In the late 1800s, pioneers that arrived to settle in central and eastern Oregon, southeast Washington, northern California, and southwest Idaho saw a very different landscape than the one we know today. Rolling grasslands and sagebrush steppe provided adequate breeding habitat and forage for wildlife species like mule deer and sage grouse. Only the occasional Western Juniper tree was visible on the ridgelines.
Following this time, a period of overgrazing of domestic livestock compounded by federal fire suppression policies allowed the tree to thrive. Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) is a natural survivor and is well adapted to the high desert. Wildfire is its only natural predator, and without a regular fire cycle to clear out new seedlings, its presence has increased exponentially over the past 150-180 years from its historic recorded range of 1 million acres to nearly 9 million acres today.
RENEE MAGYAR serves as Sustainable Northwest’s communications director. She can be reached at 503-221-6911 ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent office remodel in downtown Portland was designed with elaborate custom casework that called for one-of-a-kind oak panels. The project architect wanted to use a locally-grown wood that would reflect a sense of place and add warmth and visual appeal to the space.
We were pleased to supply custom panels and slabs of solid Oregon white oak, milled to precise specifications, for the casework, interior panelings, and other office furnishings.
The results are stunning: Modern yet warm, inviting, and reflective of the special personality of the oak selected for the project!
More photos are available here.
Here's an interactive map that shows where to buy our juniper landscaping timbers. This map shows all of our current dealers in Oregon, Washington, and California.
If you're in an area outside the regions covered by this map, please let us know and we can discuss ways to get you the wood you need.
We are fortunate to work closely with two different, yet not entirely dissimilar, communities. Each day we work with lumber producers from small rural communities far from urban centers. Each day we also work with contractors, homeowners, and woodworkers in urban communities all over the region, and the country. It is through our work with these diverse groups that we are reminded of all that we have in common and all of the goals we share with our fellow citizens, both rural and urban.
Many of the products we offer are shining examples of urban-rural collaboration. Juniper is one such example: The juniper industry is made possible through the hard work of ranchers, loggers and millers in the Eastern half of our state, but most of its users live in big cities, in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
At Sustainable Northwest Wood, we understand that this widespread urban support of triple-bottom-line products sourced through rural producers is how we rebuild our rural economies. It is how we heal the wounds caused by job loss, industry attrition, and the other undesirable effects and unintended consequences of a globalized world. We look forward to expanding urban-rural collaboration in the coming years.
We are proud to stand in the "radical middle," working hard to support our rural producers, to provide quality service and products our urban customers, and to celebrate our shared goals and successes.
The way forward is together. Please join us.
Great news for gardeners and landscapers in Southern California: Jones Lumber in Lynwood is now stocking our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers! Stock up here for all your raised garden beds, retaining walls, and other landscape projects.
Juniper performs exceptionally well outdoors and will last longer in ground-contact applications (30+ years!) than any other Pacific Northwest native species, including cedar and redwood. It is also a great substitute for chemical-laden pressure treated wood, making it an ideal wood to use for raised garden beds, retaining walls, trellises, arbors, and other installations.
Our Restoration Juniper is sourced from grassland restoration projects throughout the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of wildfire suppression have allowed it to take over what was formerly a grassland ecosystem. Its out-of-control population growth and thirst for limited water supplies lead to erosion and a loss of biodiversity.
Many acres of juniper are now being cut as part of a collaborative program to restore the grasslands, the groundwater supplies, and the habitat of critical species including the sage grouse.
Jones Lumber is stocking the following Restoration Juniper products:
- 2x6x8 surfaced lumber
- 2x6x8 rough lumber
- 4x4x8 rough timbers
- 6x6x8 rough timbers
Click here for more information about juniper, its exceptional durability, and its special story.
But there are so many options for choosing what wood to use for retaining walls. You know you want something durable, affordable, and non-toxic. But what?
Wood retaining walls must be:
- Chemical free, not soaked in creosote or pressure-treatment chemicals
- Extra durable in ground-contact settings
- Non-toxic alternative to carcinogenic railroad ties
- More affordable and longer lasting than cedar or redwood ties
- Responsibly sourced
Luckily, we have the perfect solution that fulfills all these criteria: our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers.
Chemical-free: These untreated, completely natural timbers are ideal replacements for creosote-laden railroad ties and pressure-treated wood.
Extra durable: Juniper gets its remarkable durability from a high content of aromatic compounds that make the wood resistant to microbial decay for many decades. Juniper can last up to 30+ years in ground contact settings, according to studies from Oregon State University.
Affordable: Our juniper landscaping timbers are also far more affordable than using cedar or redwood, other long-lasting species that come with a high price tag. In fact, juniper lasts far longer than these species -- providing a lot more bang for your landscaping buck.
