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Firewood Is the Linchpin for New York Farm
Firewood dealer uses and sells Timberwolf Mfg. processing equipment, splitters and conveyors
By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 1/7/2003
LIMA, New York — Roland Michalski, the owner of South Creek Farms, has managed to combine several endeavors he enjoys into a business. "We do firewood," he said. "I do a little farming, hay for my horses."
He also sells Timberwolf Mfg. firewood processing equipment, Metavic log loaders and trailers, Loflin skid steer loader attachments, and Mahoning outdoor wood furnaces.
"We use what we sell," said Roland. He has Timberwolf equipment in his firewood business and heats his home and shop with Mahoning furnaces. All the activities that fall under the South Creek Farms umbrella fit together very nicely. The firewood business is the linchpin. Roland has been in the firewood business full-time for six years and sells both green and seasoned firewood.
Roland buys logs of mixed hardwoods from a contractor who delivers them to his farm and offloads the wood into a pile with a Prentice loader. Roland has a Metavic Wheeler Jr. trailer equipped with a grapple that he uses to move the logs onto the live deck of his Timberwolf PRO-MX firewood processor.
(Any number of different types of equipment can be used for moving the logs, he noted, such as a skid steer or a front-end loader. Indeed, for a time, Roland used forks with a loader bucket on a backhoe.)
Roland categorized his Timberwolf machine as a medium size firewood processor. It is powered by a 47 hp Perkins diesel engine and has a 404 chain on the cut-off saw. With 16-inch diameter logs being processed by a six-way splitter, he can produce one and a half to two cords of firewood per hour, he said.
Running at full throttle, the Timberwolf PRO-MX can cycle as fast as once every nine seconds, according to Roland. However, he prefers to operate the machine at a little less than full throttle in order to reduce wear and tear on the components.
A feature of the Timberwolf PRO-MX that Roland really likes is the Top Roll Drum Drive, a patented system incorporated by Timberwolf. It holds the log securely, he noted; set in the ‘float’ position, the drum maintains continuous contact on the log. And it works at the same speed as the feed trough chain.
"Another nice feature," he said, is that "everything is hydraulic except the electric switch for the bar oil pump." The chip separator, or drop-through grate, integrated in the chute is a big plus because it "eliminates a lot of fine stuff" so that "just clean wood" is fed into the outfeed conveyor and into the truck. To keep the operator dry, Roland’s firewood processor is situated under the overhang from his shop and out of the elements.
Timberwolf’s PRO series firewood processing machines are available with interchangeable wedges. Roland makes use of a main wedge to split into two pieces. He also has four-way and six-way wedges.
"The one thing I really like best about using the Timberwolf processor — I don’t get tired,"said Roland. Even when he was still working part-time in construction during the day and "came home and did a couple of decks," he didn’t get tired.
Roland occasionally gets some big logs from his supplier. Being a Timberwolf dealer, he also has Timberwolf log splitters. "If I get logs over 23 inches, I process them on a regular splitter," he said.
For splitting those big logs, he frequently uses the Timberwolf TW-5, a splitter that is powered by an 11 hp Honda engine and has a hydraulic log lift. Roland maneuvers the log onto the lift, which picks it up and puts it on the splitter. He also relies on Timberwolf conveyors for his firewood processor and the splitter.
South Creek Farms is in Lima, about 15 miles south of Rochester, an industrial city close to the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Roland sells firewood within a 25-mile radius of Lima. Wood is seasoned by early cutting and open air drying on a blacktop pad. Roland does not palletize or wrap bundles of firewood for sale, but he is considering adding wrapping operations sometime in the future.
In the western New York region where South Creek Farms is located, most firewood is sold by the face cord, which is one-third of a full cord — a full cord measured at 48 inches high, 48-inches wide, and 8 feet long. "We do on average 800 face cord per year," said Roland.
Roland’s son, Kurt, helps out in the business on nights and weekends. Roland’s wife, Carol, does much of the administrative work for the business, including bookkeeping.
A native of Germany, Roland moved to Rochester in 1957. He worked at a construction equipment sales company for many years. While he was still employed at the construction company, he began his firewood business and representing Timberwolf. When he began working in his firewood business full-time, he used a homemade splitter and a hay conveyor to get the job done. In something of an understatement, he said it was "tough" going with the equipment he had at the beginning.
After seeing a brochure for Timberwolf machines, Roland wanted to buy a firewood processor. When he learned there were no Timberwolf dealers in his region, he saw an open niche. He packed up one day at 3 a.m. and drove to the Timberwolf headquarters in Rutland, Vt., to talk about a dealership, which he got. Soon after Roland had his first of many Timberwolf processors. He started with a Timberwolf PRO-M pto-powered model and used it for two years.
"I’m in the unique position of using the processor when new," he said. "I try not to do any more processing than I have to, and the cost of the unit is discounted according to the time on the hour meter" when it is sold.
Roland also sells Mahoning outdoor furnaces; one heats his home and another heats his shop. The two outdoor furnaces burn waste wood — end cuts, slabs and the occasional "real gnarly piece" of wood that comes along as a by-product of the firewood business.
Roland likes working at every facet of his business, but he particularly likes "dealing with the public" and going to trade shows and demonstrating Timberwolf equipment. In his spare time, he enjoys riding his quarter horse.
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