EPISODE 7 - OFF-GRID FORESTRY

 

Tinkers Bubble is a 24 year old off grid woodland community that run a horse powered, hand tool forestry business on the land and mill the trees in their steam-powered sawmill. Tinkers Bubble spans 40 acres mostly comprised of Douglas Fir woodland that was an old abandoned tree plantation. All the houses and buildings in the community are built from trees on site. The whole community revolves around wood. Wood is used as their only fuel source for cooking and heating. 

I got to stay with three other volunteers in the Guest House. They have hundreds of volunteers passing through each summer and this constant stream of eager helpers keep the building and gardening projects fully powered. When you dont use fossil fuels you start to quickly realize how critical it is to have community. Human power becomes essential. The guest house at Tinkers Bubble blends back into the forest. They use all their own trees for their buildings. These wild edge cladding boards showcase the forms and shapes of the forest they came from.

The hilltop is dotted with timber frame homes all built onsite with hand tools and horses. Below the logging horse Jim gets suited for the days work of moving some felled trees down to the steam powered sawmill. Fascinating to see and hear trees being cut, felled, processed, and dragged with out any engines. The softness of the sounds of animals and hand tools is powerful.

Community forestry day at Tinkers Bubble kicks off with group tree sawing. Forestry without chainsaws. Forestry without gasoline. Forestry by hand is a community effort at Tinkers Bubble. It forces you to connect with your sawing buddy, hold focus and move in rhythm. Laughter and story telling while cutting up a tree. Human-speed logging. When you spend the day using two person cross cut saws to process a felled tree a pile of wood holds so much more weight. Using hand tools creates a very different sense of what energy is and how it shapes our world. Easy to forget if your running a chainsaw all day.

Once the trees are cut into log lengths the horse is brought in to pull it to the steam powered wood fired saw mill. Horses in the forest are fast and agile floating down trails a tractor could never dream of getting through. From the forest to the sawmill the horses make logging possible without the use of fossil fuels. When the Douglas Fir and Larch start piling up that means it time to fire up the wood powered steam engine sawmill! Behold the beast! This is a 1930s Portable Wood Fired Steam Engine! Used for milling in the woods in the 1930s when it was more economical to bring the mill to the trees. It arrived at Tinkers Bubble 20 years ago to assist in their goals of forestry without fossil fuels. Pedro fired it up at 5am to get it hot for a long day of milling recently felled Douglas fir.