Norwegian Wood (Latvian actually, but it’s a very good story)

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“When I awoke, she was gone, this bird had flown,
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood..”
–“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) “, Lennon-McCartney (from the Rubber Soul album)
Paying Attention: Amazing what you can find out when you read a label. Caught without firewood last week on a brisk winter night(I had failed to make my annual seasonal firewood stop at the old wood shack where I have been buying wood for over three decades–the warm winter weather might have had something to do with it), I was forced to do the unthinkable (for me): buy pre-packaged wood. The type that comes in bundles with labels on it. Sometimes the bundle is as simple as just a few pieces of wood wrapped with heavy duty Saran-wrap type covering, sometimes it’s more elaborate and has a handle. Looking at Fresh Market I found a bundle with of wood with the above label on it. It was reasonably priced ($6.95) and very well packaged: a polyurethane orange fishnet web wrapped around the bundle, two synthetic straps (one on each end), pre-cut and split wood, and one more synthetic strap nailed into one of the pieces of wood to create a handle. All in all–a very nice package. Took it home, cut the fishnet webbing away, and pulled out the label(above). After the fire was going (it didn’t take long), I took a good long look at the label, dominated by a vaguely Peter-Sellers-As-Inspector-Clouseau illustration of the main man, “Simple Simon”.  I soon got the impression that..really…this is educated wood.
The specs are impressive:
Premium Mixed Hardwoods
Kiln dried and heat treated at 160 Degrees for 75 minutes
Virtually mold, mildew and insect free (particular attention is made to insuring that plant pests don’t migrate from the firewood into your home).
Approved in New York and Florida and in California (naturally, California has a longer list of restrictions and warnings)
The company that produces this wood is called Essay Group and they’ve got it going on in wood. Check out their website.
Lots of interesting information for a pile of wood on the label but the thing that really caught my eye was this line: “Wood Origin: Latvia. Made in Latvia”.
When I saw that, I started to think about the processes and business model it took to get a pile of firewood to the United States and make it an attractive economic proposition for everyone.
Here’s the breakdown:
Find wood (in forest).
Cut it down
Cut into sections.
Trim and send to wood processing plant.
Put into oven (160degrees F for 75 minutes) to heat treat. (No chemicals added)
Prep for shipping.
(Now the next stage, packaging, could be done in Latvia or in the U.S…don’t know, but bet it’s cheaper to do it in Latvia)
Package the wood (bundle, wrap, strap, label, fishnet)
Ship to U.S.
Clear Customs.
To distribution warehouse.
To retail outlets.
On sale and into your home.
From just a business perspective, Essay Group must run an amazingly streamlined operation: look at all the steps, the prep, the processes, the shipping, and yet it’s economic and efficient enough for the final link in the chain, the retailer, to sell the Simple Simon wood and make a profit and you know Essay Group is doing OK as well.  Absolutely amazing, the whole thing.
So, with full respects to Lennon-McCartney, we have to finish with this:
“Isn’t it good, Latvian wood….”.
And the answer is yes.
The fire, by the way, was superb. I’m buying more.

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