Wetset Enterprises, Mossyrock, WA
By Kirk Hanson
Thomas Wolfe once famously stated that “you can’t go home again”. NCF member Micheal Hurley begs to differ as he gradually exchanges a 30-year career that took him all over the world for the woods of his childhood. Nestled into the headwaters of Salmon Creek in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains southwest of Mossyrock, Hurley has pieced together over 120 acres of exceptionally diverse forestland from which he is now creating as much of a living as he is a lifestyle.
Hurley is a native to southwest Washington. “I was raised cutting firewood and we logged using misery whips, axes and a horse,” Hurley says. “We built a rollway which we used to load eight foot alder logs on to flat bed trucks with PV’s and picaroons for the trip to the mills. It was only a miracle that kept us from being killed by barber chairing alder, as we had many of them.”
For many people who grew up on rural family farms, the last thing they would consider is going back to such a rugged lifestyle. Hurley relishes his childhood memories, however, and a boyish twinkle lightens his face as he recollects his upbringing. “While we lived in Castle rock, my father hired a portable circular mill to cut Douglas fir logs into lumber,” Hurley remarks. “We used the lumber to build a hay shed. I was so enthralled with the process of making lumber out of our logs that I spent much of my adult life researching the various portable saw mills on the market.”
Hurley bought his first bandsaw mill, a Woodmizer LT 40, in 1993. “When I pulled into our driveway in Puyallup with the sawmill in tow, the neighbors gathered around and I had all the work I could handle for the next several years. I did not get the mill to the property until the summer of 1996.” Since then Hurley has expanded his wood processing business. Within a massive mill shed that he built from timber off his property he houses a Logosol four-head edger/moulder, several planers, a large belt sander and other implements from which he can produce a broad range of wood products including trim, flooring, decking, siding, paneling and framing lumber.
“I have been a life-long student of trees, logging and lumber as long as I can remember,” Hurley comments. “I have graduated from hand saws, axes and horse logging to heavy equipment to get my logs out of the woods and onto the mill. As small as my operation is, I have the ability to go from tree to finished product, including kiln drying in my homemade kiln and four-sided planing.”
Dry kilns are rare commodities amongst small woodland owners. For those who do own them, they tend to be homemade contraptions that are sized and suited for the landowners’ needs. Hurley’s is no exception. Built to dry about 1,000 board feet at a time, it dries wood using a household dehumidifier and baseboard heaters. “The kiln is pretty simple – see this bucket here”, says Hurley pointing to a corner of the shed where a small hose slowly drips into a 5-gallon bucket. “I kick the bucket over once a day to empty the water out. When the hose stops dripping, I know the wood is dry.” As humble as it is, Hurley’s kiln can dry softwood lumber down to 8% – 12% in only a few short weeks.
Hurley is a fairly new member of Northwest Certified Forestry, having joined early in 2008. “One aspect of NCF that struck my fancy was their offer to help market FSC® certified wood products,” he says. “The current emphasis on green lumber in the marketplace seemed like it might fit my operation, so I put the call in to Kirk Hanson. He came out, surveyed my operation, and advised that it would easily fit the FSC criteria and told me I only needed to get my forest management plan on paper. I had a plan, and still do – only now it is on paper and is a dynamic work in progress.”
“I hope to get into a position to add a couple of low capacity dehumidifier kilns to my operation in the future”, adds Hurley. “With NCF’s assistance, I am currently exploring FSC markets for alder and maple of which I have an abundant supply. I will also look into markets for cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir, but on a more limited basis.”
Hurley is constantly educating himself about better forest management practices and options for processing and marketing wood products. NCF’s unique trainings and workshops hold particular interest for him and were one of the primary reasons he joined the organization. “NCF has sponsored several seminars and classes that I have attended and I always bring something out of them to make them worthwhile,” he comments.
As much as Hurley seems to be returning to his past, he also keeps an eye on the future. “I will continue to transplant my own seedlings on a yearly basis and will buy some root stock to ensure a sustainable forest,” he says. “I plan to continue to thin and maintain other acceptable practices to ensure clean water in the streams that leave my property. I plan to leave my property to my children and am in the process of educating them to the extent that I can.”
If you’re interested in contacting Micheal Hurley regarding his wood products, he can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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