Thursday, December 19, 2013

See the value in local wood

Look around – Nearly every building has wood products in it that are regularly changed.  Nearly Every building is a customer for wood products.
Every person uses wood every day, in a variety of ways.  Nearly Every person is a customer for wood.

We are all wood customers, every day we use a variety of wood products.
The potential business boom from using local wood is a Billion $ per year in S Wisconsin, but is being blocked by Big Business.

Here is how we can change for the better.

When I look at houses and buildings, I see markets for my flooring and wood furnishings – I see thousands of dollars per job.

This week we installed a floor in a family room earning us about $2,700 for what is normally called firewood or mulch or landfill fodder.  Total income from this one home floor remodeling job in Madison will be over $10,000.   There are about a million buildings in S Wisconsin.

When I look at people, I see customers for my wood products, I see tens of dollars for a Christmas gift, hundreds of dollars for a piece of furniture, thousands of dollars for a new hardwood floor, and if I make them happy, they will return over and over for more, and tell their friends.

Katie Green has supported us with over $20,000 dollars in floors, countertops and referrals – a dozen+ projects and counting!
There are about two million shoppers in S Wisconsin who buy wood products regularly.

When I look at a tree, I see hundreds and thousands of dollars in wood products that I could make for the people and buildings….

One 24" diameter tree is our average growth per acre each year – about $4,000 in flooring and much more for our dead and dying trees, if you are creative and industrious.   There are millions of acres of forest in S Wisconsin and millions of trees along our streets and in our yards.

(Tonight my home is heated by scrap wood – even the waste wood is excellent biofuel that is carbon neutral, not adding tanker loads of carbon to our atmosphere as do gas, oil, and coal.)

Most of the wood and paper products now bought in Madison/Dane Co stores and online are imported from a different country.  When we buy imported products we export our money and our local jobs.
Most every tree you look at could be used to make high value wood products –  that would provide many quality benefits if used right here.
AND…   Using natural wood products uses about 20% of the energy used for glass, steel, or concrete stuff….
Most every tree you see in our communities today is basically wasted – neglected, undervalued, seen as a nuisance in the way that actually costs lots of money to be disposed of.

When I look at all the houses/buildings, trees, and people in Dane County – I see a potential balance and potential harmony.
How you choose to see trees, buildings, people…   determines your future and your community’s destiny.

As a newly inducted “senior citizen” I have many decades of experience in life and no fear of speaking/writing what I believe.
Today in Wisconsin, We are all dominated/controlled by the big corporations that dominate the markets, the news media, and our government.
Big Dairy, Big Manufacturing, Big Mining, Big Energy, Big Timber, Big Box Stores,…    A big confusing downward spiraling mess for our future we have succumbed to and accept as normal and OK.

If we simply connected our local resources to our local needs of the people, the big global monster corporations would all just fade away –
It is our choice on how we see things and how we choose to use and buy local things.

The American Dream seems to have changed from “if you work hard and don’t give up, you can become successful in your dream and change the world”  to …
“if you live on welfare and use food stamps and eat at the local free food pantry, you can keep your money to buy booze and drugs and lottery tickets in the dream that you win the big jackpot and live happily forever after”.   I still choose and believe in the former

I See Nearly Every building, Every person, Every tree as thousands of dollars – if we connect them in the local community and not just throw them away.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stop Feeding the Monsters - they will fade away

