Author Topic: Any woodlot owners out there?  (Read 3323 times)

Ishmael

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Any woodlot owners out there?
« on: October 07, 2013, 07:26:20 AM »
Along with our house, we own a decent sized property of just under 100 acres in Eastern Canada. Some of that is field, some overgrown with alders, but I'm going to guess that about 75 acres of it is mixed forest woodland - mostly fir, spruce, maple and white birch. It was cut over (in a very brutal way) ~30 years ago, but it has some areas of nice trees and the others are recovering.

I have it in the back of my mind as a potential small hobby income source after FIRE, but I have no idea what type of income I can generate with it, or the best way of doing so. I don't get a lot of time to play around with my chainsaw in the woods right now, but the time I do get is pretty fun and rewarding work.

Does anyone have any experience they could offer about what might be the best type of business plan to look at? I'm only interested in ideas that provide a sustainable income puts me in the role of caretaker/improver of the forest; I'm not interested in ideas that involve clear-cutting, for example. Other than that, I'm open for any ideas that do not require full-time effort. Pulp wood, portable mills, mushroom farming, etc (no maple syrup; no sugar maples to speak of, although there are a few - enough for my own use).

I've read over some places that throw out lots of ideas of what can be done, but I'd like a more specific short list of things that experienced people have had success with. And maybe things people have tried that haven't worked so well, or been worth the effort.

Also, does anyone have any ideas for something worthwhile that can be done with approx 5 acres of south facing sloped field and doesn't require a huge investment in time, money and is pesticide free (I'm next to a stream)?

daverobev

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Re: Any woodlot owners out there?
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2013, 08:02:18 AM »
Hey,

lucky you! I'd love to pick up a few acres myself.

See if you can find a post called 'Grand Designs' I made a few days back - has a link you a youtube vid where a British family constructs.. or rather assembles.. a Finnish log home. Hmm.. maybe 6-10 minutes in there is a bit where they show the tree-cutting and assembly stuff in Finland. It looks like a sustainable way to build houses - now, this is probably FAR beyond what scale you're looking at, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Open field - I'm guessing there are no solar subsidies where you are? Might be worth looking into. Other than that, rent it to a nearby farmer for sheep? I have a friend in France who does that.

I would guess that doing firewood is actually pretty hard work, pretty labour intensive, and you'd need a truck, tractor, etc - depending on if you'd do deliveries or not.

RobertBirnie

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Re: Any woodlot owners out there?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2013, 09:14:52 AM »
A few family friends own orchards. They sell all the trees that fall down naturally for firewood. A guy with a chainsaw and trailer comes out and pays $50 a tree (small trees, almonds). You could possibly see if a local place would pay for your any fallen timber in the spring, and you could just drag it to the edge of the property for them.

You could also see if you could supply boxes of firewood to local campgrounds or grocery stores for $10 a box. If you wanted to do the cutting.

You wouldn't make a ton, but would be a good sustainable use of any spare wood.

Ishmael

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Re: Any woodlot owners out there?
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2013, 05:34:47 AM »
A few family friends own orchards. They sell all the trees that fall down naturally for firewood. A guy with a chainsaw and trailer comes out and pays $50 a tree (small trees, almonds). You could possibly see if a local place would pay for your any fallen timber in the spring, and you could just drag it to the edge of the property for them.

You could also see if you could supply boxes of firewood to local campgrounds or grocery stores for $10 a box. If you wanted to do the cutting.

You wouldn't make a ton, but would be a good sustainable use of any spare wood.
Thanks for the idea, but there's no money in firewood around here, at least for me - I'm too slow (with the tools I have). It seems as though you'd have to invest too much in equipment to sell the cut firewood. To sell the logs themselves is worth about $100/cord delivered, and I'd rather leave them standing for that :)

Campground bundles of firewood sell for (at most) $6.50 around here, and people consider that a ripoff.
Hey,

lucky you! I'd love to pick up a few acres myself.

See if you can find a post called 'Grand Designs' I made a few days back - has a link you a youtube vid where a British family constructs.. or rather assembles.. a Finnish log home. Hmm.. maybe 6-10 minutes in there is a bit where they show the tree-cutting and assembly stuff in Finland. It looks like a sustainable way to build houses - now, this is probably FAR beyond what scale you're looking at, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Open field - I'm guessing there are no solar subsidies where you are? Might be worth looking into. Other than that, rent it to a nearby farmer for sheep? I have a friend in France who does that.

I would guess that doing firewood is actually pretty hard work, pretty labour intensive, and you'd need a truck, tractor, etc - depending on if you'd do deliveries or not.
I found it. Great recommendation; that's an awesome house and building system. It is far beyond the scale, but scaling it down to backyard cottage/home office kits (2-3/year) is certainly a possibility - thanks for the idea! I've always been really interested in non-traditional housing ideas. I used to love a Canadian show called "Weird Homes", and these links I think are pretty Mustachian in their own right.

Matt H.

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Re: Any woodlot owners out there?
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2013, 09:25:17 PM »

You could also see if you could supply boxes of firewood to local campgrounds or grocery stores for $10 a box. If you wanted to do the cutting.

You wouldn't make a ton, but would be a good sustainable use of any spare wood.

