I often stop along the lane into Menokin to take pictures when a flash of color catches my eye. Such was the case earlier this week when a cluster of red berries I’d been noticing were finally too beautiful to pass by.
Now, here are the confessional and teaching moments of the story wrapped neatly in a bow.
Confession: I wasn’t sure what they were. I suspected sumac but fell into the immediate trap of thinking sumac=poison. But what kind of poison exactly. Rash? “Eat me and die” poison? Or was it sumac at all? Was it the insidious invasive, tree of heaven?
Teaching Moment: Obviously it was not safe for me to be out of doors with my sketchy knowledge of what was or wasn’t sumac. And I did touch one berry so it was crucial to figure this out straight away before symptoms started appearing. So I fired up Google and went to work.
What I learned was this:
- It was sumac. Staghorn Sumac to be precise.
- I wasn’t going to die.
- I wasn’t even going to itch.
- As a matter of fact, people all over the world use this very same berry as a spice, a medicine and to make lemonade.
The Farmers Almanac did the best job explaining the whole wonderful story so follow this link if you’d like to learn more.
Now, if I could just figure out what kind of bug this is that I saw crawling along the stem…
It’s hot outside! And Menokin is the cool place to be kayaking out on Cat Point Creek!
Our friends at USF&W loaned us their trailer to get all the new boats down to the creek. Silas, one of our summer interns, painted the rack and set up all of the boats. He’ll be ready to teach you how to paddle and assist your launch. Be sure to bring a hat and sunblock.
Now it’s easy to learn how or just come explore. Free lessons are available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-12pm, just call or email Alice at 333-1776, firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a boat. Come meet our new ACA trained kayak instructors Silas and Erin.
Already know how to paddle a boat? Menokin has rentals available now, too! Sit-on-top singles rent for $10/2hours; or paddle together and save in a tandem (two-person) kayak for $15/2hours. Rentals are available Tuesday through Saturday, 10am until 6pm, and include a US Coast Guard certified life jacket, paddle, and kayak.
Got your own paddle boat or board? You can come out anytime until 7pm, every day of the week and use our launch free of charge. Menokin is a Chesapeake Bay Gateway and also part of the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail. You can access the flat water of Cat Point Creek from our soft landing. After your adventure, take a minute to add notes about your adventure in the waterproof log book we keep nailed to the tree.
We’d like to thank Inigo Howlett, the Northern Neck correspondent for Community Idea Station WCVE for paying a visit to Menokin to learn more our Ghost Structure Workshop that took place in May.
His news report aired on May 29th in the Richmond and Northern Neck areas. If you heard the story, or even if you didn’t, do one or all of these things:
- Listen to it now online.
- Search “Ghost Structure” on the blog to find related stories and to see more photos.
- Visit our website to learn more about the Menokin Glass House Project and the important, innovative work taking place here.
- Come for a visit, take part in a program, or go for a paddle on Cat Point Creek.
If you like what you see, hear, experience, learn…make a donation!
Here are some pictures of the completed, glowing Ghost Structure on the Menokin landscape.
Highlight of Day One
On the first day over a cool cast of clouds the project for the Ghost Structure of Menokin began to create the first replica of a slave dwelling that once was built on this land. The group was split up between two groups to start cutting the wood. Both groups would contribute in building the base of the structure. In order for the base of the structure to connect the joists must be cut into the wood. The joists are made up of horizontal timber and in our case, oak is being used as the base because this type of wood particularly is harder and will hold up the best support. In creating the joists each end of the timber must measure 4” x 4.5” in the shape of an ‘L’. A japan saw is used to cut off the unwanted piece in 4 sections. Next, a chisel and mallet are used to break off the sections to create the final joist. Pictures below show the process of creating the joist.
