Under the spreading chestnut tree / The village smithy stands
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The blacksmith shop, along with all the other buildings on our
property, is heavily shaded by trees in the summer. We did this
deliberately when we laid out the buildings, orienting them so
we’d have to cut as little as possible.
The shop itself has a large hickory in front, slightly smaller
hickories on the northeast and west corners. Sassafras saplings
ring the building and there’s a small cedar by the door to the
shop addition where George works. The large hickory in front of
the shop is almost 22 inches in diameter. In the fall hickory nuts
hit the shop’s tin roof with a bang.
The canopy provided by the trees surrounding the shop means
that in the summer it is almost fully shaded. Not only our shop,
but our entire yard is in shade. This makes a huge difference in
temperature. In the yard it could be 77 degrees F; in the open,
in our garden, it would be 88 degrees F. Having a coal fire in
the shop addition, even with all the doors open adds an extra
10 degrees of heat in the summer. Because of all the trees the
shop is no hotter than the garden – hot, but not withering.
All the shade in our yard (in some areas only moss and trees
grow) severely restricts the amount of light that reaches our
forges on rainy days in the summer. Our non-electric shop
makes us feel very connected to our brother and sister smiths
who made the original ironwork years ago, particularly on dim
days. Once leaves fall, things brighten up until next spring.
Having everything brighter is one of the benefits that come with
Sassafras trees spring up anywhere they can in our woods.
They’re the first trees to appear in a burned area. They have
variable leaf shapes on the same branch. The mitten shape is
an identifier. When we cut through sassafras roots in building
our shop, the air became scented with a pleasant root beer-like
fragrance. This is a small sapling by the large hickory in front of
To the south of the shop is a huge red oak. It’s 41 inches in
diameter. The photo doesn’t at all give a proper idea of its size.
This tree and the woods surrounding it mean that the shop
addition, in spite of all of its windows, is darker in the summer
than the rest of the shop. Other trees growing in our yard are
pine, maple, paw-paw, poplar and white oak. One autumn day
we counted the trees and found there are more than 200!
Summers aren’t getting any cooler and we’re glad to be able to
live and work in the shade of the trees. The birds they host keep
us pleased by their song (our favorite in early summer is the
wood thrush’s). The nuts falling on the tin roof keep us alert in
autumn. The fallen leaves provide as much mulch as our garden
could ever need. And winter’s daylight, though short, is bright.