Everything but the Oink

My wife Linda and I live in the woods outside of Nashville. We usually don't cut trees on our property unless they are dying, threatening a building, or come down in a storm. But, when they do come down, we try to make the most of each tree. Sausage makers say they use every part of the pig but the oink. I guess this is the woody equivalent.

Oak logs waiting to be sawn.

We are renovating a house next door to our property. Two big white oaks were growing very close to the house and were beginning to cause cracks in the foundation, so we had them cut. Another red oak had died recently, and a third was dying-and the power company took it out to prevent damage to the power lines. We pulled the logs to the front of our property to get them ready to saw into lumber.

Rot in the middle of the tree.

This red oak was the one near the power line. We had seen big mushrooms fruiting at its base, and the base of the tree was completely hollow, and the dark area of rot shown here extends an unknown distance up the tree. If you look closely you can see white zones of mycelia from the fungus growing in the tree.

Chicken of the Woods.

Right after the tree was cut, these huge Chicken of the Woods appeared on the roots and we harvested them. They have a texture similar to...you guessed it, chicken!

Sawing logs This is from a previous milling. Master potter, Timothy Weber is helping me roll a log up to the portable sawmill.

We hire a sawyer to come out to the property and set up a portable mill. This is from a previous milling. Master potter, Timothy Weber is helping me roll a log up to the hydraulic arms that will lift the log onto the bed of the mill.

Stacking and stickering

Timothy and I stacking lumber on the tractor forks, placing dry "stickers" between layers to allow air to circulate around the boards. This is tough work. Fresh wood is mostly water, and is very heavy. Logs weigh several thousand pounds, and freshly sawn boards weigh several times the weight of dry lumber.

Stacks of lumber ready for air drying.

The lumber is stacked into packages weighing under about 850 lbs., the capacity of my tractor's loader.

Lumber drying.

Lumber drying.

Here is a finished stack with a roof on top in the process of drying. The rule of thumb for minimum drying time is a year per inch in thickness.

Mill slabs.

This is the mill waste-the barky side that must be removed to square up the face of the log.


The small branches and tops are chipped up.

Vegetable garden

Mill slabs are used for raised beds in the garden and chips are spread between beds to help keep weeds down. The wood chips are not good as a mulch unless they are completely rotted. Fresh wood chips will leach nitrogen from the soil.

Preparing mushroom logs

We have saved several fairly clear limbs from about 3" to 6" in diameter to grow shitake mushrooms. I am drilling holes in the logs, about 6" apart, all around the logs.


Linda is inoculating the fresh logs with mushroom spawn and putting melted wax over the spawn. We get the spawn from the Mushroom People at The Farm. It comes in wooden plugs or sawdust form. Here we are using the sawdust spawn.

Mushrooms fruting

Some shitakes began to fruit about two days ago. These logs were inoculated about two years ago, and have been fruiting for about a year. These will probably be about 2"-4" in diameter when we harvest them.  The mushrooms will fruit several times per year and a log will fruit for several years.

Stacking wood

We split the remaining wood to help heat the house in the winter.