Friday, February 25, 2011

We've Chosen Cheap and received Recession

We have done all this to ourselves.   Create big machines and robots that replace workers and you get unemployment.   We have chosen cheap and reaped the rewards.  You get what you pay for you know!

Where is the wisdom?  The common sense?

The only hope is to now choose local and small.  Use what we have to meet the need - get value that will last.  Do just the opposite Big Government and Big Business want us to do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Madison and Cairo and Tripoli

OK, You spoiled rich kids can protest and “fight for your rights” = you can do that here.  Do you have to be so NOISY?   Can you be more informed?

But anyone who thinks what the people in Madison are doing is IN ANY WAY COMPARABLE to the demonstrations in the Middle East – you should be totally ashamed of your ignorance.

When you travel to developing countries and see how most of the people in this world live day to day, There is no Comparison.
They have no money, no benefits, no rights to speak of – and they are truly risking their lives and livelihoods right now.

We are so rich and spoiled and grossly wasteful and unappreciative and arrogant - here in Wisconsin and the U.S.A. 

It is too bad that all the energy in Madison is not doing anything positive.   Globalization keeps happening here in Wisconsin and unless that is understood and incorporated into the solution – everyone has totally missed the point. 

If this effort and energy was focused on rebuilding our economy instead of tearing everyone down – miracles could happen right now.

All people are doing in Madison is trying to hold onto the riches we had before we exported our jobs and money overseas.   Too Late!

We need to look at what resources we have right here and use them to meet our local and regional needs.
We need to stop buying cheap imported stuff at the big box store – for our “convenience” and exporting our money and jobs.

No Politician or Media will voice this – they are controlled by the big Corporations.

Big Government and Corporations - you should freak out!

The Big Powers Are Fighting to Maintain Their Dominance Today – they should be freaking out!
The government is controlled by the big corporations – they will never really help the little people.
The Media is controlled by the big corporations – they will never really care about the little people.
All they care about is money and power.

Globalization is not going well for us here See the Trends!

A simple change is needed to fix things as best they can be fixed.
All we have to do is look at the resources we have and use them to meet our needs.
All we have to do is buy local as possible.

We have to do this ourselves  Let’s Us Average People  Stimulate Our Economy - Starting Right Now!
Stop exporting our jobs and $$    Keep  our Money and Jobs local

We can fix the economy immediately by choosing to buy as local as possible from companies as small as possible

Buy value with the big picture in mind.

This needs to be a mass effort – all the little people need to band together to deal with the big powers.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Everyone is Going Crazy in Madison Wisconsin!

None of this will fix the problem.  Everyone is angry and hurting and hopeless.  It is all just emotion. Venting.

What we need is a solution, some hope for all of our future.

To get there we need to understand how we got here.

In Wisconsin and the U.S. we have been blessed with abundant resources.  We have been spoiled.
   Travel the world and see how most people live.

We have chosen to buy cheap imported stuff at the big box store for our convenience and instant gratification.

We have chosen to export our jobs and our money, and now face the results.  We are responsible for all this.

Government and schools must provide excellent services so taxpayers choose to pay – whatever the fair cost might be.
   People have lost faith in public employees due to the lack of professional supervision and proper training.
   Unions have not adapted to be relevant in the new global marketplace – they are a dinosaur bellowing its’ last gasp.

Crying and fighting like spoiled brats will not get us anywhere.

We need to rebuild our local economy with smarter buying choices.  We need to keep our $$ and jobs in the local economy.
    We can do this immediately and every purchase is a vote for our future that truly makes a difference – immediately.

We need to use what we have and fill the needs of our communities.   Choose as local as possible.

We must be willing to work a real job, be willing to sweat again – focus our energy – be smart about our future.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What we NEED to DO Today!

We need to understand globalization and how we have chosen to export our jobs and money.  Choosing cheap imported stuff in the big box stores over quality goods made close to home – we are responsible for the economic problems we face today. 

The slower economy has made our government problems more evident.  People everywhere are fed up with poor services and refuse to pay more when major incompetence is rampant.  Right now, states are busting unions of public workers because there is no money to pay people as before.

