Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Indiana Farm – Combine and Corn Header

September 13, 2011

I had the privilege of going to Boonville, Indiana to look at a commercial farm. ¬†I’d only seen the equipment used for these large farms in magazines.

Before we arrived at our destination, of course, we had to stop at the local Farmers Market just outside of Boonville ūüôā

Newburgh is right on the banks of the Ohio River and it’s a quaint little town.

People were very welcome to their market, but not pets ūüė¶

It was unusually hot the Saturday we stopped and it was close to the end of the market so some of the vendors had gone home.

One interesting note.  I talked with a local beekeeper who had a booth.  He was getting $5 a pound for his honey.

He was surprised to find out that the going rate in GA is $8 per pound.

On we drove…

Lots and lots of fields with soybeans.

But more than soy beans…


Whether you looked north or south,

East or west.

Some houses were surrounded by fields of corn making natural walls around the home.

I’d never seen so much corn.

Who eats all this corn?  And why does it look so dry and almost dead?

I thought you were supposed to pick corn to eat while the stalk was still green.

It was here, on the beautiful Cornell farm, that I would find lots of answers to the myriad of questions I had about commercial farming.

The Cornell farm consists of approximately 3,000 acres, most of which is covered in soybean and corn.

The tillable  acres are leased and farmed by the Durchholz brothers.

Generations of farmers and hundreds of stories find their home in these rolling hills.

Al Durchholz stopped by to pick Lynn and me up to go to the barns to look at the equipment they use for all these acres.

First – the combine.

I couldn’t get past the massive tires on this piece of equipment!

The price tag for commercial farming is staggering.  The overhead on the all the equipment we looked at to run this farm is over a million dollars!

Some of the machinery they lease, others they buy.

The cab was amazing – air conditioning, a stereo system, comfy seats…

And a fairly intricate computer system!  I swear you need a Computer Science degree to understand all that this computer does for and with the combine.

In simple terms, when all the settings are input into the computer, and the computer “talks” with the GPS system, it’s like auto-pilot and the farmer doesn’t even touch the steering wheel! ¬†Unless of course there happens to be a big hole or tree that the computer can’t see. ¬†But once that’s avoided, the computer recalculates and puts everything back on track.

Margin of error on rows and distances between each row for thousands of acres?  6 inches!

This is the view from the cab and though you can’t see it very well, there are rows and rows of corn just outside these barn doors.

The inner workings of this incredible machine.

Not only do you need to have a Computer Science degree, you also need to have a Mechanics degree.

The cab, the corn header on the front, and all the rest sit on 6 tires- 2 in the front on each side, and 1 in the back on either side.

Why all the tires?

To lessen the compaction of the soil when a machine this size rolls over the ground.

This part of the combine is called the header.  There are different kinds of headers for different kinds of crops.

Normally all those red points would be facing the ground.  They were up because they were working on the chains that run the machinery underneath.

This particular corn header is 30′ long.

Those points run in between the rows of corn and the stalks are cut.

The stalks are run through the auger right behind the red pieces…

This section is like the throat of the machine.

All the stalks go through here and end up…

In the “stomach” of the combine. ¬†The heads of corn are removed and the corn is taken off the cobs.

The cobs and stalks are spit back out onto the ground where they will be tilled back into the ground later – adding nutrients to the soil.

Al patiently explained how all this works.

The corn kernels are deposited in a hopper at the top of the combine.  The hoppers hold 400 bushels of corn.

The hoppers were not open because there’s not enough room. ¬†The beams you see in this picture hold up the roof.

Once these hoppers are full, the corn goes through this pipe and empties into a grain wagon which holds 1,000 bushels of corn.

Okay – here’s the part for all the math people who like numbers.

This combine is able to harvest 100 acres of corn in a day.

There are approximately 150 bushels of corn per acre.

So, providing all the planets are aligned, the weather is perfect, and nothing happens to the machinery –

They’re able to harvest 15,000 bushels of corn per day. ¬†A bushel of corn weighs 56 lbs which equals 840,000 lbs of corn a day!

