All images by Pete Michelinie.
Turns out it's a beehive — specifically, a top bar beehive — made by local woodworker Pete Michelinie.
Top bar hives are a low-fuss approach to beekeeping: no need to smoke the bees, no funny-looking protective suits. The bees build honeycomb in vertical slabs hanging from the bars on the top of the hive (hence the name), and you can watch their progress through the window in the front.
A stripe of beeswax down the middle of the bars tells the bees where to start building.
Now, I don't know the first thing about beekeeping, so I'm taking Pete at his word when he says that he'll have to wait until next spring to catch a swarm. But expect a follow-up post when he does!
Pete's other woodworking is beautiful, too. Check out this French corner cabinet. I love the design of the inlay.
Also, I'm seriously coveting this workbench, although it's almost too pretty to use.