All But the Squeal

Posted in Blog

In our forests we believe that there is no such thing as waste.  In our milling operation we are on a quest to have every output of the process serve some useful purpose.  Though it is a destination that will forever elude us over the horizon, for the past ten years we’ve been pleased to make some progress.  Step by step, we have built relationships that convert what many look on as waste products into things that are valuable and useful.  Here are a few of the steps:

When a tree falls to the forest floor, from old age, wind throw, or with a chainsaw assist, all parts of the tree are creatively used.  The millable logs head for the sawmill.  Sections of the tree that are too crooked or small to mill head one of three places.  Some will be bucked, split, and sold for firewood.  Some will be left on the forest floor to play the important role of decaying and feeding the health of the soils.  Beginning in 2008, we developed a relationship with the local mycological society where oak that is between three and five inches in diameter is cut into 18″ lengths and sold as bases for mushroom propagation.   Nothing goes to waste.


Once the logs reach our mill, the challenge of full utilization continues.  Obviously most to the log it turned into some rectangular form of lumber.

boards from a log

But there are two other bi-products which we have been challenged to find a good home for.  We begin the milling process by cutting a slab off of each of the log’s four sides.  These slabs are bucked into firewood lengths, dried, and sold to a network of enthusiastic community members.


This leaves us with the sawdust.  For many years we have had good success with using the sawdust as mulch to protect and nourish seedlings we’ve planted in meadow areas, thus avoiding the use of herbicide to kill competing grass.

In recent months we’ve had the good fortune to develop a new relationship that’s putting our sawdust to great use.  Nicole Cousino and her colleagues at Nature’s Commode have developed and are testing portable toilets for group events that replace the standard toxic chemical systems with a non toxic, composting system that returns nutrients back to soils.  They are excited to be using sawdust from forests that rebuild forest health as a key ingredient in their system.  Here are shots of their units at work at the Pickaton music festival and the Big Float event on the Willamette.  They are doing good work in solving a problem, and we’re thrilled to be involved.  Like the interdependent relationships that sustain the forests, they need us and we need them.

nature commodeBFnature commode Pick

This brings us to the next puzzle:  how will we switch the sawmill’s engine from diesel fuel to a wood fired steam generator feeding an electric motor?  Way leads on to way………  Stay tuned.