This farm has 1500 acres in corn so it would take 3 weeks to harvest all of your corn if you took off weekends.

Oh, did I mention, they harvest the corn when the kernels are at 15% moisture rate? ¬†If it’s over that moisture rate, it will mold in the storage bins and you could lose your whole crop – your whole year’s salary.

Who needs all this corn???

Cows do and most of the beef that’s grown for commercial use.

And you do – it’s amazing how often corn is listed on the ingredient labels. ¬†Even in soda!

An ethanol plant can process 90,000 bushels of corn a day!

The farmers now are receiving about $7 per bushel for corn.

But think about these questions:

How would you like to work really hard all year and only receive a pay check once?

How would it be if you worked really hard all year and the week before you got your paycheck, something out of your control happened and you didn’t get your money?

That’s how it is for these commercial farmers. ¬†They work all year and if Mother Nature is kind, they get a paycheck. ¬†And if not, they take the debt and hope next year is twice as good so they can pay off that debt.

This was a very eye-opening trip for me.  I learned so much and was challenged in some of my thinking.

When you meet the people, eat with them and sleep in their home, who live on and work the land – there’s a deeper understanding of decisions that have to be made.

Here’s some more info on corn and it’s use in America:


Tennessee Rock Trail – Mountain City, GA

August 22, 2011

Thought it would be a good idea to hike the trail we are recommending for the Ladies’ Homestead Retreat.

Yesterday a friend and I drove up to Mountain City, GA to Black Rock Mountain State Park to hike the Tennessee Rock Trail.

2.2 miles long and an ascent of over 1000′

There is a fee for parking and either you can pay it here or at the Visitor’s Center further on up the mountain.

We chose the Visitor’s Center because they have a bathroom…and a nice gift shop ūüôā

Little blue square says “more difficult.”

Little black square says “most difficult.”

We chose the blue…and because that “warning” notice said there were yellow jacket nests in the other trail – no thank you!

Sooooo Рthe first ascent.  A lot of stairs going up!

To buy myself some “catch my breath” time, I was easily distracted by bugs.

Actually, I’d never seen one of these before. ¬†Anyone know what it is?

It was beautiful!

Obviously this is a popular plant – see all the other bugs on it?

Once we went “up” for a little ways, the trail evened out and meandered through the woods.

It really is an enjoyable hike and in the fall, it should be gorgeous with all the fall colors.

After about 2/3 of the way along the trail, the ascent begins again…

But it was so worth the sweat and grunt…

There are a lot of big boulders at this look out and this is where we will stop to have lunch.

You will definitely have earned the rest ūüôā

Is it any wonder why they are called the Smokey Mountains?…

After lunch, the climb back down the trail…all down hill!

If you have knee problems, you may want to take this part of the trail into consideration.

The trail begins and ends at this picnic spot so if you get down the mountain before the others, there’s a nice place to wait.

We did the trail in about an hour and a half. ¬†But taking lunch into account, I’m planning on 2 and a 1/2 ¬†hours.

If you’re moderately exercising, you should be fine with this trail. ¬†Most of the trail is very doable and it’s so permissible to take frequent stops on the parts that are a little more strenuous!

Another bonus – it’s minutes from the Foxfire Museum.

Looking forward to hiking this trail again with a lot more friends ūüôā

From Seattle to Lake Stevens

August 17, 2011

After our visit in Seattle, it was time to head to Lake Stevens to the north.

But not after one more trip up the Space Needle…

The views from the observation deck are amazing – especially on a clear day.

Mt. Ranier in all her glory.

There aren’t very many days in the year when the mountain is this clear.

We were very fortunate that the weather was so incredible!

A friend of our family flew in to Seattle because we were staying with her friends in Lake Stevens.

I was lucky on this shot.  This float plane was turning right in front of us while we were on the Space Needle.

Landing spot?  Lake Union Рa very popular landing place for float planes.