We are in a new and changing global economy and society, being constantly transformed by the incredible internet, universal communications, instant banking, fast global travel, and quick world-wide shipping. 
A small number of very rich and powerful people have taken advantage of this globalization and now control the economy and our governments in many ways. 
The huge corporations that now control the world gained that wealth by convincing us to buy their products.  We gave them our money – we chose to buy cheap and convenient – foolishly believing that buying cheap stuff and saving money would make us live better.   IT HASN’T
When we buy any imported things, we export our money and local jobs and build up the company and the country where the product came from.  Our purchases also directly build up the political power of that company and country.
Our political votes have little effect today, but every single purchase we make is an important vote for our future that does have an immediate effect.
Many parents have told me that they need to buy cheap stuff for their family – to have the things that they need.
Buying cheap stuff is like drinking water with a little poison in it – you don’t feel it right away but you need to know that every little bit will eventually kill you and those around you – we are all in this together.
Don’t be fooled to think you need to buy cheap stuff for your kids today – be smarter and buy good value for your family’s future.
When we buy cheap stuff it degrades the economy, decreasing our purchasing power, forcing people to buy cheaper and cheaper stuff – in a never ending downward spiral.
Buying cheap imports online or in the big box store exports our money and jobs and lowers the tax revenue of the government.  People losing their jobs or accepting low paying jobs - increases the need for welfare and food stamps – requiring higher taxes – meaning we will pay more taxes and receive less services. 
Buy quality products from local small business builds the economy, supports good jobs - and increases our purchase power in an ever growing cycle
Buying from local companies builds the economy and increases the tax revenue to support better government services at less cost to the individual.
Buying cheap stuff on sale feels good – at the moment.  Shopping is Fun and Exciting – we have a lust for stuff.   Don’t foolishly believe the big corporation is actually giving you a really good deal for stuff “on sale” and at a discount or even FREE – they are tricking you into buying stuff that is poor quality, unwanted, defective, out of date, - folks, you get what you pay for.  Or they simply lie about the price to make you think you saved money.
Big Corporations sell stuff cheap to eliminate the small companies, then raise prices when they control the market.   Be aware how the big corporations work to dominate the economy and gain power. 
Don’t follow the advertising of the big corporations – do the opposite of what they want you to do
Only buy what you need, not what the big corporations tell you that you want.
Don’t feed the monsters – you will eventually get bitten!
Starve a monster and it will soon go away.

Be a smart shopper
Buy As Local As Possible
many things are still produced here 
When you can buy local, make an extra effort to balance the bad effects of your having to buy certain imported products.
Buy from as Small a company as possible
small business is better and you get good service
Buy as Hand Made as possible.
buying from a big factory with huge machines and robots doesn’t support jobs for people
Buy the best value for the future

Many people apparently think ‘buy local’ means shopping for cheap imported stuff on sale at the neighborhood big box store. 
Cheap stuff comes at a high cost
If a product is cheapest, you must know that every corner has been cut, the earth has been abused, cheap labor has been exploited, huge amounts of energy have been used, cheating is likely involved. Cheap stuff soon ends up in the landfill at another cost to dispose of it.  Then you have to replace it at additional cost.

The American Woman – the primary shopper – is the most powerful force on earth. 

We all need to Make wise choices – there is no excuse for ignorance anymore.
Every purchase is a real vote that has an immediate effect.
In the haste to rebuild after a disaster and keep immediate costs low, the government and the insurance companies are dictating using cheap imported building materials and cheap labor.
Government spending should build the economy, not export our money to other countries.
Stimulus doesn’t work anymore because the government and most people buy cheap imported stuff foolishly believing that saving a little money this moment leads to a better life in the future.
Wood is an amazing example of how we could have a big effect right here.  We are surrounded by 16 million acres of undervalued and underutilized forests in Wisconsin, plus hundreds of million trees in our cities and villages that are mostly wasted and costly to dispose of when they are cut.
Today in Wisconsin we are exporting our best walnut and white oak logs to the far east for cheap commodity prices.  We have lost 500,000 jobs and $20 Billion in production in the Wisconsin Timber Industry in the last few decades to globalization and cheap labor.
Wood customers need to stop buying cheap imported wood substitutes or super expensive trophy wood - and enjoy the beautiful and natural wood resources growing all around us.  Using local wood directly lowers the demand for illegally logged wood and for clear cutting the rainforest.
An example:  Cheap ‘wood’ flooring  – you can bet the timber was stolen and/or illegally logged, the grower and community received little to no benefits from the harvest but was left with a huge mess in their local environment, processing was done in dangerous and dirty mills with cheap labor.  Huge amounts of energy were used in transportation
Using locally grown and manufactured wood products keeps nearly all of the value of trees in the local economy – one well paying and rewarding job could be supported by every ten acres of forest or by every 50 trees cut in a city during one year.
Support small local companies that produce natural, solid, local goods
Keep your money and our jobs in the local economy with your choices
Pay a fair price to a good company – you get what you pay for. 

cheap and convenient comes at a very high cost

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Better Way

Here is a one in a million – a perfect log, the best of the best.  Toppled in a windstorm, I salvaged this dead White Oak tree and am about to make a lot of money from the windfall opportunity.
This log measures 20 inches diameter inside the bark on the small end and 8 feet long.  Using the Scribner log scale the volume is about 140 board feet of lumber.   (The upper logs of this tree contained another 360 board feet.)

