A book that I return to often is The Heart of Thoreau’s Journals edited by Odell Shepard. One interesting aspect is comparing Thoreau’s notes for a particular time of year to my own observances; his March to my March.
Thoreau writes often about birds and bird-song; geese, thrushes, tanagers, and nighthawks all within a few pages. In spite of our wintry March this year, the birds still sing the hope of spring. A couple weeks ago, I heard the message from a chorus of red-winged blackbirds that had returned to the tall grasses at the edge of a pond along my walk. Flocks of puffed-up robins and cedar waxwings were gulping down the remnants of berries on our backyard trees.
With snow covering our ground now, the peepers have remained quiet, but Thoreau wrote about hearing a tree frog on March 21, 1853:
“Ah! then, as I was rising this crowning road, just beyond the old lime-kiln, there leaked into my open ear the faint peep of a hyla from some far pool. One little hyla somewhere in the fens….If the hyla has revived again, may not I?”
A week later, on March 28, Thoreau makes a funny reference to his frog-listening:
“My Aunt Maria asked me to read the life of Dr. Chalmers, which however, I did not promise to do. Yesterday, Sunday, she was heard through the partition shouting to my Aunt Jane, who is deaf, “Think of it! He stood half an hour today to hear the frogs croak, and he wouldn’t read the life of Chalmers.”
Spring also means an end to easy wood storage for me, as winter’s gift of a free extra large freezer comes to an end. The question of how to keep greenwood green has many answers. Here are my thoughts.
The obvious solution is to just carve it rather than store it. Of course, that is easier said than done, but one strategy is to rough out several pieces rather than finishing one before moving on to the next. That allows you to move through the wood supply, while leaving the after-drying stages for later.
To store green wood it is simply a matter of retaining the moisture. The bark does a good job of this if it’s intact, and I paint the ends of the log with a couple coats of latex paint. Alternatively, and for pieces that are already split, I put them in a garbage bag and seal it tight.
For species that are light-colored and/or are not decay resistant, the moisture combined with warm temperatures can lead to staining and relatively rapid decay. So, if I need to store such wood longer term, I reduce the bulk as much as possible first. I split the rounds in half and have a good look. No need to store the rejected pieces, other than in the firewood stack. Then I reduce unnecessary bulk from the good pieces, bag them, and beg for some space in the freezer or fridge. This is much more realistic for spoon blanks than bowl blanks. Pull out pieces as needed to carve.
You can get more creative with underwater storage and that sort of thing. Whatever works for you.
These early spring snows set off the hemlock trees as well as my rejected cherry bowl that I converted into a duplex birdhouse. Still waiting for tenants; it was worth a shot!
A pile of spoons that didn’t work out will thaw out soon and be ready to fuel some marshmallow roasting.
And I finished a bowl today that I’ll post about soon…