Late October, 2010. Hurricane Richard had residents and tourists scrambling for shelters, it blew down a lot of trees, wrecked homes and directly impacted over half the population of Belize. The official damage estimate is almost 25 million US dollars. A man was killed by an escaped jaguar and two fishermen appear to have drowned. Despite all that, it was not the overall catastrophe predicted by many.
At Barton Creek Outpost, in the hills of western Belize, it was more of a nuisance than anything. We did the appropriate amount of scrambling around, moved things to higher ground, worried about falling trees and flooding and then left the jungle. The Outpost was left in the capable hands of an Irishman and an Englishman who assured me afterwards they did not get really drunk and sing ancient songs about their homelands.
Winds and rain came rolling into downtown San Ignacio about midnight. From the safety of Rosa’s Hotel we watched the vacant streets take a lashing from the wind and rain but saw no real damage. I enjoyed being up late with my wife watching the storm.
Back at Barton Creek Outpost there was no significant damage except we lost our two rope-swings. Quite a few trees did fall and we were fortunate that they didn’t crush anything man-made this time. A combination of Mennonites, volunteers and campers helped us clear a couple bigger trees, cut them up and send them floating way. The wood from those trees was not useable but our Mennonite neighbor, Amos, searched the 165 acres to see if any fallen trees were good for lumber. The initial report is yes and we should collect a few hundred dollars from the harvesting of the downed trees.
The fallen trees are cut up with a very large, two person, cross cut saw. Two strapping young Mennonite lads can do some serious cutting with one of those babies. These guys can cut trees nearly as fast as a chainsaw and it’s an impressive display of technique and power watching them work. If I’m the one doing the cutting, I prefer the chainsaw.
Regardless of chainsaws, crosscut saws, hurricanes or regular tree harvesting, taking a tree requires a permit from the local Forestry office. We have harvested a few trees from the property and obtaining a permit to drop the occasional tree is usually easy. There is a cabana and an outhouse here that were made from lumber we harvested.
The cut trees are dragged out of the jungle by a horse or team of oxen, depending on the weight. Oxen are stronger. At some point the logs are loaded onto the appropriate horse or oxen drawn cart and taken to one of two sawmills nearby. One sawmill is hydro powered while another is horse powered. Both are amazing.
Once the Mennonites cut the wood into boards it is either stored and used by them or sold to lumber yards or woodshops in San Ignacio. I have hauled a few loads of lumber from Barton Creek to San Ignacio and their product is always well received and gets top dollar. Top dollar at the moment is $1.37US per board foot for grade “A” Mahogany.
It is against the law to ship raw Mahogany out of Belize yet it is still done every day by many lumber yards and furniture companies. People here know it and it’s a damn shame. Don’t tell anyone though, it’s a giant industry with big league players.
What is legal is the shipping of furniture made from legally harvested trees. Our friends at Artisan Woodworks produce some beautiful work and ship it all over the world. Check them out at www.artisanwoodworksbelize.com. They have the talent and experience to make anything you need and they have a great line of Mahogany & hardwood patio furniture that is reasonably priced and ships out nearly immediately.