March 20, 2017 Missive from J.K. Farm
One morning a few years ago, my dad called me to let me know that he had to cut down a large cherry tree that was on their property in Wellington. I think it posed some kind of danger to the house. He had heard about a man with a portable sawmill and called him to come and not only cut the tree down, but saw the trunk into planks for lumber. My dad wanted to know if I wanted to come by the house to watch this operation. I was intrigued right away. In the end I watched the entire operation and learned about correctly storing the lumber so that in a year it would be dry enough to use for carpentry projects. My dad gave me the planks. I built a bar from them that was used for years at Gilead Wine Bar.
More than 10 years ago I asked an arborist to come into my property and determine whether my woodlot needed to be thinned of excess trees. It was decided that yes, the woodlot needed to have some of the old growth taken out to make way for the younger saplings that were struggling to find the sun through the canopy. At the time of his observations and recommendations he also let me know that I had several cherry trees in the woodlot that could be harvested in the next few years if I so desired.
The warm tone of the cherry wood has held a special value for me. Seeing the bar top at Gilead was an every day reminder of my parents and their back yard in Wellington where the cherry tree had once stood. In my work with food I am always looking for connections to where the food was grown or where it came from and the stories that accompany these ingredients. Making furniture from cherry wood sourced from my own property is simply an extension of this same way of thinking.
This past winter I walked into the woodlot again with Justin, an arborist who lives in Prince Edward County. We were looking for the cherry trees the first arborist had spoken of a decade earlier. We found a few scattered around the woods. Justin helped me to identify the trees by their bark and their preference for higher ground. (most of the woodlot is swamp). I asked him if he would come back and harvest one or two of the older ones. He also told me that he had a sawmill at his house. We arranged a date and I arrived at his house one morning and helped him saw the trunks into planks. We transported the lumber to my farm and stacked the planks in my drive shed, where they will cure for the next year.
One day I plan to make a working surface for my kitchen and a dining table from this wood. They will endure as a special symbol of the connection I feel with this place, no doubt adorned with wine made from grapes grown here and food cooked from ingredients grown here as well. Diners at this table will be active participants in the delicious, site specific exercise in telling the gastronomic stories of Prince Edward County.
Photos by Jo Dickins - on the left is the bar at Gilead, on the right, a long cherry plank used to serve the cheese course at the Summer Dinner Series, from above-mentioned tree at John and Patricia Kennedy's home in Wellington.