Conversion with Leon in Tennessee

We have many inquiries that come from the various media, including the internet and participation in a couple of chat boards. If you are reading this on a computer then there is no further need for explanation. If you are reading it in hard copy print this is an example of how we may educate the public about our organization, mission, goals and objectives.

Leon had posted a few comments about working in the woods with his horse on a chat board. I contacted him and invited him to visit our web site and read the text available about restorative forestry.. This email affirms that the work and cost of maintaining a web site and participating in discussions among “communities of interest” are good investments in public education.

It means much more. To access natural resources with culture or the skills to do certain things that are obviously more gentle and sensitive to the environmental – as opposed to accessing natural resources with just money – is an empowerment of the ground level worker. It is anthropological culture = money. It also means that the common sense economics of restorative forestry actually making the most money over the long term is understandable to many landowners. That understanding includes preserving the landowner values of protecting the visual appearance of their forest, while extracting for immediate human needs. Now our job is to translate and educate how the aesthetically pleasing forest also is the most valuable at providing ecological services for the public good. Those services include the “Carbon Positive” forestry that results from “Ecological Capitalism”.

This continuing conversation with Leon allows further sharing of cultural values and educational opportunities in techniques and economics. Some of the techniques may not be easily explained in text alone, so some referrals to other sites and sources of information are given.

Hey Jason, I have great news! I got a call yesterday morning from a guy that lives 24 miles from me. He has 70 acres of timberland. I told him about restorative forestry and he wants me to manage his woodlot.While I was looking at his land, another guy called and he wants the same thing done to his land. Both guys had loggers come in and want to clear cut, but both turned them away. When I explained the basic principles of restorative forestry to them they both said they wanted me to manage their woods, and both wanted me to split the days I work on each place so there won’t be a conflict. God does answer prayers. I was getting scared I would have to go back to trucking, but it looks like I’ll be busy for a while. I certainly hope things are going as well in your neck of the woods. Keep up the good work
I never heard of a Swede cut. I don’t know if it’s what I’m doing or not. All I know is I cut a wedge out in the direction I want the tree to go and pray. I’ve only seen one live Suffolk. On Saturdays when the weather is good I drive a wagon and haul customers around Amish farms. When I first started the man I was working for had an old Suffolk mare. She was one of the sweetest horses I ever been around, wish I knew where she is now. I am a big fan of Suffolk horses because of her. A friend of mine raises Brabants and I really like those too. Here there are mostly Percherons and Belgians because I’m right in the heart of Amish country and those seem to be the breeds of choice for them.

I don’t really understand the sliding scale payment system. I always split the logs 50/50 with the landowner which seems to be a good way to starve. Please explain that sliding scale in more detail if you can. The log buyer that I just sold the first load from those 70 acres to seems to be a very helpful guy. He said he used to log and wanted to come out and see my horse work. He acted like he never saw a horse work. I hope he will be impressed enough to refer me to some more landowners. Thanks for all your help. My other computer will be down for a day or so. How much does it cost to be a member of HHFF? Take care and keep up the good work.

Leon in TN


The Swede cut is a slang nickname for the “open faced, hinge and latch timber felling method” introduced to this country by a Swedish man named Soren Erickson a few decades ago. I was convinced to attend his course when in the newspaper article about it quoted Soren saying that one of the most important aspects of his teaching was to “restore the dignity of being a woodsman”. This technique is now taught by an organization called The “Game of Logging”. I highly recommended that anyone practicing hand timber felling attend such a course and apply the principles. Do an internet search and find the closest GOL course and attend it. It is the single most important skill that I have learned in the development of restorative forestry. It is an epiphany, or a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, a revelation, an “aha” moment.

This method is not easy to explain in a text only format, but I will try. This is not done or offered to replace attending an actual course – where the demonstration of the skills is part of a systematic recognition and use of the reactive forces of the chainsaw and the development of understanding and applying those reactive forces to control the removal of wood fiber from a tree in the process of safe directional felling, bucking into lengths and limbing.

I want to define this method within the context of restorative forestry silviculture and describe it to increase safety for the woodsman. This means that the first action is the choice of which tree to cut and simultaneously which trees to leave in the resulting cultivated condition. That decision is based upon the “Nature’s Tree Marking Paint” system of indicators of decline or low performance economically (which is available on the HHFF web site). Once the tree is selected on a “worst first” basis, then the next consideration is the protection of the residual trees or the best specimens you choose to leave for future harvesting. Additionally there are many benefits of creating an “enhanced residual condition” that is economically most gainful and ecologically positively contributing to the health of the forest and the planet through increased carbon storage and carbon sequestration by the regeneration of young trees. This post restorative harvest condition includes preserving and enhancing all the other currently not quantified ecological services the forest provides for the public good. This collected effort is why we call our method “Carbon Positive Forestry”.

