November 26, 2019 // 2:21 PM

How a Community Turned Walnut Trees Into Good Wood

Written by Juanita Fox

When Garden Spot Village began to prepare the land for the Sycamore Springs neighborhood expansion in early 2019, Campus Services staff coordinated the harvesting of walnut trees that lined the creek on the property.

Bob Winegardner, Garden Spot Village resident since August 2004, was in the Wood Shop when John Moore, Garden Spot Village resident since June 2017, called to say, “Campus Services is cutting down walnut trees; do you think we could use the wood for the Wood Shop?”

“Quality walnut is like gold,” Bob says. “Of course we were interested!” A couple of men from the Wood Shop went to evaluate the wood.

The wood had potential, but there was a huge challenge. They needed to learn how to transform raw wood logs into planks that could be used for projects. Together, in community, they accepted the challenge and began to research the best way to make it happen.

The trees were green, so the logs were full of water and very heavy. The Wood Shop requested the assistance of the Garden Spot Village grounds crew to move the large logs to a pile near the aeroponic greenhouse.

Through the spring and summer Bob and others from the Wood Shop checked in at the log pile occasionally, to evaluate the progress. By fall, it appeared the logs were dry enough for the next step, so they reached out to Ben Shirk, who many of them have befriended over the years as they searched for just the right piece of wood for their projects. Ben operates a sawmill in East Earl where he has the equipment to transform large 10 foot tree trunks into planks.    

Ben was willing to cut up the trees so the men hired Martin Tree Service to help transport the wood from New Holland to East Earl.

The next challenge? After logs are cut into planks, the wood needs a cool, dry place to cure. Bob and others in the Wood Shop began to network, looking for a large space where they could store 1500 linear feet of board lumber for a year. They needed just the right space – it needed to be dry and protected, yet have adequate fresh air so the wood could dry evenly.

Amazingly, they found an empty steer barn near Garden Spot Village to store the wood, thanks to residents Gene and Thelma Eberly. They secured concrete blocks from New Enterprise Stone & Lime Company on Ranck Road and Linford Zimmerman from D & L Truss donated a load of scrap wood that the men cut into 300 1.25”x1.25”x4’ “stickers” to place between each plank of wood.

They were finally ready. The second week in October, they had the wood delivered to Ben Shirk. The third week in October, a team of eight men was on site as Ben’s massive saw cut the wood, “just like butter,” Bob says. Over the course of three days the men enjoyed camaraderie and community as they loaded the wood planks into pick-up trucks and stacked the planks in the steer barn.

And now they wait. By November 2020, the wood should be ready. And the legacy of the walnut trees at Sycamore Springs will live on in furniture and projects found throughout Garden Spot Village.

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