Guest blogger, Maple Festival 2017, Pony Pasture deer

12 March, 2017            Guest blogger, Maple Festival 2017, Pony Pasture deer – A blog post in three parts:

Part 1, Guest blogger, my niece Wren:

The Maple Festival

The Maple Festival is a place where you meet people who inspire you to be your best self. For example take the man on the right, his name in Nathan Jenkins, “The Bodging Bigfoot.”  He is one of the nicest, and most interesting people I have ever met. Nathan makes  wooden products. (I assume you have seen Jay’s spurtle). Jay and I met him about two years ago, and now he is one of our favorite reasons for coming to the festival. The first year we met him I purchased a tiny wooden spoon that I used to feed my fish food with. Last year I bought two baby rattles for my baby cousin Wesson. Just yesterday I got another spoon (bigger than the first). I asked Nathan to engrave his initials on it so I could remember his name. (Jay reminded me his initials are NJ which is like New Jersey where Evelyn’s mother lives). In conclusion I will say live life to its fullest and be yourself, for only you can be your own self.

Wren McLaughlin

Talking with Nathan Jenkins at the 2017 Highland County Maple Festival. Photo credit: Wren McLaughlin

On our way to the Highland County Maple Festival I asked Wren if she’d take pictures, pick one she enjoyed, and write a paragraph for today’s blog post. Strictly optional – the  reason we go to the Maple Festival is to have fun. And look at the picture she took and the paragraph she wrote. You couldn’t buy a better souvenir than this for a million dollars.

This is Nathan’s card:

Nathan Jenkins – The Bodging Bigfoot

“Bodging” – I’d never heard of it until Maple Festival, 2017. Here’s a definition: “Bodging is a traditional woodturning craft, using green (unseasoned) wood to make chair legs and other cylindrical parts of chairs.” Who knew? Go to the Maple Festival, enhance your vocabulary. 

Wren and her sisters and I first attended the Maple Festival in 2008. Here is a picture of her in 2008 followed by one her dad (my brother Kevin) took when we got home yesterday. Wren is wearing blue in both pictures:

Wren (in blue), her sisters Phoebe and Clare and me, Highland Co Maple Festival, 2008

Wren still loves to wear blue – a pre-Maple Festival gift from Evelyn! I’ve added glasses!

I’m not a father, so I don’t have kids of my own to watch while they’re growing up. So I am constantly astounded that these people keep coming along. That first I just have my brother who is a few years younger than me, and all the members of my large family have been through so many experiences together. And we’ve aged together and in sometimes (not always) even matured, and we’ve been through the joys of new children, some of whom are now new adults, and we’ve been through the sorrows of losing both of our parents, and through the joys of graduations, of weddings, of trips together, of new pets, and we’ve even been through tons of the boring parts of life that nobody ever writes about – that’s when you really get to know people.


Part 2, Maple Festival 2017

We’re always so welcome – these people who only see us once each year always welcome us like familiar neighbors they’ve known their entire lives. 2008 was our first year, and I don’t think we’ve missed a year since. Nathan (I’m talking with him in the picture at the top) we just met a couple of years ago. Now he’s the first person we go see as soon as we arrive and eat breakfast. If you go to the Maple Festival, for me there is one breakfast: buckwheat pancakes with butter and Highland County maple syrup. Then we go find Nathan. The first year we met him he made me a “spurtle” – a wooden stick for stirring porridge and oatmeal – while we watched. And last year he made an improved version, and this year I bought one he’d already made.

