A well-known Finnish song tells a story about woodsmen, the heroes of the forest. Soon the lyrics will only be a memory, as woodsmen are a rare breed nowadays. For the moment however the real experts of the forest still remain in people such as Kimmo Tiihonen and Taito Laine, whose skilful hands take care of the most demanding fellings.
Where no machine can go, Kimmo and Taito are sent. Men on piecework pay work long hours in the shade of the forest. Coffee is drunk quickly and then the saw starts again. Working in very cold or hot weather is not a pleasant task but neither of the men complain. For them the benefits of the work: independence, freedom and being outdoors, surpass the disadvantages.
- I’ve done this for my whole life, for 27 years, Taito Laine says.
Taito still remembers the days when there were a multitude of woodsmen compared to the current situation. Then machine replaced muscle and forestry equipment took over most of the woodsmen’s work. Nowadays forestry equipment handles what was previously done at sawmills.
Taito’s and his work partner Kimmo’s jobs are based around regeneration and clearing work in young forests. Clearing is done in the winter alongside the cutting. The planting of saplings starts during the spring and during the summer months the sapling stands are tended. They have not had to be unemployed for one single day.
- This job is at its best when, for example, we can fell young birch forest after a forestry machine. The work is most challenging when the contract is situated several kilometres from the nearest road and the land is rough and difficult, says Kimmo Tiihonen.
A woodsman can set their own working hours. Taito and Kimmo do contract work five days a week from early morning until late afternoon. They don’t have many breaks during the day, because if they stop moving, they get cold very quickly. They don’t light a fire to keep warm either.
- There is no time for that because we get paid according to the number of logs, says Taito.
One understands the rush when one hears what kind of pace they cut at. On the best days the number is over a hundred depending on the diameter of the tree. About a week is spent on one plot before they move to the next one.
- My biggest contract was probably 850 cubic metres, but it did take some time, Taito laughs.
It is easier to work in such a physically demanding job if one is in good shape. Kimmo Tiihonen engages in cross-country skiing during his spare time.
- If I make the mistake at home of laying on the sofa after dinner, I cannot get up all evening. But when I start to exercise right away, my muscles won’t seize up.
Even though he is sometimes exhausted, Tiihonen cannot imagine doing anything else.
- Sometimes in the mornings I look forward to going back into the forest and working - I wouldn’t do this work if I didn’t enjoy being in the forest.