Highlight of Day Two
Once a 15’ x 25’ base is placed we began preparing the next steps in creating the floor of the Ghost Structure. The floorboards would be made of yellow pine and in order to align each row of the floorboards a hammer and chisel would be used to avoid any gaps in the floor. However, in the 18th century they would also use an auger that would create a small hole into the wood and another tool would be placed into the hole to wedge the pieces of wood together. An auger is a tool with a large helical bit for creating holes into wood. We know there is evidence in using an auger to wedge the floorboards together because of the circle marks left over by this tool. In our case, only a hammer and chisel were used to connect each floorboard together. Nails were hammered into the yellow pine to connect the floorboards to the base of the structure. Once a floor was established the frame of the Ghost Structure will become the next goal. Picture below shows finished floor.
Highlight of Day Three
On the first day the other group was creating joints in the base for base to properly support the frame. The joints are known as mortise and tenon and are adjoining pieces that connect at a 90-degree angle. On day 1, the mortise was first cut into the base to eventually fit the tenon to connect the frame to the base. Creating the main, vertical frame is what was being accomplished on day 3. This becomes the most structural support of the Ghost Structure. How would the mortises be created back in the 18th century? An auger would have also been used to create a hole for the tenon to be connected to. However, the auger would not penetrate entirely through the timber but a little over halfway through so when the tenon is created is has a stopping point. Picture below shows the joists creating the base and the main frame connecting to the base of the structure. Third picture shows how the tenon is being cut by using a japan saw that will fit into the mortise.
Highlight of Day Four
Hand-carved pegs were needed to be made to act as the studs of the structure for better stabilization and support. By taking a long piece of yellow pine that measures roughly 1” x 1” and carving out the shape of the peg by using a tool known as a draw blade. The tool does exactly what it is named for. When using a draw blade, you hold onto the handles on each side of the blade and pull the tool towards yourself to smoothly shave off pieces of wood. In our case, sat on a sawhorse that allowed us to clamp the piece of wood tightly so that the draw blade could easily be used. About 90 pegs were carved over the course of the week to be hammered into the Ghost Structure.
Highlight of Day 5
After the pegs were finished, they needed to be hammered all around the base of the structure. An auger would have been used to initially created the hole for the peg to fit into. For the purpose of finishing the structure within the 5-day mark, a power drill was used. The pegs had to fit in tightly and once hammered in the piece sticking out of the base had to be sawed off using a japan saw to fit smoothly along the oak base. Once the pegs were placed the cripples had to be attached to the vertical frame. Cripples are a type of wall bracing that rests on top of the foundation of a structure. They support the overall weight of a building and must be braced so the frame does not collapse. Both ends of the timber cripple are cut at a 45-degree angle and hammered into the frame. Pictures below show the drilling of the hole for the peg and then using a mallet to hammer in the peg to the base. The last photo shows how the cripples were hammered in with nails to the frame of the structure.
SEE MORE POSTS ABOUT THE GHOST STRUCTURE WORKSHOP:
Dr. Duane Sanders, River Program Coordinator, Biology Instructor
Students from St. Margaret’s School Outdoor Adventure program spent three afternoons in May kayaking on Cat Point Creek at the Menokin Plantation. Students learned about wildlife supported by this ecosystem and how the system can change over time. They also relaxed and had some fun!
How sad is it that the crew can build an entire structure faster than I can blog about it and post pictures? Very sad.
DAY 3 – Wednesday
The day was made more interesting by the arrival of two groups of horticulture and carpentry students from the Northern Neck Technical Center. Most of the students had never been to Menokin before. I was so pleased to hear many of them say that they “sure didn’t expect it to be like this!”
In case you didn’t know, May is Preservation Month. The “This Place Matters” campaign was started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation many years ago to bring attention to the importance of historic buildings to local communities as well as visitors and enthusiasts.
DAY 4 – Thursday
Raise the Roof takes on a whole new meaning when you see it happening. All the chiseling, measuring, staging and peg making were put to the test with the assembly of the structural timbers and the crown of roof rafters. The beautiful bones of the building are a perfect addition to this vast, cultural landscape.