Think About It

     Let’s just get this straight right off the bat, I never said I was smart.  I may have graduated from college summa sue something but in the real world that doesn’t really matter.  In the real world at the end of the Gunflint Trail there isn’t a classroom of high school students begging to learn Spanish.  Then again, there probably isn’t a classroom of high school students anywhere begging to learn Spanish, but I could be wrong. I have been wrong once before. 

<%image(20090528-DSC00612_320x240.JPG|320|240|Hedstrom's Lumber Mill Tour Gunflint Trail)%>

   It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn when I accompany my children on their school field trips.  Whoever says field trips are a waste of time or money needs to come and have a talk with me.  I wrote about how much I learned going to the North House Folk School last week with Abby’s class and yesterday I got to go to Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill with her class.

     Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill offers tours during the summer and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so I was excited to tag along on the field trip.  We had a great tour guide to walk us through and explain the whole lumber mill process to us.  It’s an amazing place with huge noisy machines and sawdust flying everywhere. There’s different buildings for different parts of the lumber making process from de-barking, cutting, planing, bundling and more.

<%image(20090528-DSC00611_320x240.JPG|320|240|Gunflint Trail lumber mill)%>

     It was kind of sad to see how big of a tree it takes to make a little bit of usable lumber.  Since boards used for building are suppose to be uniform, flat and square there’s alot of waste from a round tree.  Luckily the waste isn’t wasted and it’s used to make other paper products like cardboard boxes, paper and more.  Even the saw dust and wood chips are sold or used to heat the buildings in the winter.

     It wasn’t until the tour was over and we were in a conference room discussing what we had observed that I had my Eureka moment.  We were learning about types of trees used and how different woods look when the presenter asked a question about the knot found on one of his boards.  "What do you think this knot is from kids?"  While I did pretty good answering his other questions this one had me "stumped."  

<%image(20090528-DSC00616_320x240.JPG|320|240|Gunflint Trail Lumber Mill)%>

   The knots on boards of wood come from the limbs of the tree.  If you are saying, "Duh, cumma sue." right now, then just have a laugh and quit reading, if not then continue on.  The limbs grow out of the main tree trunk but are trimmed off prior to reaching the mill.  But the limbs didn’t just grow off of the bark of the tree they grew from within the trunk.  Those round dark spots with their own rings are made from the limbs growing from within the trunk.  Since they are a different pattern you can push them out of the wood to create a hole quite easily.  The main trunk of the tree had to grow around the limb because it couldn’t grow through it.  To me this is amazing.

  I always wondered why some of our paneling had the exact same pattern of knots on it and now I know.  If you think about it then it makes perfect sense but who takes the time to think about things like this?  Some people just know these things and I’m not one of those people.  I’m continually surprised by what I can learn both on my children’s field trips and by experiencing nature.

     There is so much to learn if you just think about it.  From knots on trees, to why animals behave certain ways and even facts about the weather.  This morning there was fog hanging over the river.  Big deal, right?  But what that fog could tell me about the weather is quite the big deal.  It told me the air temperature was warmer than the water temperature, there was high humidity and no wind.  There’s just so much to learn if you just take the time to go on your kid’s field trips or just experience the world around you and stop for a moment to think about it.