Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reblog: Regeneration in a clearcut

My friend Chuck Ray walked through the same clearcut 4 years later. Clearcutting has become an emotionally loaded word, concept.

It’s a tool. I tell people that if you want to change a spark plug, you need a certain tool to do it. And a screwdriver isn’t it. While forestry is less absolute than mechanics, the analogy is valid. When a clearcut is what’s needed, little else will do the job of forest regeneration as well.

Here’s a link to his post:



Wild Plums

The wild plums are in bloom on the banks of Plum Creek, the Plum Creek of the “Laura & Mary” stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Stories that were special to mom; she knew those places, the prairie in all its moods. Plum creek flows only a few miles from the farms she knew as a child. The plums grow in impenetrable, spiny thickets of popcorn flowers. Wildlife biologists refer to the fruit as Soft mast. Summer food for the turkeys and prairie chickens and humans. The essence of hope: to know what will be with the security of remembering what has been. Plum jam in jars, to spread on homemade bread toast. Summer, sun-warmed fruit for those December days when we are certain that summer will never come again. Summer has been; Summer will be. The wind blows as it [always] does on the prairie. The grass floats like nap on velvet, the illusion of a green sea coming to life after the killing frosts of winter. The full moon casts its silvery light. The Des Moines flows, languid and murky playing hide and seek with the moon among the arching maples. With a glint and a wink, the river reflects the captured moonlight.


Dawn begins its dress rehearsal far offstage, offering first a hint of salmon pink to the cirrus near the horizon. The sky is big here, perhaps only because I’ve lived with the hill and forest constricted horizons of the east for too long. Dawn comes early. Like the river, not in a hurry to arrive. The eastern brightening is inexorable. Salmon is heated to orange, then with a blast of orange light, the sun comes onstage coating everything in glory. The robins and jays have been telling us for an hour, prophets of the new day, that it was coming. We cursed their racket. Let us sleep in ignorance, we said and pulled the pillow over our heads.


A hawk rests mundanely on a post. A fish hawk, at that. HiAs white head fastened to a swivel just above his shoulders. Such was my first sighting of a bald eagle not in a zoo. Our national bird. Hardly majestic. Come on, damn you. Soar! Play the part legend has assigned you. He refused to acknowledge my imprecations. His work order said sit on a post. Wait for a vole. Or a pocket gopher. Such is lunch. I had no authority where he came from. Life goes on above and below.


Just as a curve is straight if you break it into small enough segments, life, this novel we live, is composed of the minutia, the mundane, the insignificant. Breathe and savor the morning air with the scent of dew and freshly tilled soil on it. Nod to the bullheads with their catfish whiskers. Smile to the plums in their wedding attire. Accept the hawk. We are surrounded by miracles. We need only pay attention to those prophets who try with such vehemence to awaken us.

A logger’s life in story

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In the podcast, the logger tells a story about how these machines, originally intended for harvesting sugar cane in South Africa, were adapted by loggers in the US. The claw on the front flips up. The operator uses it to grab the tree, and a hydraulically powered chainsaw (in the square part you see just in front of the big tire) cuts the tree off. The operator can pivot, and/or drive forward or backward to make the tree fall in the desired direction. I have one myself, and though they’re kind of archaic by today’s equipment standards, they function well in PA’s forests. They’re hydrostatic: one pedal for the left wheel, one for the right. You can literally turn on a dime by making one wheel for forward & the other backward. I tell folks it’s sort of like riding inside a video game. There are numerous videos on YouTube if you search for “bell feller buncher.”

Needless to say, the names have been changed to protect whoever it was that needed to be protected. “John” provides a window into the joys, the ins & outs of life as a logger. It’s hard work, but there’s something special about it that gets into a person. Listen & find out for yourself.

Day 2.

