I moved away from the city and found myself in the middle of timberland. I did this for a host of reasons but as things turned out I have found great pleasure and pride in something that I had not even considered when moving here. I moved on to 15 wooded acres that had an existing house and a shop on it. My roads are dirt roads and it’s about a quarter of a mile from the house to a paved road and my mailbox. Many times, I have referred to this area as the middle of nowhere. I had originally made that assessment because I am 8 miles from the nearest store or gas station. There are no large-scale shopping centers and the closest town. There’s are small-town shops, mostly antique shops, with only four stoplights in the whole town.
My initial joy of living out here was that it was so private and peaceful. Since moving here have not heard of a drive-by shooting, unless you call some person shooting a deer from their car. By the way that is illegal here. I enjoyed the fact that I can walk outside my house, with my three dogs, and walk about a half a mile on my property without worrying about the dogs being on a leash or being run over by a passing car. This also was the time that I had first excepted my retirement from work. I found that this environment helps me handle my PTSD. I would also be remiss if I did not say that I found several lakes close to my home and that also helped me with my PTSD.
What I did not expect, was the joy and peace I would find in making wood boards and beams from the existing trees on my property. I started out by cutting down cedar trees and turning them into different furniture and projects. I originally picked the Cedar tree because as part of the Texas tree farm certification, I was advised to cut down as many cedar trees as possible. This was during a drought in the Texas area and the fact that the Cedar tree soaks up three times the normal amount of water over a regular tree. So, I started out by cutting down the Cedar tree and turning it into usable lumber.
My property has hardwood, softwood and a large amount of Cedar trees. After building an outdoor kitchen area and several pieces of furniture, I started looking at larger projects. In those projects I began to cut down a few pine trees. Several of the pine trees were already dead. I found a little excitement in engineering how to cut down a 60-foot pine tree. I already had some experience in cutting down smaller trees. Because there are so many pine trees on my property I began to consider using pine boards and making some of my new projects.
First, there’s the true excitement of figuring out where and how to cut the pine tree. Because I try to be extremely safe I use the method that would connect the cable to the upper part of the tree and then cut into the tree just enough to make it begin to fall. I would tighten the cable in the direction that I one of the tree to fall. But instead of pulling on it to hurry up the tree fall, I would cut just a little bit and look to see if the tree was beginning to move. Once it began to move I would just sit back and wait for the wind and the pull of the cable to complete the tree fall. I got to tell you, that to watch the trees slowly begin to lean and then fall with a crush and a thunder is truly exciting. Once the tree is on the ground then I must begin to cut the tree into pieces. Usually I’ll cut an 8 foot to 10-foot section at a time. Once I get to the top of the pine tree where most of the limbs protrude out, I delimb the tree and drag the remains to a burn pile. This is no easy task. The limbs are usually big and sometimes when I tried to drag the whole top of the tree to the burn pile my tractor was not strong enough to do so. So, I would take the time to cut and pull until the top of the tree was on the burn pile.
I’m sure many of you know that once the pine needles dry they almost explode when they catch on fire. So, when I burn the remains of the pine tree I have to be vigilant in making sure that the burn does not go beyond the burn pile area. I am always reminded of how hot the pine tree needles can burn. In the past I’ve taken my live Christmas pine tree back outside to a safe area and burn it. It burns so hot and so fast that I quit using live pine trees at Christmas time.
Once the tree is on the ground and I cut it into sections, I have to move the sections from the fallen area to a work area next to my shop. Most the time I can use my tractor to do this by putting a chain around the ends of the log and lifting it with my bucket. But these trees are so full of sap and water that there are times when I can only chain one end of the log and I must drag it to the shop area.
Now it is time to cut the logs into usable boards. I currently use an Alaskan sawmill set up to cut the boards. This involves using my chain saw and having numerous sharp cutting chains for the chainsaw.
I must calculate the depth of the cut and the width of the cutting chain to be able to produce a board in a particular size. Originally, I would look at a log and thought that I could get many boards out of it. But as it turns out, I must measure and calculate how many boards can actually be cut from the log. The round edges of the log usually take up quite a bit of area and are basically unusable as far as making them into usable boards. Once I’ve cut the board, this week I cut 12-2 x 8 x 8’ pine boards, and because I use a chainsaw to cut the boards, the boards have severe chain etchings on them. That means I need to put the board through a planer to smooth out all the small ridges and chain marks. In doing so, this will affect the width and thickness of the board. When you buy a 2 x 8 boards from a lumberyard the actual dimensions are 1.5 x 7.5, about a half-inch is taking off in the milling process. When I cut aboard I do so I can have the board be truly a 2” x 8” board.
Because the boards are new, they contain a lot of water and sap. This means that they are very heavy, I have to create a way to move the boards onto the saw table and through the planer with an emphasis of not hurting my back. I know that the boards will dry and lose some of their weight. But I currently do not have a way of quickly drying out the boards. So, to try and keep the loss of board due to the drying of the board, I will put paint or urethane on the board.
All of this to make a good looking and functional board to build with. It is not a fast process, but I take great pride in building with wood that I’ve taken from my property. There is a great sense of pride and accomplishment in taking a standing tree and turning it into usable lumber to build everything from furniture, treehouses, pond docs and outdoor kitchens. I don’t know if I’m really saving a lot of money by doing this myself, because the machinery to do this cost money. But I really feel great when I look at a 2 x 8 x 8’ board that is smooth on both sides and is ready to be used.
My thought today was, why make a board. I do it because it makes me feel good and the results are positive. I am not clear cutting the property when cutting the trees. The trees around that one that I cut down use that amount of water and sunlight that the cut tree had to grow bigger and stronger. I’m sure there’s someone who’s done a study or paper on the positive therapy of forestry. I know for me it takes time and effort. And sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But is an activity that I truly enjoy. That’s why I enjoy making a board.

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