The frost is nipping at your nose and the snow is squeaking underfoot. You can hear the felling site long before you reach it: the rumbling of the harvester and crackle of falling trees. Ilari Märkjärvi, operating the massive forestry machine, doesn’t mind the freezing cold weather.

- Freezing temperatures aren’t an inconvenience to my job, in fact almost the opposite. The forest roads and even the wettest fields have finally frozen over, but I daren’t drive over the bogs yet. If a machine this big were to sink into a bog, it would need another one just like it to pull it up, Ilari Märkjärvi explains.

The short winters of the past few years have been busy harvesting seasons for  Märkjärvi. Thousands of cubic metres of wood are felled within the space of a few months, mainly in the regions around Finland’s Lake Päijänne and River Kymijoki. Märkjärvi, who works for Koskitukki’s contractor Risto Kangassalo, has sat in the driver’s cab of a forestry machine for almost half his life.

- I’ve managed our family’s forests together with my dad since I was small. After I finished primary school I went to night school for a time, but that didn’t work out. I spent all of my free time doing forestry work. But nobody in this business has ever asked to see any diplomas. You either know how to do the job, or you don’t,  he feels.

Precise work

The quality requirements for harvesting wood are extremely demanding. A forestry machine operator has to continuously assess his own work in order to ensure that the harvested wood is up to standard and in keeping with sustainable forestry.

Ordinary winter conditions mainly assist mechanised harvesting, but during the past few years the periods during which the ground is frozen and covered in snow have been relatively brief. This presents problems both for felling and transporting the wood.

- If the ground doesn’t freeze, winter harvesting can’t be performed as usual. It causes problems for the felling itself and the storage and transport of the wood, explains Koskitukki’s Harvesting and Forest Management Supervisor Kaisa Erola.

She co-operates daily with Koskitukki’s contractors, plans the wood harvesting areas, storage and transports. Trusted operators also have a role to play in the wood business.

- Sometimes a deal entails that a familiar operator is employed to do the harvesting. It’s important for forest owners to know that their forests are being managed by someone who is one hundred per cent up to the task, says Procurement Supervisor for Koskitukki, Sami Nurminen.

Annual forest management

Forest owner Kari Kokkala, from Miekkiö in the municapility of Hollola, has from time to time stopped by from his dairy farm to watch Ilari Märkjärvi working in the forest. The 15-hectare site was processed in ten days. Altogether 1,300 cubic metres of wood were harvested and, most interesting to the owner, more than 100 cubic metres of birch pulpwood.

- The result looks really good, says Kokkala, who has a five-year history with Koskitukki.

Silvicultural measures and small-scale thinnings take place almost every year in Kokkala’s 60-hectare forest. Sami Nurminen wishes he could see similar levels of forest management more often.

- There is a world of difference between forest owners who live right on the edge of their forests and those that are second or third generation owners living in the city. The harvesting of old family-owned forests is often avoided up until the last possible minute because young forest owners don’t understand the value of thinning for forest management, or the fact that no tree lasts forever. If people don’t fell trees, nature takes care of it before long, he explains.

Kaisa erola, Sami Nurminen and forest owner Kari Kokkila following Ilari Märkjärven work.

Kaisa erola, Sami Nurminen and forest owner Kari Kokkila following Ilari Märkjärven work.