Wood business a changing enterprise
By Joe Moskowitz
Whether the weather is unseasonably cold, or warm, or whatever normal is, people need to heat their homes this time of year. We are surrounded by trees. That’s why so many people in the area do what even the first settlers did – they heat with wood. But even something as basic and seemingly simple is being affected by technology and the relatively deep pockets of the City of New York.
Many people who heat with wood chop it themselves, or buy it from a small supplier. A few lucky people are given their heating fuel from someone who needs to get rid of a tree that is in the way or fell during a storm. And there are others who buy it from people like John Blish. He owns Mountain Valley Logging
The Clovesville business is quite a bit more elaborate than most firewood businesses. It has radiant heated drying facilities and provides everything from small fireplace bundles that are sold in convenience stores and supermarkets, to supplying restaurants, to the needs of a homeowner who is just trying to stay warm.
Blish told the News that for the home heating part of the business, there has been almost no change in the number of customers for years, but he said he is selling much less wood.
It’s not the weather, it’s the technology. He said the newer stoves use far less wood to provide the same amount of heat. He says one of his customers has a 2,500-square-foot home. He used to use about 15 cords of wood per year. With the new efficient stoves, he now uses about seven cords of wood.
Blish said the newer stoves make his business a little more labor intensive. The stoves use smaller chunks of wood, which means sometimes he has to add an extra step to the processing to make the wood small enough to fit. And Blish said the cost hasn’t changed since 2007. He charges $200 per cord.
He has other business. He provides wood for restaurants like Oakley’s in Arkville, and the Peekamoose in Big Indian, as well as the entire “Dinosaur” BBQ chain. He says they like wood with higher moisture content like oak and cherry because they want the smoke. He says for heat you want less moisture, and as a large-scale commercial provider, state law requires him to sell drier wood for heat.
Supplies are tight
But Blish said getting enough wood to supply his business is getting to be a problem. He has to drive as much as 40 miles away in order to get the wood. He says as the New York City Department of Environmental Protection keeps buying up land, there are fewer trees that are available. And he is concerned that there may not always be enough of a supply to meet the demand.