• Daniel Ouimet

The Summer Shop Slumbers

Updated: Sep 11

I like the idea of a summer kitchen. Someplace once used perhaps to bathe the children in metal tubs or cook and can in the heat of summer and lingering warmth of autumn. I can imagine it would be dominated by a cast iron stove and cluttered with articles of forgotten purpose crowding a big wooden table.

Dogs I could bathe in a summer kitchen. But otherwise about as close as I come to the rest of that daydream is enjoying the labors and generosity of those who do the cooking and canning. What I do have is a summer workshop to tangentially honor tradition.

The benefits of a summer workshop are many. The open windows and double doors deliver fresh air with the song and color of birds. The shavings and dust from turnings and sanding pens on the lathe settle and await a seldom sweeping. The draft from the open double doors to and from the windows ameliorates the odors. These can be especially disagreeable when turning pens from particular resins or antler of any kind. The latter smells very much like teeth being drilled by your gleeful dentist (please see my blog post Are Writing Pens Made from Deer Antlers?).

I also find the summer shop a convenient place to spurn the heavy-handed societal expectations for table manners. When you have two dogs participating in every utensil-free lunch, it only makes sense. Small tidbits and crumbs that escape the attention of the dogs are left amidst the shavings and dust to be harvested nightly by the bulbous-eyed deer mice. They inhabit the storage loft above and gnaw on things I'd rather they didn't but don't begrudge them their home. The summer shop is also alive with generally passive European paper wasps. They tirelessly build their inverted umbrella nests on the exposed workshop framing. I'm careful 86% of the time to avoid clumsily disturbing their active homes. But, once the Wisconsin wintertide renders them safe, I happily collect them for casting in pen blanks. Underneath the summer shop live the raccoons or subletter opossums and rabbits. Although they do not contribute materials for penmaking or help with lunch cleanup, I enjoy knowing the stone skirting beneath the summer shop provides safe, dry quarters to raise their young.

I love the flush of spring, the beauty of autumn, and the cold hush of winter. I enjoy them for the change they bring; raking leaves, shoveling snow, spring planting, and of course, the sojourn of a summer shop.


Parus Pen summer shop in winter
Summer shop slumbers