Posts made in March, 2017

Wildfire is common in most parts of the world except for the far north and far south where there is no vegetation.  Wildfire can be supported by any vegetation that will burn.  Television often shows clips of notable fires and it does a good job of demonstrating that wildfire may take place anywhere there is vegetation that will burn.

The vegetation could be volunteer meaning that humans did not plant it; it simply grew by itself.   Or it could be cultivated vegetation as in a park or a farm.  The vegetation can be in the form of mature or maturing forests that sometimes have very high economic value.  Mixed forests (broad leaf trees and trees with needles) support wildlife and domestic animals, they can stop erosion, act as a windbreak or simply be pleasing visually.  Nevertheless the potential is there to present a risk to communities in terms of wildfire during hot dry weather.  Conifer trees, those trees that grow seed cones are much more flammable than broadleaf trees and shrubs.

It is generally recognized that the removal of the conifers is a major mitigation step in terms of community wildfire. Sometimes trees around communities are not commercially valuable but community members treasure them for their esthetic values.  The result is that quite a few communities are threatened not by valuable mature trees but instead by young immature trees that may have little or no commercial value.  So for these communities if wildfire mitigation takes place, the removal of conifers and planting of broadleaf trees could be at considerable financial cost. The cost is a very serious impediment to wildfire mitigation.  Nevertheless, the cost to mitigate could be turned into an economic benefit with a little massaging of the BC Forestry Act and a bit of entrepreneurial innovation.

This can be a problem; the same people who assess risk are the same who pay the bill for mitigation. Therefore it is not unreasonable to suppose that there could be a proclivity to underestimate risk in order to live within a limited budget. On any given winter day there is not wildfire risk.  On a hot dry sunny day, particularly if there has been no precipitation for some time chances are that the risk will be very high.  So risk is an element in motion, it can change quite quickly in intensity.  When evaluators who designate wildfire risk as a static value, like high risk or low risk it can only be for a specific time period.  Risk of wildfire is a component in motion.  Temperature, humidity, dew point, last precipitation and ground moisture among others comprise the influential factors governing risk.  To illustrate; if we say that an aircraft has only a 1% risk of crashing that would mean that one hour out of a hundred hours could be potentially fatal.  This kind of risk in not acceptable.  So if there is a hot dry spell with cumulonimbus activity (thunder storms) for 6 weeks that would mean that the community would be at risk for 11% of the time in one year.  Is this an acceptable wildfire risk and if it is not how do we innovate to reduce the risk?

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You need to consider where in the market place your product will fit. Also what people would likely be willing to pay for it. From the retail selling price you should develop a wholesale price. That is the price retail stores would pay. Quite often a big buyer will tell you how much they would pay for your product and the percentage they would add on for their mark up. The reality of the market place may come as a real shock but don’t give up. You must have a minimum that you will take no matter how large the order. Unfortunately in some cases you may find that the thing you are making is costing more than anyone is willing to pay. On the other hand you may be surprised how much your efficiency will improve after getting a little experience. If you do a time study of direct selling you may find the individual packaging and handling is not cost effective. Think in terms that 6 seconds is .1 of a minute or 1/10 of a minute. Time can be your enemy or your friend but in business you need to be very time aware. If you sell Direct it does not take long before thoughts about a better way to market comes to mind. This is important. Direct selling to a consumer you must collect your money on every sale every time. So Direct selling gives you the retail price but for that you have to package the product, ship to the customer and collect your money. You have to do it every time, it is very time consuming. For my money selling at wholesale to retailers is the way to go!

Let me give you an example of what we did when we had collected carving bark from cottonwood trees. An ad was placed in the classified of a taxidermy magazine. It said “carving bark for sale, minimum order 200 lbs” and an e mail address was given for a response. This limited our offer to carving supply businesses. It greatly reduced packaging problems and 30 day credit was given to established accounts. The ad was successful. The bark was shipped in 50 lb boxes and we used to get defective boxes from a commercial tree planting nursery. At the time good carving bark was retailing for US $10.00 per pound and we were wholesaling it for $4.00 per pound. I think the shipping cost $2.00 per pound. Sometimes if you are selling from one country to another you may benefit from a currency differential. When you are on the right side it is the great happiness. Good luck in your marketing efforts.

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There are many ways to market your product and there may be no such thing as the only right way. If you have made improvements to an existing product that is what you will be selling. Maybe an explanation of our own experience may be helpful.

We, my wife and I, were associated with two chemists who were working for the Alberta government trying to make a cheap stabiliser for dimensional Aspen lumber. We were interested in a stabilizer that would stop the bark from falling off the cottonwood panels and plaques. The Taxidermy Industry used these panels and plaques upon which to mount fish and animal heads. We owned a fly in fishing lodge and some of our customers wanted their trophy fish on panels that had bark all around. Our chemist associates made us wonder if a stabilizer would stop the bark from falling off the panels.

We cut some rough panels and treated them with a cheap stabilizer and put them around the base board heaters of the apartment and dried them to 5% moisture content. The result was that the bark stayed on. We bought enough simple machinery to make enough panels for a pilot project. Then we coated them with a clear coating and did something that nobody else had done before. We put each panel in shrink wrap and put a label on them “Anglewood Products”.

Now we have a product so how are we going to market it? Remember these bark on panels were already on the market and had the bad name that the bark could fall off. We put a large box on our boat trailer, filled it with panels and called on just about every taxidermist in western Canada. We told perspective buyers who had the time to listen that we guaranteed that the bark would not fall off. Cold calls can be a daunting activity, not everybody is welcoming, and some are decidedly not. Never forget to smile, try to relax and be in polite friendly mode.

By the time we returned home every panel had been sold and we had orders. We wound down our economic development consulting business and started to make panels. The big point of all of this is this; if you have an improved product “Show it to prospective buyers” A few years later after a lot of trying we landed a large American Taxidermy Supply Company as clients. At the showing of our panels the Vice President of Sales said “I have to tell you folks if you hadn’t shown us the products we would never in God’s world started dealing with you!

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Small Forest Related Business:

Are you a candidate for a small forest related business in central British Columbia? If so one thing is certain. You are not going to go into the dimensional softwood lumber business, that is all taken up by the large transnational corporations. However for the right people that are opportunities making specialty wood products with spruce, fir or pine softwood or you may use hardwoods like white birch or cottonwood.

It would be a big mistake to imitate the big operators with their huge mills, feller bunchers, skidders, processers and the rest. Nope! small forestry is different – small equipment for small operations. You may say more labour and less capital cost. Sure there are lots of old skidders around but one break down can take the food off the table for a long time. Don’t make big investments in logging equipment. The chainsaw, an Alaska mill or a bandsaw mill and small flat deck trailer is the way to go. But the investing doesn’t stop there. You will need a good wood drying kiln for drying hardwood, But just having dry hardwood lumber won’t do much for you. Once the wood is dry you will need a sander and specialty equipment for making a particular wood product. That was the simple part getting the wood and making a product. Here comes the hard part, selling what you have manufactured. Another day I will talk about marketing.

If you think that making something from the forest is an attractive lifestyle then you will need a place to establish. In most of rural British Columbia acreages are available a lot of them at 2 hectares (5 acres) and this is sufficient for a small operation. The price of acreages varies a lot but something with a house and outbuildings in central British Columbia can be available for around $250,000.00 Central BC is a great place to live all you need to do is create an opportunity.

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