According to NOAA and the National Weather Service, straight line winds, which is the descending air inside a thunderstorm, can cause damage equivalent to a strong tornado and can exceed 100 MPH. These straight line winds "can be extremely dangerous to aviation." They can also fell hundred year old trees. In June of 1998, a straight-line wind blew through southeastern Lawrence County, TN. One hundred thirteen trees on the Hillhouse farm were toppled. The vast majority of these trees were oak, but there were also some walnut, cherry, poplar, sassafras, sycamore, and lindwood trees uprooted or snapped near the base. Some sweetgum trees damaged by beavers were cut and used for rafters. (Note: sweetgum lumber twists; don't process it until you are ready to use it.)

Instead of simply letting these trees die and rot, Ken, along with son Kerry, father-in-law Paul Hillhouse, and good friend/first cousin Bruce Hillhouse, decided to harvest them. The process actually sounded pretty easy: go into the woods, cut off the limbs, load the logs, take them to the sawmill, and bring home lumber. The reality consisted of a lot of hard work.

But before the first log was harvested, Bruce took Ken out to meet Jonas Miller, an Amish sawmill operator in northwest Lawrence County. Mr. Miller must be formally introduced to a new customer. If he likes the gentleman, he will provide a time to bring in logs to the sawmill. If someone just shows up with logs without the formal introduction, the logs will not be cut.

Many (most?) of the trees did not fall in a flat, open area. Just getting to some of them was half the challenge. Once a viable tree was identified and the extraneous limbs removed, the log was measured then cut into usable lengths (8 ft., 10 ft., 12 ft., or 16 ft. lengths). These cut logs then had to be pulled off the hillsides using a tractor and chain. a cant-hook was used to turn the logs and maneuver them into place. Then, using the boom on the tractor, the logs were lifted onto Randy Hillhouse's 20-foot sided trailer. All logs had to be loaded facing the same direction. The trailer would hold approximately 7 large logs or as many as 11 smaller ones. Once loaded, the trailer would be hooked to the tractor which would pull it out of the valley. Once pulled up the hill on Sugar Creek Road, the trailer would be disconnected from the tractor and connected to Paul's F150 truck for the ride through town.

Loading logs on the trailer

Trailer load of boards.

At the Miller sawmill, Jonas' children would take pity on the old men (ages 47 and 55) and help unload the logs. These tiny children could move those logs like they were pick-up sticks, lining them up to go through the saw.

The saw itself was powered by a diesel engine – the only "mechanical" item used by the Amish. Unusable slabs would be loaded onto a lorry, and draft horses would be used to haul the slabs away. The good lumber would be put on a trolley and moved to a staging area away from the saw. Lumber would then have to be loaded onto the trailer, taken back to the farm, and unloaded piece by piece. A full load of lumber (enough to build a small shed) cost approximately $30 – not counting time, diesel for the tractor, and gas for the truck.

Our first building effort using green lumber was the barn. We have since built a tool shed, added onto the barn, and have enough lumber sawed to build yet another barn. Bruce added a two-story addition to his house. Scrap lumber was used to build a shelter for the billy pen and to build feed stands. This was recycling at it's finest.

The barn under construction.

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Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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