Every other person in the timber industry would sell this as a veneer log that would be shipped to the far East.  This truck load of similar White Oak logs recently passed through Spring Green on the way to the container loading yard, last stop before being processed in China.  These logs are sliced paper thin and the veneer applied to cheap base material like rubberwood plywood for “engineered” flooring or particle board for flimsy furniture, producing cheap products that soon end up in the landfill.
The commercial value of logs like these white oak veneer logs - the best of the best – is about $1 per board foot for the timber grower.  The export season for logs is winter, due to wood fungus growth in warm summer months, so markets are limited for the next 5 months.  The commercial value of my perfect log is about $140.  The upper logs of this tree were quite knotty so they were saw logs or tie logs, adding another $80 in value to this large good quality tree.  Few forest owners ever earn $220 from their best trees, this tree is very unusual. 
In the commercial markets, the timber grower gets a small payment, never enough to consider forest management a profitable and manageable crop, even when selling veneer quality trees.  A logger likely would make $75 for felling and skidding the tree to the roadside landing.  Truckers would earn another $100 or so from this tree until the container load leaves Wisconsin.  Local log buyers and brokers make money, though that profit would be secret business information.   Guess how much the distant big corporations make….!?
I will earn at least $5,000 selling flooring and other products from this tree and keep nearly all of the money in the local economy.  In our business system, the upper knotty logs of this tree have about the same high value as this one perfect log.  The small knotty and crooked cherry logs and the elm tree also toppled in this windstorm will earn similar high value.  Our character grade custom blended hardwood flooring earns us about $10 per board foot for all dense hardwoods on our farm.
This perfect log and the upper knotty logs will be quartersawn to get the best value boards.  The lumber will be dried with naturally accelerated wind power and the sun’s heat - in our Solar Cycle Lumber dry kilns.  The clear boards will likely be made into higher value products than flooring. 
We make cutting boards, cheese boards, signs and plaques that can earn us $20+ per board foot.
We make kitchen cabinets and doors that earn us $30+ per board foot.
We make wooden countertops, stairways, and furniture that bring in $50+ per board foot.
We make specialty products and pieces of art that earn over $100 per board foot.
Our government and Universities support the commercial timber markets and the ongoing practice of exporting our best logs to the Far East for processing.  This continues the system of exporting our jobs and our resources and our money.  Wisconsin government and Universities actively block forest owner efforts to promote the use of locally grown and manufactured forest products. 
The timber industry is dominated by a few huge corporations.  These corporations influence and control the government  to protect the industrial system.  Even though the Wisconsin timber industry has lost 500,000 jobs and half of our production in the last 30 years to mechanization and globalization, the industrial dominance is still in place around here. 
I encourage other timber growers and urban forestry programs and governments and wood products customers to support the use of locally grown and manufactured forest products.  This would reduce the exporting of our best timber resources, lower the demand for illegally logged timber in the tropics, and boost our local economies.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

