…So I arrived in lak Sao around 2pm and spent the next 4 hours catching up on the harvest. I quickly learnt that a lot of the trees were still developing the black wood and that we would need to be very selective with our choice of trees for harvesting and that it seemed liked we would need to come back in 3 or 4 months time to finish the rest of the trees. It was a very late wet season this year , in fact it didn’t stop raining untill 2 days before my brother and Sammy arrived (5 days before I did.)
The first few days were spent checking out the various plantations that we had bought trees from, counting them all to find out how many had been stolen. Over the past 6 months we knew that some trees had gone walk about which was obviously a real concern for us. Once people start realising that these kits do work we are going to have even bigger troubles with theft. We discovered a few more had gone missing but not to many. We also came across someone wanting to sell us some wood which we recognised as being one of our stolen trees! After much investigation we realised that it was a tree of ours but one that he legally owned. What had happened a few months prior was that someone was caught with a stolen tree and had to pay a fine which we received 80% of it and the police the other 20%. With the fine being paid the tree did not have to be returned to us which is why it was still out there on the market.
Apart from counting trees we were also testing trees for dark wood and cutting down the ones we thought contained it. These trees were then taken back to the house for processing.
We had three teams set up. The first had about 5 people in it and basically they would strip the trees down close to where the dark wood was located. This white wood that they were cutting off the logs were then cut into smaller pieces for drying as we will sell them to a local business who will distil them for oil.
The pieces then go onto the second team of about 7 people where using chisels they get rid of any remaining white wood so that only the good stuff is remaining.
These pieces then go onto the final team of around 9 people who are the real craftsmen who can easily spend up to 4 hours on a piece whittling it down ever so slowly so that only the best wood is left.
Each tree needed to be recorded and followed through the system working out what kind and what quality of pieces came from each tree. Three processes also meant three different types of chips left behind which also needed to be recorded and dried separately. So although not really physically demanding you had to be on the ball.
The carvers worked from 7.30am – 12 noon. Then 1 pm – 5pm and then again from 7pm – 9pm.
The cooks were great and cooked up a wide variety of great food.
It got to the stage where we decided not to cut any more trees down locally as they were still developing the black wood and that we needed to wait a few more months.
There was one last plantation however that none of us had ever seen. Whenever we attempted to get there either we were denied permission by the government or the road was impassable.
Obviously one of us needed to get there to have a look and if any trees were found worth harvesting then I was going to stay on while Paul and Sammy headed home.
No 4wd’s were available for rent locally so we waited for one that was owned by the company that sells the kits to arrive. It took three days to get there as it broke down en route and the driver had to then travel back by bus to the capital to find a part. It was a Sunday and everything was closed so he had to wait for Monday. No parts available so one had to be made then he caught the bus back to the car, fixed it and finally drove on to pick us up.
So Paul set out for the long drive to check out the plantation. This included some very rough roads plus a ferry across a river which is really a pontoon pushed along by a tug boat the seriously looks older then the titanic. While some good trees were found it was decided to wind up the harvest and wait a few more months before starting again.
Part three coming soon….