Cherry Board Farmhouse Table Years in the Making

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman and House In The Woods Farm
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For 25 years, this stack of two-inch-thick boards has sat under the house waiting to become a beautiful farmhouse table. It waited and it waited. For 25 years, it waited.

We would propose the table project with incentives—for this anniversary, let’s make the table. For my birthday, let’s do it. Let’s do it later, we are too busy building the farm. The farm was born; the children were born. We’ll do it when the kids are older, because we are going to ruin the kitchen table with projects. We got a hand-me-down kitchen table. How many projects were done on the kitchen table? Incubating chickens probably shouldn’t have happened on the kitchen table. Stamping seedling tags with permanent ink probably shouldn’t have happened on the kitchen table. But they did. We knew they would. All the while, this stack of cherry boards waited.

We started to realize the cherry table project would never fit into our routine. We will never get to it, but we’d really appreciate the table. That big permanent black ink stain on the hand-me-down table is starting to bother me. Let’s make the table for our 20th anniversary. We have heard that one before.

When my husband, Phil, prepared the land to build our house, he cut down two cherry trees. He hired a guy to bring his (not very) portable sawing mill up our steep driveway in the woods to mill the cherry into boards. The hired guy said he’d never bring his mill up our driveway again. He planed the boards and drove his mill home. Phil built the house and he used the one inch cherry boards to make inside doors and a closet. He set aside these two-inch-thick boards for a cherry table. That was 25 years ago.

When has a homesteading project been waylaid too long? The kids are teenagers and the table still hasn’t made it to the top of the project list. What to do? It is time to either scratch it off the list or delegate it.

We discovered we didn’t need to delegate the entire project. We jump-started the project by taking the cherry boards to the planing mill. The nice people who run the mill re-sanded the old boards and cut and neatly glued them into a table top. They used the scrap to make table legs. With the stumbling blocks to the project lifted, we took on the final steps. Phil would attach the legs; I would finish the surface of the table. We each researched our part. It did not matter that we have never built a table. That is the adventure of it. As homesteaders, we are jacks of all trades, between the two of us. In 1995, Phil had never made a house before, so he read a book and he did that. We had never farmed before, so in 2000 we read some books and we did that. We have never made a table before, so in 2020, we googled it.

Both the leg-attaching and the wood-finishing projects required research, decisions and risks. At first, Phil chose not to make a skirt, because he learned that a skirt is not easy to make. He attached the legs on thick base boards that he attached across the table width on each end of the table. However, he is seeing that the heavy table will need a skirt, so he is adding a skirt for reinforcement, to draw in the table legs.

I chose to oil the table with tung oil and citrus solvent to create an oil finish to the table. I am drawn to the natural process of oiling and bringing out the qualities of wood. It was a forgiving process that can be repeated if the surface does not clean easily. My most useful resource for oiling the table was The Real Milk Paint Company.

By delegating part of the project, we made it happen and still have the satisfaction of this DIY project. Our hearts and time were soaked right into the grain. The ownership and passion that comes with a DIY project is still ours. The connection, the wildness, the learning and research, the memories, the risk of the table completely falling or warping… it is all part of the adventure of a DIY project.

Twenty years of farming, 20 years of marriage — it’s time for the cherry boards to become a table.

And here it is!!!

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm’s Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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