Until recently, there was an old apple tree that stood alone on a hillside overlooking the Bennington valley. If you’ve ever been apple picking or you’ve seen an orchard with these gnarled specimens, you are aware that apple trees are not known for their straight trunks or branches. If you need a straight plank for a project, it’s best to look elsewhere.
But if you fall in love with the twists and curves that made it possible for this tree to bear the weight of its fruit, then there is a lot of potential to turn its wood into something as unique as it was before it left the hillside.
I acquired this unique slab during a wood swap before the harsh winter settled in. I was standing on the hill one morning at a local woodworker’s place, watching the fog that had settled around the monument. As woodworkers tend to do, we talked about the history behind the planks we were exchanging. There is great pride and an equal amount of excitement when talking about these treasures. I have yet to figure out if this is just a New England thing, the company I keep, or if it’s just a general characteristic of a woodworker. Whatever it is, it’s contagious.
“See over there?” Richard said, shielding his eyes and pointing to his neighbor’s property by the tree line. “My neighbor heard I was in need of apple wood. He just happened to be taking down his old apple tree. I can’t use these pieces if you want them.”
Richard knew me well enough to know this was just a formality; I had trash picked (with no shame) through his burn pile previously to save scraps similar to these.
“YES!” I have stopped trying to hide my excitement over such gifts.
When a close friend asked for a growth chart for her son, I knew that this apple tree would be the perfect medium for it instead of using a typical straight piece of wood like I’ve seen for other growth charts. My childhood and teenage years consisted of my sisters and I congregating randomly in the bedroom closet doorway and fighting over who grew the most while my parents marked off the wall with a pen or pencil – whatever was the closest. That bit of history is still there.
For Andy’s chart, I added a piece of black walnut shelving and drilled holes for pens/pencils so his parents could always have one handy for charting his growth and so he’d know where to find one easily if he wanted to draw or do homework.
The chart is mounted on a wall with two screws, two feet off the ground.
Why use a wonky-looking plank for a project that calls for a straight ruler? As apple trees mature, they need to be pruned. As I learned the hard way with my peach tree, I wasn’t doing it any favors by letting the limbs grow any way they wanted. The first time I pruned it, I was embarrassed for the poor tree. It looked like Edward Scissorhands had moved into the neighborhood. But that next year, the tree produced the most amazing peaches I had ever had.
Pruning throughout the life of the fruit tree is essential in order for the tree to be healthy and bear the best possible fruit it can bear.
“I am the vine…”
I can’t think of a better tree for a growth chart.