March, 2001





Snowman Thin


Snowman Thin Harvesting team develops an efficient thinning process 

By Kurt Glaeseman 

Just how steep is steep? On Roseburg's Snowman Thin outside of McCloud, Calif., the drop can be as severe as 40 to 50 percent, but the harvest plan calls for thinning, so that's what John Moriarty and the Violetti brothers are doing - in terrain that would have been almost impossible to log fifty years ago. The Moriarty-Violetti combo have developed a process that is quick and efficient, with an average of ten loads of biomass a day headed to the chipping facility in Weed, where‚ salable logs are separated from chip material. "With this steep ground, we can't get chip trucks up here, so we're doing whole tree logging," says Mark Violetti, who headquarters out of Red Bluff. 

"We're in our third year with this harvest plan, and we've proven we know how to hang on ." The plan calls for general thinning of Doug fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, cedar and some oak. The Roseburg foresters have whitemarked trees they want kept, and both Mark Violetti and John Moriarty agree that the loggers can work easily with the Roseburg foresters' plans. "The 15 to 18 foot spacing," says Violetti, "allows maximum growth and provides a measure of fire suppression. When we leave an area, it's a clean, healthylooking forest ." The fouryear thinning project is scheduled to finish in 2001, with the "new forest" showing a slightly higher proportion of white and Doug fir. 

Although there is a handfaller who cuts targeted trees that are larger than 22 inches, most of the cutting is done by Moriarty and his Timberjack 2618. He couldn't be more pleased with the machine, which he has owned for five years. “I got it from George's Equipment in Redding, who's been real good. If I were to buy another Timberjack, I'd buy it from him,” says Moriarty. “I think this machine is one of the best ones out there, and I've worked with several others. It has good visibility, and I like the self-leveling system. The boom set is off-centered to the front; the weight is down low, and we can access steeper ground. And there's almost zero tail swing.” Moriarty maneuvers and dodges around the trees sporting the Roseburg white marks. 

The others he cuts, holds, moves and places in a convenient bunch for the skidder. He trims brushy undergrowth, and occasionally re-trims a stump so it does not exceed 12 inches. When he zeroes in on a 110-foot fir, he drops it precisely into a prepared alley. Mark Violetti grins: “I like watching this. It's like John is out here picking flowers.” A long time resident of Shasta County, John Moriarty is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was also a California logger. 

John has driven logging trucks and has cut chip material for cogen plants in Lassen, Shasta and Plumas counties. In 1995 he started doing the mechanized logging for the Violetti brothers. He is obviously proud of his thinning work here for Roseburg. "It's been 40 years since this stand has been touched. It truly needs thinning," says John. "This is a great area to reeducate people who are worried about logging. The guys did a good job of selecting and marking the trees. 

Mark Violetti beside a whitemarked tree (Save This Tree!) at Snowman Thin on Roseburg forest. 

When I get done, the stand looks clean and good ." The bunched stems are taken by skidders to the landing - Lee Sisk and Tom Brewster on D7G's and Leroy Agnew on a 528. Because the ground is so steep, the skidders have chains. When they leave the landing, they pack slash back out to the trails, which eliminates a huge pile of debris and returns potential nutrients to the soil. Violetti estimates that in a year or two, the slash will have decomposed and become a natural part of the forest floor. At the landing Eric Taylor operates the Koehring 6630 log loader. He sorts, delimbs and loads the stems onto logging trucks. 

John Moriarty pauses to comment on his satisfaction with the Timberjack 2618 from George's Equipment in Redding. The Timberjack 2618 can cut logs up to 22 inches and maneuvers easily on rough terrain.