As a woodworker, I'm begging you not to cut down your trees for firewood.  In fact, I created an account on the forums just to beg you not to do so.  All of the species you mentioned can be harvested for lumber and used to make beautiful furniture or homes that last decades.  Here is some information about determining the value of your trees:

http://michigansaf.org/ForestInfo/MSUElibrary/HdwdWorth.htm

and here is a more comprehensive price list

http://northeasttimberexchange.com/?page_id=4

Depending on the quality of your timberland, you can make hundreds to thousands (rare) of dollars per tree.   This is much more than you would get making firewood.  If you want to go a more DIY route (and you should) you can mill the lumber yourself and sell rough lumber at a significant markup. 

Regarding your concerns about sustainability, cutting down small fraction of the trees each year should provide a steady income stream and keep the forest healthy.

Disclaimer: Most of my limited knowledge about timberland comes from trying to source beautiful rough lumber for woodworking projects.  I have no hands-on experience running a woodlot.

babysteps

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Re: Any woodlot owners out there?
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 07:04:01 AM »
Does anyone have any experience they could offer about what might be the best type of business plan to look at? I'm only interested in ideas that provide a sustainable income puts me in the role of caretaker/improver of the forest; I'm not interested in ideas that involve clear-cutting, for example. Other than that, I'm open for any ideas that do not require full-time effort. Pulp wood, portable mills, mushroom farming, etc (no maple syrup; no sugar maples to speak of, although there are a few - enough for my own use).

No personal experience, but I do have a friend and a few acquaintances with with woodlots and/or logging businesses.  Small-scale environmentally-friendly harvest-a-tree-at-a-time logging businesses.  So if there are other stands of trees in your area, start asking around and find a logger whose approach meets your goals, and work with them (or at least absorb the wisdom they have to share).  You might decide to lease your land to them or hire them to selectively harvest on a schedule that's mutually agreeable.  None of the folks I am thinking about make this their full-time business, most of the full-timers around here are more 'conventional' in their logging approaches, but timber is about the #4 or 5 agricultural activity around here, if it is #1 or 2 in your area there may be some full-time folks with sustainable practices.

Good luck!

Ishmael

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Re: Any woodlot owners out there?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2013, 08:54:31 AM »
As a woodworker, I'm begging you not to cut down your trees for firewood.  In fact, I created an account on the forums just to beg you not to do so.  All of the species you mentioned can be harvested for lumber and used to make beautiful furniture or homes that last decades.  Here is some information about determining the value of your trees:

http://michigansaf.org/ForestInfo/MSUElibrary/HdwdWorth.htm

and here is a more comprehensive price list

http://northeasttimberexchange.com/?page_id=4

Depending on the quality of your timberland, you can make hundreds to thousands (rare) of dollars per tree.   This is much more than you would get making firewood.  If you want to go a more DIY route (and you should) you can mill the lumber yourself and sell rough lumber at a significant markup. 

Regarding your concerns about sustainability, cutting down small fraction of the trees each year should provide a steady income stream and keep the forest healthy.

Disclaimer: Most of my limited knowledge about timberland comes from trying to source beautiful rough lumber for woodworking projects.  I have no hands-on experience running a woodlot.
Thanks for your response. I can assure you that I totally understand what you're trying to tell me and that my plans for firewood are simply to use thinning, waste and other gnarly bits to heat my own house. Nice hardwood trees are too beautiful to waste like that. I also have woodworker/carpenter friends and family, so I have some understanding of the different trees.

Sadly, I've seen many beautiful maple, oak and birch logs cut up for firewood around here. I've gone in the building supply store, looked at the price of a single piece of a nice hardwood board and wondered what I was missing.

The hard numbers will help a lot, thanks. I'll look at investing in some type of mill - I might build a chainsaw mill like this: http://www.procutportablesawmills.com

No personal experience, but I do have a friend and a few acquaintances with with woodlots and/or logging businesses.  Small-scale environmentally-friendly harvest-a-tree-at-a-time logging businesses.  So if there are other stands of trees in your area, start asking around and find a logger whose approach meets your goals, and work with them (or at least absorb the wisdom they have to share).  You might decide to lease your land to them or hire them to selectively harvest on a schedule that's mutually agreeable.  None of the folks I am thinking about make this their full-time business, most of the full-timers around here are more 'conventional' in their logging approaches, but timber is about the #4 or 5 agricultural activity around here, if it is #1 or 2 in your area there may be some full-time folks with sustainable practices.

Good luck!

Also sadly, most logging around here isn't done very sustainably - that's why it's hard to find information. I just need some rough numbers to come up with a preliminary business plan, and ideas about the best (i.e. most efficient) way to sell the products. My understanding is that the rule of thumb is about 1 cord/acre is sustainable, but I don't know how many average board feet of lumber comes from a cord, for example.

It also seems to make sense to add as much value to each log as possible before it leaves my hands, but I'm sure that some value-add activities provide a decent payback for the time/money invested, and others don't because the mass production machines are just so much more efficient, but I don't know where the line is. Also such things as how much land/harvesting you'd have to do to justify certain types of productivity equipment, etc. I certainly don't want end up where I have a piece of equipment "owning" me!

It seems like having easily portable equipment that would allow me to cut down a tree, then mill it into rough shape in place (and therefore easy transport without large tractors/etc) would be pretty logical. I like the concept of building a reasonably simple product out of the lumber too. The cottage/backyard office/tiny house kits sound like a pretty neat plan, and I think I'll focus there at first.

Thanks for all the feedback everyone!