Thursday, February 3, 2011

Weather and the typical day

I wanted this blog to give you a better feel for what this urban logging thing actually is like on a day to day basis, yet I have clearly dragged my feet on writing up any particulars. The problem is partly because I figure words without pictures bore most people and taking pictures of a typical day for Joe (he is the one out there every day picking up logs) is a problem for me since I have a day job too. Partly because I must be lazy.

So rather than never providing the inside story, here is a glimpse without pictures. Joe is usually at work before my dog wakes me for his morning walk. He may trim a few logs from yesterday's loads and scan them for metal and pile them in one of three sawmill piles. He loves starting his day with the soothing sound of a chain saw. Different strokes and all. In the busier months, his calendar for pickups can go out 2 or 3 days. Tree services, municipalities, cemeteries, golf courses, and others call him when they remove trees and need the logs removed. Tree services that specialize in removals have learned fairly quickly that not needing to cut a stout log into chunks and hauling those chunks to the dump and paying to grow a landfill is a valuable time and money saving step. We haul for free. Even a home owner with one fat walnut log soon learns that free removal is cheaper than trying to get that log to a mill where it can be converted to cash. Aggregation is the only economic answer. We are aggregation. Still, to be honest, there is not enough money in log hauling for free to cover a big truck and a driver.

Removals generate more waste than just logs. Grinders take care of the smaller branches (some grind up to 18" material!), but occasionally we are asked to haul material that is not sawmill worthy and for this we charge a fee. Again, it can be a huge time and money saver for those who keep their business focussed. I have mentioned this before, but a key part of the economic equation for us is the lumber sales end.

Anyway, back to Joe's day. He may pick up a load or two of logs, haul some chunk wood, and then come back to the lot and load David's truck for a trip to a sawmill. David is an independent trucker who might haul ice cream one day and logs the next. Different trailers. He is reliable and seems fond of Christmas cards with sparkly snowmen on them. While our truck can haul ~2000 board feet of logs, his 18 wheeler can haul twice that. Plus, since most of the 3 or 4 mills we use are at least a 3 hour round trip, Joe simply does not have the time make these runs himself. So David is a big help even though it is relatively expensive to haul low value material. More than 90% of the log volume is simply undesirable grade and/or species that becomes nothing more than blocking or pallet. This is what a "loss leader"
business is all about. Suppliers have little reason to just give us the best 5% if we don't take it all. Still, I can clearly see why most urban loggers try to find a way to only work the good stuff.

Anyway, you can see that all of this is pretty darn weather dependent and that is why this is a slow time for Joe. When temperatures are below 15 or 20 degrees F, the hydraulics on the truck tend to balk or not work at all. Anyone know how they get hydraulics to work up north? When days are long and every chain saw in town is dropping trees, he has some pretty long days. He drank an awful lot of water this past summer.

My typical day is different. Once a week I make a trip to the PO box, write a few checks and make a bank deposit. Then I head to my desk job and wrestle a mouse. Not very weather dependent.