In Like a Lion, Out like a Lion. March in the South

Posted by Rhonda Howell on

Springtime in the South

   Well here it is almost the end of March and I am already following the cart and the horse down the road. Its been a strange year even for us. We are used to warm snaps in the winter and cold snaps in the summer. Nature rolls that way here, But this year has been crazy. Winter and spring are doing a dance. We have had snow, flood, 70 degrees, 20 degrees, tornados and flowers have come too early and paid a price. 

  For the last few years we have started the year with big architectural projects. Chandeliers, rails and the like. But this year its sculpture and the blacksmith is happy because this is the work the hands love. Walter's grandmother and her mother before her loved flowers. I mean LOVED flowers. All 10 fingers were as green as spring grass. I think that is where Walter's love for botanical sculpture comes from. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish Lulu could see his work. 

   This years subjects have been Cahaba Lilies. They are a lovely pearl white flower that grows each spring along the banks of the Cahaba River here in Alabama. People come by the hundreds to see the river turn into a string of brilliant white pearls that number in the millions. The fact that they coincide with the return of many of our Sand Hill Cranes and other spring birds is a bit of nature heaven for those who find joy in such things. Walter is working on commission number 5 for the lovers of these beautiful flowers. Botanical sculpture allows you to enjoy the fruits of the season all year round.

Cahaba Lilies grow along the banks of the Cahaba River in South Alabama turning the river white with lovely blooms

   Things are always changing here. We only make plans to tickle that angel that watches over us. Connections with some wonderful local museums and foundations are providing opportunities for education of Walter's craft. We are planning a calendar of demonstrations for visitors and to remind folks, we are happy to schedule a demonstration for your group if you are in the area visiting. Just send us a note and we will make plans for your visit. Demonstrations run for about an hour and half with time allowed for questions and discussion with Walter. We also have forged pieces available for purchase. We are here 7 days a week and visits are not limited to week ends. We try to accommodate your schedule as much as we can. Email waltersforge@icloud.com to arrange a visit.

visitors can see the forging process from raw material to finished product.

   It certainly has been a blessing to see the signs of spring. While out walking the fence yesterday we got to see something I had never seen before. The emergence of thousands of lady bugs. You could smell the musty smell they have before you ever saw them. Apparently they wintered in the roots of our sweet gum trees that line the creek. While checking out the cool fungus and mosses on the trees you see one then two then "Holy Moly" they were everywhere. It was a new thing for me to see them all lined up under the edge of the bark out of the still cold winds. Always on the west side of the bark. They were coming in a steady flow out of a small hole in the ground tucked up under a thick root. Up the tree quickly looking for a new shelter under the bark. I relocated a good double handful to the old apple trees in the yard. Lady bugs eat aphids like popcorn and are great for defense for fruit bearing trees.

Lady bugs emerging from a winters sleep.

   Those fruit bearing trees are also among the first signs of spring in the south. Buds appear before the threat of frost leaves and I can't remember a year they didn't get some degree of frostbite. After the tornado took all of our giant oaks the only thing left was two apple trees that we know have been here for least 75 years and the sweet gums along the creek. These two old apple trees have seen many seasons of storms and life pass by. One is a crab apple. Tiny little red apples so bitter they make you pucker up worse than a lemon. The only thing I have ever heard them used for is jelly. But each spring the tree blesses us with the most beautiful display of pink blossoms and in the summer months her branches are home to many of the song birds who lost their pasture habitat when the fields became farmland. The branches are twisted and tied from years of wind that seems to never stop here on this plateau.

Crab apple trees are the first bloomers of the spring around here.

The other is what we call "June Apples". Green apples that are crisp and tart. Good for pies and for sitting on the pond bank with your grand children throwing wormy ones in the pond and talking about important things like what the frogs might be talking about. It is suppose to produce every two years but ours gives several bushels every year. This tree is also home to our hummers who arrive each April. That little apple tree is like Atlanta International Airport when they first arrive and the fight for the sugar water is like watching Snoopy and the Red Baron. We look forward to their arrival here at the Forge in about 3 to 4 weeks. 

Apple tree buds signal the start of spring in the countryside

  Hay season is coming along with lots of visits from local farmers with broken things that they have no idea how it got bent that badly. We should have a new season of funny stories ready soon. I am not sure we can top the neighbor who mowed over his lawn mower with the bush hog because the grass was so high or the story of Miss Fanny Maffett parking her car too close to rail road tracks and listening to each car tap the bumper just enough to go "ding, ding, ding". Or waking up at 4 in the morning to find a white horse with a body draped over the saddle in the front yard. Yep and we were not even drinking. But they were. This old boy had thrown his buddy on the back of horse and was taking him home in 20 degree weather. Thats my friends is true friendship. So like I said the bar has been raised high and we will keep you posted on the next chapter.

Walter Forge is the home of artist blacksmith Walter Howell

   Thank you to all who made it to the bottom of the page. We appreciate your time here and hope you will refer us to others who might be interested in Walter's work. Visit often to see new products and visit our Time Keeper Curation of vintage and handmade things we have for you. 

   Keep on Sparking!

The Howells at Walter Forge


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