A winding country road, rolling meadows, an old mill stream, a historic cemetery: the little town of Reading, Vt., in Windsor County is a quiet little neighborhood in the Green Mountain State. The population was 707 at the 2000 census.
Even with his dog Boo along for the ride, surviving a dog-eat-dog economy in uneasy times is a difficult task for Jim Cloud, owner and operator of Cloud Logging & Trucking LLC. But with his wife Kim doing the books, his new Bandit 3590 chipper in the woods, and trusty Boo by his side, Jim and Cloud Logging & Trucking are in it for the long haul.
Cloud has seen his fair share of ups and downs in the logging business. After his three-year stint in the service, he did some cable logging and then in 1990 he bought a truck.
“In the late ’90s, I went more towards the trucking and out of the cable logging business until 2005 when I decided to go back into logging. I knew the chainsaw cable thing wasn’t going to work, so I decided to do some mechanized logging,” Cloud said.
After purchasing a feller buncher and other equipment, he decided to purchase a chipper from A. Lewis Equipment LLC in Middlesex, Vt.
Cloud first purchased a series of smaller chippers from a competitive manufacturer.
“They were real nice chippers, which I kept for awhile — until I went to the show in Bangor, Maine,” said Cloud, referring to the Northeastern Forest Products Equipment Expo. There, he purchased the Bandit Model 3590, a 30 in. (76 cm) diameter capacity machine with 700 hp (522 kW).
“Our Bandit 3590 is very well built, and the quality is much better than our old chipper,” said Cloud. “While the feed rate is a little slower than our old chipper, we can put a lot more material into it. The hole size is just incredible. We used to have to take most of the short blocks back in the woods because I was afraid they would get stuck between the feed wheels and the throat on our old chipper and we’d have to climb inside and draw them back out. However, with our Bandit 3590’s feed wheels positioned right next to the drum, there is no chance of that, which makes life much easier on the landing.”
The ability to chip virtually any wood thrown its way saves Cloud time and money.
“Sometimes it’s hard to justify this machine for the amount of wood I’m doing right now,” said Cloud. “But I figure that if I can pay for it without wearing it out, I’m not hurting anything.”
Cloud noted that he’s done more than 60 loads on the same set of knives.
“I’ve touched them up two or three times and am not ready to take them out yet.”
The 3590 can handle whole trees and extremely limby material up to 3 ft. (.9 m) in diameter.
Cloud also is pleased with the fuel consumption he’s getting out of his Bandit 3590.
“We’re running right around 15 to 20 minutes to a 45 ft. box and about 10 gallons per box — or eight gallons on the average,” Cloud reported. “I’ve done a 45 ft. box in less than 15 minutes. We don’t fool around. It’s got a huge opening and I can put a lot of pieces in that hole.”
With the currently oppressed markets, Cloud hauls anywhere from 15 to 20 loads a week.
His nephew, who used to work full time for him, now just works two to three days a week, laying wood down. His trucker helps out, too.
“When we are going full time, sometimes we can go 25 to 30 loads a week, but right now we’re only totaling anywhere from 15 to 20 loads a week between the chips, round wood pulp and the logs.”
What does the future hold for Cloud Logging? At the moment it’s a wait-and-see game.
“It was weird how the light switch went out this spring,” said Cloud. “All last year the mills in Ryegate, Vt., told me there were only 14 weeks they could run at full capacity because they couldn’t get enough wood — and now there is too much. The round wood and paper markets were the main reason, and the round wood market just dried up so everyone started chipping more. If we can get the paper markets back up, that will mean more round wood out of the tree — there won’t be as much wood to chip.”
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