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Craig Goodwin
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When big money came to the northwest to exploit our region's bountiful timber resources, they had their eye principally on douglas fir and western hemlock - big and strong structural timbers to frame buildings. Sitka spruce growing along the coast and western red cedar which can be found scattered around western Washington both have unique characteristics and value but were not the dominant species. Both "minor species" reached their peak values during the 1900 - 1920 period. World War I spurred demand for light and strong spruce for building aircraft. Cedar shingles became the go to roofing material for the... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Black Diamond NOW
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While Washington State is best known these days for high tech industry, our state remains an agricultural powerhouse. Total farm production in 2016 reached $10.6 billion. That's not peanuts (sorry for the pun). Leading the pack - apples of course, hitting an all time high harvest value of $2.4 billion. Any surprises? For me it's the value of milk and cattle/calves production. A lot larger than I would have thought. And for milk, we rank number 10 in the country. The following graphic shows crops grown here where we ranked in the top 5 nationally in 2016. As noted in... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Black Diamond NOW
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Ever wonder how business was conducted in the early 20th century? No internet, no computers and often no telephones. If you were mining coal, you may have had telegraph service connecting business offices in Seattle or Tacoma with the mines, providing same day communication. Otherwise you had to wait for messages and mail shipped via the train however long that may take. If you were in the logging and lumber business, even telegraph service was unlikely. Business offices were typically located in town where you could walk to and talk directly with customers and/or their agents. For coal mining, "real... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Black Diamond NOW
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The following photo from my personal collection captures better than most what logging was really like in the late 1800's. Two large douglas fir versus four loggers and their trusty axes. I can't imagine trying to fell trees this big standing on bouncy springboards and swinging an ax with such a small head but that's what it took. You wouldn't want to mess with these guys. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Black Diamond NOW
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If ever there was a place on flat ground that I could spend a full day "wandering", the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is it. There is always something unexpected happening to capture my attention and rain or shine, I get my exercise. This week I got to see what it's like at high tide in the fog and low clouds. The absence of sun sure didn't seem to bother the abundant wildlife. Here's my tally for the day: A. Duck Hunters Out In Force - I counted 10 eagles, half of them juveniles, all looking for duck... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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Sawmilling is a messy business generating a significant amount of waste. This was particularly true in the early days with refuse disposal a big problem. The answer, of course, was to burn mill waste including mountains of accumulated sawdust and wood scraps. Some waste could be used as fuel for generating steam but the supply far exceeded demand. The solution - Wigwam burners also known as Teepee burners and Beehive burners. These incinerators could be as small as 10 feet tall or well over 100 feet up. Following is a photo showing the classic "wigwam" burner design. Photo courtesy Wigwam... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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Building sawmills in the early 1900's faced some unique challenges. You could never make the head rig big enough. One would think that this circular saw could do the job an any size log. Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, IND1106, Clegg's Studio photographer, n.d. The interior of the mill and circular saw in the photo that follows sure looks big enough. Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, PIC0205, Lee Pickett photographer, circa 1913 Even if you installed the biggest circular saw or band saw around, however, there was still no guarantee. Sometimes even the smallest details could cause problems... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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Pacific National Lumber Company opened for business in 1905. Headquartered in Tacoma, it's sawmill was located in the now ghost town of National, located 7 miles outside the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park near Ashford. Though the mill burned in 1922, it was rebuilt and operated until 1942 before closing it's doors. What appears unique about this mill is the size of the green chain used for sorting rough lumber into appropriate sizes and grades. Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CKK0484, Clark Kinsey photographer, n.d. Look at the size of these 5 cranes and the length of the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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We have so many wonderful, yet little known, places to explore in and around our community. Miles and miles of trails winding through beautiful forests, rivers and streams. Calling them hikes, however, might be a stretch. Local "wanders" might be a more apt description - no clear beginning and end except where you choose to go (staying on public land and respecting private property). My earlier post Exploring Local Trails Less Traveled focused on the north side of Flaming Geyser State Park and offers a great example of a beautiful and undeveloped public place to go wander. This Saturday we... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
Thanks Dale - Following is a link to my earlier post with directions to Dandy Lake: http://www.blackdiamondnow.net/black-diamond-now/2015/09/exploring-dandy-lake-a-real-dandy.html For Beaver Lake, you will find a gate located just north of the lake where you can see it from the road. Several rough trails to wander here. Fun to explore.
Toggle Commented Jan 7, 2018 on Dandy Lake - A Real Dandy at Black Diamond NOW
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Thanks John. I'll make it a point to visit each of these.
