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  • When we lived on the island year round the old timers down at the wharf called me the mini farmer from down southward. They remembered when the islands to the south were still small farming and fishing communities. They remembered the rough independence of islanders. They wondered how this boy from away would make out. The island farms had been abandoned for more than 50 years when I moved out and I spent a lot of time clearing the thick growth of spruce that had claimed field and pasture.

    In the land behind the house I came across a huge old birch tree. It was just about choked out by the spruce and I knew it wouldn’t be able to make a come back. I had a lumber making attachment for my big chain saw. A mill that clamped on to a four-foot bar and let me make boards and timbers right where I felled the trees. I sliced the birch into wide planks and stacked them to dry in the barn. I figured one day I would have a worthy project for such beautiful wood. There they sat there for 25 years.

    For a time, when we were younger, my brother and I did a lot of building and construction jobs on the island. Decks, roofs, painting, additions, dug wells. It pissed my sister off no end that people came to us boys for the carpentry jobs. When we moved on to some bigger projects like a log house over on Little Gotts she joined in, doing the carvings for the porch posts and window details. But it wasn’t the same thing.

    While the birch boards seasoned in the dusty barn, I stayed a rough and fast builder but Kat became much more than a highly skilled carpenter. I can work stone and log but she moved on to fine woodworking. The shop in her barn has more tools than I even begin to know what to do with.

    The barn out on the island where the birch was stacked was one of my early buildings and besides running out of money to finish the structure it had some serious technical flaws. The summer when its sags became terminal I wondered what to do with the stack of birch.

    Kat admired the swirly patterns in the grain.

    I could make a table, she said. If you can get the boards to our shop I’ll make them into a table this winter.

    A table is the heart of a house. It is where meals are shared and where the clan gathers. It is where plans are made, and ideas sprout and grow. The table in our kitchen is all of this and so much more.

    This is the table of birch my sister, Kat, made.
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