Sumac Berry Lemonade Tea

jchismar suman lemonade drink

This past Saturday I enjoyed a father and son day road trip. My father shared many of his Marine boot camp stories, perhaps I’ll share more details on that in the future. We visited Lancaster, PA one of my father’s favorite places, Hershey Chocolate World and a few woodworking stores in the area. On Sunday my parents and I enjoyed the Arts and Hayfield festival in Lehman, PA.

On the drive home a roadside grove of blossoming sumac trees caught our attention. The stretch of road had no shoulder to provide a place to pull over and harvest the bounty. I suddenly recalled stumbling across sumac trees in the forest behind my parent’s home. Dad and I set out for a short hike after returning to home base. My father found a few edible mushrooms and after a few minutes the sumac trees spread out in front of us.

I collected the (slightly under-ripe) berries and brought them home with me. Once home I filled a pitcher with cold water and crushed the bundles of berries into the water. Periodically stirring the mixture for an hour produced a slightly sweet “lemonade”, it actually tastes more like tea. I enjoyed a small glass and put the pitcher in the fridge to chill. Everyone should have a chance to enjoy such a delightful, easy to make and free beverage on these hot summer days.

Sycamore Burl Hall Table Part One

jchismar sycamore hall table

Back in April 2012 Amy was walking our standard poodle Fleur in Glen Ridge, NJ a town very near where we live. While on the walk she came across a section of sycamore wood on the curb waiting to be removed on trash day. She sent a photo of the stump to me with the message, “Do you want this?” I responded immediately with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” When she returned home Amy jumped in the car and, with the help of neighbor, loaded the stump into her vehicle.

The stump remained in the driveway until September 2013 when I found some time to chainsaw the stump into slabs to expedite drying. The wood was riddled with hundreds of insects and critters of all shapes and sizes. I exterminated what I could with pesticides and sealed each slab in black plastic bags to bake in the hot sun to kill whatever remained. Somewhat satisfied everything was terminated I stacked the slabs in the loft of my shed.

In March 2014 I built a small side table out of the smallest of the slabs. This side table was featured alongside the remaining slabs at my 2014 Newark Maker Faire exhibit. The exhibit, titled Urban Lumberjack, was a collection of things I built from tree branches and stumps found during dog walking outings. My sister Joanne fell in love with the side table and even more so with one of the larger unprocessed slabs. She asked me to make a hall table for her with the larger slab – and has probably lost hope in the passing years.

jchismar sycamore hall table

Earlier this month I found myself caught up on weekend projects. I ventured out to the shed and removed the sycamore slab from the rafters and planed both sides to an appropriate thickness. The task is always more laborious than I think it’s going to be. This past weekend  I added a second butterfly to the sycamore slab prevent a growing crack from expanding and cut mortises on the underside for each table leg. Lovely cherry wood purchased from a local supplier was used to make three tapered legs.

It seems as though the project will be complete soon. Time will tell. The legs need to be attached and all the surfaces require a thorough final sanding. Once everything is sanded and assembled the process of applying finish can begin. This project continues to be fun and challenging and I think I’m going to have a hard time letting this one go to a new home.

Day Hiking The A.T. and Taxidermy

Appalachian Trail Taxidermy

This past Saturday my nephew Bernard and I did a little day hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. During our expedition we chewed on teaberry leaves and foraged a few wild raspberries and blueberries – leaving plenty behind for fellow hikers to discover. The forecast called for thunderstorms but the weather was on our side, gently raining shortly after each time we set up the hammocks for trail-side siestas. We stopped at Rudy’s Tavern in East Stroudsburg for a few pints and delicious bar pizzas for some post adventure refueling.

Sunday was filled with catching up with many odds and ends around the house. I worked a little on my Magic Mirror carving which I hope to complete soon. I also did some taxidermy experimenting with a song sparrow my sister provided me with a few months ago.  To my surprise I find the task of taxidermy relaxing. Freezer storage, however, is at a minimum at home and I have many big woodworking projects (some started years ago, some to start soon) on my horizon so I’ll likely pause the taxidermy hobby for a while.