We all need to realize globalization has happened and we can not just demand high wages and benefits like decades ago.  As a businessman, I face the competitive global markets everyday – I can’t demand anything – I have to earn whatever I can and be smart just to survive.

We need to change our buying habits – our purchases are the most powerful force in the world.  Every time we buy something, it immediately builds up the company and country selling the product.  If we buy online or over the phone – nearly all of our money immediately leaves the local economy.  If we buy in the big box store – most of our money leaves the local economy.  If we buy from a locally owned company – more of our money stays in the local economy.  If we buy from a local producer – nearly all of our money stays here – supporting good jobs – creating a positive spiral effect.   We need to buy as local as possible.

We need to use what we have and work to fill local needs.  Importing cheap stuff for our convenience kills the local economy.

Local Food Wood and BioFuel are unlimited opportunities to grow our local economy.  Good jobs would be created if people chose to buy local as possible.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Turning Straw Into Gold

Turn Straw Into Gold

As a forest owner, three challenges confronted my efforts to make money from our family timberland.  Loggers in the past had taken all the good trees, leaving a mess and large amounts of commercially worthless  Small-diameter trees,  Curved large trees, and Low-value species.   I tried the usual markets and said, “There has to be a better way.”   Now I take these “low-value” commodities and turn them into High-value wood products and earn about a thousand times the traditional market price.  Straw into Gold!

We have learned to take what we have and make things that people need.  We promote the use of locally grown and manufactured wood products to keep our money and jobs in the local economy.

Small Diameter Timber
When working to restore a degraded forest, or manage a young stand or plantation, about 80% of the wood that should be thinned out is small diameter logs – cordwood, pulpwood and/or fuelwood.    Advantages to using small logs are they are relatively lightweight and easy to handle, lots of small logs are available, and the wood has really good character.

I earn about 1,000  (one thousand!!) times the industrial market price for my small diameter trees.  The return on investment is so high because the price paid to landowners by industry is so low. 

As an example, I cut an 8 inch diameter birch tree that had naturally seeded into an abandoned pasture above my home.  The price a timber buyer would pay for that tree is about 20 cents.  If a logger cut the tree and hauled it to a papermill or firewood producer, it would be worth about 2 dollars, delivered.   

Instead, I sawmilled the logs, solar kiln dried the lumber, and made beautiful flooring.  The butt log had an estimated 10 board feet using the Scribner log scale, but produced 19 board feet using the WoodMizer.  The second log scaled 5 bf and produced 12 bf.  27 square feet of beautiful tongue and groove flooring was produced. 

There was no waste, every square inch was usable – small diameter logs have small and sound character features.  I earned over $250 from this one small diameter tree.

The simplest way to process small diameter logs is with a resaw.  Cut straight lengths that you can handle and live saw the log into flitches.  I kiln dry the planks usually with the bark still on, then make flooring and other products. 

In Forestry School, I was taught these small diameter logs were typically used for pulpwood.  Myths of “juvenile wood” abound.  Fortunately, my trees never went to college and really do produce high value products in our business everyday.

Curved Trees
Our forest is about half curved trees.  Sawmills don’t want curved logs and loggers don’t want to deal with leaners, so these trees accumulate in the forest.  They are usually large trees, often with slow growth rates and sometimes with extra character like curly grain.
I make beautiful high-value flooring and furniture from these trees other consider worthless.

The first challenge is to fell these trees safely.  The shallow notch, bore-cut method is essential to personal safety and protecting the butt log from splitting.  It is quite exciting to fell these trees.  Once the stress of the leaning tree is eliminated, some of these logs actually straighten out over the first few days on the ground. 

It is possible to saw straight boards from a curved log, but there is a lot of waste and the direction of the grain is constantly changing along the length of the plank.  A band saw blade has to be really sharp to saw a curved log, or the teeth will be deflected by the shifting grain. 

Now I live saw curved logs to make curved planks.   The log is positioned as flat as possible on the WoodMizer sawmill bed.   Level the top side of the log and cut off consecutive boards, down toward the center.  Roll the log just one time.  Your blade is cutting straight along the grain.  Excellent quartersawn boards are produced near the center of the log. 

