When you buy furniture from a store, the wood is coming from huge mills where trailer-loads of tree trunks are shaved down by a series of machines into piles of dimensional lumber and mountains of sawdust. That lumber goes into enormous warehouses, stacked row-upon-row and floor-to-ceiling. It’s delivered to factories where it goes through another series of machines lined up to cut, assemble, fasten, stack and ship vast quantities of mass-produced furniture pieces all over the world.
It’s an incredible, industrial, commercial web of manufacturing, designed to churn out a continual stream of goods that can be purchased, consumed, and replaced on an enormous scale in order to keep big businesses profitable. It definitely makes many things cheap and easily accessible.
Of course, when you make things by hand, the process looks quite different. When Joe was ready to make a shaving horse, we took a walk in the forest. He looked for a tree that would be the right diameter, and that would make sense to harvest. He found a Red Spruce that was growing too close to an Eastern White Pine. Harvesting the spruce would give more light to the farm and more room to the pine. This combination of benefits decided the fate of one Red Spruce, and down it came. In the work of a day, we had more light, more space, a pile of firewood, and spruce logs for a shaving horse and milled lumber.
But even more than that, we got a close-up look at the top of this really amazing tree. From below, you just look up at the undersides of towering branches…But when we took it down, we got to see all the incredible beauty that was happening far up in the sunny sky!
We also got to enjoy an impromptu spruce-tip harvest and make a few bottles of soda.
It’s impossible to enjoy all of these benefits on an industrial scale. Life is full of tradeoffs. Mass manufacturing makes life more convenient and affordable in many ways. But there’s a lot of added reward to working by hand on the homestead!
by Sydney Michalski