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Too Big for His Birches

by TIM MATSON

I was walking my woodlot the other day with a logger, planning a softwood harvest. I figured the cut would go  the same way it’s gone over the thirty five years I’ve lived on this Vermont sidehill. Choose logger, select trees, cut and truck. It was a good walk until we got to  trucking talk. Five years have passed since I’ve done any logging, and things have changed, shall we say, big time. Now the logger wants to use a truck with a twenty-foot pup trailer that allows him to haul a couple of thousand board feet extra for roughly the same fuel cost. Hard to argue the economics. The problem is my road. It’s a long twisty driveway with a couple of tight turns, and the logger told me his tag-along couldn’t swing it. I called a few other loggers, same story.

And so the economy of scale hits the woods, and I can’t harvest my birch and fir. It won’t be long before the trees start falling and rot. The irony of “economics”.

It’s get big or get out. I saw something similar happen when the feller-bunchers arrived in woodlots around the Green Mountains. Like diesel guzzling Godzillas, saw tooth robots screech around the woods cutting and gathering trees – and cutting manpower needs in half. Where you used to need one guy with a chainsaw and another on a skidder, now one man in a soundproof cage does it all. Maybe the redundant logger served your Whopper last week.

I’ve got a friend in the forestry trade who listened to my story and advised me to consider a few other strategies. Negotiate the price to make it worthwhile for the logger to detach the trailer. Find another logger with a smaller truck. Or, since it’s softwood, get a price for having the wood chipped for pulp and fuel before it goes down the driveway – the trucks are smaller.

But I really like another friend’s suggestion at a dinner gathering the other night. “Have you thought about a nursing home?”

TIM MATSON’s updated new book is The Book of Non-Electric Lighting: The Classic Guide to the Safe Use of Candles, Fuel Lamps, Lanterns, Gaslights & Fireview Stoves. Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont.

 

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