FATHER to SON
After taking over his father's logging operation, Dan Dalberg has added some new equipment to change with the times.
By Dave Lammers
Dan Dalberg is doing it all by himself these days. But the 41-yearold Northern Ontario logger-who runs a full phase operation near Dryden, Ontario-still relies on the wisdom of his father, Allan, who worked in the bush for 50 years. Just two years ago Allan sold the business to Dan and, at age 71, he's still getting used to the idea of retirement. Occasionally, he pays a visit to the work site to see how his son is doing. "He's doing all right," Allan says approvingly, while watching Dan operate a grapple skidder-one of the new additions to Allan Dalberg & Sons Logging. "He's done the right thing," he adds, referring to the changes Dan has made since he purchased the company in early 1999. Dan has kept the business pretty much intact, including Allan's original idea of getting paid to drive back and forth to work by doing his own wood hauling.
Today, Dan still hauls his own wood with the truck he purchased from his Dad. He also inherited a slasher purchased by Allan in 1990. Since taking over the business, Dan has added a grapple skidder and a processor, moving away from hand falling. He begins each day by firing up his diesel tandem log-haul truck for the drive from his rural Dryden home to the logging site. There he starts and warms up the skidder while performing daily greasing and other equipment maintenance. He skids log bundles with his Clark 666F grapple skidder until there is a load in the landing. In the meantime, he starts up the processor - a Risley Roto Saw head on a converted Link- Belt LS2800 C II excavator - and processes a load of wood, building half a dozen or so bundles, each just over a cord. He builds enough bundles for the next day, then starts the slasher and cuts 102-inch bolts which he loads on the truck bed using a heavy iron bunting block to tamp the load into place.
"Then I'm on my way out," Dalberg says, adding he begins his day at 5:30 a.m. and leaves for the wood yard at 4 p.m.-if all goes well. "That's the process in warm weather. In the winter, it gets a lot more confusing because you can't start four engines in a day. There's a huge start-up cost with these machines when it hits minus 30 C. I'll start one machine, the processor, and I'll do three days worth of wood. Then the next day I'll come out and I'll skid three days of wood and the next day I'll haul three loads." He adds that in the summer a smaller landing works better to maintain good site conditions. This past fall was especially wet and there were a limited number of places where wood could be piled. Dalberg notes the business has changed a lot since his father used to hand fall timber and operate a cable skidder.
Allan, originally from Emo in the Fort Frances area in northwestern Ontario, began cutting wood at age 18 and obtained his first District Cutters Licence (DCL) in 1967, hauling about five cords a day. Sons Dan and Wayne helped their Dad from the mid-1970s on- mostly in the summers. "I always wanted to take Dad's business over but he was doing so well and he was cutting most of the wood, so I would take holidays and help him out, and so would my brother," Dalberg says. Amechanic by trade, Dalberg helped his Dad with equipment repairs over the years.
So in November 1999, less than a year after taking over the business, he didn't hesitate to purchase a used Clark skidder that wasn't running for $30,000. He fixed a blown differential himself and says the machine has made a big difference in his operation. "It works great. Hauling those bundles around, my dad says he should have done that 20 years ago. "In Dad's day, there were always a lot of small contractors working the same method. They'd get adjoining blocks or there would be two guys working together. Here I am, I get a block and it might take me five months to hand fall it. Meanwhile, the larger contractors these days complete their block within a month. So I'm out hand falling for four months by myself." Since he is a mechanic, making the jump and going into more mechanical equipment made sense.
He purchased his processor this past summer, after reading about how Manitoba's Mike Huzel, of M & K Huzel Logging and Excavating, boosted his operation with the Ultimate processing head, produced by Quadco, mounted on a Cat 320, (see May 2000 issue of Logging & Sawmilling Journal). The Risley Roto Saw processor head, on a Link-Belt carrier, features the same 18-inch cut as the Quadco head and is used primarily by Dalberg to make bundles. "It's very versatile," he says. "It does the same job as Huzel's machine in Hadashville." Prior to acquiring the processor, Dalberg contracted the services of a feller buncher operator to cut and stack tree length piles. "Now I have the complete equipment team," he says. "I can make the bundles, skid them with the grapple skidder and I've got my buzz box slasher. I almost never use my chain saw." Dalberg, who has 13 years experience at the former Ministry of Natural Resources' Dryden Tree Nursery, knows all about the benefits of site regeneration through the use of a processor.
"I know that we should be leaving all debris on the site. All the limbs, the tops and the cones should be left there to decay. Plus, it really doesn't make sense to drag them to the roadside, because it takes more horsepower and traction and everything else with the skidder to move all those limbs to where you don't want them. It also allows the machine to ride up higher so there is less rutting and actual impact on the site. "The processor does a nice job. We've had the paper mill guys out. They're pleased with the quality it does." Dalberg is a shareholder in the Dryden Forest Management Company (DFMC), a co-operative that was formed when Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources shifted responsibility for managing Crown forests to the industry in the late 1990s.
The co-op-unique in that it is made up of more than 20 small contractors-is responsible for an approximate 80-kilometre radius around Dryden, part of the Dryden Forest. Dalberg's licence specifies a set percentage of the volume of wood to be harvested from the unit: approximately 3,000 cubic metres of conifer species-primarily black and white spruce and jack pine-and 1,000 cubic metres of poplar per year. All the hardwood is chipped by a contractor in the DFMC, Jim Fenwick. "On an annual basis, if we take good care of the forest, we'll continually harvest approximately that volume for a long, long time," Dalberg says. Dalberg's licence keeps him busy yearround, cutting, skidding, slashing and hauling and maintaining his equipment.
His wood goes to Weyerhaeuser's mill in Dryden. And though his truck is considerably smaller than standard tractor trailers, the 20-cubic metre capacity is sufficient for the average day's production. "The company loves it. They want fresh wood. There's less chance for the bark beetles to get at the wood and the moisture content is what it's supposed to be." He admits that as a full phase harvester he's a dying breed, and he notes the challenge of keeping up with new regulations in every aspect of his operation, from logging to hauling.
But with his training in almost every area of logging, Dalberg is determined to continue on at least another 10 years. He likes the variety on the job and he plans to keep all four machines as long as he can. The challenge of operating in Ontario's north includes the fact that equipment takes a pounding on the rock-laden Canadian Shield. "You have to stay really focused on what you're doing," Dalberg says. "All of these pieces of equipment, especially the processing head, are really easy to damage or wear prematurely." At home, Dan's wife Kim does the accounting for the business.
The Dalbergs have two children and back in Dryden, Allan Dalberg is still getting used to the idea of being a full-time grandfather. "It seems funny sometimes, now that I stay at home," he says. "But there comes a time when you've got to do it. At least it's good to see it go one more generation, anyways." While visiting his son at the work site one day this past winter, Allan watches Dan climb down from his skidder and come over and put his arm around his Dad. "When I've got problems, or need advice, I've got the best advisor going," the younger Dalberg says. "He's been able to mentor me very well, to pass on much of what he did and all the little things that make the difference between a good operator and, I think, an excellent one. "The process has changed. I've changed some of the equipment. But actually driving a wood truck every day, cutting a load of wood and hauling it, it's the same. I wouldn't give myself the longevity that Dad's had. But maybe I'm just like him. Maybe I won't want to quit either."
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