A perfect Maywood day

On a clear crisp October day,  where better to be than at Maywood, with a kaleidoscope of leaves floating earthward?  And what better things to do than sawmill and introduce a new family to the wonders of beekeeping? Top it off with a dinner of grilled bluefish caught last weekend in Cape May, N.J. and we’ve got the perfect Maywood day.

John has been a busy sawyer lately.  Word of mouth has directed several guys to bring tree trunks to our place for John to mill.  John’s lumberyard (literally, the part of our yard dedicated to lumbering) smells sweetly of fruity sawdust.  Today’s project was to mill a mantelpiece.  Originally thought to be pine, the wood turned out to be sassafras.  The pleasant surprise meant milling the rest into boards for woodworking rather than 2×4’s for more mundane use.

No sooner had the sassafras been cut, then it was time to do some apiary education.  Today we planned one last peek into the hives to check for any harvest-able honey.  A colleague from school wanted to watch, as he is thinking of getting some hives for himself.  He came along with his wife and six children.  The oldest, a student in my French II class, brought a camera along to work on a digital photography project.  The middle kid, Hunter, was just the right size to sort of squeeze into Harper’s bee suit.  He was also the most reluctant to be near the bees, but the only one who could wear the suit.

“Are you sure the bees can’t get through this?”  he worried.  “These gloves aren’t very thick.”

“Trust me, you’ll be fine,” I said.  He covered head to toe, zipped in so tight he couldn’t scratch his own nose.  The suit was a little short, but a pair of tube socks pulled up over the pants legs more than handled the gap from shoe to calf.

John checking a frame and showing it to the “visitor’s gallery.”

Down in the beeyard, Hunter’s family stood at a distance (the visitor’s gallery) while Hunter got up close to the hives.  At first, he did a constant body check.  “Are there any on me?”


“How about now?”


Another boys gets hooked on bees

Then, he was drawn to the hive, fascinated by the thousands of bees.

“I want to touch one.”

“Go ahead.”

“I want one to land on me.”

Outer frame is not very full; best to leave it all for the bees.

It didn’t take more than ten minutes for the bee-wary boy to have his face right up to the frames, staring down into the hive.  Alas, there was no honey for the humans to harvest today.  What’s there is what the bees need for the winter.  The hives were closed up and it was time to call a bee-day.

Sorry to see the hives closed, the newest young convert to beekeeping made a pronouncement: “Dad.  We have to get bees.”

We sent them on their way with honey and lip balm, then went inside for a late lunch of some fresh eggs they had brought us.   Later, John grilled his bluefish, seasoned with salt, pepper, and lime, over some applewood and then topped it off with cranberry-dill sauce.

I’d have taken a photo of the meal, but was too busy eating it.

Good weather, good projects, good company, good food.  What a good day.  And, oh yeah, I even got the laundry (mostly) done.

(Note: the recipe for the cranberry dill sauce was posted in December 2010 “A Hunting They Will Come.”  I usually serve it with venison, but it was in the original cookbook next to a recipe for grilled bluefish.  And wow, it goes really well with bluefish.)

Things that go “thump” in the night

Technically, 5:20 a.m. isn’t night.  But it’s dark enough for a six year old to ask his mom, “When is the sun going to let us know it’s morning?”  And it’s morning enough for John to be getting out of the shower.  But it’s dark enough for me to still be completely comatose.

“Craaaaaack!  Whump!”

That was no squirrel cavorting in the attic.  Something big landed somewhere.  John heads off for his men’s Bible study but returns later to  search the property.  House–check.  Bees–check.   But his parents inform him that the “whump” was at their place next door to us.  A huge part of a tree fell, fortunately onto an empty parking area.

Alas, poor tree.  Great-great-grandad Maynard said that the tree was a seedling during George Washington’s days.  For years it proudly bore the sign that announced that it belonged to a tree farm.  A beautiful tree, arching in three grand sections,  one section had died and had been cut off.  The whole tree should have gone, but sentiment prevailed and now a second chunk has fallen.  The remaining tree is completely lacking its former grandeur and dignity and will need to be felled.

John milling a tree last spring with his WoodMizer

John’s sawmill has  been busy lately.  A friend from church lost a big tree which  has now been cut into usable boards.  The George Washington tree will be next.  And after that?  Well, there are more trees that need to come down.

There are two trees on the west side of our house that should have been felled when we dug the foundation for the house.  About two weeks ago, a big chunk fell from one of them onto the roof of the screened porch.

“Craaaaaak!  Whump!  Thunk!”  It bounced off the roof and thumped into the hydrangeas.  It scared the beezeebies out of me, as I had just left that porch to come inside when the branch fell.

The trees have to go–even if we have to pay someone to take them down.  That, dear readers, is a wife throwing down the gauntlet to her husband:  take down the tree or I will spend money to get someone else to take down the tree!  Fortunately, dear husband is on the same page and has three additional trees on his radar for removal.  If they aren’t a danger for dropping branches, they are a nuisance in facilitating squirrel access to the attic.

Most people don’t want to be “typical.”  Amercians, at least, think they are too individualistic to be “typical.”  Especially Americans who go for the rustic, in-the-woods-log-cabin lifestyle.  But you know what’s typical for people who build houses on wooded lots?  They want to preserve all the trees.  Every last daggone tree.  But then, after a few years in their wood-surrounded house, they get tired of squirrels jumping onto their roofs and mold growing on the house and grass not growing.  They start to appreciate things like solar heat and the ability to grow house plants.  And  then some trees have to go.

I walked around the house today staring up at the trees that need to go.   There’s a lot of sunlight behind them.  I’m thinking this former beach girl stands half of chance of catching some rays.  Once the sun comes up, of course.