Time to head to Lake Stevens…

But first a stop at a restaurant at the Port of Everett. ¬†Right on the water…

just in time to watch the sun set while we ate our dinner.

Mt. Baker peeks out over the masts of all the boats in the harbor.

So beautiful…

Loved watching the lights get brighter as night drew nigh.

Such a precious sight.  See the seagull at the top of this frame?  She was sitting on her nest.

I will say she had a lovely view from her “room”!

The next morning, we visited the Everett Farmers Market.  This is a Sunday market down at the harbor.

A lot of folks came out to buy at the market.

And of course, while visiting all of these markets, I was looking for ideas to bring home to use in our own market in Statham.

Loved this idea!

Ahhh – more cherries!

Creative idea to solve an unavoidable problem ūüôā

Lots and lots of flowers!!

Gorgeous radishes – their growing season was about 7 weeks behind ours.

These snap peas were delicious.

Another creative solution to a sometimes emotionally volatile situation.

A pasta vendor!  This particular pasta can only be purchased at a Farmers Market or direct from the factory.

I bought some of the Lavender just cuz I was so curious about what it would taste like.

This was an orange szechuan pasta.  Yep, bought this one too.

This one was made from citrus – interesting…

And of course I had to talk to the lady with the eggs.  Apparently they are a little more strict than we are and there are a lot more fees.

She had to pay state fees, and another fee for each town she sold in. ¬†You’d have to sell an awful lot of eggs to cover all those fees!

Beautiful display…

Even more beautiful food…

Worms!!  They sold everything a person would need to get started with worm composting Рeven the worms.

Nice packaging ideas.

These seemed to be fairly popular at the markets we visited…

This set-up was on the back of a trailer or truck bed.


Yep – they sold rabbit meat.

Would love to know all the regulations for getting a label for rabbit ūüôā

And I stopped to talk with every vendor who was selling beef.  Prices were about the same and so were the practices for growing out the steers.

And what would a market be without bread??

In all the markets I visited, this was the most clever idea I came upon.

This yard art is created from recycled glassware.

It was absolutely gorgeous!

And yes, I was lamenting the fact that I had no room for one of these in my suitcase.

Another creative way to display soap. ¬†You purchased it by the 1/2″ or inch. ¬†The aroma at this booth was intoxicating.

The advantage of going to a market by the water!

These shrimp were huge and had been caught the night before and steamed.

Couldn’t get much fresher than that unless you did it yourself.

Fresh crab!

Another nice idea to incorporate in our market…

So I brought home my purchases with the agreement from our hostess that she would figure out what to do with these items.

She loves to cook!

And boy am I glad I left the cooking to her!!

This Lavender pasta was really good! I have since ordered more directly from the company located in Colorado.

Fresh veggies from the market….

And all this makes for a feast with wonderful friends on a gorgeous night…

in beautiful Lake Stevens, WA!

Trip to Seattle WA – Pike Place Market

August 9, 2011

I couldn’t wait to get to Pike Place Market when we were visiting Seattle. ¬†I have such fond memories of the market.

Before we had children (how long ago was that???), Dave and I would go to the market on a Saturday morning and meander through the stalls, tasting the different produce and coming home with an array of different fruits and vegetables.  And if I was very good, (and I was!) a huge bouquet of flowers.

The sights and smells are so nostalgic but to new comers, can be a little overwhelming.

Ever heard of a Doughnut Peach? ¬†Well they grow them in WA. ¬†Taste the same just look different…

These garlands were so beautiful!!  All hand made with local produce by one of the guys who worked this stand.

If only I had more room in my suitcase!

And the lavender!!!  It grows so well in the Northwest.  Lavender has got to be one of my favorite herbs.

I grow a little bit here but my plants in GA don’t look anything like the plants I had in Seattle.

And the fragrance…

nothing compares.

Pike Place has expanded since I was last there. ¬†It now spills out into the street…

Loved this concept.

A farm truck use for educational purposes.  Great idea!  They drive the truck around to schools and places where kids are to teach agriculture.

I’m thinking GA needs one of these ūüôā

Anyone got a truck they’re not using??

