Gully-Washers and Thunder Bumpers

The forecast called for rain and the morning looked like a front was definitely moving in. We decided it would be a good day to work in the barn putting the parts on the bale wagon that we had ordered last week.

A view from inside the barn as a hard spring rain shower begins to mud up dirt road.Looking out through the bars of the barn gate the rain had started to mud up the dirt road leading to the bridge.

About then a storm cell above us let loose with what looked like a fire-hose amount of water. The drops hitting the metal roof was so loud we could not hear each other talk or shout.

Puddles filled with water after a spring shower.Within minutes the dirt road was filled with puddles, the grass growing in the hay field was flattened and we had recorded over a half inch of rain in less than an hour.

This amount of rain will push back the start time for mowing the hay fields, it will take more than a week for the ground to dry out under the grass. The rain also temporarily stopped our logging operation because the road is too muddy to even get to the bulldozer or the landing, and the bulldozer would not be able to go up the skid roads with it being this wet and slippery.

Concentrating on the hay equipment in the meantime will keep us busy in the meantime.

First Log Load of 2017

A deck of logs piled up in the landing.Finally we have enough board feet in the landing for a log truck load of timber to be shipped from the landing.

Log mills vary tremendously, some only accept logs to make into pulp, others need specific circumferences and lengths for international sales and yet others need a completely different set of criteria to ship for domestic markets.

Currently we have contracts with 3 mills, if we get to the thinning job to clean up the winter storm debris we will need to have another contract to take that specific timber. It really is a much more complicated sorting process than one would think. Once the logs get to the desired mill, sorting takes on a whole new realm with many more rules and regulations.

This first load is destined to go to the Weyerhauser facility in Longview, Washington to be shipped export.

A Nice Stick

Cutting down a tall fir tree is not the beginning of the story. Getting to the tree to cut it down can sometimes be much more work than the actual harvest.

The area that we are cleaning out is a tip of a canyon where the strong winter winds wreaked havoc on the timber. 10 trees were uprooted and laying criss-cross across and down into the canyon while others leaned and others yet had tops broken out of them.

If the downed and damaged trees were left unattended, the dangers could be significant. Bark beetles and other bugs could invade the trees and then once fed and breeding, move into the healthy forest where live trees could be infected. The fire danger increases as the trees that are down but not in contact with the soil dry out. Fire easily crawls through timber that is ‘laddered’ throughout the understory of the forest and can climb trees with terrific speed where it hops from tree to tree (called ‘crowning’) and then burns through a tremendous amount of wood.

A downed tree in the woods.A skid road was built (‘punched in’) to the top of the canyon and Mike fell this 140 foot tall Douglas Fir before trimming all the limbs off. The tree is currently at a downhill slope and Mike had to walk along the log as he limbed the branches off and measured 36 feet for the first log.

The butt of the tree measured 36 inches where it was cut into log length the log was still at 26 inches. It was cut into a log length of 36 feet. This one log off this one tree has 1120 board feet.

Once the tree is cut into log sized pieces, each individual piece is dragged uphill to the bulldozer with the steel cable to the skid road and dragged down the hill to the landing.

Unusual Traffic

Living on a rural county road, I can usually tell what day of the week it is by the traffic that goes by.

I see loggers go by early weekday mornings headed for the logging site. Log trucks can start as early as 3am during the summer and 5am during the winter to get the first load headed for the mill. Familiar rigs go by that carry neighbors to work, and kids to school travel past around 6 or 7. Weekends have jeeps and refurbished 4 x4s that head out to the woods for 4-wheeling adventures. Bicycles by the bunches and motorcycles go past on the loop that takes them to Vernonia for a stop before turning and heading back to the cities. Continue reading

Finding Damaged Timber

Looking through the understory at downed trees.While out walking in the woods, we noticed some trees down on the next ridge over from where we were standing. I could not see the trees from where I was standing, Mike happened to notice one tree at an odd angle on the far hillside and when he investigated further, he noticed 6-8 trees down.

Sometime between late last fall after mushroom season and now, several trees had fallen and will need to be logged out of the area this coming year. Now that the fall has settled in and the ground is soggy, nothing will be able to be done with these trees until after the worst of the winter weather.

Man climbing a ridge to find fallen timber.Most likely, the trees had come down in January when we had lots of rain and then a windstorm.

This is another reason why we need to get our bulldozer up and running again, there would be no way to get these trees out of the woods any other way.

Not As Pretty As Last Year

The wood stack is not the nice, tidy stack that was the result of that big old white fir that was formed with all the split pieces that fit together in one huge square pile.

This year the stack is more of a mish-mash of remnants from the logging. All the limbs, tops and crooked butt pieces make up the majority of the wood pile this year. The pieces are oddly shaped, some are short while others are long, many taper to a splintered point or are fractured and ready to split into several pieces if dropped.

Large stack of wood for winter.It is a good thing the wood-fired boiler we use to heat the house and domestic water has a large door to fit all the crazy shapes. The firebox is big enough to take a hunk of wood 3 feet long. When stacking firewood, the statement ‘If you can lift it, it will fit’ rings true. It’s just that I can’t keep a fire going with only big wood. One grunt piece (makes me grunt when I pick it up) needs to have smaller pieces packed in around it to keep the boiler and me happy through long winter nights.

By using the slash (discarded wood pieces from logging), I am able to clean up the landing and salvage what would be just left to rot. Many years ago I had deemed myself ‘salvage reclamation specialist’ it is a job that creates a lot a security for me. It is not a job that is fought over.

With all the tree damage we had last winter, the windstorm and the subsequent cleanup with harvesting,  the backlog of work will keep me busy for several years. Oh the joy of job security!

Last Log Load of the Season

The last log load of the log deck has now been shipped to the mill. The last two loads were completed with the use of tractors instead of the bulldozer since it is out of commission. One tractor was used to drag the cut logs to the landing and the other tractor, with the bucket loader, was used to pile the logs into place so the self-loader could come in to haul the logs away.

It was very good to see the truck come in to haul off the last load of season. Without the demands of trying to complete the logging, now we will be able to find out the problem with the bulldozer and if it will be able to be repaired.