............THE FOREST






“Never The Twain Shall Meet”

....A friend from across the seas once stood with me on a logged off hill top and surveyed the effects of a slash burn, and said:
....“It would seem you have done an excellent job of preserving these large stumps with the charred effect the fire has left on them.”
....I have thought of that statement many times since it was made nearly 10 years ago. I incorporated it into an article for this good journal (allowable Waste – A Philosophy, March ’74). While I am not now on a kick about slash burning – I am still against it, except in very specific instances – I was recently sort of tuned in to the old philosophy again as I sat with another fine chap at lunch in the always delightful Timber Club of the Hotel Vancouver.
....“Tell me more of this fascinating sugi tree, Oskar, and would you mind giving the salt and pepper a fair wind while you are doing so.”
....My friend Oskar (April ’79) grinned and told me of one of his latest capers. “Bill, the Sugi tree of Japan is really unlike any other species in the world. Not in its growth necessarily, but in the manner that man has made use of it and how he cares for the Sugi forests.”
....Just north of Kyoto in what is known as the Kitayama Forest, the growing of the Sugi tree takes place in forest plantations. The trees at full maturity of 28 years would grow to about eighty feet tall with a butt diameter of twelve to fourteen inches.
....This particular area of Kitayama is one of several areas that the Sugi is grown in Japan. Its size is about 500 acres. The first plantations date back to the 15th century.
....The application of this wood is very high in Japanese culture and in day-to-day living. The polished posts and beams from the tree are essential parts of the room in private homes, used for family shrines, the tea ceremony, flower arrangements and guests. To fulfill the demand for these types of poles, a unique forestry system has developed which is based on careful selection and cultivation of the Sugi.


This system demands intensive pruning, frequent weeding and careful removal of trees up to 17 years after planting. Special treatment, processing and the final polishing of the white logs are all part of the production of these beautiful poles.
....My mind is wandering in the nice luncheon atmosphere of the Timber Club. I hear Oskar speak, but I see our coastal, or general Canadian slash, and I think of how we really are still in a primitive industry of “allowable waste.” We improve as the years march down to the eighties, but only begrudgingly. Our inherited philosophy of forest use is a part of all of us


really,the forester, the logger and the manufacturer. We are dictated to by economically sound” and abhor “not economically sound.” We bend and we holler when we do. We listen to visitors from other less fortunate forestry lands look aghast at our waste and we are able to rationalize to ourselves with a “we’re getting better” attitude. We tolerate mis-takes in logging methods because we are not disciplined enough. Someday – someday –
....“Yes Oskar, where are we?”
....“Ah yes Bill, it is something to see these Japanese men tending the Sugi tree with such diligent care. Imagine,

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British Columbia Lumberman, July, 1980

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they climb these slender beauties in the early morning with knives, small hand saws and particular tools, and do not come down until evening. They move from tree to tree by swaying the top, and simply begin their work again. A skilled worker can prime and trim up to 120 trees in one day. These men will earn over $150.00 Canadian dollars per day at this agile work.
....The logger-pruner’s work is one of a gardener tending his roses, so much attention is given the subject. Sawing off knots, binding blemishes in the bark, keeping each tree pruned two or three times to maturity after the first 17 years. At this age just 25 percent of the tree’s height is allowed to have a branched top.
....Pictures of these slender, straight evergreens show a forest of varying size on lush mountain slopes. In the final 27th and 28th years just a small tuft of one tenth of the tree shows green. Then comes the, shall we say, logging!
....Logging. The wandering mind is back on these shores. “Say Pete, you smashed that big fir all to bits on that stump.” “O.K. you guys, remember don’t log poor cedar – the market’s too low.” “Yes, a few logs got away in the tow, but, hell, the beaches are full of them up and down the coast.” “The fallers aren’t bucking properly and so there’s heavy breakage.” Oh, sure, we’re getting better – someday, some-day!
....“Pardon me, Oskar, just try that Black Forest cake. It’s terrific. Oh yes, and how do they log such a tree as the Sugi tree? “Carefully - carefully!”
....Chain saws are used nowadays, but very few other mechanical devices. First the area is chosen to be felled and the poorer quality trees are felled first to form a cushion for the very good ones. If the slope is heavy the trees are felled uphill to ease the fall. Very little breakage occurs because of the care taken. Then the trees are peeled on the spot and set up to dry standing up in teepee style or against a wall.”
....Very special quality gravel is used to polish the poles as they dry to a whitish yellow. They are then cut to size, about three meters in length and placed in air-conditioned rooms for seasoning.

....A Sugi pole of three meters that is of the highest quality, sells for at least $10,000! No wonder those agile climbing Japanese loggers take such care of their product. But it is really not just the value. It is an inherited sense of faith and culture that produces such care of the product. There is no “allow-able waste” in Sugi production. Would that we in our forest industry could borrow some of that sense of care and culture.
....Of course, as Kipling said, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.”
....Well I have news for you, friends. We are meeting and we should pay attention to the folks from other lands who, when shown our forestry methods think we’re not for real. We have been the land of plenty and grumbled about it. We have the finest wood fibre source in the world and we could let its value be lost by a philosophy of allowable waste.


....So logger, before you start bragging about how big a tree you felled today, or hauled today, or sawmilled today, or how badly done by we all are, check up on some of the interesting, exciting or new things being done in the world of forestry today. And yes – think Sugi!
....“Thank you Oskar, for such an interesting story – and did you enjoy the clam chowder?

.........................Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, July, 1980
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