Wisconsin Brothers Tackle Tough Hardwoods

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Nordine Land Management Eager to Put New Track TimberPro Carrier into Service

LAND O’ LAKES, Wisconsin — It took a lot fewer than 40 hours for Mark and Jason Nordine to decide the track TimberPro with a Risley Rolly II head would be the perfect timber harvesting machine for Nordine Land Management Inc.
Mark used the TimberPro on a demonstration basis in the spring. This month, Nordine Land Management will take delivery of a new track TimberPro.
Mark and his brother, Jason, own Nordine Land Management. The men are fourth generation loggers on the paternal side of their family. Their father retired to part-time timber hauling three years ago after 42 years of logging. He sold his Timbco 415EX to his sons, and they bought a Valmet 840.2 eight-wheel forwarder to go with it. Mark operates the Timbco with a Risley Rolly II head, and Jason runs the forwarder.
The Nordines are trading in the Timbco-Rolly II, which has been in service for five years, on the new TimberPro-Rolly II, which was being factory built to order.
Jason and Mark began to think about a new harvester before he learned that TimberPro was going to offer a track machine. The ability to get a new harvester on tracks and to get it from Woodland Equipment, a distributor he knew well, was a promising scenario.
Their father dealt with Woodland Equipment Co. in Iron River, Michigan for many years. “We want to keep our business with Woodland Equipment,” said Mark. The dealership staff is very knowledgeable and personable, he said. There is little doubt why his father and Woodland had a business relationship that spanned 30 years, he added.
As for getting a new TimberPro with the Risley Equipment Rolly II, that was also an easy decision, said Mark. “The head is pretty much maintenance free,” he said. “We grease it every day and replace a couple of hoses a year.”
“We go after the rough wood that no one wants,” said Mark. The Risley Equipment Rolly II stands up well against the tough timber, he said. The Nordines work mainly in mixed hardwoods.
The Rolly II is a single-grip harvester for felling, delimbing and optimizing logs at the stump. Based on a carrier class ranging from 22 to 30 tons, it is suited for many types of applications in hardwood and softwood timber up to 24 inches in diameter.
When Mark used the track TimberPro demonstrator, he was surprised by its power and speed. “I didn’t expect it to be as fast as it was,” he said. “It’s really responsive because there are three pumps on it.”
The new TimberPro track carrier can move and process timber at the same time. “You’re getting more done and using less fuel,” said Mark. The three hydraulic pumps are also easy to access, as is the engine, because of the gull-wing design of the engine compartment doors.
Jason noticed the capability of the demonstrator machine, too. “I was working behind him,” said Jason. “It’s a night and day difference.”
Nordine Land Management has one other employee besides Jason and Mark. They hired Jerry Berger, a veteran truck driver, about a year ago. He has been a valuable employee to the Nordines, they said, operating a bulldozer when he is not driving the truck.
The company’s production varies with the type of timber it is working in and the conditions, noted Mark, and production can vary quite widely. They work steadily through most of the year except the spring thaw, roughly March to April.
Mark and Jason earned bachelor’s degrees in forestry from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich. Each had planned to become a forester, but pervasive changes in the forest products industry pushed them to rethink their plans. In his second or third year of college, Mark knew it would be difficult to find a job as a forester because paper companies and mills were trimming their staffs.
Both wanted to stay in the Land O’ Lakes area, however, so they began to consider logging. They had worked for their father and also for their maternal grandfather, who operated a sawmill. The sawmill stint made Mark realize that, across the spectrum of the forest products industry, he enjoyed logging the most. “I always liked logging better,” said Mark.
Land O’ Lakes, home to Nordine Land Management, is a village of about 900 people in the central portion of northern Wisconsin. The community is on the border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Nordine Land Management buys standing timber. The Nordines merchandize the wood, selling and supplying logs to mills that make paper, flooring and other products. About 85% of the company’s volume goes to a paper mill.
“We cut anything from a 20-acre piece up to 300 to 400 acres,” said Mark. “Forty to 80 acres are typical.” Some landowners will try them out on a tract ranging from 40-80 acres before contracting them to cut more.
Nordine cuts “mostly mixed hardwoods,” said Mark. “Twenty-five to 40 percent is aspen, depending on the year. Pine is 10 percent or less.” Average tree diameter is about 12 inches. The Risley Equipment Rolly II handles them easily.
The Nordines’ father made the change to cut-to-length logging about five years ago, transitioning away from hand felling with chainsaws. Among other things, the change enabled him to reduce workers’ compensation insurance premiums. “It’s a big safety factor,” said Mark of mechanized logging.
