May in Maine is always welcomed, and something to look forward to. The last of the dirty snow piles are gone, and the first flowers appear. White trillium put on a nice show this year. I have a section of woodland below the house where I plant and encourage native wildflowers: bloodroot, wake robin, trout lilies, Soloman’s seal,violets, etc. By mid summer it’s all taken over by jewel weed.In the sunny part of the lawn, where the grass is short and the soil rather poor, bluets grow in small clumps.What was really astounding this spring, was the overwhelming number of sugar maple seedlings. Once or twice a decade the sugar maples, or rock maples (Acer saccharum) conspire to inundate the world with seeds (samaras). Last fall they were everywhere. This was the result, before I mowed the lawn.Picking them out of the flower beds has been an ongoing chore. As someone who practices guerilla forestry, plants trees and scatters seeds whenever possible, I have mixed emotions about mowing down literally hundreds of thousands of seedlings in one afternoon. On the other hand, roughly 99.9% would be crowded out and die anyway.
May is also the time for Work Day at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community. The museum opens on Memorial Day. The forsythia, apples and pears were in full bloom. We are so fortunate to have both the last active Shaker community and Haystack here in Maine. This year, we had to bow out of work day, since we were off to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, on Deer Isle.We were lucky to have had three days of sunshine! I took blacksmithing, and Peg tool precious metal clay. The days are cool and often damp, and this is one of the most common sights outside the cabins. Hoping for dry towels.With cool days come cold nights, hence my attending blacksmithing classes for the past several years. Between the coal forges and gas furnaces, it’s quite toasty. This year’s class was weather vanes and garden ornaments. It was the first time I’ve had the chance to use a plasma cutter. It’s like using a stylus on an iPad, only way cooler! Flip down the visor and cut away, right through 1/8″ or 1/4″steel. Great fun. I made a Ginko biloba weather vane. The most difficult part was to wrap the rock counter weight in steel, yet make the rock removable in order to paint and rustproof the vane. With a bit more spare time, and another chance to use the plasma cutter, I made, cut, welded and riveted the “mad woman” weather vane, now in the garden (to be planted this weekend). Both spin freely in the wind, balanced only on a pointed 1/2″ steel rod.Between all that fun, I actually got some work done in the shop. A maple dining table with drawer. Off to Oklahoma soon.That was the only piece fully finished. I’m also starting another standing desk. Not only that, but I spent two days designing, turning and figuring out how to make a new series of 8, 10, and 12-arm chandeliers. They should be done next month, in time for the June blog.
This year, May was the month to re-stock my cherry supply. I always buy FAS, S3S to 15/16,” 8″ and wider. That’s a nice pile of mostly 10″ boards and a few 12″ and 14″ wide. Don’t make the mistake of storing your wood upstairs. Hauling 500 bdft., (about 1.5 tons) of cherry up the steps is no fun, even with help. If you recall, last August and September, I made a Shaker bench. It finally made an appearance in Fine Woodworking issue 269. Have a look. I’ve also updated the web site, added the two new lamps, and the stainless steel drip cups are now for sale through the site.
C. H. Becksvoort © 2018