Winter Reflections and the Carve-O-Rama

     The past few weeks I have been wrestling with the never ending winter. I never thought that as I grow older my love for winter would be compromised. We've had some serious cold all through the northern Midwest. Many weeks with night temps at or below -20f/-29c and near record snow as well. We burned an unbelievable amount of wood to keep the house warm. There is a firewood shortage this winter across the Midwest because of the weather and deep snow. This of course has now ended and temps are up nearly above freezing at night.
    I decided to not trap this winter due to the extreme cold and snow. It's really hard to get out and chisel through 3 feet of ice to set traps, let alone walk miles on snowshoes in what we call 'sugar snow'. It's the kind of snow you get when it has been really cold, so cold that the sun and/or air doesn't settle the snow down. So we have 3 feet of snow in the woods and without snowshoes you sink to the ground, wallowing around in it. Not too bad if you have nothing to do, but when there are tasks at hand it takes more time and energy. It's good I have some tight weave snowshoes for the family it helps to keep us on the surface.
   The sun is really packing some heat so the surface snow is now getting packable. We walked around the sugar bush and 'packed a float' which when left over night settles into a hard semi packed surface that the snow machine/snowmobile can ride on. We use this to get firewood back to the sugar shack and carry the heavy piles of metal buckets into the woods. But with the deep snow the snow just under the surface is still sugary and if you break through the machine just digs itself into a hole. This happened twice a few days ago. We had to pick up the machine and set it along side the hole, fill the hole, pack it with snowshoes then wait until the next day. We did get it out. I'll be heading over to the massage therapist next week to work the kinks out from my back.
    I sure long the sun this time of year. It's really nice to feel the heat of it on my face I know that spring is on the way, even though word has it that the farmer's almanac is calling for 30" of wet snow in April.  Enough of the venting on the winter/spring. I'll write more on the sugaring season as it unfolds.
    A few weeks ago a few friends stayed with with my family for what I called the winter carve-o-rama. These guys, are in my opinion some of the best spoon carver's in the county. The Midwest seems to harbor a disproportionate amount of spoon carvers. Maybe this is because of North House or the fact that many of us grew up looking at the family heirloom spoons carved by our immigrant ancestors.
    Thomas Dengler, Fred Livesay, Yuri Moldenhauer, and Mike Loeffler arrived on a Friday and stayed until Sunday. Not nearly enough time, but it was a blast and a lot of fun, good talk and carving.  We all have a love for good ale and drinking from wooden bowls. Dinners were filled with laughter and stories while wooden plates filled with great food were passed around the table. We also had a sit down talk about the need for some organized group to help advocate for the traditional handcrafts her in the states. We had a few hours of discussion and decided to move forward with a spoon carving group to start. We are still not sure how this will pan out but we hope to meet again and take the discussion further. The one thing that strikes me as a big obstacle is the vast size of the US. There is a lot of space between folks. We thought that a 'greenwoodworking' group would be a good start but after trying to decide what greenwoodworking even is, we thought to start with one genre. It seems simple sometimes when we think to ourselves, but when it comes down to articulating and writing thoughts down it becomes a different story.  Putting the idea though a critique to test its soundness is another thing that is quite hard. I'll post more on how it unfolds as time goes on. I'd also be into hearing from folks who are interested in the idea. Send me an email or go through my website contact form here.
     I still have strong thoughts on the traditional crafts in general and where they stand in our culture. I have been corresponding to a few key folks in the craft world. It seems that something is brewing but as my son says "there will be a new word to describe what you do and you'll be talking about this your whole life" I think he's right. These things take time....changing culture, our perceptions, our values. The wood culture renaissance is just a part of what is happening. There's more to write on this, but I'm still working out a few details. I'll write more before the end of the month. More stories to share.
Here's the photos for the spoon carving weekend.
Think Spring.

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