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Time for a hike but it's cold and foggy outside. At least there's no rain in the forecast and maybe some sun later in the day. Where can I go? Someplace that's close to home but "different". This is not an uncommon dilemma for many. For a change of pace, try exploring the north side of Flaming Geyser State Park directly across the river from main park facilities. No signs telling people that it's even here keep this place quite a secret. Don't tell. OK, you've got a secret place to explore but it's fogged in. What to do? Get... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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Want to be a lumberman but can't afford to build the roads or railroads needed to get timber to your mill? Can you afford only the cheapest timber available located in the most remote of locations? The solution - take your mill to the timber. It's a whole lot easier to load and transport rough milled lumber cants than it is to handle big logs. Cut what you can and move on. Though not what might be considered "standard practice", some hale and hardy erstwhile loggers/sawmill operators moved their mill to where the timber was. What made this all possible?... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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Logging in the forests of Maine and the upper Midwest offered significantly different challenges than our forebears faced here in the northwest. For one, most logging was done in the winter when it was easier to drag smaller logs across frozen ground. I recently found that the first successful commercial application of continuous track vehicles was actually patented in 1901 by Alvin Lombard, a blacksmith in Waterville Maine. This was some 3 years ahead of Benjamin Holt's steam tractors first introduced in the west in 1904. Lombard's steam locomotives were designed to match Maine's logging environment. Photo courtesy Washington State... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at Black Diamond NOW
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Though my grandchildren find it hard to grasp (and me too for that matter), there was a time in development of the northwest where roads and reliable means of transportation were scarce. It could take three or more days just to make it from the Green River valley to population centers such as Seattle and Tacoma. Water transport was best, but if not available, you were left with horse drawn wagons pulled along faint trails first established by local Native Americans. Making a trip into town with your summer's harvest was something to be planned for days if not weeks.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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I've seen more eagles this year than I can remember and they seem to be everywhere. Our nesting pair at Lake Sawyer have already returned to raise another pair of youngsters in the new year. Several are also seen prowling the Cedar River and Green River. Wolf Lodge Bay at Lake Coeur 'd Alene has seen record numbers (over 500 eagles) this November and December to feed on spawning Kokanee. An early spawning season for chum salmon along the Nooksack found eagles less concentrated but perched up and down the river from mid November with some stragglers remaining still today.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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Naughty or nice for the holidays? Freed of dam restraints in 2011 and 2014, the Elwah river is flowing freely once again as salmon return to their former spawning grounds in the Olympic mountains. In apparent celebration, the Elwah is showing man who is really boss this holiday season. The river recently took a meander and washed out the main road, cutting off access up the valley to what remains of both the Elwah and Glines Canyon dams. Access to the camp grounds is also now closed. However, if you find yourself on the Olympic peninsula and near Port Angeles... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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Data junkies like I am tend to have undying faith that the answers are always there in the data and if not readily apparent at first, we just need to dig deeper. Like many issues, however, it can be a lot more complicated than that - particularly with issues of policy. Such is the case with timber harvests and logging sustainability. There is no clear answer as to what is "right" or "best". Does that mean ignore the data? Not at all. Rather than just rely on our biases, we have an obligation to be informed. So plodding ahead I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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While walking the trail along Ravensdale Creek this morning, Judy and I were disappointed to not see Coho salmon spawning in the stream. Perhaps a little early or maybe too late this year. Will have to keep checking. Nature, however, never lets us down and there is always something special here. As a wise sage named Thoreau once said, it's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see. For us this day it was hoarfrost, something we may have noticed but not seen before. What a treat. How unusual. What is hoarfrost? It looks more like an... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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In an earlier post State Timber Harvests - Sustainability vs Jobs?, I included a chart tracking the decline in timber harvest volumes in Washington State during the period from 1965 through 2016. For reference, following again is this chart. As previously noted, declines in harvest volumes from private ownership were by far the greatest and largely driven by the shift to second growth timber. Harvest levels from federally owned old growth timberlands, however, bore the brunt of changes in environmental practices and declined the most on a percentage basis. Surprisingly, at least to me, harvest levels on state trust lands... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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As gasoline and diesel engines became more dependable and affordable, northwest loggers moved as quickly as possible to mechanize and replace their historic use of steam power. #1 priority - mobile equipment. Skyline logging spars are a good example. Finding and rigging spar trees was difficult and inflexible. Replace these natural spar trees with mobile equipment and you now had infinitely more capability (see my earlier post Skyline Logging and the Anti-Gravity Machine). Following are several graphics that show skyline logging methods and equipment today (graphics courtesy Forest Operations Equipment). For a "live skyline" operation as shown above, the spar... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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Though it was not until 1935 that congress passed and FDR signed landmark legislation providing social security benefits for retirees, debate about the need for and how to fund SSI started much earlier. Following is a headline carried in an article published by the Tacoma Times in 1910 proposing several funding options that clearly represent thinking "outside the box". Image courtesy Between the Lines, Washington State Library Blog Among the options considered was to tax all unmarried people (bachelors and old maids) over the age of 30 unless they can provide proof of at least two bonafide offers of marriage... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
Thank you Grace. I agree - quite an evolution for libraries. Onward digitization!
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Generally we think of gravity as our friend. For early northwest loggers that meant building sluices for floating logs down hill or cable railroads located on steep slopes that would allow empty rail cars to be pulled up and cars stacked high with logs carefully lowered down the hill. Or skid rows that made it easier for teams of horses or oxen to drag logs down hill to a river, lake or to Puget Sound. However, with the introduction of donkey engines, there was plenty of power and it made more sense to yard logs uphill to the top. Logging... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW
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In just a few weeks, the event that we have been waiting for all year will soon be upon us. Christmas - yes of course but that's not it. It's an event that is a true test of your "being", something that you can brag about all year long. Or not. It's the annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Years morning. And the question on everyone's mind - how big will your goose bumps get this year? Fortunately, we have data and answers to everything here at Black Diamond NOW. After consulting with weather guru Bob Edelman (Lake Sawyer Weather),... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2017 at Black Diamond NOW