~~ The Red Pines of Robert Frost ~~

 

Frost planted 1,000 red pine seedlings at the Stone House in 1921. He obtained them from the state of Vermont as part of a soil conservation program popular in the 1920s. Frost's friend Dorothy Canfield Fisher of Arlington had planted a grove of them. By the time Frost saw them in 1920 they had grown, and he admired their bushy form and lush color. Frost and his son, Carol, planted the trees on the northwest part of the Shaftsbury farm in plantation style. He thought a poet could grow timber as well as apples; the trees could take care of themselves and that appealed to him.

Today the red pines are almost 90 years old. Museum director Carole Thompson found mention of the pines in a Frost biography and set out to find the trees. Thompson says, "Red pine is quite distinctive for the flaky red bark. I had never seen a red pine, but once you have, you cannot mistake it for anything else. We found them right where the biographer said, down in the woods, northwest of the house."

 
 
 
Shaftsbury volunteers Jon Endres, Jr. and Bill Peacock
toppled two trees in January 2009 while the snow was
on the ground. They were able to skid the large trunks
over the frozen ground without damaging the trees or
the field. The logs lay in the snow oozing sticky resin
over the winter until May.

 

 




 
Endres, who is a professional engineer by trade and a wordwork enthusiast as well, brought his portable saw-mill and sawed the logs into boards. Table maker Ray Mullineaux looks on.

 

 

 

The wood was stickered and stacked into a
magnificent wood-pile that air-dried in the
big grey barn at the Frost farm. For the next
year the wood dried slowly , the old-fashioned way.

 

 

 

 

Now what could the museum do with this wood? The Frost grandchildren have been wonderful supporters of the Stone House since it opened in 2002. Many family treasures have been donated to the collection. Grandson John Cone, Jr. the son of Irma Frost Cone, has been in touch with the museum over the past several years. He gave a talk here in 2008, and he told us about two tables in his possession that Elinor Frost had given his mother from the Gulley, the other Frost farm in Shaftsbury.


These two tables had been passed down through the Frost family since the 1930s. Both John Cone Jr. and Sr. were architects. It was proposed that replicas of one of the tables be reproduced in Frost's red pine. That seemed like a happy marriage. Mr. Cone used his skills to produce blue-prints of the table, a simple drop-leaf design with turned legs.

 

Two excellent Vermont craftsmen were selected to make custom, hand-crafted prototypes of the table. It was an experiment to see if the table could be replicated in pine. Bob Gasperetti (left) of Mt. Tabor and Ray Mullineaux of North Bennington divided the woodpile and each man made a table. Both craftsmen are experts in fine furniture making, but pine is a challenge, especially when it comes to turning table legs. Could it be done? The answer is, "Yes it can!"

 

 

 

 

Some of the red pine boards have a distinctive "blue stain" that runs in the wood grain. Some of it is grey and some quite blue, while the wood is white. A simple polished oil finish is being applied to the prototypes. Due to variations in the wood, every table will be unique. The scale of the table is charming. It seats four comfortably or could be used as a desk. It is very compact when the leaves are dropped. Tables can be shipped anywhere in the world.

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

There is enough wood to make six tables all together. One of the first tables will be permanently housed in the "Stopping by Woods Room," where Frost wrote his famous poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." The other table will be sold as a fund-raiser. Additional tables will be made-to-order for people who may be interested in owning a Frost table made from the red pine that Frost planted. Contact Carole Thompson at the museum for more information on price and availability.

2013 Update: Bob Gasperetti is making fine crafts with some of his red pines, notably keepsake boxes in various sizes. See his work at www.gasperetti.com

In addition to the tables, the red pine and other woods from the property have been made into small, more affordable crafts such as
book marks, letter openers, spinning tops, little spoons, pencil trays and walking sticks. These items are crafted by Joe Comi of
Pownal, and Joe Laferriere of Colchester, Vermont.

Carole Thompson says, "The apple trees we propagated from cuttings, and the red pine tables are two ways to bring Frost into our homes and hearts. They are sentimental things to treasure, the embodiment of a poet's art, for those who are truly Frost bitten."