Wisconsin C-T-L Logger Does It Alone

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K&R Logging performs select cuts with aid of Hahn HSG 160 single-grip harvester

CABLE, Wisconsin — K and R Logging is a one-man company that does select cutting. Kris Rasmussen owns the business and operates all the equipment.
Yes, all the equipment. “I work it alone,” said Kris. “I do a lot of running between machines.” Kris has cut-to-length machines, a harvester and a forwarder. He works one part of the job for a time, such as cutting and processing, and then switches to forwarding.
Kris moves his equipment to a job site one piece at a time. “I’ve got an equipment trailer,” he said, that he uses to transport the machines.
For felling and processing, Kris uses a Hahn HSG 160 single grip harvester that he bought in May 2003; it is mounted on a John Deere 110 excavator that is also equipped with a blade on the front of the machine. The Hahn HSG 160 is used for felling, delimbing and bucking.
Kris has been cut-to-length logging since 2001. He started with a Hahn HSG 140 single grip harvester. He “was so pleased with the first one” that he got another Hahn processor, the HSG 160, when he upgraded equipment.
“It actually has surpassed what I thought it would do,” Kris said, referring to the HSG 160. The HSG 140 also exceeded his expectations, he added.
Kris provides custom logging services, primarily select cutting for private landowners. He also does some cutting to clear land for development. The select cuts account for about 95% of his business, and the land clearing jobs, 5%. Occasionally he does some work on county land, but he does not get involved cutting on state or federal lands.
Hahn Machinery worked closely with Kris to get the HSG 160 harvester configured optimally with the John Deere excavator. In addition, Kris owns a Valmet 644 forwarder (a four-wheel, 7-ton machine) and a John Deere 450E dozer with winch that is used for building roads and skidding on hills.
Kris also keeps a Stihl 044 chainsaw on jobs with him. “My chainsaw is always within 100 feet of where the processor is,” he said.
Kris began using a chainsaw when he was only 12. He was cutting down trees with an axe and a cross-cut saw when he was even younger. He severely injured his knee in an accident with the chainsaw, however, and his parents prohibited him from using one until he was 15. In the interim period, he kept cutting with an ax and crosscut saw.
It is difficult to pinpoint a time when Kris was not interested in logging. He could not recall one. His interest developed at a very young age and has been sustained and has grown.
During high school, Kris and his nephew, Troy Rasmussen, began logging with chainsaws and a small John Deere farm tractor. By the time they were 17, they had a Fordson Major tractor with a 3-point skidding winch. “We didn’t make much money, but it’s what we loved to do,” Kris recalled. “We moved a lot of wood with those old tractors.”
His father, Andry, worked with Kris on and off for many years and did not give up working in the woods until he was 81. Andry also had a plumbing and heating contracting business that he worked in for nearly 60 years. Although his other sons run the business now, Andry still goes in every morning to help out.
“He instilled a work ethic in all seven of his children that we live by today,” said Kris. “All the years he helped me, the only payment he would take was a chainsaw. I so much appreciate and enjoyed working with him.”
Kris also had an uncle who was involved in logging. In fact, the truck he uses to move his machines to job sites used to belong to his uncle. “It’s a 1984 International tandem equipped with a self-loader,” said Kris. His uncle bought it new in 1984 at age 70. When Kris bought it at his uncle’s estate sale in 2002, the truck had only 81,000 miles. Kris also uses the truck to deliver 8-foot logs to firewood customers.
Kris relies on a contract trucker to deliver his pulpwood and saw logs. “It’s my uncle, George Kurilla,” owner of Hillside Trucking Inc. in Ashland, Wis. “He does an outstanding job for us,” said Kris. “He used to have a logging side in addition to the trucking, but he sold that out a few years ago. He has helped me so much.”
“Probably 75 percent of the wood I produce is pulpwood,” said Kris, and the other 25% is saw logs. He frequently works in mixed stands of aspen, white birch, pine — white, red and jack — and spruce. He also finds himself working in hardwood stands with large volumes of maple and oak and some white birch. Adopting the Hahn HSG 160 harvester has made a big difference in his ability to recover saw logs.
Kris sells wood to the best available markets. Most of the oak pulpwood is sold to firewood customers.
“I usually work within a 25-mile radius” of his home in Cable, a community of about 500 people that is located in the northernmost county of Wisconsin. The northern border of Bayfield County meets Lake Superior.
Northern Wisconsin gets plenty of snow in the winter, and it can slow production. “Having the Hahn processor has helped a great deal in working in deep snow,” said Kris. “The last few years, we haven’t had a lot of snow,” he said, but sometimes Kris encounters snow 24 to 30 inches deep.
Kris does not put wheel tracks on the Valmet. Instead, he runs the forwarder in the path of the excavator when the snow gets deep. If the snow is so deep to impede progress, he uses the excavator blade to scrap a path for the Valmet.
“I average at least 11 months a year” cutting, said Kris. “I work with the weather.” Work slows for a while during the spring when the break-up brings road restrictions on logging trucks.
Before Kris began logging full-time 10 years ago, he logged only in winter. During the rest of the year he worked in his father’s business. Kris operated equipment for the plumbing-heating company, excavating for water and sewer lines. When the ground froze in winter, the excavation work came to a halt, and he turned to logging.