Little man hands

Lesson 1 in tractor maintenance--he'll be working on this same tractor for the next forty years

It was too quiet Friday morning, so I looked outside and saw the little guy working on the tractor with PopPop.  From the upstairs window it was just the cutest thing.  Then I went outside to inspect closer.  Oh my.  Grandson was busy at work scraping gunk off the tractor engine.  This is a 1952 tractor and I know for a fact that no one has cleaned any gunk off that tractor since we moved up here in 1993, and who knows when before that.  But PopPop had the six-year-old happily at work.  The smile on kiddo’s face attested to “happy;” the automotive grease smeared all over his face, winter coat, and jeans attested to work.

And then there were his hands. We have countless pairs of disposable gloves around the house, but why would you give a boy gloves to wear to scrape twenty years of engine gunk off a tractor?   Hmmm????

The kid had man hands.  No, I’m not referring to the Seinfeld episode.  I’m referring to the man-sized grime on those little mitts.  He looked like a regular mechanic, and he was proud of it, too.  Well, before Mr. Junior Mechanic entered the house he needed a lesson on how to use the de-greaser.  It’s pretty cool for a kid to have hands are sooooo dirty that he has to use a pre-wash on them.  He dutifully used the de-greaser (twice, at my insistence) and rubbed the grimy glop off his hands with paper towels.  Then we went upstairs to the bathroom, with me opening all doors and turning all knobs.  Gobs and blobs of soap followed, with a soak in the sink and a nail brush loaded with more soap.  Grimy clothes were removed and deposited by the washer to await PopPop’s grimy additions later.

Cleaner than tractor grease, but dirt + water + boy still = needs a bath.

Earlier in the week, grandson helped PopPop with sawyering.  That was a cleaner project–even with the tumbles into the dirt.  His job was to hose off the logs and then each board as it was sawn.  When not busy with the hose, he climbed all over any logs or branches he could find.  He made an impromptu see-saw from a few pieces of wood.  Later, he practiced his balancing by walking across logs.  I pondered briefly whether he might break his arm or something if he fell, but  I still managed to get distracted by PopPop cutting down a tree just as the little guy fell from his balancing post.

“MomMom, I fell.”

“Are you hurt?”

He points to his chest.  A quick examination reveals a three-inch scratch.  We go inside to clean it and apply a band-aid the size of Montana.  I warn him that a band-aid that size will freak out his mother.  And sure enough it does, because he knows just how to present it.

“Mom!!!  I fell off a tree and hurt myself!!!!”

“Oh my gosh, honey, are you ok?”

He pulls up his shirt to reveal the band-aid the size of Montana.  I’m upstairs but can hear her maternal wail.  The kid is totally messing with her.  There is nothing wrong with him.  He is 100% boy.  And he knows his mom is 100% girl.  He has already figured out how to work that.   And after a day of hosing logs and falling over trees, he doesn’t understand why he might need to change and wash up before heading off to a birthday party.

Ah…little man.  And learning from the master of dirt himself–PopPop.



The back forty

Here at Maywood, there’s the back yard and then there’s what’s beyond the back yard.  That is John’s territory–down the hill and into the woods.  It is not visible from the house.  This is very important.  If I can’t see it, then I can’t yell about what it looks like.  Periodically I get invited back to see projects in progress.  This often involves hiking through vines and low-hanging branches while avoiding tree roots and other tangly things.  Every once in while paths get mown, but usually a walking-stick is recommended (new hip or not).

Beehive Lane in the fall, heading up to the house

The best worn path is the trail to the beehives.  It’s unofficially known as Beehive Lane.  Sunday’s  trek had us observing Japanese maple saplings springing up along the  trail.  We always check to see if the maples saplings are the cut-leaf variety, since there are a couple of very old cut-leaf maples at the Maywood house.  Little holly trees abound too.  Over the tree roots and down the hill toward the highway, we wend our way to the bees.  Two hives are active, one much more so than the other.  The bees report back to the hive like planes coming in for a landing.  The smaller hive is like a regional airport.  Bees fly in and enter one at a time in evenly spaced entries.  Imagine a little bee airport controller calling them in.  The other hive is like JFK Airport in New York–bees are coming back quicker than they can  get in.  They don’t circle for a landing, though, they all just bunch up at the entrance like a bunch of travelers trying to get the best seat on a Southwest flight.  The good news for us is that they all have bags to check, which will result in honey for us.

Another path is the Sawmill Lane.  That takes you to John’s sawmill and cut trees and boards and sawdust.  This is also where he butchers his deer.  It’s really best that we not see this area.  When he first got his sawmill, he set it up in the middle of the  backyard.  That went over like a lead balloon, so he moved back into the woods where he can play without my complaining.  Lately, John has been milling a large black cherry tree that is destined to become a fold-up bar for Chris and Julie.  Yes, he is actually working on their wedding present and may even have it finished before their infant daughter gets married.  At any rate, it smells like fresh cut black cherry wood down there and it is taking on the appearance of a large outdoor shop.

Sunday’s  trek–good thing I had my walking stick–took us way down the back forty to the site of the actual tree that is the source of the current project.  I suppose one could get lost, but “down” takes you to the highway and “up” takes you to the house.  Still, I did appreciate seeing the big holly tree as we made our way back up.  The holly tree stands at the “corner” of Sawmill Lane and HollyTree Lane which leads to Beehive Lane.  We took a left onto HollyTree and merged into Beehive Lane which took us back up to the house.  Well, that’s what was in my brain, anyway.  You might have just seen woods.