I think I am probably the oldest of the folks I knew at high school when it comes to learning how to turn logs into boards. As I think back, I think there were a lot of them working sawmills before high school graduation – for me it’s a post-retirement gig.
I’ve been cautioned that it’s hard work. Actually, I have a bit of an acquaintance with hard work – but that was the time when I qualified as a “druppy” – an acronym for “dropped out young upwardly mobile professional.” When you get off track as a “yuppy”, it takes some effort to get back on . . . and you do get a bit of experience with low pay and hard work. Now, past 70, there is effort, but unlike my friends 50 years ago, I can take a break when I feel like it.
Since it’s a small mill, I work every role from sawyer to green chain . . . but I don’t have a chain. I just have slabs that need to be carried away. I have yet to cut out a cull slab – while some look a bit challenged, my finest slabs will be great for fence braces. Fortunately the boards that are dimensionally challenged have their own place – turning the non-load bearing walls in the old service station into load bearing walls that support the rafters and the roof.
I guess I’m the millwright too – if something goes wrong, I have to figure it out. Carrying slabs away doesn’t require much thought. Figuring out why one of the safety switches has decided to shut the engine down does. It’s not enough to just override safety switches – that’s like the old solution of adding a penny to the fusebox. I have to figure out what the problem actually is.
There is a lot of waste in turning a log into boards – I figured that setting up space for 2 or 3 cords of firewood would be a good idea. I’m wondering if I won’t need space for 7 or 8 cords. I’ll be using the chainsaw to take trees down and to take out the blow down . . . something that makes the woods less pleasant to walk through (Lieutenant Mullen noticed it about 170 years ago when he traveled the Fortine Creek area). It’s easier (and safer) just to pick the short logs up with the tractor bucket and carry them to the mill, so I only have the role of sawyer and don’t use a skidder.
Still, the bending has me finding my old pair of suspenders – stashed (except for occasional weekends working the shelter belt) as unneeded for an academic career.