One of the shops by the market made cheese.  We just happened to walk by when they were cutting the curds.

Now that’s a lot of cheese!

The market is always full of flowers.

The weather in the area is perfect for growing flowers – so beautiful.

These are some of my favorites РSweet Peas.  I only wish the photo was a scratch and sniff!

The market sells a lot of items besides produce.

Like honey and honey products…

I do believe this was one of my favorite stalls at the Market ūüôā

And yes, we arrived just in time for the Cherry season…I’d forgotten how great these cherries taste.

Every chance we got, we’d buy cherries.

Fortunately, if the crowds get to be too much…

There is a park right across the street where you can sit and enjoy the scenery

and all the terrific goodies you purchased from the market.

Eco-friendly police ūüôā

Did I mention the flowers? ¬†Hanging baskets like this are everywhere…

If only I had more room in my suitcase!

The street of Pike Place even had flowers growing on the tops of their buildings.

At first we weren’t sure they were real,

but they are.

More and more produce – the colors alone of all that fruit were breathtaking.

How does one choose?

Ahh – it wouldn’t be Pike Place Market without the infamous Pike Place Pig. ¬†It’s a gigantic piggy bank!

The market is unique in that it draws food from both the sea and the surrounding fertile valleys of the mountains.

Oh yum!! ¬†Probably one of my favorite kind of fish…but only from the Northwest.

Ever seen these?  Lychee nut?  The meat inside is white.

Bet you’ve seen the nut just not the nut with the outside.

The snap peas here grow bigger than any I’ve seen elsewhere and boy were they sweet!

Talk about big – these raspberries were as big as the end of your thumb and the flavor was unbelievable!

And of course, tired from all that tasting and sniffing, and looking…

We had to re-energize ourselves with a cup of Starbucks coffee and pay homage to it’s birthplace – Seattle.

Lion’s Club International Convention – Seattle WA July, 2011

July 29, 2011

Ahhh, Seattle, WA – the city I traveled to when I went to Alaska by myself in 1982, the first place I lived after I was married, the place where 5 of my children were born, the place where I began my homesteading adventure, the place I left 10 years ago…

This July, Catherine and I flew back to Seattle to celebrate the conclusion of my father’s year as International President for the Lion’s Club.

We stayed at the Westin, on the 47th floor, in the Presidential Suite.  I joined my sister and 2 brothers, their spouses and ALL the nieces and nephews.

We took up all the rooms on the top floor.  We had to arrive at the elevators 10 minutes early to get us all down the 47 floors and make it to the events on time.

Catherine with my folks. ¬†I have to tell – my mom recently turned 71! ¬†I hope I look that good when I’m her age.

Each night was a dress up occasion for either a formal sit down dinner or a reception.

L-R:  Cora (sil), Lee (brother), me, Sid Scruggs (Dad), Judy (Mom), Monica (sil), Kevin (brother), Debbie (sister), Russ (bil)

Mt. Ranier at sunset as seen from one of the rooms we stayed in…

One of the many ferries that take people and cars to various islands in the Puget Sound.

My folks have traveled 321 days around the world this last year as ambassadors for the International Lion’s Club.

The Lion’s are the largest volunteer organization in the world.

My dad gave his final charge to the 20,000 members who attended this year’s International Convention.

They showed a slide presentation of some of what he and mom had done over Dad’s presidency and it was awe-inspiring. ¬†I was so proud of the both of them for the work and all the lives they were able to touch and help during Dad’s office as President.

Dad was in charge of this year’s convention and he requested to have Condoleeza Rice speak as part of his closing ceremony.

I have a great respect for her and what she’s accomplished as a woman…. and what a phenomenal speaker! ¬†It was a privilege to meet her – one of the perks of being the daughter of Sid Scruggs!

Dad presented her with the crystal lion statue as thanks for her humanitarian work.

After Dad conlcuded, it was time to pass the gavel and the ring to the incoming president for 2011 – 2012.

