Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gallery Show

The Gallery Show for People and the Land Fellowship will be held at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville on September 26th from 6-10 pm.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Winston County Self Help Co-op

Down in Louisville, Mississippi is a collective of folks dedicated to helping eachother out in providing eachother the resources to make it. The main industry in the town is the timber industry, and it's pines that they mostly harvest, but the people here work their own land and use it in large part to live off as well. As you can see in the 82 year old Dee Dotson, the hard work involved with cultivating the land can do a body good. Still working hard. Frank Taylor, who represents much of the organizing muscle in the co-op was good enough to show me around for a day and introduce me to some truly amazing and kind people.

Frank Taylor sits in a clearing of his land where new 7 yr. old Loblolly pines are flourishing due to plentiful rains. The woods will probably be ready for a thinning at 11-12 yrs.

Oemerio Dotson holds a handful of beans fresh from her garden. She was one of the founding members of the WCSHC.

Dee Dotson, 82, looks over his buckets of peas collected in an
afternoon in the field

Dee's hands know no fear on a barbed wire fence in climbin out of a watermelon patch.

I woke up to a consistent and not so gentle rain.
Forecasted to go all day and showing no signs of letting up as midday approached, the day of shooting was cancelled and I began the 12 hour, 800-ish mile journey back home.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Ozarks and Missouri

The Ozarks in Missouri are a pretty mystical place. I was told repeatedly it is one of the richest areas in the world in terms of biodiversity. The prized Current River alone houses many exotic species who either reside here, and only here, or their strongest and most representative population is here. I was fortunate enough to meet a few people who understand the magnitude of the natural treasure they have at their doorstep and to learn about what they are doing to best utilize, and preserve it.

The folks who manage the Pioneer Forest, the largest privately held forest in the state (also FSC certified) are doing their best to keep the forest healthy while utilizing all of the timber that is there. Terry Cunningham, Forest Manager at Pioneer Forest says they have not received one complaint in areas they are working that are adjacent to Mark Twain National Forest (highly trafficked and visible areas) but rather they have actually been complimented on multiple occasions about their work. The management plan that they utilize, which is uneven growth management, mimicks the natural process that an untouched forest goes through. Much of the forest (shown with the Current River) has been logged in the past five years. Can you tell? Neither could I.

But Kurt Hohmeyer at the Nature Conservancy in Van Buren, MO was kind enough to show me what it could look like. He spared no words in calling this particular forested property "a rape job" ... which it undoubtedly is. It is not a true clearcut job but the resulting destruction and the lacking potential for short term quality growth are both quite clear.

Terry Cunningham of Pioneer Forests looks out over one of the valleys that includes Pioneer Forest land and Mark Twain National Forest land.

The Pioneer Forest and Current River. Much of the land seen here has been harvested in the past five years.

The "Rape job", shown to me by the Nature Conservancy on another swath of prviate land. **Note - this is NOT Pioneer Forest land but rather other privately held land in the Ozarks that was, in the opinions of people I spoke to, poorly managed. This photo is to illustrate what can happen when sustainable forestry is not practiced. I was told it will take many years for this land to produce healthy trees again because pines will have to battle with low quality plant and underbrush.

Logging operation in the Pioneer Forest. Only select trees are felled in accordance with a forester's management plan. This is FSC certified wood.

Then there are the the pioneers of further south in Doniphan.
"Head down Highway 160 towards Poplar Bluff and you'll see a junkyard on your left with a big blue building....look for Bill." This is the direction I get to find Ozark Quality Hardwoods with Bill Corley, the General Manager of this new Co-op.

At this junkyard lies a new wood drying kiln in the making that will be very efficient and only work with wood that has been acquired in an environmentally responsible method. It may look crude at the moment, but these folks are working on restoring an old kiln that will run off of wood, not fossil fuels, and that, while using water to cool in the drying process, will actually output 5 parts of water for every three parts used. It will dry wood quickly but not too quickly, and produce 1% waste wood as opposed to many traditional kilns that produce upto 10% waste.

Fixing a pipe for fitting in the space that the wood will be kiln dried.

Fitting the pipes on the kiln and a detail shot of the yard.

And here's one more view of the region for good measure. I was blessed with a lot of fog during my days there.

The view from Skyline Drive in Van Buren, MO.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

There's a whole bunch of wood that comes from our cities, yet isn't thought of as being as good or as pure as the wood from our forests. There may be some reasons why wood from the cities isn't the first choice for some people, but often times this wood is just as good and offers people opportunities to make beautiful products out of something that might have been scrapped or burned. It's another easy choice in making the transition to a sustainable lifestyle. is trying to get the word out to the people of the Ann Arbor area that they have an alternative, and local saw mills are taking the wood from tree services and making boards and logs that are nice than you can find at the lumber yard at times.

Jason Tervol works on splitting a large Oak log, getting it ready for the sawmill. This Oak log came from an urban location and sections of it have pieces of metal embedded, as many urban logs do. Despite the metal, the log still offers plenty of real estate for good wood that could be turned into flooring, furniture or other things. If not for Sawyers like Jason (and his father Jeff) many logs like this would be chipped or burnt even on location.

