A Basket of Scraps


When I lived along the Lehigh Valley spur which is now the Greenway, the property edge was overrun with choke cherry, Prunus virginiana. It’s one of the trees that make up the natural forest here, insofar as forest is allowed to grow. It’s not fussy about soil. It likes some sun but sprouts as an understory tree. It has no commercial value, but the fruit can be used to make wine or jelly. The wood is very pretty, but it’s small. For years, I helped prune or cut down these volunteers. One sunny day my mother put me on the garage roof and handed me a chain saw and asked me to take down a few big limbs. Sure, why not! It builds confidence, standing on a roof with a power tool. I kept the wood because you never know – it could be handy later. I’ve made a walking stick and a few other things from it. This year I found a stack of it that I had sliced on a band saw, about 30 years ago. That’s long enough; it had to get useful right now.

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I chose some black cherry (Prunus serotina) that I salvaged from a tree I lost recently. It may also have been a volunteer, since black cherry seeds itself here too. Black cherry is a much bigger tree; I sawed a slab into supportive ends for a basket. It has good color, but not as much figure as the choke cherry; each of the chokecherries had speckles or stripes or blotches of red or brown.


I found white pine root that my father gave me because he thought it might be useful later. I sawed it into slats which had pretty swirly grain. I found a choke cherry branch with the bark still on. I bought brass screws. The old chokecherry slats were warped and twisted, so I had to notch the end boards to accept them. This is why the colonists held onto their furniture; it’s hard to make anything with straight lines! I managed to get the end boards vertical although the footprint of the box isn’t exactly square. But overall, the plain ends serve to show off the busy pattern of the smaller cherry.


This is a basket with provenance. We’re on a first name basis; I know where it all came from. I cut some of it down. But lumber is not a pet, so it’s time for it to move on.