Monday, May 17, 2010

Logging, building and assembling, May 10

So the girls shared beds last night. No big deal when you are tired it really doesn't matter. Michelle stayed on her side and despite her warnings, she didn't spoon me! We had a full day ahead of us starting at the Ministry of Forests and Range. We met Malcolm (field unit supervisor and Registered Forestry Technician), Diane and Tyler (Enforcement Specialists). Due to heroic efforts by Rotary, we were able to go onto an active logging job. It was great to get out into the woods. The stand we were next to was 15 years old and was about 10 feet tall! What a difference from our Southern pines.

Lodgepole pine was the dominant species and is managed here on an 80 year rotation. We spoke for quite a while with these foresters about land management. I knew that the majority of Canadian land belonged to the Crown. What I didn't understand was how complex that arrangement is. I hope we can get more clarity on the tenure system in Canada. Malcolm explained that the allowable cut is determined for each timber supply region by the Chief Forester for the Province. The Forest and Range Act has really changed the job responsibilities of foresters in the Ministry. Their function is now enforcement of the Code. This essentially has them checking on the logging job at the end, verifying regeneration and risk-based visits to stands and active logging. Each stand and logging job is evaluated for risk due to health, age, logger experience, etc. to decide if it is a priority for a visit. It appears to be a very reactive model. It would definitely be a cost savings from a workload perspective but could result in problems getting out of control before anyone knows it. The system puts a lot of trust in loggers. The cut we saw was not a clearcut but no trees were marked.
The law also requires that regeneration be established by the buyer. They are responsible for regen until it is "free to grow". That appears to be 10-15 years! The foresters seemed unsure how well this current system would work but pointed out this was legislation enacted when the political party changed. A change in party could result in another change in how the Ministry operates. This was definitely an interesting visit and Mary was able to learn about the timber sales process. She even scored a timber sale package! Malcolm was kind enough to give me a tree identification guide which will really help me.

Mary Jane and Peter had helped line up a visit at a log home builder. We met Wally of Sitka Log Homes.
The homes are primarily made of lodgepole pine and all the wood is from dying or dead trees. The home below is made from spruce (they are made to order).

I was so surprised to see that all the logs were hand-peeled. What physically demanding work! The logs were so beautiful. Homes are also made from spruce, Douglas-fir, and cedar. Sitka produces about thirty homes per year ( All homes are custom built to order on-site, marked, taken apart, shipped and re-assembled on location.
Before the economic crisis, the United States was a big part of their market. Focus has lately been on Western Canada. Sitka does export to Europe but houses sent to Europe may only be made from cedar because cedar will resist insects. I really enjoyed this visit. This is not a market I knew much about and isn't what we typically think of as a use for our wood.

We left 105 Mile House behind us and headed toward Quesnel. We arrived an hour and a half later and met Liane. Her family had a lot of ties to the plywood mill in Quesnel. Currently her husband is employed there. After our safety briefing, Chris led us around West Fraser's plywood mill. They primarily utilize spruce and Douglas-fir. It was an interesting tour. There were definitely some big logs coming in. The mill accepts logs 7-32" in diameter. Liane's husband operated the controls of the machine that peeled the veneer off the logs. We were all given the opportunity to see the operation from his chair. This view really allowed us to see the blade peeling very long sheets of veneer. It was impressive to see the long sheets!

Notice all the safety equipment we have donned so there are no accidents on our mill tour!

After the mill tour we were led to Tim Horton's. These places are everywhere! They are kind of like a Starbucks with coffee and pastries. Happening place to be! We took a coffee break and waited for our next host families.
Keith and Helene showed up and we headed to their homes for the night. At Keith's home we were introduced to his wife Peggy and son Adam. The Corbett family owns 563 acres and has a woodlot license on around 1400 acres. So, a woodlot license must be applied for and basically allows the holder of the license to manage the Crown land. The licensee will pay the government a set amount for harvests. Kind of a way for individuals to manage and make money from Crown land (something like that). This tenure system is getting complicated!
Peggy cooked a wonderful meal. After dinner we took a walk down to the river. We had discussed the wildlife before our walk so we all stayed together (bears are common, cougars aren't but could be in the area and they are dangerous!). We completed our 5K walk just as Keith returned from a meeting.
Peggy fed us strawberries and ice cream as we continued to get to know each other. As we started preparing to retire for the evening, I inquired about the large elk head hanging over the stairs. Keith had killed that elk and I asked Adam if they had eaten the meat. He replied, "Yes, and so did you tonight". So matter of fact. I'm sure a photo taken at that moment would have gotten some laughs. I had never tried elk and I don't know how I would have reacted if told ahead of time it was elk stroganoff. I must admit it was a great dinner!

What a wonderful day and great evening we had. Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!

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