A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Daddy Debrief: He Speaks for the Trees

One of my guilty pleasures is watching videos of how things are made.

Yesterday, when I was on the computer, and should have been doing more productive things, I was watching a video of how lumber is made. A few of my ancestors ran a sawmill so I guess there was a heightened curiosity.

I wasn’t wasting time, I was doing research.

Anyway, Finn walked up behind me and started watching with me. The sawmill on this video was certainly not like the one my ancestors would have had, but I thought Finn would find the process interesting.

I usually involve him with any carpentry projects I do and we were recently building something where he was asking very pointed questions about the wood.

“I know this comes from trees,” he said holding up a small board, “but who carves this?”

This was the perfect way for him to see.

In the video a huge log rolls onto a conveyor belt. Then it is carried inside a building where a robotic machine begins shaving off all the bark.

“What are they doing to it?” he asked.

“This is the first step,” I said. “They take all the bark off.”

“Aw,” he said. “They killed that big tree?”

This was not where I was expecting this conversation to go.

“Well, yes they do,” I said.  “But a lot of trees are grown specifically for lumber. So another tree might be planted in its place. Like when we cut down a Christmas tree. They plant another one.”

There was a long silence as we continued watching the video. Another robotic machine comes into the frame and takes control of the log and begins slicing boards, which fall onto the conveyor belt and they disappear out of the frame.

“So that’s how the boards get made from the tree,” I said. “Remember when you asked about that?”

“Yeah,” he said.

There was another long silence.

“Does this machine run all night long?” he said finally.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“Because that’s a lot of electricity! Or gas! If they are using gas, they’re using gas to cut down the tree and gas to cut it up. And gas is literally the worst thing for the environment! And they’re killing trees!” he said looking a little upset.

“Yep. I know what you’re saying,” I said, feeling more guilty for watching the video.

We turned it off and I asked if he wanted to talk about it.

“No,” he said and went upstairs to play with his legos.

I checked in with him later and it was obvious he had been thinking about it.

“Did you know that the Amazon rainforests used to have as many trees as there are blades of grass in that field out there?” he said. “They have cut down so many trees in the rainforests and the animals there have no place to live!”

“So tell me,” I asked “what do you think we could be doing instead?”

“Well…” he thought for a moment, “we could use wood that’s already here! We could cut some big limbs off trees and let the trees keep growing. We could fix up abandoned houses. Then we wouldn’t have to cut more wood to build more houses. There might be some old wood and a little new wood. And it might look a little weird at first, but I think someone who didn’t have a home would be grateful for it.”

How does the song go? “Teach them well and let them lead the way.”