Connecticut Contractor Keeps Clearing

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CBI Machine Proves Versatile for Grinding Land-Clearing Debris, Making Mulch

DANBURY, CONNECTICUT — When Percy Ferris, 40, completes a land-clearing project, all the trees and stumps are removed so the site contractor is ready to start construction.
“We remove everything from the site so the site contractor is ready to start his work,” said Percy, president of Total Landscaping and Tree Service. “It’s a package we offer, including clearing, grubbing, grinding, and removal. That’s what most contractors want today. They view any leftover forest products as a nuisance.”
Percy started his company in 1989 after having worked as an electrician following his graduation from Henry Abbot Technical School. “I worked part-time cutting trees while going to trade school,” he recalled. He enjoyed working outdoors so much that he began his own landscaping and tree service company. “From there, the business grew into a residential tree care business and then into a land-clearing operation.”

Clearing Land

All Percy’s work is contracted through word-of-mouth recommendations. This says a lot about the quality and reliability of his work. He clears sites ranging from building lots to 40 acres for residential, commercial and industrial construction. Percy works within a radius of about 60 miles of his home in Newtown, which is located in southwest Connecticut near the New York state line. The terrain in western Connecticut is hilly with lots of ledge and rocks. The forests contain oaks, maples, birch, hickory, tulip, pine and spruce.
Depending on the season and the size of the project, Percy will run one or two crews. They work five to six days a week. Percy uses a Timbco 425EXL track feller-buncher with a 22-inch ‘hot saw’ for felling. Average tree diameter is up to 24 inches, but it is not uncommon to cut 30-inch trees. “The biggest tree we ever removed was an ash tree about six feet in diameter,” Percy said. Daily production averages four to six loads of wood.
The trees are processed into pole firewood and saw logs, and the remaining material is processed by chipping or grinding. The firewood logs and saw logs are transported to his company’s six-acre yard where they are sorted, stacked, and hauled later to customers. The remaining logs are moved by a Timberjack 460 grapple skidder to a landing and processed by a Morbark Model 27 whole-tree chipper or a Continental Biomass Industries (CBI) Magnum Force 600T track horizontal grinder.
“We pull all the stumps from the site using our Volvo 290 and Caterpillar 325 excavators,” Percy explained. The stumps are loaded onto trucks and moved to the landing, where they are sheared using a CBI stump shear. “We shear them into pieces to remove all the dirt, rocks and debris from the stump so we can work with just the wood product when it passes through the grinder,” said Percy. The grindings are transported to the company’s yard for storage until spring, when it is processed further into mulch.
The primary grind by the CBI Magnum Force 6800T horizontal grinder reduces the wood to large splintered pieces from 2-12 inches. “We will regrind that material using a Morbark 12XL tub grinder and the CBI 6800T to produce landscape-grade mulch,” Percy said.
Ferris Mulch Products is Percy’s other company; it is focused on mulch operations. Most of the landscape mulch is colored black, brown or red. “We sell to commercial wholesale and retail customers,” said Percy.

High Production

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Percy can’t say enough about how much he likes his CBI equipment, which he purchased in the spring. “We have a tub grinder, and we were looking to get a horizontal grinder for a few reasons,” he said. The CBI 6800T is versatile, he said, because it can grind whole trees and stumps and also perform re-grinds to make quality mulch. “So what I have here is basically one machine that can do just about all the operations we require.”
The CBI 6800T is a real time-saver, Percy reported. “Because it’s such a high-production machine, it cuts a lot of time out of handling the materials. It’s a very aggressive machine. We are grinding about 35 percent to 40 percent faster now than before we got the CBI.”
According to CBI, the Magnum Force 6800T, which is mounted on tracks (T), can grind wood as fast as a 30-inch chipper. It’s powered by a 1,000-hp Caterpillar 3412E diesel engine. Features include a unique clamshell top cover of the grinding chamber for easy access for maintenance and repairs, built-in pre-screener, shear pin protection, CBI’s IntelliGrind controls and Replace-A-Face hammer system. The machine weighs less than 80,000 pounds so it can be transported safely and legally on a standard lowboy.
Percy researched other manufacturers of horizontal grinders before making his decision. “I had been talking with Aaron Benway at CBI for quite some time regarding this machine and the track grinders on the market in general. I really felt comfortable working with Aaron and the CBI staff. I met several people from their facility and got to know them well. I saw the machine at work on a demo and was very impressed with what I saw. I also talked with other companies who are using them in other parts of the country and they spoke very highly of the CBI staff and their equipment.”
The CBI grinder is easy to use, added Percy. “It’s high-tech but very simple to run once you get it set up for your operation. There are many programs this machine can be set up to handle with the computer control systems it’s equipped with. Once you have it set up for your operation, the only thing you need to do is make screen changes on the machine, depending on what product you are grinding.”
CBI’s service and technical assistance, before and after the sale, has been excellent, Percy said. “Their service is spectacular. CBI has been great to work with because if there was a minor issue, they didn’t treat it that way. So I can speak very highly of them for this kind of high-quality service. In this industry, as well as others, time is money, and if your machine is not running, that shuts down your entire operation. Their technical support has also been fabulous.”

Business is Steady

Despite the downturn in residential construction, Percy’s business has remained steady. “The residential market is slow, and this means we have seen a big change in the work we do, which is more commercial and industrial projects. We’ve been very fortunate in being able to have steady work.”
This year has been a fairly good one for land clearing. “It hasn’t been overly hot or wet, but it really depends on the terrain we happen to be working on at any particular time,” said Percy.
Total Landscaping and Tree Service recognizes that customer satisfaction is the most important. “We always leave the site as neat and clean as we possibly can,” said Percy.
The staff at Total Landscaping and Tree Service does all the equipment maintenance. “Maintenance, including changing oil to welding, is done right on our site by our staff,” Percy said. “Our equipment is inspected daily before we start out. We check the tips for tightness and wear. We also do periodic maintenance.”
The company operates three tractors and five trailers for hauling material because “it’s all about customer service,” Percy explained. “We decided to have our own trucking fleet so we can haul our products and get every job done efficiently. Having our own trucks means we can do all our own scheduling.” With two Kenworths and one Peterbilt tractor, the jobs are always running smoothly.
Percy is quick to credit his staff of eight with the success of the company. “We have a fantastic crew, and most have been with us for five to 15 years. They are a very dedicated and hard-working group of people. I also have to credit my wife, Beckie, who is a big part of our operation in that she handles all the office operations. We really couldn’t manage without her.”
Safety in this business is any owner’s primary concern. “We all know this is a dangerous industry to be in, and anything can happen at any time, but we give our employees the best we can in making our workplace as safe as it possibly can be,” Percy said. Benefits for employees include vacation time, a 401k retirement savings plan and health insurance.
When Percy isn’t working, he likes to spend time with his wife, 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and playing ice hockey.