Old Pines Learn New Tricks

Once these were trees. They must have grown slowly, with lines layered more closely together than the pine boards we purchase today. One board near the kitchen stands out as extra finely-grained, with lines just millimeters apart. This board might be ponderosa pine, Andrew guesses, and I trace it with my fingertips, transported to high forests near the Grand Canyon, hiking in grasses among thick trunks.

2015-03-15 16.40.56I think of loblolly pines growing fast in Alabama and Georgia, cut with machines with giant insect-like pincers that grasp their trunks and snip them like weeds. I wonder who felled the trees under my feet, with a saw or an axe? Who milled them into boards?

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I have never spent so much time scrutinizing a floor. It began with cleaning. We traced the shop vacuum along each crack, then washed the boards. With a rented sander, Andrew buzzed back and forth for about fifteen hours, interspersed with more vacuuming. With a hand sander, we addressed edges, corners, and stubborn spots left by other people being careless. Finally satisfied, we vacuumed again and wiped with a cloth.

Five coats might seem excessive, but some determination seized me, as if a strong coating on this floor would protect the whole property from crumbling, would keep us all safe. 2015-03-15 16.41.39

So at 11 pm, I sponged on the polyurethane, ending at the bottom of the stairs. Then I packaged everything and went straight to bed. The next morning, I began to scritch the floors, sanding over the boards for hours. Then another vacuuming, wiping, and the next coat before bed. A week tumbled past in this rhythm.

Now these old pine trees glow. The house feels clean for the first time since we arrived. We sprawl across the floors. Stella lounges on her belly reading books; Sam cartwheels like it’s a gymnasium. Now we are moving in.

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3 thoughts on “Old Pines Learn New Tricks”

  1. Oh the memories, Abbie. Dust clouds until we gagged and choked, then poly-clouds until breathing became painful. In this house, there are three kinds of trees involved. The original two-hundred-year-old floors are random-width native chestnut boards on the first floor, wide pine boards on the second floor, and quarter-sawn red oak in the new addition, but in the end, all those glorious trees gave us the same spectacular results. Ten years later, the floors are still worth the effort. I wish the same for you.

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