Salmon in Trees – Trees in Salmon – People In Between

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Walking in the rain to scout for salmon

The BLA’s December 11th “Walk in the Woods” provided a test of many things.  Would the coastal Coho repeat the feat they have pulled off for at least the past 10,000 years of climbing 100 miles and 1,000 vertical feet to the forested headwaters of the Nehalem River?  With a forecast of 34°, 1 to 2 inches of rain and strong winds what hearty (crazy?) members of the Build Local Alliance would crawl out of warm beds and show up?  All involved – fish and two-leggeds – passed the test.  In spite of tough weather and flooding creeks, a game group enjoyed a four hour ramble through the full range of habitats in the 100 year old, Coast Range forest.

As always with BLA events,  the experience was enriched by the diverse and fascinating mix of participants, including forest owners, foresters, naturalists, a mathematician, Intel employees, the Director of Forest Programs for a conservation non-profit and one cold, wet, shivering – but happy – dog.   The group spotted and analyzed clues on the land, to pull us into the multiple, interwoven stories of the place – spanning from 50 million years to recent annual cycles of hot and dry leading to cold and wet.

While exploring the forest, creek and the salmon that link them together, participants engaged with a sequence of questions – “How did the forest-salmon mutual interdependence function prior to European contact?  How does it function today? In what ways do current forest practices both help and hurt the health of salmon and forests? And What are your personal connections and commitments to these systems?”.  While so much has been learned about these questions in the past decade, we’re reminded of how much mystery remains and how much more could and should be learned.

Before pulling off soggy rain gear and rubber boots and bidding farewell to the forest and creek, participants enthusiastically shared their thoughts on “what’s next?  What will you do to continue and use what you learned? And How can the Build Local Alliance support your ongoing interests, goals and learning?”   We look forward to reconnecting on the next walk – and having clearer views of the hard working salmon when the muddy floodwaters drop.

One Lone Madrone: A Hardwood (Floor) Story

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This post was written by BLA board member Brandy Saffell, Forest Conservation Specialist, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District.

Bonnie and Bob Shumaker have always admired the madrone that grows naturally on their tree farm for its beauty and benefit to wildlife. When Bonnie saw the display of Oregon wood samples at the front desk of the Starker Forests office in Corvallis, Oregon, she regarded the Douglas-fir, western redcedar, grand fir, red alder – all beautiful, useful, and fairly common native woods. But she especially appreciated the madrone. Madrone wood has a luminous, strawberry-blond hue with streaks and touches of caramel in the heartwood and around knots. That visit inspired Bonnie and Bob to consider using madrone to make a hardwood floor for their home near Banks, Oregon.

Bonnie and Bob Shumaker at their home.

I have known Bob and Bonnie for roughly six years, starting when I was the assistant to the Washington County Extension forester and in my current position with Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District. They are exemplary land managers, and are always on top of maintaining forest health and resilience, managing weeds, coordinating wildfire preparedness projects with neighbors, and enhancing habitat across their 160-acre property. They do not do anything halfway. Before firing up a single chainsaw, they committed to researching the entire madrone floor project start to finish.

Early on, the Shumakers had to reckon with some challenges to working with madrone. Madrone is prone to cracking and twisting with changes in ambient moisture, which can happen at any time from cutting and milling to drying and installation. They learned they needed to seal the cut surface of the tree almost immediately after it was cut, and then again once the boards were cut and stacked. They would also need to create a drying environment that limited abrupt changes in moisture, and plan to have the flooring glued AND nailed during installation. They also needed a tree that had grown relatively straight to limit the amount of tension and compression wood that forms when the tree bends and twists to find light as it grows. Madrone notoriously does not grow very straight, and even though the Shumakers have ample madrone on their property, it was going to be a challenge to find one large and straight enough to supply the amount of wood they needed.

Bonnie learned to seal the cut surface of the
tree almost immediately after it was cut to avoid cracking.

Fortuitously, another Washington County woodland owner called with an opportunity. He was building a new home and needed to remove a 52-inch diameter madrone with eight feet of straight trunk. He only wanted a couple of slabs for a counter and desktop, and would be willing to give the Shumakers the rest of the wood for the cost of the sawing. The trunk was quarter-sawn, and the Shumakers arrived at the landowners with end-seal in hand.  Lyal Purinton, a Oregon Small Woodlands Association member, brought his portable sawmill and rough-cut the boards at one and one-quarter inch. Three trailer loads later, the boards were stacked and stickered in the Shumakers’ barn.

Due to the moisture sensitivity of madrone, they applied another coat of end seal after the boards were stacked, weighted plywood over the stack, and covered the sides of the stack with a shade cloth to slow the drying process over the next nine months. J&B Wood Products in Oakland, Oregon, kiln dried and cut the boards tongue and groove on side and ends into flooring pieces. And finally, they hired Altamira Wood Floors to install the floor, which required a lot of creativity and craftsmanship to work the pieces around curved edges in the home. All things considered, from felling to installation, the Shumakers estimate they spent roughly $15 per square foot for the entire project and the process took a little over one year.

For those interested in a similar project, Bob and Bonnie encourage doing your homework and seeking advice before you cut. Speak with your local OSU Extension agent, Oregon Small Woodlands Association chapter members, neighbors, and/or local professionals (like those in the Build Local Alliance directory), and have a plan before you start.

The finished floor after being installed by Altamira Wood Floors.

Bob and Bonnie are incredibly generous with their time, volunteering for the Washington County Small Woodland Association and as Master Woodland Manager mentors, writing articles sharing their experiences managing their forest – and making time to answer my request for an interview. Thanks to small woodland owners like them, we can all be inspired to make more creative and informed management decisions.

Video: Into the Woods

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Join us for an inspiring virtual immersion into the wild world of our remarkable forests. In this webinar recording you’ll learn about:

  • The unique and surprising traits and needs of important native tree species—including the roles they play in the forests’ ecology;
  • The distinctive characteristics of the wood that comes from these trees and the roles each play in our daily lives;
  • The impact your tree and wood-related choices have—and can have—on forests, near and far; and
  • Ways that you can strengthen your connections to local forests and have a positive impact on them

Speakers Michael Ahr (West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District) and Peter Hayes (Hyla Woods and Build Local Alliance) will be your virtual forest guides.

Video: A Good Wood Celebration

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The Build Local Alliance presents A Good Wood Celebration – stories of local wood from the Pacific Northwest, grown, crafted and placed. Hear inspiring stories through the eyes of a local woodland owner, a sawmill owner, a furniture maker, and an architect from a design-build firm. Each has their own answer to the question, “What is Good Wood to you?”

Our panel of speakers includes –

  • Ben Deumling – Zena Forest Products
  • David Maeley – Milwaukie Hardwoods, Urban Trees to Lumber
  • Ken Vetterick – Ken Vetterick Woodworking, Fine Furniture
  • Ben Hayes – Hyla Huts, From Forest to Frame
  • Nathan Dinihanian – Dinihanian Furniture
  • Laura Squillace – Green Hammer Design-Build

Good Wood Statement of Values

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The Build Local Alliance Good Wood Statement

Whether you are a forester, consumer, or somewhere in between, we believe it is important to consider what Good Wood means to you. We believe that the decision of what is “responsibly grown” wood is best made by the informed individual and respectfully explored through constructive discussion.

The values outlined below are considerations we believe are critically important when considering what Good Wood means to you and your community. 

Good Wood Statement of Values