Wednesday, January 11, 2012

# 173 - Old White Oak Tree Down, but It's Not Over

One of my favorite trees on our property was assaulted by winds from Hurricane Rita and it took a tumble. How did this storm end up doing damage to our property in the country? Well, it moved across the Gulf, hit the Houston area and moved with continued force North of Houston to roll right into Livingston and onward. The winds remained so strong that Livingston had a great deal of damage...not near as much as the coastline, but the country did get a whiff of hurricane force winds for a few hours and the toll was remarkable.

I have a blog written about our experience with this hurricane, in detail, but I will post it later. For now, I just want to focus on my beloved white oak tree that succumbed to Rita's winds.

Powerful hurricanes such as Rita have no problem moving across the states and creating chaos in its path.

Our land showed damage from the storm. We had utility poles go down because of trees falling and pulling the lines with them. This massive oak tree had a root ball more than six feet across. I had taken a photo at the foot of the root ball when it fell and you could see how gigantic the tree had grown in its old age as I stood dwarfed in its shadow. I am working on finding that picture.

Actually, when we drove up to our property a few years ago and saw the felled tree, I began crying. It had been a majestic testament to the strength of nature in spite of more than a century of obstacles.

Along the ground, the wind-battered tree stretched longer reaching for the sky. It had claimed its final resting spot. We began to consider the size of the tree, we didn't want to chop it up and haul it off. We really didn't know what to do with it, so we decided to leave it be.

On our next few visits to the property, you could clearly see where trespassers had taken a saw to our fallen tree to harvest some rather large secondary branches. My blood boiled a little.
Over time, the tree began to partially decompose. It hit me...I want to harvest parts of that great white oak so that we can have beautiful countertops. We can use parts of the huge trunk slabs as tabletops and coasters. There are many other things we hope to create out of the tree whose shadowed branches we had once loved to picnic under.

Even though part of the tree has decomposed, the other section of the fallen tree is still solid and ready to serve another purpose. I don't know if you can tell, but the generator is fairly large and in comparison to part of the trunk, you can tell that the tree is rather large. Those are some beautiful countertops right there.

I hope to see remnants of this great white oak in my house and in the house of my children. The old tree may have seen the end of its days as towering grandeur over the land, but this tree has not seen its final will live on in new, useful ways. Sections of this tree will find its way into our homes and will surely become heirloom pieces with a story behind the creation.

The great white oak felled by Hurricane Rita will still be loved by our family.

Parts of the tree are quite large. There are even a few secondary branches that are the size of regular trees.

So, Deputy Dave did me a big favor. He got out his chain saw and cut a few logs off of some smaller branches. We brought these home and he used another tool to cut the log into sections. I will be experimenting with making solid wood coasters with this discs.

I have a few more options to give these very special coasters an even more special touch, I might wood burn a design into the top of the coaster. We'll probably line the bottom with felt so the furniture can be protected.

On a few of these, I'll experiment with a stain and a light coating of polyurethane. I've already sanded one and coated it with mineral oil. It has retained its natural essence and is beautiful. We've thought about having an iron-worker create a brand for us so we can sizzle a brand into the center of each coaster. Or, I have a wood-burning tool that I could use to burn pictures of Texas, a cowboy hat, a boot, the name of a Favorite Football team or whatever. I just want these to be unique and perhaps an eye-catching conversation piece.

I'd take coasters like these, made from a grand old fallen white oak tree than coasters made from plastic in some factory overseas any day.

I'm sure some of my creations will be hit and miss during experimentation and others will end up as artistic beauties to serve as a reminder of our own little forest.

The highest hopes we keep for this fallen tree is that we'll be able to harvest some planks from this particular white oak for our kitchen and bathroom countertops. Since we're about to move out there, it's a real possibility. The countertops will be assembled and finished off in high-gloss yacht style, topped with at least three coats of marine polyurethane.

Living in a boating community will give you ideas like this. Forget granite; I want to use as many self-sustaining items from our land as possible during the construction of our cabin.
Yes, my countertops are going to be rather cool and my coasters will be fun and unique. I might be giving these as gifts to everyone in the family.

Between my art background and Deputy Dave's wood-working skills, we will make a great creative team, we always do. He loves doing wood working projects. I tend to like the small sized projects. Over the past few years, he's been a tad too busy at other endeavors to concentrate on anything that has to do with wood. Another reason is that we don't have room here at this house. The garage is jam-packed and leaves no room for true wood projects.

But, once we're in the woods, on our acreage, he'll finally be able to enjoy a workshop with ample room to do all the wood working he desires. I think this workshop will be his little slice of Heaven on earth. It makes me happy just thinking about it.

