The following is a reprint of an article about the making of three benches from the fallen wood of Baba's Tree. It is from the Ojai Valley News published April 27, 2018.
By Perry Van Houten
Fallen wood from an iconic oak atop Sulphur Mountain is being recycled into handmade furniture.
Most of Baba's Tree, a massive, centuries-old coast live oak on the property of Meher Mount, burned and then collapsed during the Thomas Fire in December.
Since then, caretakers have been working to ensure the tree's survival, while trying to breathe new life into the fallen wood.
“Repurposing the wood seems the logical thing to do,” said Meher Mount President Sam Ervin.
Seven people spent four days milling the wood into planks.
It took artisan woodworker Harold Greene two days to build the three benches.
Greene owns a San Pedro business that uses fallen timber to create tables, chairs, lamps, bedroom furniture, bookshelves and benches.
He said urban timber — wood harvested from downed trees in city parks and neighborhoods — is his favorite material with which to work.
“You get to control the whole process,” Greene explained. “You get to look at the log and decide how it's going to be cut, and while you're doing that you're thinking about some of the things you can make.”
Each Baba Tree plank has been numbered, catalogued and carefully stored in a makeshift lumber yard.
“Almost all of the wood that came out of this tree has been salvaged and will be used at some point in the future for beautiful, beautiful pieces,” Greene said. The wood will provide building material for many years to come, he added.
“There's probably 1,000 board feet of lumber that we carefully catalogued,” he said. “It'll be a resource for the foundation for 50 years.”
Ervin said thousands have visited Meher Mount to sit under Baba's Tree, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean from an elevation of [2,500] feet.
The tree, estimated to be between 300 and 500 years old, is named for Avatar Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master.
“We'll be placing these benches at certain spots on the property that have to do with Meher Baba's time here, so the people can feel that they're sitting in his presence,” Ervin said.
Before the tree fell it was estimated to be 200 feet in circumference and 75 feet in diameter.
It's now surrounded by a temporary 300-foot seclusion fence.
Ervin said there's still life in the remaining limbs.
“There are new sprouts coming out on four of the major limbs on one side of the tree,” he said.
A care plan for the tree's survival and regrowth was developed with the help of arborist Michael Inaba.
It's aimed at creating optimal conditions for the tree's recovery.
“We're spreading mulch and we're putting sunburn protection on the exposed limbs,” Ervin said.
In addition, a 300-foot irrigation pipe, stretching from a reservoir to the tree, has been installed.
An open house is set for May 12 from noon to 5 p.m.
People can sit on the new benches, take in the view, and spend time with the tree that Meher Baba visited only once, in August 1956.
“It's always been Baba's Tree, ever since then, and that's why we're treating it so special,” Ervin said.
Meher Mount is at 9902 Sulphur Mountain Road in Upper Ojai.
Visit www.mehermount.org for more in formation or to donate to the tree preservation efforts.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM
Perry Van Houten, "Baba's Tree repurpose effort is firmly seated in history," Ojai Valley News, Friday, April 27, 2018. (c) Ojai Valley News, Downhome Publishing, LLC.