Josh and Annie

Date: November 2023

Dear Josh and Annie

Judy and I worked on this gift together, I did the woodwork and belt sanding and Judy did hand sanding and painting. We hope you enjoy the bench. The appropriateness of the bench is that it is a metaphor of the give and take that makes a marriage work. It is the end of a long string of barters, let me explain.

1: About 20 years ago Ken Avery, our neighbour, had some logs sawn up and he put them in his barn to dry. They sat there until just a few weeks ago.

2: In the spring of last year a wind storm swept through the Lanark Highlands and blew down a dozen 200 year old oak and maple trees on our property. Our forest was quite a mess

3: Our Neighbour Francis has a skidder and he spent two weeks cleaning up the mess in exchange for the wood which he sold as firewood. As part of the arrangement he also cleared an old trail that lead from the lake to an old pioneer ice shack on the edge of our property. The lane connected our property and our neighbors Roberta and Harry. The lane they called “Anne Shirley Lane”. Francis remembered it from 50 years ago when he used to walk it with his father hunting deer. Francis also left me enough fire wood blocked up to heat my house for the next 3 years which Michael and Jordan split in late October.

4: At my request Francis pulled out some basswood trees that had also blown over, trees that are very easy to work due to the soft nature of the dense white wood of the basswood. I then hired Alan to saw up the basswood logs.

5: When Ken Avery’s son Bill Avery, my partner in cattle farming heard I was getting a sawmill in he mentioned to me that allot of his pine trees were blown over. This included some 100 year old pine, almost 2 feet across, I suggested he bring the logs over. I would pay for the mill if he brought the trees and we would share the wood. He agreed. A number of friends came by to help with the sawing, in exchange I gave them some large slabs of pine, like the maple your bench is made of.

6: After the sawing was done some not quite prime oak logs were left un-sawn, great for firewood so I offered them to my neighbor Cecil who promptly dropped by and blocked them up for splitting. Turns out Cecil did not need the wood, he was just nice to block up the wood, and as we both more wood than we could store, I called a series of neighbors until I found one who wanted the wood. Dianne and Bill Deering gratefully took the 2 pickup trucks of wood.

8: As fate would have it Bill Avery’s tractor broke down and he wanted to clean out one of his barns before things froze for the winter and he needed a small tractor that would get into his barn and because we were working together on the wood he asked me if he could borrow my tractor. I said of course and when he returned it washed and sparkling clean he offered me some sawn maple.

9: So back to the wood, Sunday afternoon and bill Avery drives up with a load of sawn maple slabs and says he has been tripping over it for years, then Cecil dropped by to say hello and I gave him a bottle of maple syrup Bill and Diane gave me for the wood he had sawn, then Mageed and Joane dropped by and dropped off 300 dollars because when I called to offer them the wood they remembered the tilling I had done in their garden and wanted to pay for it.

It was a very social afternoon and it brought to my attention the importance of giving and that essentially is what a marriage is all about.

The more you give, the more you receive. You see; your getting the bench was a result of a dozen or so gives and takes. Each give born of a desire to help a neighbour and each take ensuring that the other person did at least as well as I did. After 42 years of marriage I would say the same rules apply. Its never easy living with someone but if you go at it in the spirit of give and take, always trying to give more than you take it tends to work out in the end.

So I hope when you look at this bench that is what you see, or maybe you will see a big hideous block of wood that does not fit into a Gen Y post Ikea fashionista expression of an influencers head exploding, I never know what people are thinking.

All the best and Good Luck.

Ken and Judy