In Search of the Right Tree

     When we began this timber project, we needed a low capitalization project with an open-end timeline allowing us to utilize pole size and larger trees we thinned from this stand. Simply put, we had a surplus of time available, but very little money.
     I remembered seeing a picture of my great grandfather beside a partially hewn log, axe in hand. I had heard stories from my grandfather, and great uncle of how he hand-dug his well and the basement for the home he built between his work schedule as a locomotive engineer. As an eight-year-old boy, I watched a man near 70 years of age start to dig a root cellar in the side of a hill with a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow. The progress he made over a couple months was astounding. It caused me to believe in the importance for young men and boys to have solution-oriented, male role models in their lives.
     Yes, I could still remain productive without the need for capitol if I chose to use the most valuable asset which most of us possess as a gift from our Creator. My hands had already been my silent partners over the past 20 years in the work opportunities they were called upon to perform. My childhood role models had left for me a valuable example which could rightly be called "hard work economics."
     To best integrate and apply this "hard work economics" in the present, we chose to build a portable milking stanchion using the thinned pole material and leftover lumber from the construction of our blacksmith shop. This gave us a temporary place to milk our cows and allowed us the necessary time to produce tapered, square, and split beams for a small hand-hewn dairy barn. We have continued our winter thinning project at the pace we could produce and store the finished beams.


     Our 1978 Dodge pickup proved very useful for moving our trees to a landing area where our beams were hewn. Years earlier I shod some horses in trade for a pile of scrap metal and an old Warn winch. From this material, I built a bumper and mounted the winch. With it, and an additional length of cable loaned to us from a generous neighbor, we could reach out about 250 feet. I would hook a log, and CW would operate the winch pulling them down to the creek bottom. Later, we would turn the truck around with four tires chained up and skid the log through the snow and up a steep hill to our hewing area.

     We worked along in this way until I found that I had not properly grounded the winch and melted down a considerable part of my wiring harness and toggle switch.  I could rewire and replace the switch but I had to part with capitol to bypass and run new wiring along the firewall.


     About this time, my great uncle sent me an antique broadaxe along with online hewing instructions. Years ago my father-in-law gave me a fine falling axe. These were the tools I needed to begin the real work. For about three weeks, I spent around 6 to 9 hours per day hewing flat sides on logs. CW enjoyed the project more than I did at this point. The first couple weeks I almost wished I was shoeing horses, and slept quite well at night! Then like all other acquired skills, I learned to let the weight and momentum of a razor sharp axe do the work and it became physically and mentally manageable.

     As this new skill grew, so did the intense satisfaction I felt at day's end when I scrutinized the rough, hand-hewn beam I had actually created with my axe.  There were virtually no input costs, tax liability, or expenses aside from my labor. Now I felt no inclination to rush through this rich experience, but rather to revel in the moment as I carved through the wood with the broadaxe.

     So, during March (2015), the first juggles were chopped out and the logs hewn square before another trip to Montana. On this trip, I contemplated  a new work opportunity closer to home, involving how to cruise timber and understanding better forest management.

(To Be Continued)