Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good time to start thinking about springtime.

It seems the middle of winter is an excellent time to think about the coming spring.

Paul, our neighbor from across the road, has a new tractor to play on and I contracted with Paul to keep my driveway clean. Since we have had a dry January, until yesterday, this is the first time in three weeks that it needed to be plowed. Donna and I have used our shovels on the driveway the first two storms in December but I kept thinking about newspaper articles I've read stating so and so died of a heart attack a hour after clearing his I'll error on the side of safety.

With a cleared driveway it's a little easier for the deer to find the scraps of food that I have thrown out to them. The other day I found that one of our bananas had gone very brown so I tossed it out to see if they would eat it...they did, skin and all. The deer do turn their noses up at orange peels at first...but it too is eventually gone in a matter of a short time. This is not the rare "spotted white-tail" is snowing.

Off to Colville Donna and I head to stop and check on our friends Chris and Lori who own Hedricks Floral Greenhouse and Nursery. Chis told me last month to stop by near the end of January and we could tour his seeding area. Chris has already started seeding hot peppers and a number of flowers for springtime.

Heating coils run underneath the soil and damp newspapers are covering the young plants. Chris said that at this stage the  plants get 70% of water through leaves...hence the damp newspaper.

Chris is showing me the delicate root system of the geraniums in this flat.

Chris has two growing rooms that can handle hundreds of flats and each flat has the capacity to propagate approximately 150 individual plants. I was offered to come in after Valentines day and "get my hands dirty" just for the knowledge...I will accept. As a bonus, Chris is an avid fly fisherman and fly tier and this is definitely on my "to-do" list come spring, the fly fishing... not tying.

This handy hook and heavy plastic attached to a 2X4 piece of wood is used to cover or uncover the young seedlings. The plants are only watered with very warm water. Chris said if he used cold water it would then take 5 hours for the soil to come back to the proper temperature.

The automatic seeder was old when Chris and Lori bought the property in the late 80's but it still works great. The mat has very small holes and a vacuum pump is pulling the air down so the seeds are all sucked into place.

A flat with soil is inserted below the box and the top piece with the seeds is then flipped over while at the same time reversing the pump so it now blows the seeds down onto the flat, exactly where they need to be.

In a couple of weeks the seeds sprout and each flat is marked with species type and date to germination.
I'm looking forward to helping out and at the same time learning all I can absorb about gardening and fly fishing in Northeastern Washington.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vaagen Bros. Lumber Mill.....part 4

The last part of our tour is following the rough cut wood to one of six large kilns.

All this wood is not just from the Vaagen mill, some of the local small operators do not have drying kilns and Vaagen dries their wood.

Four of the kilns run at 200 degrees, whereas the two newer kilns are limited, for environmental reasons, to 180 degrees.

After the kiln, the lumber enters this large building for sorting, planing and packaging. 

The lumber is shot down the assembly line with these circular devices.

I took a shot of this just for my brothers who are the electrical geniuses. Me? All this means is to stay the heck away from it!

It was extremely loud in the planing room, which was behind glass for our protection, so I believe I heard Rich correctly when he said this planing blade was $700.000 or maybe it was the whole machine he was talking about.

The lumber comes out of the planing machine in varying sizes. 

The lumber is photographed and all the knots or any other damaged area's are recorded for grading. Rich had said they sell a lot of lumber to Home Depot and they are very picky about the wood they receive. Couldn't prove that by me, seems I have to dig through piles of warped wood to find one straight piece when I go to Home Depot?

Towards the end of the line all wood is processed, regardless of length. The pieces that are not your average size are strapped and sold separately.

This machine is the stacker. Those large blocks of lumber being delivered by truck to your local home center are stacked by this "bad boy".

Here, a couple of workers wrap stacks of wood with the protective Vaagen name.

Out in the yard were plenty of these "Premium" wrapped wood, ready for delivery. We were told that Home Depot requires their wood to be marked this way.

There are at least a couple of acres of wrapped wood waiting for trucks.

Some of the wood is being moved by train.

Halfway across the valley, on our way home I had to take just one more shot of the crane.