He tries to leave the stems as long as possible, since they have to be reprocessed anyway when they get to the chipping site in Weed. The Violettis have had the 1988 model Koehring since 1993, but they did purchase the Model 314 CTR new from Bill Williamson (California Equipment) in Redding. The setup works well for them; Taylor can quickly bundle the tops, sometimes grabbing a dozen of the smaller ones at a time. "A good feature of this operation is that the combination stroke delimber and loader eliminates a guy and allows us to have smaller landings ." says Violetti. With no one on the ground, it cuts down significantly the potential for injuries to people ." Mark Violetti and his brother Gary grew up in Santa Rosa and started trucking in 1979. In 1983 the brothers started logging together out of Red Bluff - conventional logging with big logs. 

But after the big Fountain Fire, they converted to mechanical logging with delimbers and fellerbunchers and got into the paper chip industry. Presently Brother Gary runs the chipping side at the Weed mill. They have yet another operation going at Feather Falls, where they are cutting tan oak into logs, paper chips, grinder fuel, and whole tree chip fuel. At Snowman Thin there's an advantage to hauling out whole trees. They can be stored and debarked according to a time schedule that is more compatible with the market conditions. The Violettis have an older Timberjack C90 at the mill in Weed. The log trucks dump the stems in rows, where they are sorted by the Timberjack operator Ray Williams, who delimbs them and then puts manufacturing logs into one pile and the rest into an area designated for the chipper. 

A Cat 966C jockeys the chip material up to the chipper - a Peterson Pacific DDC 5000. Although it is not computerized, Gary Violetti keeps everything moving at a fast pace: "This is easy for me. It's like driving a car. You just get used to it ." He's being modest - it isn't all that easy. The grapple will take 22inch logs, but the big cull logs can bog it down or stall it. The big Peterson chipper weighs around 105,000 pounds and the V12 800 horsepower Cat engine can burn 20 gallons of fuel per hour. It can't chip anything shorter than seven foot, as it can't "grab" a shorter stem. 

The debarking is done by two big flail drums rotating with big chains. The hydraulic floor just keeps shoving the material along, and the bark falls out into a waiting cavity. The central stem hits a five-foot diameter chipping wheel, which sorts as it chips. All the "undesirable" chips (usually too long and too large) go out the side and eventually to the slash pile. The good chips are blown into a waiting van (truck); under ideal conditions the 50,000 pound load is filled in 20 minutes. There are two vans, so one is always either loading or hauling chips to the mill.  When they all shut down, production slowed to almost nothing. But stockpiled mass in Weed kept the chipper operation going.  

The Peterson Pacific DDC 5000 chipper puts out an average of ten loads of 50,000 pounds each per day. The chipper reaches out to "grab" smaller stems brought in by the Cat 966C. 


Back at the landing, Eric Taylor uses the Koehring 6630 for sorting, stacking, and loading.


Steep terrain requires use of chains on skidders


The Violetti Brothers (Mark on left; Gary on right) at the Weed chipping yard. Mount Shasta in background. 

The Violettis like to average ten loads of chips to the mill each day. The landing at the mill can remain active longer than the logging site at Snowman Thin. Usually the logging site winds down in January or February. With repeated freezing/ thawing cycles, the roads get muddy and cut up, so work has to stop. Stopping the one side doesn't seem like a major setback, but two years ago, the Violettis had three sides going at once on the Snowman Thin. 

Both Mark Violetti and John Moriarty have enjoyed their work at Snowman. They are obviously proud of the rejuvenated forest they will leave behind, but they also know their success is partly due to the cooperative relationship they have with the Roseburg personnel. Sometimes it is difficult to have a forester monitoring the day-to-day logging, but Violetti and Moriarty actually like to see District Forester Dave Hammonds out in the field with them. "Hey! We're all in this together," says Violetti. "Forest owners, foresters, loggers, and the whole industry have something to gain when we leave behind a new and healthy forest."

Kurt received a Master's in English at Stanford, and taught for 33 years in Sunnyvale and Willows, Calif., before becoming a freelance writer. He has written for a variety of Northwest magazines, including Northwest Travel, Sports Afield, and Western Horseman.


This page was last updated on Monday, November 10, 2003