No More Logs To Steal

It seems the biggest restriction on illegal logging these days is that we are running out of good trees to take.  We have liquidated the good forests – used up all the accessible old growth Teak and Mahogany and Walnut. National Geographic now has the latest big story on illegal logging, but it is just the same old sad story.
The present situation in Thailand’s Teak forests was summarized for me by Forestry Bureau forester, Prasert  Tappaneeyangkul.  “I have seen the world change in my life time. 50 years ago this area used to be mostly natural teak forest and now it is all gone.  European markets and loggers with chain saws took our forest – now we have to import timber into our country.  I’m afraid Burma will soon look like Thailand. Now it is Chinese companies that are taking the forests, they will pay whatever it takes to get the timber they want.  It is against our laws to cut in natural teak forests today, but illegal logging continues today.  Our forest department has only a few people, there is no way we can effectively patrol and protect our remaining natural forests.”
Travelling  to Brazil, Dominican Republic, Thailand, India, Ecuador, and Canada – I talk direct with the forest owners and workers in the timber industry.  Being just an experienced small business owner, there is always a complete acceptance and understanding and honest sharing with me.  Things are pretty much the same everywhere, from the timber grower’s point of view.
Here in SW Wisconsin I have been working with trees in our family forest for forty years – facing the same market pressures and political corruption as the people I meet in the woods of developing countries.  I tried running a successful business growing trees in the traditional timber industry and found it not possible.  The combination of very low market prices for logs and the industrial dominance of all small forest owners discourages any person from growing timber crops for profit.
There is a simple and universal solution to this huge market mess – and our family business here is a successful example that forest owners in almost any country can use now to live a better life.  With the power of the internet and fast global travel, small local businesses can take back control - in an industry that now profits only a few distant corporations while plundering what is left of our best natural resources.
We Do Just The Opposite of the Timber Industry
We learned from our Native Americans here to just take what the forest gives every year – never let the demand of industry affect the choice of what wood is used.   By using just the dead and dying timber – the truly mature trees in the forest – the trees will last forever.
We learned to take a small annual harvest so the forest is never over cut - to produce a steady income.  If there are no dead or dying trees, we thin the forest, always starting with the worst tree first.  We harvest an average of less than one tree per acre every year and have more growth than we can use.
We learned to do Arthroscopic logging using the smallest equipment possible.  There is minimal disturbance and damage, the forest is improved for the future, we earn good income, and the growth is not interrupted.
We process the logs right on the family farm, using each part of the tree for its highest value use.
We dry the wood with natural wind power and renewable heat from the sun.  Our kilns are the most energy efficient lumber dry kilns in the world and produce the best quality boards!  Really!!
We manufacture hundreds of different products in our simple workshop.  Custom blended character grade hardwood flooring, that we install and finish in our customer’s home, earns us a minimum of $10,000 per thousand board feet  ($10/board foot or roughly $5,000 per cubic meter).  Cabinets, counter tops, stairways, cutting boards etc. earn us several times this amount per board foot.  Arts and gifts and personalized items multiply the income earned. 
Selling high value finished wood products direct to customers maximizes our income and keeps nearly all of the money in the local economy.   Using just the dead trees from our 200 acre farm we now earn thousands of dollars per tree.  The potential income from our oak forest is at least $4,000 per acre and we could employ one person for every 10 acres of forest.  In urban forestry – the potential is to create one good job for every 50 average trees salvaged from the chipper and landfill.
When local trees are used in the regional economy, the demand for illegally logged trees and the wood from industrial clear cutting of the rainforest – is reduced by exactly that amount.  It is our wood purchasing choices that control the global markets for trees.  There is no other way to reduce the demand for rainforest timber.
Around the world today there is a huge effort to plant trees to meet our future need for wood.   Lumber from small, fast-growing Teak trees is not the same as boards produced from natural forest trees, so the demand for illegally logged natural Teak is unabated.
Only when the timber growers in the local community are paid a fair price for their trees and their labor will forest management ever become “sustainable”.   All efforts at “sustainable” and “certified” forest management are false if the forest owner and local community are not paid enough money so that growing trees is a profitable long term business. 
My efforts don’t waste time trying to change the industrial inertia in the traditional timber markets.  I simply say there is a better way and anyone can now earn the same benefits as our family business.  The only limitation is a person’s imagination.  has more information.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Full Value Forestry Conference and Tours begin at Plain Green TTEC

Full Value Forestry Conference and Tours       Plain Green TTEC – April 26& 27,  2013
Plain, WI
9am      Registration, coffee, snacks, displays of local wood products, building tour
                       Display of South American Hardwoods from growers in Brazil and Ecuador
9:30     Introductions and Welcome
10am   Full Value Forestry Overview – Jim Birkemeier, owner of Spring Green Timber Growers
11am   Bus Tours -  half of the group will participate in each location
                        Timbergreen Farm – forestry and on farm wood manufacturing facility
                                   Natural Forestry, Restoration Forestry, Plantation Forestry, Urban Forestry
                                          Jim Birkemeier
                                   Arthroscopic Logging and Directional felling
                                           Mike Neta - Sustainable Forestry Systems
                                   Sawmilling logs, solar kiln drying lumber
                                            Alex Green - Red Beard Woodworks
                                   Wood Workshop Operations
                                             Eric Olson - Concept Design and Building
                        Spring Green Timber Growers Store & Laser Shop – Downtown Spring Green
                                   Design and Production for Laser Cut and engraved wood
                                   Marketing Wood Products on the Internet
                                                Matt and Amie Van Susteren - Timber Green Woods
                                   Retail Store Operations and Social Media Tools for Selling Wood
                                                Amy Mills - Spring Green Timber Growers
12:30 – 1:30   Lunch will be at the Wisconsin Riverside Resort
1:45 – 2:15     Bus Tours – groups will switch locations
2:30     Plain Green TTEC
                  Promoting the use of locally grown and manufactured forest products
          market plan and training program
                  Fine Finishing Demonstration – Shawn Olmstead
4pm     Summary and adjourn
Registration will begin in Mid-March.
Maximum attendance – 100 per day.
for more information, contact Jim Birkemeier    (608) 588-7342
Article on Full Value Forestry