Except for the picture Wren took with me talking with Nathan, this is my favorite. The guy is a born teacher:

Nathan Jenkins, The Bodging Bigfoot and expert teacher

We moseyed around Monterey itself for a few more hours before we headed south to visit Fair Lawn Farm. Our first year, 2008, my only picture is from breakfast. This was what I wrote in 2008: “On the first weekend of the 2008 Highland Maple Festival – the Fiftieth Annual – we saw, with the exception of hazy hot and humid, every weather Virginia has to offer. So during a great day outdoors, the only picture we took was indoors! We saw pouring rain, a huge flash of lightning, a roar of thunder, 45 minutes of crisp, clear, sunlight, a thirty minute long raging blizzard, and 60 mph winds – all in twelve hours, all in the same small town in the mountains of western Virginia. And we had buckwheat pancakes and fresh maple syrup!” But in 2009 I have four pictures, including one inside the syrup making building at Fair Lawn Farm. Here it is:

Fairlawn Farm, Maple Festival, 2009

That was the first time we heard Tim Duff speak about how they make syrup, and I realized we’d met another great teacher! Tim puts on a one man show, fielding questions and making syrup. He is constantly engaged, alternately listening and talking, but always smiling. I’m an awful indoor photographer but here’s Tim this year:

Tim Duff, loves to smile, loves to listen to questions, loves to answer them. Exceptional teacher.

Wren was outside exploring the grounds while I was warming up inside, smelling the sweet smell of boiling maple syrup while I learned more about how it’s made. Wren came back and tugged on my sleeve and said “there’s two people from Bridgewater Rescue Squad out here!” So I came out and she introduced us – these were two long time volunteers who had been friends with mom and dad for decades and knew them well! They told us how sorry they were when mom died, and a bunch of cute stories about when they’d worked with her and dad years ago. It was so, so sweet and warm.

I’ve run out of time for this blog post long before I’ve run out of either enthusiasm or pictures, but I can’t write and play with pictures all night. I don’t know if this will be posted in time for Wren to see her handiwork before she goes to sleep! But she can see it in the morning. I would sign off now but I got a couple of cute deer pictures at Pony Pasture Tuesday and I want to put them up.

Before that – one more thing – at last year’s Maple Festival, Wren and I were driving around and I saw my first ever American Kestrel perched on a wire. I got a moderately good photograph; you can see it on that Maple Festival blog post if you click it. At this year’s Maple Festival, I saw my second ever American Kestrel! Amazing. The picture isn’t gorgeous but it’s also not terrible:

Crouching kestrel

Can’t resist a bluebird either:

Bluebird on a fencepost, gorgeous light

Part 3, Pony Pasture deer

A few pictures from our hike Tuesday:

I think this is the mom. Or older sister. But look just behind her – see that other deer lurking back there? I didn’t see it until I got home.

I think this is the baby. Possibly younger brother.

Here they are together – not very clear, but they’re both there. They’re never far apart.

See you next week! All best! Thanks for the excellent trip Wren!


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, Carolina wren, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, highland maple festival, People, raptors, Rivers, Shenandoah Valey, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Guest blogger, Maple Festival 2017, Pony Pasture deer

  1. Sheila Wiese says:

    I am fairly certain I’ve read all of your blogs and this is one of my favorites. That is so cool you met some folks from BVRS!

    • I walked right past them earlier and had no idea. Then Wren was out there and they were talking to someone about Bridgewater. Wren overheard & struck up a conversation – just as her late grandmother would have – and that’s how we met! Incredible. Who could make this up?

  2. Tim Duff says:

    Jay- As usual, great job on this blog. You and the girls are always welcome in our Sugarhouse. We look forward each year to seeing our our friends faces amidst the sea of guests, who, by the next year become new friends!

    • Hi Tim – As usual, great job on the Maple Festival! We certainly always feel welcome, both at the Sugarhouse and in Highland County. We always visit the Sugarhouse last so we can relax and wander around and learn more about maple syrup production and other Highland County lore. And meet even more great people! Keep up the excellent work hopefully we’ll get a chance to drop by this summer for a visit. Have a great day,


  3. mediateva says:

    Thanks, Jay, and Wren! I feel like I’ve been to the Maple Festival myself after the years of blogs!

    • You’ll have to join us in 2018! Or visit yourself – I know you’d love it. Wren and I are talking about a summer trip up there too. It won’t be maple syrup time, but I have a sense that Highland County is an enjoyable place 365 days a year. Thanks for the note and I’ll talk with you soon,


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