His father was one of the people who influenced him to invest in the first Hahn processor. “My father, at 79, was still working in the woods with me,” Kris explained. “He didn’t want me out there by myself. He said, ‘You have to get a processor’ for safety reasons and to save the physical strain this kind of works puts on your body.”
The other person who was instrumental in Kris’ move into cut-to-length logging was Dick Ludzack, a longtime friend, colleague and mentor. In fact, Dick, who ran his own one-man logging business, collaborated with Kris on the investment in the first harvester, the Hahn HSG 140. They split use of the machine, an arrangement that satisfied both.
“We really did the homework on it,” said Kris. “Dick knew someone who had a Hahn,” and that was a factor in their decision, too. The other logger that Dick knew recommended the Hahn processor.
“We tried out other processors,” said Kris. “We liked the simplicity of Hahn.” Being located in such a remote area, simplicity is important. “If something did go wrong,” he explained, “you could work on it yourself.”
Dick died tragically last year at age 44. “I miss him,” said Kris. “He was a good Christian and family man. We all suffered a loss. I respected him so much. Whenever I needed advice, I always turned to him. He had a great way of looking at things, both in life and the logging business.”
The Hahn HSG processor has been a good match for his work, according to Kris. “When you’re in red pine or balsam fir, it’s the best thing you could cut with,” he said.
Both the Hahn HSG 140 and the Hahn HSG 160 were reconditioned machines, purchased directly from the manufacturer. “Gary Olsen, the president of Hahn, is just a remarkable person,” said Kris. “He was always there with a positive note. He backs his product.”
If Kris has a question, an answer is only a phone call away. “It’s really neat to have that closeness” with the manufacturer, he said. Gary is a good role model for manufacturers, he added.
“Ken Weston at Hahn has trouble­shooted over the phone and been 100 percent correct in his diagnoses,” Kris added. “He is a real credit to Hahn.”
“They made sure everything was just right for me,” said Kris, speaking of Hahn. “They’re honest. They’re good quality people. I’ve been very satisfied.”
One of the things he learned from his father was to leave a job site in as good condition — or better — than when he starts the work, said Kris. It is a lesson that literally pays because that kind of reputation brings him business. “Competition for timber stumpage” is severe, said Kris. “I pay a little less, but I do a quality job and make good utilization of the tree.”
Ensuring a good, clean job site after the work is done involves several activities. For example, Kris runs tops through the processor to break them up, and puts the tops and limbs in the path of his equipment. The mat of slash material reduces rutting.
Landowners appreciate that kind of work to conserve the forest floor. In fact, Kris frequently works for landowners who are managing their forests at least in part for wildlife management objectives.
The John Deere excavator is less than 9 feet wide, and it can move the Hahn HSG 160 harvester head in close for most select cuts. “If I have a spot I can’t get into, I go in and hand cut,” said Kris. “I’ve got a lot of reach” because of the length of the boom on the John Deere.
If Kris gets into trees that are unusually large or have very big limbs, he reaches for his Stihl. “I still do 30 to 40 percent hand cutting,” he explained. In most instances he mainly uses the chainsaw to remove a few limbs.
The Hahn HSG 160 can buck wood that is up to 16 inches in diameter. One feature that makes the processor so versatile is the two-speed roller feed, which gives it the agility to move easily between hardwood and softwood.
Although he does not hesitate to use the chainsaw for taking off unusually large limbs, Kris often works in stands where the Hahn HSG 160 can handle every tree. “I used the processor eight or nine hours today,” said Kris when he talked with TimberLine in early August, and never needed to use the chainsaw.
Kris likes the variety of operating both machines and doing both kinds of work. “Running the forwarder is my favorite thing,” he said. On some jobs he is contracted only to provide services with the Valmet forwarder to move wood to a landing.
Kris takes on jobs that vary greatly in size. “I’ll handle anything from two acres to 2,000 acres,” he said. Roughly 20% of job sites are less than 20 acres.
Kris is a member of the Timber Producers Association of Michigan and Wisconsin. He is trained in logging methods of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a program of the American Forest & Paper Association. “I think it’s up to us to make SFI a positive thing,” he said. “I keep up my education on that every year.”
Nothing is more important to Kris than family. K and R Logging gets its name from ‘K’ for Kris and ‘R’ for his wife, Rhonda. They have two children, Kole and Emily. “One of the things we like to do as a family is canoe,” he explained. “We do a lot of family things. All of us enjoy being outdoors.” Winter family activities include sledding, hiking with snowshoes, and riding a snowmobile.
One of the things that Kris enjoys most about logging is being in the outdoors every day. He likes being in the woods and seeing wildlife and helping take care of the land.
He also is committed to continuing education and training. He would like to see forestry courses offered for loggers in his region. He would enroll in a minute, he said.
Kris and his wife are adding an office and a dining room to their home. Kris cut the logs and hired someone with a portable sawmill to mill them into lumber. When they originally built the house, he did the same things — cut the logs and had them milled by someone with a portable sawmill. Most of the wood in the house is white pine, including the floors. “It’s really exciting to have something of yourself” in the house, said Kris.