We really enjoyed our tour of the mill. We cross the "mighty Colville" river every time we go into town. This spring I plan on float fishing the Colville. While it's not deep I have been told it has a good population of German browns just waiting for my fly rod.
Till next time.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vaagen Brothers....part 3

Rich, our tour guide, said as we passed the large crane..."would you like to go up to the crane"?
 ARE YOU FRICKIN' KIDDING ME? Anyone that really knows me knows that I am not fond of heights but when Rich mentioned the crane I ignored all fears and jumped at the chance.

I was so jazzed that I even looked down with no vertigo at all. After bounding up the 12 stories (can you imagine a 65+ year old man running up 263 steps) I actually ran past the control center which is on about the 10th floor and had to be called back.

128 feet up really doesn't sound all that impressive until you look over the grounds and get a proper perspective of just how high you are.

The crane operator has a great view of the valley even if he can't tear himself away from the job at hand to appreciate it.

Ninety-five percent of the time Chris (crane operator) is looking down through a hole in the floor to guide the grapple moving logs from one place to another spot according to the type of wood. Because he is always looking down they change the crane operator  every 3 hours.

I would imagine that over time this would take a toll on an a persons neck.

Looks like a lot of logs, eh? You can't see all of logs from this photo but Rich says this is enough wood to supply the mill for only two weeks.

Rich is moving this load of logs to the de-barker.

This is a view from the crane overlooking the drying kiln and dried, finished wood, ready to be planed and wrapped.

I was jazzed to go another two stories above the control center just to look around. The hill over my left shoulder is where we live and can occasionally, on a quiet night, hear the crane beeping while it moves back and forth.

Donna is coming out of the control center of the crane. She watched Chris going back and forth grabbing piles of logs and moving them to some predetermined area.

This wheel rolls up and then rolls out the large electrical cord that runs the crane. The power comes in at the middle of the track and rolls out as it goes forward and then winds it up.
Well this ends part 3 with just one more blog on the mill in a day or so... then I'll have to find another adventure.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vaagen Bros. Lumber Mill.........Part 2

The crane sorts the logs it grabs from the trucks according to their species.
Some of the tree types are Douglas fir, Western Larch, Hem-fir, Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pine. As you can see there are no "old growth" trees in the background.

The large crane (not this little arm) puts a group of trees on a self feeding table. The arm above is used by one of the three men in a control room (next photo) to extract any log deemed more than 14 inches in diameter. As I had said in the previous blog, this is a small tree lumber mill and only setup to cut 14 inches or less.

Donna is watching the men as they determine, at a glance, what the species is, approximate size and length. With a push of a button they will send the log to the appropriate place in the mill.

While you can't really see the blade, it has a cover over it, the men have to cut the logs a certain length for a number of reasons I didn't quite understand.

This is one of the blades used in the previous photo for cutting the logs in half. The blade is presently in the sharpening room being...what else, sharpened. This blade was nearly 6 feet tall and seemed a little "over kill" if your only cutting a maximum of 14 inch logs?

The logs then go through a de-barker.

They come out looking a bit naked, wouldn't you say?

From the de-barker the logs run past a computer camera that in a blink of the eye determines how to flip the log for maximum usage. At this point the logs are moving at approximately 600 feet per minute.

Rich is showing Donna and I just what they will get out of each log. As you can see the smallest log will produce two 2 by 4's and one 1 by 4. The larger the log of course means more product.

This what a 14 inch log will be cut into. All the areas outside of the black lines end up as shavings, chips or sawdust.

The log, regardless of it's size is pushed through this cutter at the same 600 feet per minute. It was hard for me to understand the power it takes to rip a solid log into five 12 foot 2 by 4's in less than one second. The two shifts put out nearly 600,000 board feet each and every day.

This is the nerve center for the cutter. As you will see there are many more control centers in the mill which relies on heavy use of computers.

These are just two of the blades that go into the cutter. Just like a automobile transmission, the computers move and adjust the blades quickly to cut certain size logs.

This red light wasn't a good thing. One of the logs tried to piggy-back another log which in turn jams the cutter. It's not uncommon and only took a few minutes to clear.

When the cutter got back to running, the newly cut wood is pushed from the cutter onto a conveyor where it starts its journey for some final steps of sizing, moisture content and grading.

This device detects moisture content for each piece of wood as it travels on the conveyor table.

Even with all the automation, you still need a human eye or hand to keep the line running well.
I think I can finish the mill tomorrow.