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