March and April 2007
SMALL NICHE, BIG RESPONSIBILITY
Demmon Logging Company specializes in small-acreage logging
By Kurt Glaeseman
Private landowners know their trees have economic value, but the big guys just aren’t set up to load and unload machinery for what might be a day or two of logging. Demmon Logging to the rescue. Nathan Demmon, of Cottage Grove, Ore., has discovered and capitalized on an often-overlooked logging niche — harvesting timber in tiny private parcels within fifty miles of his home. That means a small crew working on relatively small machinery on plots of land ranging from one to ten acres.
Demmon is well-rooted in the Oregon timber industry. His grandfather came to Cottage Grove in the 1940s, and his father worked in the woods with both his father and son. (They invested in one of the first available chainsaws, which Nathan still owns.) His wife Christina keeps the books and does the advertising, a chore that may soon be obsolete if Demmon continues his trend of getting the next job by recommendations from highly satisfied clients.
Neat & Tidy
Demmon claims that what he is marketing is specialized small-acreage logging and a tightly honed philosophy. “Home owners don’t like messes,” says Demmon, “so being front-lawn clean when we leave a job gets us more work.”
A recent job outside Eugene is a perfect example. Owned by a guy who develops shopping centers, the acreage is actually a steeply sloped front and back yard to a beautiful home. The indigenous Doug fir had grown only too well, partially blocking out the panoramic view of Eugene. The owner decided a clear cut would be a good strategy, and the contractor had to agree to leave the land in plantable condition for Ponderosa pine seedlings in December or January. Demmon got the job.
Everything had marketable value. If the sort produced 36 or 40-foot logs, they were trucked to Seneca in Eugene, a quick six-and-a-half to seven mile trip by conventional log truck. If he got 18 footers with at least a 3-inch top, he could send them to Goshen Forest for fence posts, at a better price than sending them to a chip mill. Until three years ago, Demmon had his own ’79 Kenworth self-loader, but now he has the logs trucked by an independent, John Pardovich, from Elmira.
Staying Close to Home
How far will Demmon range? “Well, let’s see,” he glibly reflects, “I won’t take a job on the other side of the Mississippi River!” He’s worked from Portland down to Roseburg, both on the coast and in the interior valley. But Demmon likes to work close to home, and the jobs keep turning up. The last three jobs were almost side-by-side— one neighbor recommended him to the next, so the machinery didn’t require a long haul.
Demmon enjoys interacting with private owners who are intensely interested in their smaller plots. One owner donated 50 loads of logs to his church…and when he was done logging, Demmon found an envelope with a sizable tip on the seat of his pickup. “That may be a rare thing,” says Demmon, “but it made me feel good. I like to do a good, clean job, and the tip was powerful reinforcement.”
Big Choices for Small Sites
The machinery line-up is carefully chosen for the jobs Demmon seeks. The 229 CAT shovel has about 13,000 hours on it, and Demmon praises it as a good machine: “Unfortunately, it’s too big for some of my smaller jobs, but when I can use it, I get it in there, and oh man, it does the job!” The 518 CAT skidder is a particular favorite, and the Hahn HTL 300 processor has been good to Demmon. But sometimes it simply pays to rent a small machine for a tight job.
Jim Patten has worked with Demmon for twenty years. He can handle the wheel and track machinery, but he often hits the slopes with either his 371 or 395 Husky. Patten’s great grand-father immigrated to the Cottage Grove area, where he logged and helped build a gigantic flume near Saginaw. Today Patten is an independent cutting contractor. “Jim and I have been doing this together for a long time and never had an accident. We’re both still whole. Jim’s competent and careful — logging accidents are usually from lack of caution or from partying fatigue.”
The third member of Demmon’s crew is none other than his twelve year - old daughter Kacie. She handles the shovel with ease, and often runs small rental equipment. When it’s time for equipment maintenance or repair, Kacie is right there — Would that be a 5/8 or a half-inch socket? I’ll get that roll of electrical wiring in the back of the pickup. Shall I turn on the switch?
“It’s got to be rare,” says Demmon, “to find a twelve-year-old who actually gets excited about getting up early and heading out to the woods.” Working with London Lumber Another adjunct to Demmon Logging is cooperation with an unofficial partner named London Lumber. Scott Early and his brother Spencer have an LT40 Hydraulic Wood-Mizer set up near Demmon’s place in Cottage Grove. Demmon and the Earlys are good friends. Demmon keeps his eyes open for specialty logs like madrone or maple or cedar, which the Earlys can mill and sell to retail stores. But more important are the chip logs that Demmon can supply. These fir and spruce logs, which don’t have to be graded, are milled into 4-by-6’s and pressure treated for landscaping uses. “Nathan has a good eye, and he understands what we can use,” says Scott Early. “If we are looking for something special, we tell him. Sometimes he brings in some real winners, something that may have been ignored or thrown away.
We enjoy opening up the logs and seeing what’s inside. You never know until the first cut — it may be just ordinary or may have beautiful color or grain. And there’s an expanding market out there for wood like madrone.” When Demmon does the small jobs, he can capitalize economically on his ability to salvage almost everything. There’s nothing wrong with saving a “trash” tree for a sawmill that knows where to market it.
Like everyone else, Demmon faces some real challenges. He decries the rising cost of fuel and insurance, and points out ruefully that the price for logs doesn’t rise as fast as the cost of logging. Another problem is disposal of slash. It’s getting harder and harder to burn. “If we are within 12 miles of Eugene, it’s hard to get a burn permit. I’d like to figure out a reasonable way to get rid of slash without burning, but the dollars and cents have to balance. We’ll keep working on that.”
Demmon’s sense of humor never leaves him. He’s proud to be a logger, but he can joke about it. “When people ask me what I do,” he grins, “sometimes I tell them I’m a landscaper. In small parcels and yards, that just doesn’t have a bad connotation.” But Demmon may have to change his own job description:
This page was last updated on Wednesday, April 25, 2007