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