Archive for the ‘Waltham’ Category

Maple Sugar Day Sights

March 8th, 2014

Vapors were the order of the at the Maple Sugar Festival today (repeat tomorrow, Sunday, March 9th, 10AM-4PM). Many maples on the DCR’s Brookwood Farm had taps drawing sap. Stops on the trail included one with Native American forms of syrup making —keeping a strong fire going and plunging hot rocks into wooden bowl of sap to do the deed. (Insert big hiss.)

Down the dirt road was the colonial take — with the benefit of metal pots, they hung these over fires and evaporated the sap into syrup and sugar.

Further down was a small evaporator unit in the modern style. Its big sibling at the end of the path was a sugarhouse, with a massive evaporator unit. The evaporators spewed steam as they did their work.

Also along the way was a blacksmith, Michael Bergman. He showed his skills and pitched classes in Waltham at the Prospect Hill Forge.  He worked with an anvil, of course, and instead of a massive heath and forge, he worked off what appeared to be a round Weber grill.  It used coal to generate enough heat to turn the steel rods red hot, and along the way smoke up the place.

Pix clix: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

The smith with his hand-cranked fan stoking the coal. bhsmith5
bhsmith3 The red-hot steel bar twisted quickly in a vise.
The colonial version of reducing sap to sugar used metal pots over fires. sappot
sugarhouse1 The sugarhouse is full of steam, sweet-smelling steam, as the big evaporator cooks down the sap. Your reward for walking the history trail was a little cup of fresh syrup.
Count our toes. The 300-year-old barn on the site is under rehab. The crew uses only tools available at the time. To create a beam, the team strips the bark and shapes a log into the right proportions. counttoes
bhspileguy More period drama with tool restrictions occurred at the colonial sugaring area. Here a reenactor makes a spile (a tap for a maple). He hollows a piece of wood into a tube. He then inserts this into a drilled hole in the maple to draw off the sap into an attached bucket.
It had nothing to do with sap or syrup, but Mass Audubon worked with the DCR on the event and showed up with several birds. An impressive one was a red-shouldered hawk.She survived a raccoon attack on her fledgling nest that killed all her siblings. She’s growing back the flight feathers the raccoon bit off her. She doesn’t get a name because they don’t want to treat her as or make her a pet. redshlulder4

There was also a screech owl.
Another of the hawk…just because… redshlulder2

The barn has period relics too. Several ice tongs were on shelves, remnants of when colonists cut blocks of ice from ponds, like nearby Houghton’s, and stored them under straw in cellars for use many months later.



Moody Bonsai

April 18th, 2008

Hmm, a fine name for a comic detective or perhaps a ballad singer might be Moody Bonsai. Instead, I dubbed this opportunistic tree-to-be in a Waltham garage.

bonsai11.jpgFor centuries, a preferred Japanese method of finding naturally dwarfed trees, bonsai, was to visit cemeteries. Such volunteer plants might grow from a seed in a mausoleum roof or cornice. With just enough blown soil and rainwater to barely survive, those trees became stunted, without human torture to their miniature ideal.

A form of this has been occurring in the city parking garage behind the Watch City Brewing Company (I recommend the FNA, a very hoppy ale). A seed insinuated itself in a seam on top of a wall and the resulting evergreen shows the sculpting by the wind off the adjacent Charles River.

Pic Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail image for a larger view.

bonsai2.jpgAlas, some city worker may decide to save the granite from this interloper and pull it. Otherwise, it may simply die on its own from lack of nutrients. We can’t say it didn’t try.

If you have reason to visit either the pub or plant, be aware that the ticket dispensers are still hosed. The garage provides the noble service of enough space for the lunch crowds at the many and varied Moody Street eateries.

park.jpgIt’s cheap at 25¢ an hour and allegedly self service. You:

  • Enter the garage or parking lot
  • Walk up to the ticket dispenser
  • Push a button for one, two, three hours or all day ($1 for the works)
  • Insert your coins
  • Put the resulting ticket on your dash so the constabulary can see what you pay for and fine you if necessary

Last month, the dispenser would just eat the quarters and offer nothing in return. Yesterday, it produced this ticket, which as you can plainly see…nothing.

Actually, if you want to the booth on the far side of the open lot, the dispenser in the shelter there may be more functional, but less amusing.

I had a long lunch meeting and had put in 75¢, not so you could tell that. I really doubt the enforcement agent will bother until they fix the box. I’m sure I could have used a single quarter and saved an entire 50¢. I hope Waltham uses my largess to help with repair.

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