water-powered up-down sawmill

sunrise at home, 5:46 am, May Day
40°F, clear with periodic clouds, light wind from the north at 7 mph
4.30.22 ~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, Ledyard, Connecticut

For May Day weekend we decided to visit the historic water-powered Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, which is only open on Saturdays in the spring and fall. Earth’s energy has shifted again as this hemisphere begins traveling closer to the sun in the brighter half of the year. All the mill’s windows and doors were wide open so it felt pretty safe (covid-wise) to go inside and see what the process of sawing wood was like in the late 1800s.

millstone, the sawmill operated briefly as a gristmill from 1858-1860
headgate controlling pond water flow through the dam into the mill water tank
vintage salesman’s model of the John Tyler Water Turbine

The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner.
~ Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill website

“Turning the handwheel opens and closes the turbine gate,
controlling water flow from the holding tank into the turbine.”
“The vertical turbine shaft is geared to a horizontal shaft
that ends with a heavy iron flywheel and crank under the saw.”
“A wooden pitman arm connects to the crank to the wooden saw sash,
converting the rotary motion of the flywheel into
an up and down (reciprocating) motion.”

After watching the saw operating for a minute we went outside, down some huge stone steps and into the lower level to see the turbine in action.

the turbine pit in the mill lower level

And then we went back upstairs to see more of the sawing.

“The saw cuts on the downstroke and
the log moves toward the saw on the upstroke.”

It was quite loud and the whole building vibrated while the saw was operating.

diagram of both levels

The sawmill has a great website for any who would like more details: Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill.

My father, when he was still alive, had visited this place after it was restored and opened to the public in 1975. He often said he wanted to take me to see it some day. Sadly, that never happened, but he was very much on my mind as we looked around and listened to the operators tell us about its history and how it worked.

After our trip back through time we decided to take a walk around Sawmill Pond and see what visual treats the brightness of spring had to offer.

red maple seeds
tiny bluets, a childhood favorite
an eastern painted turtle for Tim

And then, for me, a new life bird! I heard it singing and looked up into the nearest tree and there it was! What a nice surprise, the last sort of thing I was expecting to find on this day. 🙂

chipping sparrow, #69

Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Widespread common migratory breeder mid-April to November; rare and local in winter; in areas with short grass and trees, residential neighborhoods, parks, open upland forest.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

Thank you, little chipping sparrow, for singing so sweetly that I couldn’t miss seeing you!

on the morning of the month’s first day

4.30.22 ~ tulips in my garden

But May is a month to be enjoyed, not coldly discussed, and enthusiasm should thrill to the very finger-tips of every one who, on the morning of the month’s first day, hears the thrush, grosbeak, oriole, and a host of warblers as they great the rising sun. And rest assured, dear startled reader, that unless you are astir before the sun is fairly above the horizon you will never know what bird-music really is. It is not alone the mingled voices of a dozen sweet songsters; for the melody needs the dewy dawn, the half-opened flowers, the odor-laden breeze that is languid from very sweetness, and a canopy of misty, rosy-tinted cloud, to blend them to a harmonious whole, and so faintly foreshadow what a perfected world may be.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)

sudden burst of brightness

“The Time of the Lilacs” by Sophie Gengembre Anderson

The explosion of May-blossom, sunlight, and burgeoning life needs expression at this time, when workday commonplaces can be thrown to the four winds and the bright joy of living can bubble up within us with natural ecstasy. All who have waited at dawn to welcome in summer have felt the sudden burst of brightness that ignites the deep happiness of the living earth as the sun rises.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

Happy May Day!

sticks, bells, ribbons

5.1.15.4844
Westerly Morris Men ~ 5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

Strike up a measure, sprightly this way
And we’ll dance an idle hour away
Dance in the garden, dance on the lea
To a Morris music light and free

5.1.15.4857
Westerly Morris Men ~ 5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

Greenly call the rushes
Budding is the willow
Spring now is here and all is fair
And she rides on the south wind
Sweet and warm with May
And a wreathe of hawthornes deck her hair

5.1.15.4920
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

Why not dance when happy songs resound
In the trees and hedges all around
Say farewell to toil and work a day
For the dance will drive all cares away

5.1.15.4928
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

Tim’s father, Karl Freeman Rodgers, Jr. (1930-1978), was a Morris dancer. Sadly, he died of cancer shortly after Tim & I were married so I never had much of a chance to get to know him or to see him dance, but I think of him every May Day, especially when we manage to drag ourselves out of bed to watch the Westerly Morris Men dance at dawn on the campus of Connecticut College.

5.1.15.4932
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

In 1964, Karl was one of the founding members of the Pinewoods Morris Men:

Karl Rogers was elected Squire at the 1972 Ale. Karl had many talents: racer, musician, singer, teacher, and he was among the best at all of these. In his year as Squire, he founded the PMM Newsletter, and pushed hard for the establishment of a PMM-funded scholarship to Pinewoods Camp for prospective Morris dancers.
~ Pinewoods Morris Men

5.1.15.4938
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

From the first, then, the Newsletter was intended not only to report PMM activities, but also to exchange views and ideas among all Morris dancers. Karl’s success in establishing the format led directly to the creation of the American Morris Newsletter less than five years later.
~ Pinewoods Morris Men

5.1.15.4942
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

In November (1978), we lost a valued friend and founding member when Karl Rodgers died on Thanksgiving Day, after a long battle with cancer. In his year as Squire, he started the Newsletter, and introduced the idea of a Pinewoods Scholarship. The Newsletter flourished, and spun off the American Morris Newsletter; at the time Karl died, Fred Breunig was well on the way to establishing AMN as the premier forum for Morris matters in this country. The scholarship had been established in 1975; it was only fitting that it be renamed in Karl’s memory.
~ Pinewoods Morris Men

5.1.15.4967
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

I am born on May Morning – by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap – in the dark root I am the dancer – with his six fools
~ William Anderson
(The Green Man)

5.1.15.4972
5.1.15 ~ New London, Connecticut

Happy May Day!