By Dana Y. Wu
In 2014, when my family and I moved to Kipp Street, two black walnut trees swayed precariously over the driveway and power lines of our farmhouse colonial built in the 1900s. Their roots were exposed in the shallow, allopathic soil and black walnuts the size of tennis balls rained down on us.
Reluctantly, we got the tree removal permit and called Bill Davies of Westchester Tree Life. He told us that the wood was valuable and offered to take the huge trunks to White Oak Farm in Yorktown for milling.
Jason Ballard (My Minds Design, Grafton, Vermont), a talented woodworker, had made built-ins and an antique barn beam mantle for our former house on Birch Lane. We asked if he could create an eight-foot dining table for the new house and he was thrilled to work with wood from our homegrown trees.
Bri Hart at White Oak Farm selected the best pieces for the table top for milling into nine foot planks. The wood was sawn to Jason’s specified dimensions and kiln dried for two months. When it was ready, Bri declared this was some of the best walnut he had ever seen. Serendipitously, another of Bri’s custom timber cuts was ready to head north and we happily piggybacked onto that delivery to get our 900 linear feet of walnut to Grafton.
Maggie Nielsen was helping us furnish our home, on land that was part of the extensive Kipp family holdings from the mid-1700s. She designed a casual dining room for daily homework, reading and meals by our busy family of six. It took several discussions and wood samples by mail to get the table’s vintage character, the stain and the finish figured out with Jason. Maggie had suggestions about the table’s base to match the tone we had set with the dining room’s new paint, windows and rug from Caravan Connection in Bedford Hills.
After hours of Jason’s expert craftsmanship, the finished table took up almost his entire workshop during the weeks to took to dry all 25 coats of his signature polish. He delivered it in January 2016, and we were so excited to see how its proportions, color and warm feel were all in perfect harmony with the 100 year old house.
The table had finally come home.
Our “farm to table” table soon will be joined with a beautifully handcrafted mirror, a sideboard and chairs, all made from this wood harvested from our property. They will become true family heirlooms. The organic, creative collaboration between Bill, Bri, Maggie and Jason brought the walnut trees that were growing outside into the heart of our home.
Dana Y. Wu, a Chappaqua mom of four, is an author, visual storyteller and local volunteer. Her not-for-profit management career includes experience at the New York Public Library. A life-long New Yorker, she graduated from Stuyvesant High School and Columbia University. She pursues her writing with the vibrant, creative community at the Jacob Burns Media Arts Center.