So it was off to Virginia last week. I’ve been going to Richmond pretty regularly for four to five years now and I really enjoy the area. It’s beautiful, there’s a ton of historical stuff in the area, and of course now that I’m visiting sawmills and lumberjocks, there’s no shortage of wood and sawdust themed adventures.
This was something of a short notice trip, so I didn’t have much chance to plan visits or scope folks with portable sawmills. Oddly enough though one of the ladies at the plant I was visiting had some acreage and I ended up going out to visit with her and her husband. It was quite exciting for me because by chance the discussion of chestnut trees and lumber came up. Turns out they have TWO chestnut trees alive and well on their property that they were wanting to cut down. I’d never seen a chestnut tree in person because thanks to a fungal blight that came over from Asia back in the early nineteen hundreds (1904 give or take), what was once a very common tree in the american forest is now borderline extinct.
In my attempt to be ever the polite guest, I picked up a couple pizzas from Bottoms Up, a local pizza joint, which makes fantastic pizza. If you ever have the chance try the Chesapeake. It’s a white pizza with crab and old bay seasoning. I was prepared to be unimpressed but it was super tasty. Even Brenda, a self professed ham and pineapple pizza girl liked it.
After getting to see the trees which had trunks about two feet in diameter (I’ll see if I can get a couple pictures from Brenda to post later) I pulled a couple twigs with leaves off and picked up a couple husks to see if we could ID the exact species (website here). As it turns out, there’s five species to consider. I’m pretty comfortable saying these trees were NOT pure american chestnut, but were probably a hybrid Japanese/American variety. I learned a lot about chestnuts but the lesson that stuck with me the most was that even old chestnut burrs are REALLY FREAKING SHARP and hard. Yeah, I had to cut a spine out of a finger even though I was handling them very delicately. Sigh…
I’m not sure how I feel about taking chestnut lumber from a live tree, but I guess if they’re going to cut it down, better lumber than firewood. I’m not sure there’s any value to collecting some seeds and forwarding them to the TACF, but I may see if anyone wants some.
The land owners are also planning on cutting down three decent size (two foot diameter) eastern black walnut trees. They asked me if I wanted one for lumber and I was like – um, SURE! They’ve got a friend with a wood mizer, so we’ll see what happens. I think they’re going to let me air dry it in a barn for a while, so I suspect at some point a road trip from Texas to Richmond and back will be in order to collect the haul of walnut. If it ends up happening I’m going to bring them some nice piece of furniture when I come up to pick things up.
If I end up with some walnut from Virginia, it will sure have a story. I like pieces to have a story. People may forget or the story may get lost, but if a piece is beautiful and will outlast me, maybe it will end up making more stories long after I’m gone.
I did talk to a few folks with sawmills, but I was on such a tight schedule I just didn’t have time to visit any of them so I can’t make any recommendations one way or the other. For my and others reference, next time I get out there, I’m going to try and visit:
Logs to Lumber – (804) 271-3840. Talked to the guy on the phone seemed nice enough.
HomeGrownWoodProducts – I talked to Joe he seemed nice and I like the direction he’s going with the whole urban forestry lumber approach.
And that was my Richmond trip in a nutshell (of several varieties). LOL. That whole story and I drop a goofy punchline.
——Follow Up and Previews——-
If any of you lumberjocks are in the Richmond area and want me to drop by for a visit, drop me a line and I’ll let you know the next time I’m headed out. I’m going to be up in Canada next week about half way between Montreal and Toronto, right on the US/Canadian border. If you’re in the area, same story, maybe I can swing by some evening.
I’m writing this from Chattanooga, TN which has also been an altogether pleasant trip. I’m dragging home about twenty board feet of cherry. Should be interesting trying to get THAT home on a plane.