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Life After Death

September 6, 2021

Things live because we are alive to see them.

If we cease to be they are gone, but while we are still here, the death around us can have a reanimation. Of sorts. For, of, and by us. If not physically, then perceptually.

Liz and I created our home 38 years ago. The site was a part of the back yard of “Oak Hill” – a 13.8 acre swath of swamp, upland of Rt.1, therefore framed mostly by the dreaded fragmites grasses surround the swamp, then bull briers, Jewell weed and the evil poison ivy. These all came after about a century or two the Chittendens using this glacial moraine rock dump as a sheep pasture. They built an ungainly box there around 1910 as a vacation home for the lesser side of the family. In the Reagan Boom, 5 lots we carved out of the swamp edge and became homes. When finances were tricky, we bought the last bit of land, the backyard of the manse, which was the garbage dump of the Chittendens for about 80 years.

The sheep managed to eat all the ground cover on what was a terrible piece of land before World War 2, fully denuding the property of everything except the fully mature trees that had popped up a century or two ago – before the sheep showed up, mostly white oaks, mostly beautiful. We also have birch, swamp maple, black cherry, even an American elm. And a perfect Sugar Maple, sitting before our home in all its glory to the point where we could only fringe plant hostas about it and the native Lillie’s would seldom bloom in its ever darkening shade.

I walk 60 feet to work out every day, like I am now. Right past the maple. Returning home, 4 years ago, I see the terrifying sight most associate with a parent who does not recognize you: outward beauty, but up top, just there, the yarmulke of bright orange. The Maple Plague. Sure Death. It was only time. Next year more bare branches, more orange leaves, then, 3 years ago, the leafing out of much of the tree was followed by instant, tragic falling of zillions of fallen leaves in August. Then a quick visit by my Tree God, and yes, removal.

But, wait.

When we built our barn, about 16 years earlier, I had to remove a fairly sad Red Oak. But we saved its central shaft trunk, had a movable sawmill come and cut it up, and I stickered it and set up under our house and air dried it for 3 years then had it dressed and then installed in that barn. A great, lively legacy. It’s stump is slowly disappearing after 20 years, but the floor shines.

The maple came down, but we were too cheap to have the Tree God remove the fallen limbs and trunk. So, I had a large son help remove all the smaller branches, left the middling ones and were left with three stout 10 foot trunk logs, over 3ft-6in wide to under 3ft. I had another sawyer take a look, “Can’t do it here, trunk is too big, driveway too steep.” So the first $1,000 moved the three huge trunks to a field where only one of the three passed the inspection of the sawyer. And we dove into creating quarter sawn pieces at the maximum width of his mill blade, 20in.

With some muscle and time we ended up with over 20 pieces.

The pieces had a coloration in them that was wild. Yes, some spaulting, even some nail holes from about 100 years worth of tacking sheep herding barbed wire to the trunk, but that film of coloration was something that neither the sawyer, nor I, nor my Wood God,  had ever seen before.

That coloration made me feel better about the next $1K that I paid to the sawyer. We loaded the pieces, heavy and wet into our Volvo station wagon. And slowly, slowly went aaaaall the way down Rt. 1 except the I-95 bridge, and made it home.

We then stacked them using plastic stickers and covered them with a plastic tarp for the next 2.5 years.

I took a sample 5 months ago to my Wood God who measured the moisture. “Well, 10.5% or 9.75% – not good.” The large son was now in Okinawa (I just spelled that Oakinawa). I had an intern who was an inside linebacker for Yale with me until the end of July.

I bought a dehumidifier, connecting a hose, and propped it under the tarp, with a hole to drag in a little make air. It worked, but first I had to figure out how to best use the next wad of cash to plane to thickness and cut to edge and cross cut to length.

All three applications had different thicknesses and edge profiles for three separate uses. If I had enough wood. I measured.

I had just enough, and labeled three thickness, three edge conditions, all maximum width and then some careful harvesting cross cuts.

Three sticks were left to make two glued up countertops for WPKN,

The rest went home.

Then another, easy, trip at about 2/3s the weight of the first almost 3 years ago. Then using an esoteric 2 part water urethane that was deemed the best way to penetrate the maple by a Finish God (as maple is ever weird with finish). I did 2 full coats on both sides, mixing the two parts with each bit’s usage. That was another $150.

Then the layout…

Then getting the Finish God’s super esoteric glue as one floor was over not much and thin, and the other was Wide. That, and the Wood God’s millworking killed the next $1K.

But the glued up and resawn, sanded, counter tops were retrieved, and needed finishing, this time with Tung Oil. 7 coats with sanding then rubbing in between over two weeks.

Then they were installed.

And at long last after weeks of acclimation, the floors went in, then 5 more coats for one floor, 4 more for the other. By professionals. The last $1,800.

Why do I do this? The cost ended up being $20 a square foot, finished and installed. About what I could have purchased in the retail market. But there was no skill, effort or history put into buying a thing. Saving history makes history.

Beauty. History. Need. Using my mind and body in ways no IPad or Sharpie can. And this:

And I have cutting boards to make…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2021 8:11 pm


  2. Mary Zahl permalink
    September 6, 2021 8:45 pm

    Duo, this is a moving story. I love what you’ve done. It’s beautiful and meaningful. Well done! The Tree God is smiling 😊

  3. Mary Zahl permalink
    September 6, 2021 8:45 pm

    Duo, this is a moving story. I love what you’ve done. It’s beautiful and meaningful. Well done! The Tree God is smiling 😊

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