Deputy Dave's dad always loved working with wood and he created some amazing things, such as a violin seat, a rocking horse, and more than I can say. He and his wife are full time RVer's and he always admits to missing his woodshop. I know he'll enjoy visits to see his son and to piddle around in Deputy Dave's woodshop. He might never want to leave. Deputy Dave's mother might have to finally learn how to drive that dang RV on her own because my father-in-law might never want to hit the road again once he sees our woodshop on our land.

Yes, it'll be THAT good.

As for getting ready to sell...every day is an step closer to putting the house on the market. I've been packing a ton of things every day, sorting through things for our upcoming garage sale and deciding which furniture to sale before our move. It's tough. We might be one month behind schedule, but that's not too bad.

I'm not as fast as I once was, not as strong as I had been and I don't have as much endurance as I formerly enjoyed, so I am going at a pace that I can withstand. What's that country song? "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good as I've ever was." I think that stands for both of us over here. 

Each day since I've been packing, I turn off the TV, crank up the music, get out the stacks of newspaper and boxes, then I have a grand time packing things away. My motivation comes from George Straight, Mick Jagger, Steely Dan to Elvis Presley, and yes, even Lady GaGa. And sometimes, it comes from Mozart.

Every box is numbered and categorized. We've done this quite a few times. We're pretty darn good at packing and moving, but we have arrived at the age to where the process is slow and tedious. I pack my boxes lighter these days. I give more thought to what will actually go in those boxes.

Being married for 25 plus years has created a houseful of memories. Sometimes, I look at a few things that are being wrapped for a box and I wonder if anyone else will know the beautiful story behind the old treasure. Will someone know that the antique washboard actually belonged to my great-grandmother whose mother grew up a full-blooded Cherokee Indian? Will someone know that my Nanny worked like a dog, but never gave up her beautiful smile?

Ah well...such is ever-changing life for all of us. We eventually find ourselves moving on in one way or another, and we do new things in life. And that tree, life has new things in store for it. Maybe one of my great-grand-kiddos in the future will be in possession of some old solid oak coasters that have a family brand on them and they'll know the story behind the treasure that had been caressed by our touch.

I hope so. I really do.



Tombstone Livestock said...

You should take a picture of the washboard and save it on a disc with the story behind it for your girls.

I have been looking at things here telling some of my girls about some treasures here .... like the old blue enamel ware coffee pot outside in the shed used to be my grandfathers. The Smiley Pig cookie jar was my Aunt's and is over 65 years old. I am going to take pictures of everything and the history behind it for them and save on discs.

My mother always said her will was written on wood, she put names on the back of everything she wanted someone to have.

Karen said...

How wonderful to use the oak tree for your new home! I love all trees and have a hard time seeing them fall. I know it's Mother Nature's way, but it is so sad.

I think the coasters are a fantastic idea and the countertops sound amazing too. Always so many great ideas, Lana.

Passing on family heirlooms from generation to generation is what I hope to do with our stained glass and old family antiques, too. Your blog will also be a wonderful narrative of your family's history to pass along. I know it will be cherished!

LindaG said...

What great ideas for the tree. Good luck!

I may have to suggest this to hubby. :-)

Dreaming said...

How wonderful to repurpose the tree. I bet the counter tops will be gorgeous, especially if they are spalted like what I see on the coasters. said...

Tombstone Livestock --- That is a good suggestion. I've actually been taking time to photograph important things in the family, such as antique jewelry, furniture, and such with a note about its history in the family. I sure wish someone before me would have done this as well. Some pieces are mysterious. My husband's aunt, in her preparation to die from cancer, began to put labels on the backside, underside or inside of everything that made it clear to whom she intended the piece to go. It was sweet.

Karen --- those trees will definitely be repurposed for continued use and admiration in another form. Your stained glass work is definitely an artform to be treasured through untold generations. Your family is very fortunate to have such art pieces in the family.

Linda -- I'll keep doing blogs to show my progress in this area and the different options.

Dreaming - I do hope to see that tree be part of my home. I'm eager for it to be cut so it can start drying even further to be used. It was a beautiful tree, but she sure kept her inner beauty under wraps. Then, the storm broke down and gave us another option to use segments of her grace as products to adorn our house.


Alana said...

Mom! I need like 16 16-18" slabs at least 1" thick for the wedding. Perhaps one a little bigger and a few inches thick for the wedding cake. Let me know if this is possible! :-)
We could also use two smaller odd shaped ones to paint with chalkboard paint on one side so we can re-use them in the future, but for the wedding to use one for "Gift Table" & "Guest Book Table" :-)

Fingers crossed! :-)
love you! said...

Miss Alana...your dad and I will be glad to provide these slabs of wood for your wedding. Like I was telling you, we have our own forest to harvest it from.

:) Love you baby.