Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Beaver Was Out!

The other day, I had a free hour while the rest of the family took the puppy to dog training class, so I headed out to Huntley Meadows.  We always say that there is something different to see on a nature walk...even one as short as 20 minutes as it was in this case, and it's always true, but sometimes it's easier than others!  This was one of the easy times because a beaver was out and about in the day.

As far as I understand it, beavers are nocturnal, but this one was either confused, daring...or fed up with the whole system.  He wasn't alone -- there was also a turtle out that should have been dug into the mud.  The temperatures were in the bitter degrees -- it was so cold on the boardwalk that I would have rushed home if it weren't for the fact that it was "free time" and I needed to make the most of it!.

I can't pretend to know anything more, but I did take a few photos. While they are not my usual style and I didn't have the equipment to turn the moment into anything photographically great (and it was freezing, too!), it was a special few minutes just to spend time with an animal that I'd never gotten to see up close before.   I also took a few other photos, as well....

And, then, I took the kids and Jeff back the next day, just in case the beaver was still out..... and it was!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mount Vernon in the Snow

The other day, Jeff had the privilege of blacksmithing at Mount Vernon after a light snow.  He took these photos.  It was a quiet morning and the view from the porch would have been one George Washington would have recognized since the view has been protected.  That's pretty amazing to think about....

The article linked to above mentions that General/President Washington would pull his furniture from his parlor to the piazza, so he would not have likely had the many chairs that currently line it but would have had other furniture.  Other than that, these photos could speak to another time.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Photography with Children

One of my favorite ways to get my kids out and about in nature is to hand them a camera.  It totally cuts down on the whining factor that occurs when I say that we are going on a hike.  Granted, that sometimes means that a camera gets dropped in a swamp and then ruined....but still, I'm sold on the idea. It's always a lot of fun to get home and compare photos -- we take such different things!  My eldest son is still  figuring out the basics of the camera, but he has definite ideas on what he likes and what he does NOT like.

This past fall, we went on a photo walk to the American Horticultural Society, one of the most beautiful places around.  I ended up taking the following photograph:

My son carefully took this one:

This is a beautiful photo, but I probably never would have taken it.  In fact, in all my photos from AHS, I never have.  I simply don't see the way my son sees.  That's what makes art so special.  And, because I went on a photo walk with my son, we have photos of both perspectives.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tool-Making Class Starting January 27

This weekend (January 27) we are starting a 4-week tools class where we will be making different chisels, punches and drifts after we complete a detailed tapering exercise.  We hold these classes from 12-3 on Sunday afternoons, which is hopefully an easier time for people than evenings or during the week.

As the textbook for the class, we are using Mark Aspery's excellent book Skills of a Blacksmith, Vol 1, Mastering the Fundamentals of Blacksmithing which has been foundational in my own learning.  

In terms of class topics, we will start with with a deep dive into tapering, which is an essential skill for any blacksmith to master.  Following the well-known SOR (square octagon round) methodology, we will make square tapers, octagon tapers, round tapers and finally diamond tapers as well.  Making a 3" long symmetrical taper is a challenge for anyone, so it will be fun way to build these important skills.

In the second class, we will move on to the tools portion of the class, which will take the remaining 3 weeks.  We will be making a hot-cut chisel, both round and slot punches, as well as a drift and a small cold cut chisel (if we have time).  These tools will all be made with 4140 tool steel so they will form the basis for a nice tool set that will serve these students long into their blacksmithing careers.

I think this will be an excellent class for someone who wants to learn a lot of solid skills in a short time in a nice environment that focuses on retention of the information and having a good time doing it.

Please let us know if you are interested in attending!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Mailing from the AHS -- That's MY Photo!

We lead very busy lives.  The other day, I came home from my job as an assistant teacher at my kids' school, raced into the house to let the dog out, went to a short refresher lesson on the drop spindle because I only had 1 hour before the kids were done with school, came back home and saw that I needed to work in my role as a lawyer because one of the primary laws involving my client had been amended, but I didn't have time to sit down and study the law because I needed to walk the dog and then pick the boys up from school..... It's not so easy to juggle all the various roles we play!  At least, we do enjoy all the things we do.

But, as I was involved in all the above, I also grabbed the mail and started to shuffle it into the Shred/Save piles.  As I came upon the piece of mail pictured above, I paused.  I know that child......I know that picture......I TOOK that picture!.....

The delay was hilarious.

And, yes, it was my photo.  I'd given the American Horticultural Society permission to use my photo in their mailing.  But, I'd forgotten and had never seen the final product.  It was only because I renewed my membership that I'd received their mailing....and seen my photo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stratford Hall in the News

Jeff might look like another dad on skis watching his young son ride up the carpet to take another run down the hill (I was at the bottom of the hill, helping our son back onto the carpet!)...but Jeff was also thinking about his upcoming blacksmithing demos. A more appropriate photo should have shown Jeff with his phone out! We have a lot of events and classes planned (Tool-making starts this Sunday afternoon, if you are interested), but the event on our mind today is a demo scheduled for May 24-25 at Stratford Hall, home of the Lees and birthplace of Robert E. Lee. 

We took the above photo in May, when we visited Stratford Hall to discuss the demo.  It takes time and energy to put together a great demo, especially one that will probably include colonial and farrier blacksmithing demonstrations as well as show how to transform iron ore into a bloom of iron that will then be worked into an ax   In the blacksmithing world, this is super cool stuff and not done by many should be a very interesting event.  It is also very appropriate to do this demo at Stratford Hall since all components of the demo could have been done on the property -- as I recall, iron ore is prevalent on the beach there.  

Although Jeff already had phone calls lined up this week to discuss the demo at Stratford Hall, the New York Times just happened to run a feature article on Stratford Hall and the area.  It really is a fascinating place and the article is well-written.  We've eaten at Angelo's Pizza (it really is good!) and have hunted for shark's teeth (and not found any).....all things the article mentioned.   Too bad the article didn't know about our blacksmithing event!