Dad with Tam, the next President from Hong Kong, China.

There was a huge celebration and more dress up events.

I love this picture. ¬†These are my nieces and nephew and Catherine – the blonds, with Tam’s children.

It just goes to show that silly faces for photo ops are universal and understood no matter what the language!

Catherine with Tiffany – Tam’s daughter. ¬†They both were about the same age. ¬†Tiffany spoke beautiful English. ¬†She had just finished studying design in France.

Another night of celebration was about to begin….

I swear – I blinked and my baby has grown into this beautiful woman!

Catherine admitted that she liked all the glitz and dressing up Рbut the favorite for both of us was meeting and talking with people from all over the world.  An incredible opportunity.

My sister’s older 4 girls with Catherine.

And without us 4, my folks would not have the 16 grandchildren who call them “grandma” and “papa.”

L-R:  Cyndi, Lee, Debbie, Kevin

Seattle at night…the Space Needle and…

Pike Place Market.  Both pictures taken from our room windows.

I have the most wonderful sister in the world. ¬†My only wish is that we lived closer. ¬†She’s in NH with her 6 kids and husband.

The oldest and youngest grandchild – Catherine and Liam.

Truly Рthis was the only time I was able to hold him.  With all the older girl cousins, you had to wait in line to get time with him!

How wonderful to be so loved.

We awoke to a gorgeous morning on our last day in downtown Seattle.

The Olympics to the west…

In April, I took my younger 3 to an International Board meeting in Raleigh NC.  Michael, Megan, and Alexandra loved meeting all the people.

It was there I met Gowrie and we hit it off.  I was able to spend some time with her in Seattle.  Wonderful lady doing some incredible humanitarian work in her native land, India.

The convention was held in Key Arena – it was packed with people from all over the world. ¬†Lion’s Club is represented by 206 countries and lots and lots of people who do an amazing amount of work helping others. ¬†It’s an incredible organization that touches many, many lives. ¬†If you want to know more about the Lions, check out their website:

And while we were all celebrating a year’s worth of accomplishment and the hope for a new year,

the sun rose on Seattle.

Cascadia Creamery – Trout Lake, WA

July 21, 2011

Whenever I go on vacation, I like to check out local farms or other places that are related to homesteading. ¬†I was excited about the Trout Lake area because it was touted as being “organic”.

I was staying at a small “retreat” in Trout Lake and struck up a conversation with a local couple. ¬†They asked why I was there and what I did in GA. ¬†I shared with them about the Lazy B Farm and they, being like-minded, mentioned a couple of places we should check out while in the area.

John Schuman is a local who operates Cascadia Creamery Рa cheese making place.

I met John over at his shop and we chatted while he checked on the wheels of cheese…

This particular day was market day and he was cutting and wrapping cheese to sell at the local Farmers Market.

He shared some samples with us and the cheese was very good!

There was a kindred spirit with John since he was a self-taught cheesemaker, following a passion.

So the story goes…John came to Trout Lake and fell in love with the area. ¬†He wanted to learn all he could about dairy farming.

Trout Lake in it’s peak, was a mecca for dairy farms and was home to about 30 dairies in the 1800’s. ¬†John, also a history buff, wanted to preserve the history of the area. ¬†He apprenticed with one of the very few dairies still around and learned all about cows and milking. ¬†John wanted no monetary payment for his labors so the farmer gifted John with his own Swiss dairy cow.

John now owns 6 cows which he milks for his cheese. ¬†This is where the cows live, just down the road from the creamery…

John became fascinated with the whole process of making cheese, a long time tradition in Trout Lake that had faded with time.

Mr. William Coate had been a local cheese maker and he owned a cave where he cured his cheese.  The cave is still in existence today but not in use.  John was able to get one of his original cheese recipes and started to make Guler Cheese, once again bringing back the history of cheese making in the area.

This picture is a framed wrapper for the original Guler cheese.

As luck would have it, while I was chatting with John, a gentleman and his wife walked into the cheese shop.