Mark got a lot of experience felling with a chainsaws when he worked for his father. Not having to negotiate waist-deep snow with a chainsaw is a welcome change.
Woodland Equipment is located only 40 minutes east of Land O’ Lakes. That makes it convenient to stop in, which Mark and Jason do.
Their education adds value to the services that Mark, 27, and Jason, 29, can provide to their landowner clients. They can provide recommendations about pest control, forest management and other issues.
Nordine Land Management is a member of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association and the Michigan Association of Timbermen. Both organizations are good sources of ideas and information.
Mark and Jason are committed to growing their company, and they give a great deal of thought to what direction to take it. They have considered expanding into firewood or other ancillary businesses, but not at this point. “We’re strictly logging,” said Mark. “We’re going to stay focused on our core business.”
Most logging jobs are within a 60-mile radius of Land O’ Lakes and to the north and east of the town. That puts them in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Mark and Jason ride to work together and use the travel time to talk business. “My brother and I complement each other,” said Mark. Jason handles more of the paperwork and administrative duties, and Mark has more responsibility for the equipment, but they can cross over as needed. “We have a good system of checks and balances,” said Mark.
They recently added a Komatsu D51PX bulldozer to build logging roads. In the past, they contracted for services to build logging roads.
“We’ve been in business three years this month,” said Mark in August. “We just experienced our first market cycle. We’re just pretty fortunate to have all these mills around.”
Surviving a down economic cycle is important, and Mark and Jason have tried to be prepared to look each day for opportunities to improve their business.
Both men enjoy the competitive aspect of bidding on timber. “My brother and I just think it’s the thrill of the hunt,” said Mark.
While Mark and Jason studied forestry, they also took business courses, and the business studies have provided a boost in running a company, said Jason.
Jason prefers to run the forwarder, and he normally does. He worked at their grandfather’s sawmill. As for the Valmet 840.2, it gets praise from Jason. “It’s been a really good machine,” he said.
The Nordines came up with a system of moving and handling the wood that makes them efficient. Pulp wood is normally bucked to 100-inch lengths. When Jason has filled the bunks on the forwarder, he transports the wood to a landing and off-loads it directly onto waiting trailers. They eliminated the step of stacking wood at a landing and loading trucks later.
“The beauty of the method is you’re handling the wood less,” Jason noted. The wood can be taken off the tract and transported to the appropriate market as fast as possible.
Nordine Land Management owns two specially designed crib trailers from Great Lakes Manufacturing in Suring, Wis. The trailers have six axles. “Michigan just passed a law that you don’t have to strap loads if there are two end gates,” explained Jason. The company has a third logging trailer as well as a lowboy trailer to move equipment. The trailers are moved with a Peterbilt semi-tractor.
The Nordines are committed to doing quality work for their customers and the industry. “We’re out there to do a quality job that we aren’t afraid to have inspected,” said Jason. He and his brother want to show how good logging can be. They want to leave a good impression for their own company and all loggers.
Jason enjoys the freedom of being in business, but, he added, “You have to be disciplined,” he said. Both men have “a good work ethic,” he said, which they learned from their father.
Even though their father, Jim, 68, is semi-retired and no longer in business, he serves as an important sounding board for Jason and Mark. They do not always agree with their father, but he gives them his best advice and supports them in their decisions.
Mark will be running the new TimberPro, but both men are eager to put the new machine into service. Nordine Land Management strives to work as efficiently as possible, and Jason and Mark have full confidence the tracked TimberPro will mesh with that objective.
The Rolly II is a control-style harvester and has proved just right for Nordine Land Management. There was no question that the company would stay with the Rolly II, said Mark. “This spring we had a job with a lot of power lines around it,” he said, and the fixed head made operations safer.
Nordine Land Management does select cuts and clear-cuts, and the Rolly II has proven effective in both.
The Valmet forwarder is equipped with Eco tracks in winter and muddy conditions for added traction. The Nordines also use larger tires on the machine.
Mark and Jason do most of the routine maintenance on the machines. When a machine needs service, though, they rely on Woodland Equipment.
Woodland has provided strong on-site support, too. For example, when the Nordines first began running their Timbco, they had an issue with the alternator. Woodland made a service call to deliver and install a new alternator right away.
The Nordines appreciate that kind of service because they want to provide the same strong level of service to their customers. “We like to have a good business relationship with everybody we do business with, from customers to vendors,” said Mark.
Both men enjoy hunting and fishing in their free time. Jason likes to hunt, fish and spend time with his family, but he laughed at the notion of having much leisure time.