Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Mother Earth News put on some fantastic fairs this year! It was my pleasure to represent Norwood portable sawmills at Seven Springs, Penn., and Lawrence, Kan. This was our second year to display at Seven Springs, so everything went a lot smoother than last year. The organizers must have decided to create a “Sawmill Alley”, as three different manufacturers set up in the same area. For me, it was a real bonus to be next to the Energy seminar tent. We shut down the mill so during the seminars, so I had the chance to listen in. Of particular interest was the seminar on using wood gasification to run an internal combustion engine. It has long been my goal to run my sawmill on its own scraps, and this would be the ideal way to do it. I even have a set of plans, drawn up by Mother Earth News back in the 1980s (boy, that seems like a long time ago… no, wait… that WAS a long time ago! The cold rain on Saturday also made it nice to be near that big, dry tent.
The best part was meeting people with whom we had visited the previous year. I was delighted that several had purchased sawmills and were either starting a business or were cutting lumber for their homes and barns! The demonstration also gave me a chance to talk to a large number of people about one of my passions—using the sawmill to salvage lumber that would otherwise go to waste. The Seven Springs Resort had been saving up logs from dead trees for the past year, and we had some of the most beautiful cherry logs I had ever sliced up. If I had been cutting them for a regular customer, I would almost certainly have tried to take some home with me.
Once the mill had warmed up, we let some of the folks watching try their hand at being sawyers. The most common comments were “it is a lot easier than I thought”, and “this mill is so quiet!.” By next year, the wood we milled will be in use at the resort, and there will be another batch of logs for us to mill. If there was a downside to all of this, it was that there were so many booths and displays that I couldn’t visit. About the best I could do was to pick up brochures and have brief discussions with the other exhibitors. After the fair closed on Sunday, we packed up our two sawmills, chain saw, ramps, cant hooks, and winch into the old Penske rental truck and headed back to Buffalo to drop off the sawmills. From there, I caught a flight back to Missouri. It was humorous to reach in my pocket for the boarding pass and pull out a handful of sawdust in the process… to me anyway. Anyone else notice that those security guards don’t have a sense of humor?
The Lawrence, Kan., show two weeks later was in my neck of the woods, so I was able to tow a sawmill to that one. That show was also well organized, especially for this being the first year at that location. I had pre-arranged with the parks director to have some logs to mill. These all came from trees that had died and been cut down, and we got to demonstrate milling cottonwood, ash, red oak, and boxelder. One Norwood sawmill owner came up and told us how much he enjoys running his mill in northern Arkansas. Under the shade of a large walnut tree, dozens of people had the chance to saw a board or two (after listening to me drone on about sustainable forestry, I think they earned it). Besides, I’m always glad to watch someone else do the “work”! In exchange for providing us the salvaged logs, the Lawrence Parks Dept. got some beautiful lumber for benches, sign posts, and other projects around the city.
By the time I got home, Autumn was in the air, and Becky (my wife) and I fired up the old wood stove that has kept us warm for so many years. It is great to be back from the shows, but they made a terrific “vacation”, and I’m already looking forward to next year!