Responsibly sourced: Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers are sourced from grassland restoration projects in the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of fire suppression and the unintended consequences of livestock grazing have allowed this species to grow unchecked, claiming millions of acres of sagebrush steppe and turning it into dense woodlands. These juniper woodlands suck up groundwater and are contributing to the decline of several key species, including the sage grouse. A collaborative group involving ranchers, loggers, environmentalists, and state government agencies is working together to harvest juniper trees, restore the grassland ecosystem and water supplies, and build a market for the wood. Your purchase of juniper lumber supports this effort.
Beautiful: Juniper also provides a rustic, organic look that is perfect for modern gardens and landscape design.
Please contact us to learn more about Restoration Juniper for retaining walls and other exterior uses.
Photos, from top: A recently-constructed residential retaining wall built with 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers shows juniper's rich colors and grain patterns; steps and a small retaining wall built out of 5x5 juniper timbers show off the silver patina that will develop over the years if the wood is left unstained; a large retaining wall built with 6x6 timbers stands at the University of Washington-Tacoma (photo credit Place Studio).
When most people think of Indow, they think of energy-efficient thermal window inserts, not lumber. But Indow uses a lot of wood to carefully crate their window panels for shipment across the country.
Indow is a Portland-born manufacturer of lightweight, attractive acrylic window inserts that homeowners can self-install to add energy efficiency and noise insulation in their homes. Indow's mission is helping people achieve environmental and financial harmony, reducing carbon emissions while reducing expenses. So they totally understand the benefits of FSC forestry.
The wood that Indow was previously using was low-quality, splitting at the ends and generating a lot of useless waste. It was of dubious origin and had no environmental certifications. Dissatisfied, Indow decided to find a better solution that more closely aligned with their mission and values. They reached out to us to see how we could help.
We partnered with our friends at Collins to find a higher-quality wood product with FSC certification. We now supply Indow with FSC certified Sugar Pine, sourced from a regional forest, in a higher grade, at an even better cost.
Indow now uses wood that matches their values of local manufacturing and environmental stewardship, and they're saving money doing it. We can call this a win-win-win.
Plank-style surfaces are another way to add warmth and texture, but show off more of the unique grain patterns and figuring that make each type of wood special. The plank-style tops are made with much wider pieces of wood, up to 8" wide; butcher block is traditionally made of thinner staves, smaller than 1 1/2" wide.
Plank-style tops really highlight the beauty, color, and grain patterns of our local wood species. Check out the options below, shown clockwise from top left: FSC Douglas Fir, Pacific Madrone, Tanoak, and our Willamette Valley Walnut.
We can craft these surfaces in any of our local wood species, and in any custom size to fit countertops, table tops, island tops, or other creative applications. Please contact us for pricing information.
Butcher block and wood solid surface countertops are a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms these days. And for good reason: The wood adds warmth, texture, and natural beauty to the space in a way that other materials just can't.
But wood needs to be well protected to keep water and wine from staining or damaging it. There are, of course, many products available to help complete this task. So many products. Too many products!
We break down the pros and cons of some of the most common choices.
Poly Vs. Oil
Polyurethane is a liquid coating that dries into a plastic film. This is great for sealing the countertop, but then there's a layer of plastic between you and your pretty new wood. Also, poly finishes generally have to be removed entirely before any scratches or worn spots can be repaired. Yes, the countertop will need to be sanded entirely clean before any new finish can be reapplied. Ugh!
Oil finishes penetrate down into the wood, bringing out the color and luster of the wood, and allow you direct contact with the warmth and distinctive texture of the wood. Oil finishes can also be spot-repaired without sanding the entire surface -- a huge benefit -- but they will likely require more frequent maintenance than poly finishes, especially in high-impact areas like around sinks or in food prep zones.
We generally recommend a natural oil finish for the butcher block tops we sell to homeowners due to the ease of application and maintenance. We sell the full line of Rubio Monocoat products and can include them with your butcher block order. Contact us to get pricing for your butcher block project, and check out the full line of standard and custom butcher block options that we offer, all made with locally sourced, sustainably harvested Northwest wood species.
What product to choose?
We've used lots of products over the years on our samples and displays, and we've polled our woodworker clients on their top choices. We generally recommend modified natural oil finishes for our solid surface and butcher block products because of the ease of application and maintenance. Here are some of the common choices, and the pros and cons of each:
In Portland, we hear a lot about nose-to-tail cooking, a movement which strives to use every edible part of the animal, not just the prime cuts. We're interested in expanding this concept to lumber products: finding uses for less-than-premium cuts of wood as a way to minimize waste and maximize the yield of the logs.
We've recently helped facilitate projects that make use of juniper jacket boards, which are generally considered waste and are most often relegated to the firewood pile. These are the outer slices of the log that are the first to get cut off when the log goes through the mill. The jacket boards still have the bark attached and show the curve of the tree trunk, with only one flat side.
Check out this fence that uses the jacket boards for the horizontal barriers. We love the rustic look, evocative of a split-rail fence but with more structure.
Our clients have also used jacket boards as siding for chicken coops, sheds, even for retail displays.
What kind of creative projects could you use these boards for?