Friday, January 21, 2011

Does this make me a Lumber Jill?

There I am in 20 degree weather, ankle deep in snow, putting on Kevlar chaps when I hear, “have you ever run a chain saw?” Um, no.

Well now I have, thanks to the Amana Society Forestry department who invited me to take a look at how they spend their work day.  Donning three layers and snow boots, I ventured into the Amana timber and that’s how we get to the part with me wearing chaps. Now, I’m the kind of person who is always looking for just a little bit of adventure. You won’t find me sky diving, but tromping through the snow with the possibility of using a chain saw? Yep, I’ll go for that. So I was really excited to have this rare opportunity.

The ASI forestry department consists of Larry Gnewikow and Tim Krauss. Larry attended school at Iowa State in the Forest Management program and Tim went to Upper Iowa University in the Conservation program. These are two outdoors men who know their stuff and they both are super nice and hospitable to boot.


This time of year Larry and Tim are out there working on tree stand improvement, or TSI. Using chain saws to cut into unwanted trees, like Iron Wood, they then put herbicides on them so they don’t grow back. The chemical is brightly colored so it can’t be missed (and gives the illusion in my photos that the tree is bleeding. Don’t worry. They aren’t.) After I geared up and was shown the safety precautions with the chain saw, Tim pointed out the iron woods to for me to cut down. I learned that TSI is an important job in forestry, because it gets rid of unwanted trees in order to give more room for the wanted ones to grow. Larry and Tim want to make sure there is a proper balance of tree species. The goal with TSI is to create a balanced ecosystem to have a healthy, productive timber.

Along with TSI Larry and Tim’s job includes the planting and harvesting of trees. They plant mostly Red and White Oak, Walnut and Maple. They collect local seeds, like walnuts and acorns, to be planted another year. They plant any where from a thousand to two thousand trees a year and harvest about as many trees as they plant. After felling, these trees are taken to a saw mill and made into lumber. From there the lumber is sold on the open market, though a  percentage does get sold to the Amana Furniture Shop. So if you buy furniture from Amana, it is possible that it was not only made here, but grown here too.

Now amongst all of this serious forestry business, Larry and Tim are a hoot to hang out with. Ask any question about the forestry and Larry will answer it, along with a big laugh. This is definitely the guy I want teaching me how to run a chainsaw; with him its safety first and joke second. Tim seems to be the resident cook and made us up some deer steaks and French fries over the campfire for lunch. I have never seen anyone cook fries over a camp fire. Seeing what they do was great, but lunch was the best part. Honestly now I am quite jealous of Larry and Tim’s job, it was really fun being out there amongst the trees and working and eating with the guys. Though I’m not sure about being out in the elements all of the time. I never did see the sign for the ladies room.

Roughing it in: My Town Amana Colonies

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