Gear up, kiddies.  We’re going on a nature hike.  I’m going to show you how we “grow toilet paper” out here in East Texas.  Your ass should thank us.  Seriously (well, partly, anyway…).

Let’s begin with some reality about economic Depressions.  When  times are good, prices for wood, harvested from small tree farms like ours, is valuable.  As the Depression deepens – and becomes more obvious, then prices will likely drop.

What’s Wood Worth”

Most people don’t have a clue.  Because they run into wood at retail.  When it was still widely available (pre-gouging, that is) our favorite  Cottonelle was going for about $13-bucks for a big package.

Down at the lumber emporium, 2-by-4’s are in the $3-dollar and up range for scruffy Southern Pine with more knots that the Naval Academy.  I go round and round with them on lumber grading.  For the best wood, on important projects I “high grade”” the local Lowes because they somehow seem to manage wood of better quality.  Magic of huge buying power, I suppose.

Thing is, you can buy a piece of project hardwood (we like birch) and as long as money is no object, it’s all good.  Oak is more, or less, depending on the wood shop, lot, or dealer you visit.

Tree Farmers Don’t Get Retail

God, we’d be rich if they did, I swear!

For “scrub wood” – the stuff like gum trees which smell great…kind of like fresh turpentine without the bite – the going rate for chips is only $2-bucks a ton.

The real money is in BIG Southern Pines.  For a typical tree (either sex) you’ll get at least $35-dollars a ton.  If the tree is perfect (females, not big bull pines, and a lot of ours have several years to grow) they will be straight and fetch $37.50 per ton.

What’s a Tree Weigh?”

Slightly more than me.

You get a 90-foot fat pine tree, with about a 30-35 inch diameter down low, and you’ll weigh in between 9 and 12 tons.  Maybe 13 tons, earlier in the spring.  <Many weigh 100 times more than me…which is somewhat reassuring…>

That’s because when the “sap is running” it’s bringing weight up the tree” and making the wood green and flexible.

Next time you see a logging truck going down the road, count the number of trees aboard and if they are clear, 2-foot diameter logs multiply times $400 per tree.  Especially out west.  In East Texas, we figure $300 – $350 per tree for money trees.

We don’t go out and count them one-by-one.  But, I’d reckon we have well into the hundreds of such trees on the property.  Let’s go take a look.

Watch Out for Snakes

One of the reasons I go out on the property on the 4-wheel drive tractor is because as far as I’ve found locally, snakes don’t jump.  Also: Most can’t out-run a 12-gauge, either, I’ve noticed.

(Above) We begin our journey just down from the house.  Our west property line is 300-500 beyond those background trees.  It shouldn’t be too hard to find “Scooter” who’s doing the cutting.  He left us a trail… (below)

Even with my eye issues, I can follow this kind of trail…

Aha!  There’s the dragger.  He’ll cut for a while, then drag things down to the chipper and semi loading area.  Here’s a “mouthful” of gum trees heading for the chipper:

May not look too big, but those tires are damn near as tall as me.  Oh, and look at all the “money trees!”  Grow like weeds down here.

Next Comes Chipping

Makes a lot of noise, sure…

Behind the tree pile on the right sits an old boy named Claude who runs the loader which grapples the wood into the big red machine (the chipper in the middle) and that in turn is blown into Stumpy’s Express – one of the chip hauling tractor trailer rigs on our job.

By the end of the day, we’d sent 30-tons of chips down the road.  Hardly any money at all.  But when the crew gets done with some time off (fishing is more important than logging, understand) then they will take some “money trees.”

This stand northwest of the house is problematic.  Notice them blocking the sun from the garden and the solar panels.  Today, I have to take down antennas in those trees.

The nice thing about the chipper is we not only get a few bucks, but we also had two piles of chip to choose from.  One pile is “regular wood” while the other is “gum tree chips.”

The “regular chips” will go on the rest of the garden, later on today. Over more cardboard.

The gum tree chips were moved up yesterday to under the magnolia tree.  (Which is on the verge of blooming, so stick around for those pix maybe in a week, or so.)

Gum tree chips are about as good as it gets for growing mushrooms.  The plan is to get one of those $20 “grow kits” – of oyster mushrooms in a box, or some such – from Amazon.  Let them grow, but toward harvest time, take the plastic off the box so the spores can float onto the gum chips.  Hoping to get a second crop out of it. We’ll find out how much 600 pounds of gum tree chips will yield, with any luck.

Time in the Trees

Two last pictures from today’s “field trip.”  There is our old “mobile in the woods” with this first one taken in 2006.

Granted it was spring when this was taken and the oak on the right hadn’t leafed out, yet.  But, here’s how it looked yesterday and notice the change in the trees.

Standing in roughly the same place, but with a different camera.  Still, no arguing the fact that trees grow like mad here.

Lessons for the Young?

  • When you buy a property when young, plant your trees right away so you can enjoy them for a lifetime.
  • Don’t pay to have trees cut down.  Find a small logging outfit that works small tracks.
  • Tree farms are marvelous places to live.  They are friendly to the environment.  We personally sequester almost enough carbon tyo balance off Al Gore’s jet travel.  For a few minutes, anyway.
  • You can get a dandy tax break.  And so when the bills come in from Depression 2, you will be sheltered from the tax increases that will hit the non-productive land class of people.  Most states have a 10 – 25 acre minimum, though.

When I get the new solar panels up, we’ll roll with some pictures of them, as well.  Point of all this is?  When we write about and have strong opinions about living in harmony with Earth?  It’s not just some bullshit academic paper written to someone’s agenda or to snag a grant.  Out here, it’s all very real.

Life is all about trying to look ahead and live-ahead.  Frankly, I think we’ve done  that part really pretty well.  Yeah, sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised.

And the toilet paper from our chips? Its in the pulp and paper pipeline right now.  Though we hope it hurries-up and gets onto some store shelves – pronto!

Write when you get rich,