Thursday, January 30, 2014

Orderly Oaks and Winter Reflections

The other day, I spent four hours pruning oak trees. The trees were a combination of Bur oak, Swamp white oak, and White oak. The White oak varietals do get a little worked up about not having a fun descriptor like "swamp" at the beginning of their name.  As a result, I try not to mention the soggy bottom boy's name in earshot of that which keeps his/her feet in drier climes. 

My purpose in pruning these trees is to produce a clear log. And no, clear does not mean a David Blaine illusion of see-through wood. Clear, means a straight tree with no branches coming off the main trunk until the upper half.  A log lacking branch unions creates wood that has no knots and therefor keeps the grain desirable, straight, and strong. Straight grain wood is characterized by all of the wood fibers laying in the same alignment. If you go to Steinhafels and look at any wood entertainment center, you will be looking at straight grain wood. 

The attached photo shows how nicely the row of trees look after pruning. With these trees properly pruned, I have better access to manage this woodlot for invasive species. The financial return, albeit a long time from now, on clear logs is vastly greater than trees that have never been touched by the pruner's saw. The aesthetic of the line of trees is also undeniable. These trees were planted in a straight row more than ten years ago with the use of a mechanical planter pulled by a tractor. Straight to slightly curved rows are the only spatial arrangement options when using a mechanical planter.

Here is where I get romantic. This woodlot is clean and orderly, or at least it will be once I get Dennis to pick up the brush, but it isn't natural. In my observations of nature, I have never seen such linear order. Nature is the murmurations of sparrows. Nature is acorns planted scattershot by the hopping grey squirrel. Nature is a glacial erratic found in a leafless wood

I find it incredibly ironic how hard I have worked at this woodlot to create a valuable product. I am developing high grade lumber, which is the intended purpose for the trees in this woodlot. A pruned row is notable, but it isn't beautiful. So as I continue with my work, I will appreciate the beauty of nature which is more valuable than my straight rows, straight trunks, freshly pruned oak trees. 

I don't like to use qualifiers. In editing my blog entries, I am consistently reminded of my verbosity. Every blowhard has someone to keep terra firma underfoot. Becky is my Muse and that who keeps me grounded. In other words she qualifies me as being relevant. Here we are on a nice winter walk, chasing away cabin fever.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Someone, get me some cheese.

It's Christmas, yet again, here on the farm.  Our cheese boards have arrived. If you can't tell by the look on Arik's face, we are thrilled.

Arik eyeing up the goods.

The cheese boards were made using the wood of one of our beloved trees that was taken down in December of 2012 due to safety concerns.  It was a big oak and it stood here on the farm for approximately 200 years.

The Big Oak.

Each cheese board is unique and beautiful in it's own way.  The big challenge is going to be picking a favorite.

No two alike.

The finishing touches of adding our logo will be underway soon.  Once complete, these lovely cheeseboards will be looking for new homes and some delicious Wisconsin cheese to accompany it.  We'll be sure to keep any of you folks who may be interested in one posted.

While I'm here, I'd also like to introduce you to our newest employee, Dennis (aka "D").  He recently moved here from Wyoming and started here on the farm last week. He's a great addition to our team and has been a huge asset to us already, mostly assisting Arik.  We are happy to have him and look forward to our journey ahead.

Welcome "D."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A sawmill for Christmas

To say the Farm closed out the last quarter of the year with a bang, would be a monstrous understatement. As autumn was coming to a close and Old Man Winter was settling in with all of his white, fluffy goodness, we were anticipating a very special delivery. During the first week of November we ordered a TimberKing portable sawmill. The lead time on the order was four to six weeks. Needless to say, we were waiting anxiously and on Tuesday, December 31, the mill arrived.

This photo isn't particularly in focus. Overnight lows were -10 and this picture was taken with temperatures having inched up only a handful of degrees. I suppose my phone camera didn't want to work in such extreme temps, and I can't blame it…..I didn't want to work in them either.

One of the reasons the tree farm has had such success in forestry management, and I'd like to think a reason we won the Tree Farm of the year award, is because we have always had a plan. The addition of a sawmill is the Farms first major step of a new plan.

The sawmill will give us the ability to efficiently cut logs into lumber. The farm has access to wood that will make beautiful slabs for coffee tables, dinning tables, desk, and benches. Here is a photo of book matched hickory. The next few steps of this new plan include building a kiln out of a storage container and creating a space in the Husker Barn to do woodworking. 

Stay tuned, if we get some warmer weather, I'll do a post on using the sawmill. Additionally, I'll share with you my furniture design ideas, think live-edged slabs with metal bases. And also, how to create a kiln out of a shipping container.