Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy-Inspired Basket

In honor of the "free time" caused by Hurricane Sandy (i.e. most everything has been cancelled!), Jeff made a basket today.  Joe Bruneau, the artist who teaches us at Kanuga on our summer vacation, had challenged Jeff to make a flat basket.  And, so he did.

We hope you like it, Joe!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Demo at Claude Moore's October Market Fair

We had a great time this past weekend at Claude Moore Colonial Farm's Market Fair.  Held three times a year (October, May and July), it's always a lot of fun for everyone.  We've demo'd at this venue more than any other, so it's a bit of a homecoming for us.  It's a great opportunity to catch up with lots of friends....and make new ones.

Jeff did some fine forging.  As always, we produced a lot of colonial-style nails.  Nails remain the perfect piece to show both colonial history and a finished product within a few minutes.  Jeff also worked on some new candlesticks (photos coming soon once he makes some more; we sold all that he made). 

Jeff also made a massive bottle opener that became one of the funniest parts of our weekend. 

Just for fun, Jeff started with a big piece of steel, which set the tone for a bottle-opener that would not be easily lost!   As he worked on it, he developed quite a following as folks wanted to see just how it would end up.  Our friend and fellow smith, Curt, stopped by and was enlisted to work on it for a few minutes, too.

Finally, after finishing it off with a small leaf, Jeff rushed down to the tavern for a bottle so we could test it.  He soon returned with a bottle of Ginger Beer and the crowd helped us test it, as we were all rather eager to see if it would work.  It did!  Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the piece as it was sold and went home with its new owner a few minutes later.  It was good fun, though!

Over the course of the weekend, we chatted with around 3,500 people.  In one instance, as a group of teenage girls watched Jeff and started to understand the process of smithing, one girl announced to her friends...."Wow, that is epic!"  I'd never quite referred to blacksmithing in that way, but she's quite right! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Fall Day at Huntley Meadows

Today, I had an opportunity to experience a beautiful fall morning at Huntley Meadows Park.  This wetland/woodland park is an amazing place -- I always see something new! 



I got the chance to walk along the paths today with the children in the local school where I am an assistant teacher.  These children are quite good naturalists and it's a treat to learn from them. 



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Candy Canes in October

We might not have the kids' Halloween costumes figured out, but we are in fine shape for the December holidays!  Jeff has been in the forge making candy cane ornaments.  We made a few last year as gifts for teachers, but we were definitely a bit behind and didn't have time to make many more. 

This year is different.

Jeff is already making a bunch for a local organization as the company's gifts for the staff/volunteers.  We'll also have some with us at Claude Moore Colonial Farm this weekend as we demo for their Market Fair.  If you'd like some and can't make it out to the Market Fair, just contact us and we'll be glad to ship them to you.


And, if you happen to have ideas for Halloween costumes, please feel free to pass those along, too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Monarch Emerges

You never know what you are going to learn in a new job, and that has been certainly true of my position this year as an assistant at a local Montessori school.  One of the things I've been blessed to discover is a wealth of knowledge about butterflies.... I'm learning so much!

Today, our last Monarch butterfly emerged:

 Tomorrow, it will start its journey to Mexico.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Demo at Heritage Festival at Prince William Forest Park

We had a lovely time demo'ing yesterday at the Heritage Festival at Prince William Forest Park.  This was a low-key event, designed to educate attendees on the various aspects of the park.  We had been invited to demonstrate blacksmithing as a part of the section devoted to the Civilian Conservation Corps, who built the park from 1935 to 1942.  The festival also had lots of children's crafts, as well as an area devoted to World War II because the park was a secret training area of the World War II spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services, from 1942-45. 

In addition, the festival offered lots of great music -- Jeff was thrilled that we were blacksmithing very close to the bluegrass band!  You should have seen him trying to keep time with his anvil -- it was rather funny since he's not known for his musical ability. 

One of the great aspects of the festival was that the children were sent on a scavenger hunt when they arrived; they were told to write down one thing that they learned from various demonstrators.  We got to do a tremendous amount of education, which is always our mission on these events.  We don't demonstrate blacksmithing to show off Jeff's talents but to teach people about the craft.  Thus, Jeff had brought material to make andirons but we quickly switched gears to make nails and other projects that can be completed quickly so the children could see a project from start to finish and get a fuller understanding of the craft. 

The only downside of the day was that it was the coldest morning to date and we forgot to pack gloves and other winter things.  It's the second demo in a row where I set up while bundled in a blanket! On the flip side, though, once the fire got started, we were one of the warmest places to be!

Friday, October 12, 2012

An October Afternoon in the Garden and at AHS

Once I returned home from another fun-filled work session at Mount Vernon (I'm having so much fun with this job!), the boys and I took advantage of a day off of school to head out to the garden.  With colder temperatures in the forecast, we cleaned up a few tomato plants and brought the green ones inside to ripen. We left about half of the plants in the garden, though, since I don't think the frost is actually going to reach our area.  Check out the size of the cushaw squash -- great pies are on the fall and winter menu.  My younger son is totally puzzled as to why cushaw squash make great "pumpkin" pies when they aren't a pumpkin!

We then went went to visit our friend, Miss Jane, at the American Horticultural Society.   Jane (who is in charge of volunteer opportunities and the gift shop) and her husband Tom (director of AHS) are some of the best things about AHS.  It's a great place.  You've got to love a place so welcoming to everyone -- we really enjoy volunteering there as a family.  


It was a wonderful afternoon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Demo at the Heritage Festival this Saturday

Please join us this Saturday at Prince William Forest Park for what looks like a fun festival!  We'll be blacksmithing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Please note, though, that we won't be selling any our ironwork, so just email or call us if you'd like something.  Also, this is not a colonial demonstration, so we won't be in costume for a change. 

Hope to see you!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tabling the Broom Corn

In these unsettled economic times, I have taken on more and more part-time jobs (as has Jeff). It's a running joke in our household about how many jobs we are currently holding. Some jobs, though, have immediate the living history arena.

I've taken on a "on-call, part-time" interpreter position at the Mount Vernon Estate, which is wonderful and a lot of fun. It's great to work with people who share so many of the same interests.  One day, when I stopped in to meet someone, I happened to notice the broom near where she was working.....and then noticed that it to be made out of broom corn, which I am currently growing but did not know how to get from the garden bed into a broom.   And so I asked.

Before many minutes had passed, we'd had a great conversation that included the information that I should "table" my broom corn. Turns our, tabling is fine and easy when you have plenty, but we don't, so we tabled as best as we could. We're already dreaming about making our first home-made broom....after, of course, we research those next steps!  We might not have enough broom corn to actually make a broom, but we'll give it a good try.  If you, by any chance, know what we should do, please feel free to let us know.