It was Mr. Ken Coate, the great grandson of William Coate Рthe original cheese maker!  Ken and his wife, Linda, had stopped by to meet the man who was carrying on their family tradition and to buy a wheel of his cheese to take to Tacoma for a wedding.

To celebrate this occasion, Ken opened up a bottle of pear wine from a local winery, toasting this fortuitous meeting.  We all toasted this new friendship while Ken thanked John for his endeavors to reclaim history.  There was even mention of Ken working it out for John to cure his cheeses in the original cave.

Local wine with local cheese….yum!

After Ken and Linda left, we took a quick tour of John’s facility. ¬†This is the kitchen…

And this is the room for aging the wheels of cheese…

John’s cheese has become quite popular in the area and he’s having a hard time keeping up with the demand – nice problem to have, huh?

We left John with the promise of seeing him that evening at the Hood River Farmers Market so I could buy some of his Guler cheese – that was my favorite.

I bought his last piece of Guler cheese to take to a friend the next day.

Aside from his yummy cheeses, I loved the simplicity of his display.

We left at the end of the market and stopped to say goodbye. ¬†He’d sold all but one wedge of cheese! ¬†If I wasn’t so concerned about how to keep it fresh, I would have snatched up that piece to bring home!

Oh, and did I mention that he also runs a CSA??  His CSA is between his creamery on, yes, Guler Street, and the fields where his cows graze.

Exciting to see a man achieve his dreams…

Narceus Americanus Millipede

September 2, 2010

Over the weekend, a friend and I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. ¬†The trail we took was covered with a canopy of trees and wound its way along the river. ¬†We each had a camera so it was definitely a “stop/start” kind of hike. ¬†I love looking for the unusual and we were not disappointed…

We came upon this bug as the sun was beginning to set. ¬†It was about 4″ long and moving rather slowly in the the leaves and underbrush.

Apparently, they’re forest foragers and help with the decomposing process.

The outside…so beautiful in its striped coat.

So many legs!!! ¬†We both laughed as we joked about having to cut the toenails of all those feet or having to put socks on in the winter ūüôā

We tried to touch it and it curled up into a little ball, head in first for protection.

After a bit, he uncurled and went on his way, doing what millipedes do in the middle of the forest – an integral part of the ecosystem.

For more in depth info on this fascinating creature, check out this link.

A Walk Down Memory “Lane”

November 14, 2009

When Megan and I were in NH, I had the opportunity to show her my life before I was married. ¬†We took a lot of pictures and I thought I’d share the same story with all of you.

My family moved to NH from Connecticut in the summer of 1978, the summer before I entered 11th grade.  I was away all summer as a camp counselor up in the mountains of NH while the transition happened.

Megan and I headed out for the “Nostalgia Tour” the morning we were to leave NH. ¬†I turned left onto Lane Road.


When we lived here, we would often walk down to the “gate” and watch the beauty of the seasons.



On the way back to our home, we would pass our neighbors. ¬†We lived in the Historical District and each home has a “story.”


This was a girl’s school …


The other homes had stories too but they weren’t as obvious as this one.




This house belonged to a lawyer and the family lived across the street from us. ¬†She and my mom were good friends…


This house was across the street and she was a teacher in the high school. ¬†I’m told she still lives there but I didn’t want to knock on the door.


This home was next to ours and belonged to an elderly lady. ¬†There’s a “For Sale” sign now.

And this is the home I lived in – it was built in 1806.


It’s a long house. ¬†As the needs arose, different owners would add on to the back and the barn is off the back corner, making it look like a big “L”.


My dad put so much heart and sweat into fixing up our beautiful home. ¬†I loved living here, the home had so much character. ¬†The winter’s were cold though. ¬†Until Dad put in the footings around the house, snow would come up under the edges. ¬†The back part of the house, where my sister and I slept, was heated with a wood stove. ¬†She and I would stay in bed until we heard the grating of the cover as Mom put wood in to start a fire. ¬†There were registers in the floor to allow the heat to rise. ¬†Found out later that the boys would sneak upstairs and listen and watch through those registers when my sister or I would be with our dates downstairs!