With selection made and identification of the important residual specimens the practitioner makes a choice of which direction the tree will be felled. Other considerations may come into play, such as convenience of extraction and avoiding any riparian or running water landscape features. A consideration for efficiency of technique will include not only taking the worst first specimens but also going to the worst part of the harvesting site to begin felling trees. This way you may work back toward the landing and keep the laps or tops behind your harvesting and extraction work.

All commercial sized chainsaws have a sight on the body or power head of the saw. This will be a line that runs at a 90 degree right angle to the cutter bar. When you follow these methods and look down the sight the tree will usually go where you are aiming it.

A diagram would be useful here and we have photos of this step by step process, but I am unable to locate them at the moment. I have inquired with other groups that we shared them with the make a poster and if we find it I will post it on the web site.

There are four (4) cuts made in this method. But there are preparations that must be done before any cuts are made. The first action is to remove any low hazards from the area around the base of the tree. The next action is to look for high hazards or dead limbs in the crown of the tree that could fall on the timber feller in the process of wedging a tree over. The high hazards are often called “widow makers”. The next consideration is to determine the safe and danger side of the tree. The danger side is the back side of the tree in the direction the tree is leaning. Most trees, particularly the worst first trees, have some lean or crown load that weights the tree toward what is the dangerous side. One method of assessing the gravitational force on a standing tree is to stand back from it and hang a string with a weight on the end, like a plum bob and hold it up and look by it to the whole tree. This will show the crown load and any lean the tree may have. After some experience and practice a timber feller can stand under the tree and look straight up at it and determine these forces and establish the safe side and danger side of the tree. Ok you have safe side and danger side determined and you have cleared an escape route away at a 45 degree angle from the stump or tree for at least 15 feet or five steps.

You make your first cut from the top of the lead notch or open face while aiming the bar through the sight towards the direction you want the tree to go. This cut should be shallow and not more than 10 percent of the tree diameter. It should be kept level as it will establish the front edge of the hinge. The second cut is kept level straight in matching the number one cut.

This will let the face fall out as a big wedge looking piece of wood. Then go to the danger side of the tree, lay the bar flat in the mouth of the open face and using the pull force cut back into the tree and then plunge the saw into the tree creating the back of the hinge on half of the tree. This is the third cut so it is time to place your plastic wedges. Place one at the back almost perpendicular to the open face. Drive it in until it is snug and sort of hits back on the ax. Then go to the safe side, plunge in and release the tree after establishing the back of the hinge with the plunge cut and sweep out the back to release the latch or the last vertical fiber holding the tree up from setting on your saw or the tree falling until you let it go. If the tree just set there after cutting the latch, drive it on over with the wedge or put more wedges in if you need them. You may stack wedges on a 90 degree angle with each other and drive one and then another to jack the tree over.

When the tree starts to go holler timber and walk away at a 45 five steps and

then turn around and look up at a 45 degree angle to watch for limbs being thrown back out of the tops of the residual trees. This view will allow you to see stuff coming from above and from ground level...

Sliding Scale Pay System:

First – you are right you can’t do worst first single tree selection with horse logging and pay half to the landowner. What it comes down to is the average per thousand you get for your logs. High graders pay half or clear cutters, but they destroy the forest. When you take the worst first your average per thousand will be lower, but the best trees will grow faster and make more money for the landowner over the long term or at least for a few later harvest. So we pay on a sliding scale by not paying for any low value material at all. In other words we try to establish what we want as a logging cost or amount we make on a per thousand feet harvested and only start to pay a share after that amount is reached on an individual log basis. For us around here that ends up being about at least two hundred dollars per thousand. We sometimes start to pay at 250, it depends on how hard the extraction is and how valuable what we are taking out is. At 250 per thousand we pay thirty percent to the landowner. Then the sliding scale starts. At $400.00 per thousand we pay 40%, at $500.00 we pay 50% and this is what sells it to landowners that are stuck on 50/50 – at $600.00 we pay 60%, any prices above you can pay 60% and they make more money. This is best for you, because there will be so few logs in this value range that you will not have to pay for many. You can move this around all over the place, but the point is don’t pay for the junk at all, because that will represent 75% of your volume. Tell the landowner you actually pay more than 50/50, but just on the higher value logs. They will buy it usually, particularly if they are concerned about the future value of their forest or the appearance of it after the harvest...


Jason Rutledge


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