Ok, so I’ve picked out some beautiful walnut, maple and cherry for my ornamental paddle series.
But first I want to tell you about Pat Pettigrew. Pat was my neighbour, friend and mentor during the years we lived in Montebello. Pat was a teacher and inspired hundreds of recalcitrant boys into literature, the arts, nature, and hard work. He built his house – the entire house – mostly by hand, along with the majority of the furniture in it. It is a gem. He was one of a kind, and a dying breed – I doubt there are any like him left nor will there be again.
Why am I speaking about Pat? Because all wood tells a story and the story of this wood features Pat’s hands and spirit.
One of Pat’s visions was to restore the original white pine forest on his 150 acre lot north of the Ottawa river. The land was logged in the early 1800’s and the giant white pines never grew back. Scrub trees grew in their place and folks said the white pine would never grow again. Well, as Greg Brown said, “grownups they ain’t always right…” and Pat proved them wrong by planting over 70 000 trees, most of them white pine. They are thriving today.
This reforesting project meant thinning out the existing forest, and that’s where my paddles come in.
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Nelson Henderson- often quoted by Pat Pettigrew
Much of the wood I use comes from the tress that needed to be removed so that the white pine could flourish. Under the careful guidance of the Forest Stewardship Council, some were logged by horse and some by machine, but just enough trees were removed to make way for the mighty pine.
The maple and cherry I will use for the decorative paddles will be this sacrificial wood we cut from the Montebello land.
Now, as for the walnut…. walnut trees do not grow in Montebello. It is, however, some of my favourite wood and I hoard it. The walnut comes from Drew Armor’s land in Perth, Ontario- a long time friend and colleague of Pat’s.
A few years ago, Drew needed to cut down an old walnut tree in his yard and, knowing just how precious and beautiful this wood is, didn’t want it to just go anywhere. So he contacted me, and Jess and I drove to Perth in a snowstorm to pick it up. We wrestled it into a rented cube van with the help of a neighbour and a Bobcat, and trucked it home to Montebello, white knuckled through a blizzard.
That summer Pat and I milled the giant logs into gorgeous boards and stickered them to dry. They have been sitting in my workshop waiting for something special. Their time has come and I like to think Pat would approve.
I’m ready for the next stage of this project! I’m thinking up some designs that will feature the extraordinary colors and textures of these woods and I’ll get back to you….