This is where I had my first real job.  I worked in the General Store as a cashier.  We could walk here from our home on Lane Road.


And my brothers and sister and I would play basketball at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club gym right next door. ¬†The building looked a little better 30 years ago.


And this is the town library.  I think I only went inside one time because there was a bigger one with a lot more books in the next town.



And, of course, this would not be a New England town without a church.

The church is right across the street from the General Store and next to the library.


I’d always seen this sign but it wasn’t until I came back that I realized how old this church really is!



And I never realized how big it is till my daughter stood next to it….



I passed this statue all the time…


But I never took the time to read the inscription.


And I never read this one either…


This is the cemetery behind the church.  We used to play hide and seek here on scary nights.  Seems a bit disrespectful to me now.


And so in penance for those nights, we’ll just walk quietly through this New England cemetery and wonder about all the stories that went to these graves…










I love how Mother Nature adds her own beauty…



When I saw this one, I wondered if the Lane Road that I had lived on was named after this person.

And as I stood there in this cemetery with my 12 year old daughter, 30 years later, I was reminded how quickly time passes and that we are the maker of our memories.

It was very poignant that we saw this sign on our way out of the cemetery.


This is the name of the road we live on in Georgia – past meets present.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Mark Twain


A Walk Along the New England Shore

November 7, 2009

I love the New England shoreline.  For me, it gives physical expression to the spirit of the New England people.

It’s rugged and strong…


…introspective and constant.


New England people aren’t known for being demonstrative and yet, if one is patient and observant…

there are treasures to be found.


… fascinating, sometimes, obscure findings.


And there may be times you’re unsure of what you’ve found…


…but wait, be still, and the meaning will come to you.


And so I walk along the shore of New England, waiting…


forcing my spirit to be quiet and still…


…breathing the salt air, feeling the ocean breezes brush against my face…

My soul takes wing…


… and I am alone…


…in a place to wonder


and contemplate…


…and dream.


The reality of life, the every day sights and sounds,


the common…


the familiar…


those who are partial to my heart…


are given new perspective when I walk along the shore of New England.


The mundane becomes precious with renewed vision.


And though I am a stranger along this shoreline…


…my soul finds peace and tranquility… and is very much at home.

Blacksmithing at D Acres in New Hampshire

November 2, 2009

D Acres is located in the White Mountains for NH, outside the town of Rumney. ¬†It’s a family owned farm and they offer educational classes. ¬†I was intrigued by their blacksmithing class and it just happened to be held on the weekend I was going to be in NH. ¬†I signed up and I also signed up my brother-in-law, Russ. ¬†We took the older 4 girls who participated in a papier mache class.

Saturday morning was wet and cold. ¬†We left in the pouring down rain and headed to the mountains. ¬†I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to get some photographs of the White Mountains in all their fall splendor. ¬†Oh well…

We passed Rumney and the campgrounds where I had been a camper and counselor for many summers.  Kind of like when you go back to see your elementary school Рit looked so much bigger then!

We drove up and up and back on a single lane road and finally we saw the sign for D Acres. ¬†Interesting…

One of the barns had peace signs all over it. ¬†They had a huge satelite dish and other non-conventional items around the place. ¬†The big barn was beautiful with incredible woodwork in the face of the barn. ¬†We entered inside and finally found Josh, the Executive Director. ¬†There were interesting slogans all over the wall – this was exactly what I was expecting for this place. ¬†To sum it up, my brother-in-law sometimes does work for the government. ¬†He commented to me, “I sure hope I don’t lose my security clearance after being here!”

This farm typified the NH slogan – “live free or die.”


This is the blacksmithing shop.  Joe, our instructor, built all of this with scrap pieces.


He even made the bellows. ¬†It’s a double chamber which helps to keep the air flowing into the forge. ¬†The bellows are about 4 feet long.


I never knew there were so many different kinds of tongs. ¬†These are used to hold the metal after it’s hot.


