.

She looks so peaceful. But my feet get cold just looking at her.

This is an old “sugar” or sugar maple (Acer saccharum) tree just below the pond. This is one of the many trees in Highland County that supplies the sap for the syrup:

Highland County sugar maple tree, it will leaf out soon.

Highland County sugar maple tree, it will leaf out soon.

Full disclosure – while Wren and I were driving the three miles or so from Monterey to Fair Lawn, I got turned around. A couple of times, actually, before we found our way to Fair Lawn. I am not the world’s greatest navigator – and there’s no GPS! But, as luck would have it, I was driving slow, trying to get oriented – and a bird I didn’t recognize landed on a wire. I put down my window and coasted to a stop, raised my camera and snapped this picture before the bird flew off. My first ever American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)! I should get lost more often!

American Kestrel - what a treat that was.

American Kestrel – what a treat that was.

I’m blogged out! Or anyway I can’t write any more or put up any more photographs right now. I’ll be back Sunday. Enjoy! 

All best,

Jay

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in American Kestrel, Birds, Dogs, Fun, highland maple festival, People, raptors, Rivers, Shenandoah Valey, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Highland County Maple Festival, 2016

  1. Pingback: Guest blogger, Maple Festival 2017, Pony Pasture deer | NEWFAZE

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