The curved flitches are kiln dried in the Solar Cycle Kilns.  The dry flitches are stacked in a pile and cut in half lengthwise with the chain saw to make  3 or 4 or 5 foot long planks that are then ripped into straight flooring blanks.  Center panels for cabinet doors, stair treads, and furniture parts are other high-value uses for the curved flitches. 

Most hardwood lumber is cut into small pieces for use anyway.   This really simple method earns me a great living from worthless wood.

Undesirable Species
Timber prices vary for different tree species in the industrial marketplace and keep changing.  Right now Walnut is hot, Red Oak is not.  Our goal is to use what our forest naturally gives us each year and make things people need.   Every tree and each species has a high value for us. 

Custom Blended Hardwood Flooring is our major product.  Flooring is pretty simple all the way through, has good value, and uses a lot of wood.  On an annual basis, our sales must move out what we harvest.  Each room we install is unique.  Some customers like darker blends with walnut and cherry while others like a lighter mix with red oak, elm, and maple.  Many choose for the maximum amount of character possible.

We also glue-up wooden counter tops with many different species of wood.  Our Solar Cycle Lumber Kilns and the climate controlled lumber storage room in our barn produce wood that is well equalized in Moisture Content.  There have been no significant problems using mixed species in flooring or glue-ups, and the looks are stunning.

Selling direct to my customers is a key to success.  Trained Architects, Designers, Engineers rarely have shown any interest in our local, natural character wood.  Each floor I install becomes another showroom and my happy customers are voluntary sales staff. 

Custom Blended flooring is a reflection of our natural forest.  It really feels great to make beautiful floors and furniture from our commercially “worthless” trees.  Our forest is like a bank account and I only need to withdraw some of the interest each year, allowing our timber to get better and more natural each years.

Forestry in SW Wisconsin has traditionally been focused on red oak only.  I used to slaughter the other species, and do clear-cut harvests – just to regenerate red oak and the government programs paid us to do it.  Now the markets for red oak have collapsed.  Industrial forestry is not what a forest owner wants, but it is usually all that the profession offers.

Nearly all of the privately owned forest lands have been high-graded over and over for short term greed.  Forest growth in our region of SW Wisconsin is about 25% of the potential in both volume and quality.  Making things worse, globalization and the recession have cut the demand for timber in half and the price paid to a landowner even more.   Today our timberlands around here are being mined and degraded for the best walnut, white oak, cherry and maple and most of the wood is being shipped to the Far East. 

I tried the usual markets and said “There has to be a better way!”  I found it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Story In A Board

Thanks for all the fun ideas about this broken up board.   Now that this blog is started, maybe you will be able to see the discussions for yourself next time. 

Many of you came close - seeing this was damage when the tree was felled.  Fiber Pull and cracks formed as the tree was felled.

Lumberjack Mike was just here and actually got to see and hold the board - so it is not fair I know.
He described is as it happened though he failed to identify the board as red oak.

Anyway, this was a large - 28" diameter red oak, killed by oak wilt.  It was leaning strongly downhill right toward several smaller alive trees.  An opening in the trees tops was available 20 degrees to the left.  I did my best to aim the tree over there and let it fly.  It went down in the right place with a huge crash and did little damage to the standing trees.  So I felt pretty good at the time.

When this dried board came out of the planer/molder I realized the butt log had been damaged as it fell.  I left more hinge wood than normal to pull the tree to the side, but is was enough to cause the damage to the butt log.   The splitting extended at least 16" and the gap in the grain is a fiber pull 12" long.  Being brittle red oak, the fiber pulled 2 " then cracked off.  So pieces fit exactly back together.  

The point is, with this system of forest to finished products - I get the feedback and learn from every mistake or action that I make.  I see the results of everything that I do - and that is very rewarding!!  Both in understanding and in my earnings!

Thanks for chipping in -

New Jobs from Dead Trees in the City

New Jobs from Dead Trees in the City

Dead, Dying, and Nuisance Trees are a major cost to dispose of in the city.  Bradley Thurman of Milwaukee explained, “The City Forestry crew can put a mark on a tree on your property, and you have to remove it – or they have it cut down and charge you.  I just paid $900 to a tree service to take down and haul away one tree in my yard.”