And of course, the anvil and the hammer are key to blacksmithing.  An anvil of this size new is about $1600.


We learned all about the coal which is used to heat the fire.  The piece on the left is called a klinker and the one on the right is coke.

Klinkers aren’t good in the fire. ¬†They are the stage before ash. ¬†Coke, however, is the best stage for the coal.


And this is Joe, our instructor.  He was wonderful and so patient while teaching us.  All the questions I asked never irritated him!


He lit the fire. ¬†There are 4 levels to the fire and the place that’s most efficient for heating the metal is in the second level from the top.


The metal needs to be heated to an orange and then hammered to shape.


Joe taught us how to make metal hooks.



The end had to be hammered into a point before it could be bent into a curly que.


You have to be careful not to allow the metal to fold over on itself or it flakes and breaks off РI know, I did it.  The curling happens by bending the metal over the edge of the anvil.


Once the hook part is curled, Joe needed to cut the metal to make it shorter. ¬†The wedge he put in the anvil is called a hardy tool and it’s placed in a hardy hole.

The metal is hit on two sides until there is a wedge in the metal and then it’s broken off by bending the rod.


To cool the metal a little faster, it’s “quenched” in water.


Here’s the hook. ¬†It’s made out a piece of rebar. ¬†Joe had to fix the top.


Now the metal is too short to hold with the hand so he had to use tongs.


These tongs were rounded out in the end so they could securely hold the metal rod.  See the hardy hole in the anvil?


Joe made the top of the metal to look like a nail.  See how he bent it over the edge of the anvil?


After the piece is finished, it’s brushed with a menacing metal brush to take off the small flakes of metal from the firing.


Then the hook is rubbed down with beeswax to give it the finished look.


It smells so good!


This is the finished hook.  This can be pounded into a piece of wood Рgreat for a barn or timber.


This is another piece that Joe made – I thought it was really cool, especially since it’s made from a piece of rebar.


Now it was our turn. ¬†I let Russ have the first go ūüôā


This is my piece – notice how much thinner our first piece of metal is. ¬†Joe didn’t want to frustrate the heck out of us for our first try.


I began to understand the whole process of banging the hammer on the anvil.  The rebounded of the hammer lessens greatly the amount of effort it takes to keep picking up the hammer.  The hammer I had to use on the rebar piece was much heavier than this one.


I made two of the thinner metal hooks and then asked Joe if I could make one to put a screw through to attach to the wall. ¬†He sure but I would have to learn how to “punch” the metal. ¬†It was an advanced technique and he only had one guy so far that had cried because he was frustrated. ¬†Perfect! ¬†I was definitely up for this challenge ūüôā


The “punch” isn’t putting a hole in the metal, it’s displacing the metal to the outside. ¬†It took precise hitting with the hammer and a lot of patience – but I did it and I didn’t even cry!

This hook is about 6″ long. ¬†Do you see the twist in the middle of the hook? ¬†Well, it’s best to do the hook end first and then do the top. ¬†I didn’t do that. ¬†It made it more difficult to line up the top with the hook so it would hang straight on the wall. ¬†So, it was a little off. ¬†I heated it in the fire and then put it in a vice and twisted the hook until everything was lined up. ¬†So now you know. ¬†Those twists look like decorations but really they’re used to hide mistakes!


Joe’s a big proponent of using scrap metal from junk yards. ¬†He showed us that the way sparks dispersed determined the type of metal it is.


Fin, another guy who was blacksmithing, showed us how a rasp could also be used to smooth edges on a piece of metal.


Megan and her cousins were busy with their papier mache class while Russ and I were playing with metal and fire.


They dried their creations before we left the farm.


Since it was dinner time, we stopped for something to eat on the way home.


What better way to end a great, soggy day than with a plate full of onion rings!


I loved the blacksmithing. ¬†Dave won’t build me a forge – I asked. ¬†So I guess I’ll just have to keep looking for more opportunities….Hmmm. ¬†The John Campbell Folk School in NC has blacksmithing classes!!