Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gathering Wood

       We sell our wares at a variety of events and festivals.   One of the most popular questions that we hear again and again is... "  Where do you get the wood for all of your beautiful pieces?"   So, I thought I would take a minute to give folks a little insight into the part of the spoon carving process that most people miss.  

      Our largest wood source by far is simply thoughtful friends, family and neighbors that hear of someone needing to take a tree down or see a tree that has fallen down.    Thankfully, word of mouth spreads quickly and we get calls quite often from people who need to remove a walnut tree that is too close to their house or saw a cedar tree in the ditch, or did a landscaping job and removed a holly tree. Sometimes customers will have us create something from a tree that was in their yard and died or had to be taken down.  Then they can continue to enjoy the tree and cherish the memories they have of the tree.     We really appreciate all these good folks who call us.    It helps us out tremendously,  is far less wasteful than letting the tree rot or chipping it, and it preserves the beauty of the tree for many generations to enjoy.   Once we get the call to come and get wood, we never quite know what we will find when we arrive.   Sometimes the tree is cut and laying by the road and we are so thrilled to just lift it up into the truck and head for home.    Most of the time, however, that is not the case.    A more likely situation is that the wood is at the bottom of a hill, nestled in between many trees or houses and there is no way to get the truck close to the wood at all.  Then we have to get creative and as Sy says, "use our primitive  Egyptian-style techniques."    Basically, we use a lot of muscle and some ropes and perhaps some nearby saplings as rollers.    It eventually works and everyone gets a lesson in working together and problem solving.     

    These pictures are from a trip we took to West Virginia last week.    Sy had some special orders that needed walnut wood and we were out of it.   So, we headed to West Virginia to visit Sy's Granny and see if we could find any walnut on her 30 acres in the hills.    We very rarely cut living trees solely for the business, but if we have no other option, we choose carefully and repectfully.    We found a walnut tree that was dying and a cherry tree in an area that could benefit from thinning.   We cut them both and were thrilled to load up a truckload of wood and head back over the hills towards home.    There is a story behind each spoon or bowl that leaves our booth.   We know where your bowl began and the hours that we sweated to get the tree home to carve it.   Each piece has a lifetime and a tale to tell  before it ever reaches the chopping block.  Just ask us about your spoon.  We know the story behind it and are happy to share it with you.     

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Honey Day!

     Around our home, honey extraction day ranks right up there with one of the most popular national holidays. School is cancelled for the day, friends and family drop by to lend a hand and crank for a while, the kids gorge themselves on big chunks of wax and honey that drop unnoticed, and the day just hums with excitement.    This year was no exception.   We learned a whole lot and made more of a sticky mess than you could imagine, but everyone had a great time.   

       We had 8 frames to extract for this session.   ( Hopefully we will be able to take some more in another month or so.)   The first step is to cut the capping wax off the top of the comb.   This step actually proved much less graceful and refined than I would have imagined.   However, as Selene and I tried our hand at carefully removing the top of the comb, I began thinking hard about the beeswax and what a marvelous creation it is.   The wax is made by female worker bees.  It comes from glands on their abdomens, and it is clear and unscented when it is first excreted.   The color and scent of the beeswax comes from the nectar and pollen that they gather.    Just as honey varies in taste depending on the source of nectar; beeswax also varies in color or scent.    However, there is so much more to it than color and scent.   This amazing product is used by the bees to build incredibly  strong and beautiful comb.   This comb keeps the finished honey completely clean with just the right moisture content.   It protects it from mold, moisture, heat and stores it extremely efficiently.    The beeswax is naturally made with no chemical by products.   It can be used over and over again, and when the bees are done with it, you can turn it into candles, soap or other products.   All of this can be accomplished without wasting  any energy or burning fossil fuels.    

      When I think about all of the human technology that we possess, it frustrates me.   We can communicate with someone thousands of miles away, we can build structures hundreds of feet tall, and we can make I-phones and computers that can do more than I could ever imagine.   However, we can not create a  protective wrapper for our food without using up energy or wasting petroleum and emitting toxic by-products.  Once the wrapper is created, it is  normally used once and then left to rest in a landfill for the next few hundred years.     The simple orange peel or common beeswax are beautiful examples of nature's perfect system.   I hope that we can learn to imitate this system a little closer in the future.    There is so much to learn from the bees, if we could just observe and listen a little closer.