Why martinstrees? To know me at all is to know that I live, breathe and speak trees. While much of my work on a daily basis is cutting trees down- -whether in the forest to help with forest health and meet our needs for lumber & paper, or in town near houses, power lines and poodles. But I see trees as much more than how I earn money to feed my family or lumber that will become someone’s kitchen cabinets. I am in awe of them: their beauty, their strength, why they grow where they grow, their shape or architecture. I like to share that with other people, tooi phone 6 2013 119

Scotch pine in Indiana. Sculpted by the weather. Silhouetted against the setting sun.

Issues in Forestry: An Interview with Sue Swanson

Sue Swanson is the Executive Director of AHUG, a job she has held for more than 20 years. In this interview, she offers insights into what makes loggers tick, the impacts of environmentalist litigation against timber harvesting on the Allegheny National Forest, and some of the issues she sees in the forestry (specifically logging) business.

Your feedback & comments are welcome!

Men’s Group

Men’s group: I was in the middle of writing my final paper for the class I took during Intensives. I got a text from my sister in law: can you speak to the men’s group Thursday evening about treework and logging? The scheduled speaker had a death in the family.

I was planning on going anyway. Judy’s brother, John, is a member there and Dennis often attends. Sure. Why not.

Main points: 4 more years, I’ll have been climbing professionally for 50 years. Today they’d tell me to sit down, shut up, be still & give me a scrip for Ritalin. What we’ve lost in the search for security.

I explained that tree work is just applied vector physics. I said “imagine a pulley on the ceiling. If we run a rope through it and tie it to this end of the table, that end will hang down. And if we tie it to that end, this end will hang down. And if I tie it in the middle, the table will hang flat, balanced. Depending on where the rope is tied on the branch, the same things apply. Now imagine if the pulley is over here on this beam. The table will want to swing so that it hangs directly under the beam. It’s all vector physics. All a vector is, is a force in a direction.


Then I opened to them the idea of being in conversation with the Holy Spirit. Paul entreats us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). It is the glory of God to conceal things; it is the glory of kings to seek them out (Prov. 25:2). Finally, Ask and you shall receive. (Jn. 16:24). Using these statements as practices, the world is transformed. Worship is no longer limited to church on Sunday morning, but becomes a perpetual practice. I have cut trees for several of the men who were present. I said that if there was a grace and ease observable in the way I work, it is a reflection of the Presence in my life, of this ongoing conversation.


Then I showed a video from Youtube about how to cut a tree down. John & Dennis joined in with tips & pointers.

After the presentation a fellow named Dalton approached me. He said I really should consider being a supply preacher. Dennis has noted in our supervisory sessions that he was dragged by the Spirit, “kicking and screaming,” to the pulpit.


That part about being a preacher is eerily similar to my call to seminary. Continual nudges. It has been said that one of the marks of a true leading is persistence. But God, I don’t want to be a preacher. Writing is so much safer. I can hide in the anonymity of my words. OK. So writing is a Kind of preaching. God, You know what I mean. Moses, can you help me out here?

Grace in December

A classmate from Women in the Bible (last spring) found this &replied today. I find it speaks to me in the darkness of December:

Julie (and the rest of you, too):

Dare to dream. Dare to challenge the status quo in all its forms. Dare to confront institutionalized discrimination and call it out. Dare to be Moses…if that’s what God asks of you.

In your last post, you wrote “What’s a middle age mom with as of yet no higher education degree doing aspiring to break the glass ceiling at the premiere Presbyterian academic institution?”

According to the bookies, what were Moses’ odds on liberating the Israelites? Pretty low, I’ll wager. Yet as we saw time & again in class, God has a way of choosing what other humans consider the least likely, the least suited, the ones on the fringe. It can be lonely. It can be frustrating. You may not be the one to enter the Promised Land. The journey has to have a beginning. And even if it has already begun with our forebears, it must continue.

For years, physicists claimed that bumblebees lacked the necessary aerodynamics to fly. Yet they did, day in and day out. My own observation has been “It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know you can’t.” Physicists have since concluded that bumblebees can in fact fly.

Peace, friends.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.