Thousands of large trees are cut down every year in every city, then split up for firewood, chipped for mulch, or thrown in a landfill.  Even before the timber industry went through a major downsizing with the recession and globalization, 99% of city trees had no commercial value due to the nails and other metal objects grown into the wood.

Many cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and their suburbs have vast areas of large trees that are old and dying off at a growing rate.  Most of the wood sold and used in these cities now is imported from another country.  Politicians keep talking about jobs.

Use What You Have
Some cities have businesses that take some of the trees that are cut each day by tree services, and make beautiful and valuable wood products.  Rob Bjorkland of Santa Barbara California is overwhelmed with large valuable logs of many species that are delivered free to his mountain side location by area tree services and city workers.

Bjorkland has a Lucas Swing Blade sawmill that he uses to mill the logs.  He built a solar heated lumber dry kiln using an old shipping container, and he stores kiln dry lumber and flooring in another shipping container.  The variety of products he makes are as diverse as the tree species he uses.  A City tree scape has many more species planted in it than a natural forest or landscape.  

“A Solar Cycle Lumber Kiln is a key to success when you are using a variety of species,” explained Jim Birkemeier of Spring Green Timber Growers in Wisconsin – Bjorkland’s mentor.   “The daily heating and nightly moisture equalization cycle produces better quality lumber and more consistent moisture content than a commercial kiln that is built for speed.  A solar heated kiln also shows your customers that you truly are a sustainable business.”

Custom Blended – mixed species flooring is the prime product for both of these businessmen.  They make the flooring and install & finish the wood right in the customer’s home.  Each floor is uniquely beautiful and they can sell what wood they have in stock.  Every new floor becomes a showroom and the happy customers are voluntary sales staff for the wood businesses.

Furniture, cabinets, stairways, mantels, and other high value products are also produced from the logs.  Both men are able to pick and choose which logs have the best character for each new project from their vast supplies.  With the wood being free and all the typical middlemen, brokers, shippers and wholesalers eliminated, the business earns the full retail price of each product.

New Business Start-up in Milwaukee
Milwaukee businessman Timothy John recently bought a wooden bookmark at the Crossroads coffeehouse in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.  An hour later he saw similar laser cut wood leaves at the American Players Theater in Spring Green.  He discovered the unique articles were made with salvaged wood at Spring Green Timber Growers – Birkemeier’s retail wood products store.  Timothy immediately invited Birkemeier to travel to Milwaukee to share ideas with other businessmen wanting to create jobs in downtown neighborhoods.

Birkemeier and another new Spring Green businessman, Alex Greene of Red Beard Woodworks, showed a variety of their wood products to a gathering at the Coffee Makes You Black coffeehouse.  Also encouraging the group to take advantage of this great opportunity was Allen Tomaszek of Milwaukee Woodworks, another offshoot of Birkemeier’s business.  “We aren’t doing anything new here, just using what we have to meet the current need,” stated Birkemeier.  “We are actually going back in time – people built much of Milwaukee with local wood, now people prefer the convenience of the cheap imports in the big box stores and wonder why unemployment is so high.”

A few days later, Bradley Thurman, owner of  Coffee Makes You Black and his sons visited Spring Green to see the several local timber businesses for themselves.   Seeing the simple machinery and common sense ideas at work was very encouraging to the family.  Small modern sawmills with inexpensive blades makes it feasible to process logs that often do contain metal overgrown in the wood.

A few days later, Tim John added, “I just had a good chat with Bradley, Sr & Jr. Brad Sr, has been finding cut wood and bringing it to his building. (Actually his son Darmon is doing the hauling.)  In other words, they have begun.  At Coffee Makes You Black, we discussed a website and what it should focus on. The consensus was that it should concentrate on reducing black male unemployment and then have links to other sites.  I'll light up a cigar tonight to commemorate this moment. Thanks to all for embarking on this Marco Polo voyage.”

Latest work of art from our shop

Here is a red maple and black cherry table:

From a standing tree to the finished product!

This large red maple was salvaged due to an active carpenter ant invasion in the butt log. 

Here are more photos of felling

We are now selling a variety of wood products from this tree.

Spring Green Timber Growers


Just getting started here - much more to follow