John O'Connell of the Lumberjacks Tree Service fells a huge urban Cottonwood tree in Ypsilanti, MI. Though Cottonwood is not the most desirable wood, most of the usable sections of log from this tree will be picked up by Jeff Tervol, a local mill operator who will turn the logs into useful product.

John Haling of Whitmore Lake, Mi is a Sawyer and a proponent of the use of urban woods. He deals with Recycle Ann Arbor, and is able to sell finished pieces to the shop. Some of the wood is dealt in traditional sizes and dimensions, while some is in oddly shaped pieces offering different possibilities and aesthetics for things like tabletops, etc. A "Glue up" in which he takes boards that have symmetrical traits from the same long and pieces them together is shown in the middle. On the right John rests on a huge log in his yard that will be milled in the future.

Chrissy Deiger is an Ann Arbor based photographer / artist who has found a unique use for urban wood products. At left she stands with some of her recent mixed media art in which photographs are transferred onto slabs of urban wood. Because urban wood tends to come in a greater variety of qualities, consistencies and characteristics she is able to find unique pieces that suit her artwork. At right is a piece of wood recently acquired to be used in a future piece.

Scotty Tupacz of Belleville, Mi. works on his sawmill that is located on the farm he grew up on and that his parents still own. Scotty has since moved a few miles away but keeps his shop operations on the farm. His mill is portable and he's able to work on site like a few of the other folks involved with

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Trotting Lightly

The day starts early in the woods of Wentworth Location, NH, where the deep puddles of last night's rain are settling into the forest floor. Rick Alger isn't about to bring his horses Ruby and Emma out today if the rain were to continue. Logging a damp forest, horses or machinery, could spell disaster. Rick doesn't want to risk affecting the roots of the trees he would leave standing.

A narrow path must first be cut in a section of the woods for the horses' cart to make its way through. The mossy carpet covering the ground is spongy soft and makes for an ideal layer for the days activity. The horse barely make a mark as they trot over it.

Rick has been horse logging for years and is finding a niche with people, such as private land owners and trusts, who are truly concerned about preserving their property while sustainably harvesting trees. This particular job in northern New Hampshire won't make him a millionaire, but Rick finds beauty in the landscape, the solitude, his work and the respect the land owners have for the territory.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Prairie Crossing Farms - Sandhill Organics and Dea-Dia Organics

In Grayslake, IL ... a suburban town in Lake County not an hour from Chicago there is a bit of an oasis called Prairie Crossing, it's a bit of a progressive minded living community. Part of Prairie Crossing is the Prairie Crossing Farms, home to Sandhill Organics and other smaller operations like Dea-Dia farms. The location of Prairie Crossing is sublime considering the surroundings, which are more indicative where this place really is. From different spots on the Prairie Crossing farms you can see and/or smell a nearby landfill, ashphalt factory, railroads and suburban housing developments. This really isn't a bad thing, as a true escape is still pretty far away and this setting really makes you appreciate the developers vision putting a community like this in the middle of the suburbs. That, and unlike more rural farmers, folks at these farms have to travel less, sometimes significantly less to their markets ... making it a less expensive process in getting their food out to the local people.

Smaller farms like Dea-Dia lease the land (5 acres in their case) and see how they do farming a smaller plot of land. It's a starting point for hopeful future farmers where they have a good location, pay a good price to rent the land, and don't have to make the initial investment they would have to if they wanted to start a full fledged farm. Jeff Miller, who with his partner owns Dea-Dia is only looking to grow and learn more about farming while at Prairie Crossing, with the possibility of expanding to a bigger plot of land in the future.

Sandhill Organics owners Peggy and Matt and Sheaffer live on the farm and cultivate much of the land at Prairie Crossing farms. The food from these farms is distributed through a few local farmers markets as well as CSA (community supported agriculture) shares where local folks pay to come to the farm and pick up a nice bag of veggies and fruits every week.

Workers at Dea-Dia farms lay down a cover to protect salad greens seedlings from bugs. Beyond the trees in the background is the landfill.

Kenny (foreground) and Derek Kofoed tend to tomato plants at Sandhill Organics farms. In the background is a windmill that generates electricity for the farm.

A sampling of the produce available for CSA members to come pick up on a Thursday afternoon.

Andy Wunschel works on weeding out the celery plants at Sandhill Organics. The owners' home rests in the background.

Justin Galias (left) and Luis Cruz work on the farm during late afternoon. "You can't deny this...this is the truth" said Galias of the farm's location amidst a different lifestyle.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Fall of Paper

Logan McLain and Sam Essig of Berlin, NH, watched as the paper mill across from their house was demolished. What was left behind was the stack and building behind the field where they play football. The town and investors are hoping to soon convert the remaining facilities to a biomass power station. According to the local newspaper, the plans are being drawn up.
The town of Berlin, NH, has long lived off wood that has come from the hills surrounding it. Now that energy costs are high and paper costs low, the remaining mill in the town sees a bleak future. Officials at the mill said they have gone from over 600 employees to just over 200.