By Andrea Watts
Being a crew of two means father-son team J.D and J.R. Boehme find themselves switching between equipment and tasks while on a job site, but that suits them just fine.
In fact, a two-man team is keeping with the tradition that began nearly 40 years ago when J.D.’s father, Don, started Boehme and Son Logging Inc. Their motto is Keep it small and keep it in the family. This philosophy has allowed the company to weather recessions and take advantage of the profitable years. The added benefit is that it has also positioned them to enter a niche market that rewards quality over quantity.
Thinning Is the Thing
“We’ve done the high-productivity jobs for Pope Resources, Port Blakely, and Merrill and Ring, but now thinning has been our thing,” J.D. explained when I visited the duo at a recent job outside of Olympia.
For the past 10 years, most of their work has been through the Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG) and implementing forest stewardship plans for family forest landowners. This partnership required J.D. to earn FSC certification for the company, and he recalls that it was not difficult at all to become certified.
As a preferred provider for NNRG, J.D. and J.R. log small family tree farms that are usually around 20 acres and within one hour of their home base in Port Orchard, Washington. Depending on the landowner’s perception of logging, J.D. may find himself spending time before the equipment arrives explaining what the work will entail and preparing the landowner for what their forest will look like following the thinning.
“There’s a lot of work involved with these NNRG jobs, but I like the personal connection that is developed with the landowner instead of it being just a job,” says J.D. He has even allowed a landowner to accompany his logs to the mill, so he could witness the entire process.
Quality over Quantity
As for their mindset when approaching these jobs, it is quality over quantity.
“I have a thing about appearances,” J.D. says. “[I’m] as accommodating as I can be—as if someone was doing it for my mom and dad.”
Although thinning is the primary landowner objective, J.D. may also be asked to create wildlife trees by using the buncher to cut high stumps. On these jobs, the men take their time when hauling to avoid rubbing trees, and they lay down brush on the logging roads to minimize the compaction.
With just the two of them handling everything, J.D. and J.R. have to coordinate the hauling, falling, and loading to ensure they can finish the job on schedule. However, one of the benefits of working for small landowners is that the schedule can accommodate slowdowns due to weather, especially if the landowner is concerned about mud.
The Right Iron
On the Olympia job, which consists of thinning a second-growth Douglas-fir stand, J.R. is running a Kobelco 250 LC processor with a 622B Waratah head, both of which were purchased nearly two years ago. “Works good” is J.R.’s opinion, and J.D. says their upgrade is working just fine.
To move the logs, J.D. runs a John Deere 548D skidder, and where it can’t go, he swaps in a John Deere 650 dozer. Paired with these pieces is a Case 9030 log loader they have had for four years. And for hauling the logs to the nearby mills, they use their two Peterbilt trucks.
When it comes to their equipment portfolio, J.D. believes in duplicate, triplicate even, and “everything gets a name.”
“In the 90s, we bought everything brand new, which included three skidders, three log loaders,” J.D. says. Over the years, they’ve worked with Jim Wark, and he is the reason they started going to Cascade Trader.
“Their attention to quality also extends to every piece of equipment,” says J.D. “Once we get [a piece of equipment], it becomes part of the family,” J.R. says.
J.D. proudly shares a photo of P.D., their logging truck that won first place in a pulp load at the 2015 and 2016 Morton Loggers’ Jubilee. “People think our truck is brand new, but it’s like 30 years old,” J.R. explains, and J.D. adds, “But you won’t know [it’s that old] because of how good we’ve taken care of it.”
Just as J.D. followed his dad out into the woods, so too did J.R. “I’ve been riding in the truck since I’ve been in diapers,” J.R. says. “Hard to play with Tonka trucks when you have the real thing.” All during high school, J.R. spent summers working with his father and grandfather out in the woods, and he has spent the last six years working alongside his dad.
J.D. is proud to see J.R. growing into his role and shouldering more responsibility, including the mechanical maintenance of their equipment. “He’s done a fantastic job,” J.D. says.
Looking ahead though, the two-man crew many need to expand. Each year NNRG gives them more jobs, and J.D. expects they will always remain working but may need more people to handle it.
For now, it will continue to be a two-man operation although to J.D. and J.R. it still feels like three generations on the job. Their equipment bears the logo Don Boehme and Son Logging, referencing J.D.’s father. And as for the Case log loader, this piece of equipment has significance to J.D. “It was the last piece of equipment we—my dad, me, and J.R..—bought together.”
J.D. remembers when his dad could no longer work, he was always asking about the jobs. And when he neared the end of his life, J.D. would take him out to the job sites so he could watch.
“Dad was always a logger,” says J.D. “If he was still here today, he’d be here.”
On the Cover
Photo taken by Lindsay R. Mohlere at the Iron Triangle operation in John Day, Oregon
Father and Son Carry on Family Tradition
Father and son find themselves switching hats between equipment and tasks
Congress heating up forest management and wildfire funding
Riding the Cutting Edge
Iron Triangle Logging, example of leader in innovation and business savvy
From Crisis to Clean Up
Wolfpack Wood Recycling called in to assist when spillway issues occur at Orville Dam
Logging Tire Choice Impacts Bottom Line
Tires impact performance in the forest, but not every setup is ideal for every forest setting
Portable Grinders and Chippers
Community forests shaping the name of change