Who are you, where do you live, and what do you do?
I retired from Chevron in 2015 after nearly 36 years of continuous employment. I worked at the Refinery in Richmond, CA as a boilermaker craftsman and my last ten years as a certified weld inspector. I grew up in El Sobrante and later purchased a home in San Pablo, not far from work. I had an exciting career working on numerous projects with wonderful colleagues who kept my job interesting. I also was a union representative for the Boilermakers Union most of those years and learned much about labor relations. I was well respected, but admittedly, retirement from it has been a big relief.
In 2014, prior to retirement, Kati and I got married. We had always planned that when one of us retired, we would get married and move into one home. The good life swept me from my feet faster than I could imagine. I chose Oregon over the Bay Area because Kati’s home and community was like paradise compared to my bachelor house. Oregon is clean and green with a lot of forest land, which I like.
I worked part time following retirement as a contract inspector and then as a consultant with an engineering firm following tank fabrication. These types of jobs come and go, and the timing was right as I was transitioning from California to Oregon. My wife prefers that I limit my continued employment and focus on retirement travel, home projects and time working at the family forest.
I also serve on two other Boards of Directors. The Estonian League of the West Coast (since 1999) and Rotalia Foundation (since 2016). These organizations are well aligned with my Estonian heritage in which I have been active throughout my life. My parents were born in Estonia and immigrated to America in 1949 following Russia’s illegal occupation of Estonia during WWII.
I was born in California and grew up learning the Estonian culture. While most thought it unlikely, Estonian independence was regained in 1991. Kati and I are proud of our heritage and remain active within the Estonian community in North America and Europe. Many in the USA have not heard of Estonia or its people, until perhaps recently with growing media attention. I like to refer to two wonderful documentaries with short movie trailers that can be watched; “To Breathe as One” and “The Singing Revolution.”
Val, how did you get attached to forest land?
In 1964, while growing up in California, my parents decided with five other Bay Area Estonian family friends to invest in a 144-acre forest property partnership. The property is near Philo, CA in Mendocino County. The idea was to have an investment forest property to go on the weekends that was private and peaceful, enjoy camping in the woods and allow the children to spend time together. We spent many of our summer weekends there. Many times, we were the sole family there. I had three brothers and two sisters, but most of the time it was the boys who went camping and hunting there.
The partnership joined together there annually, typically during summer holidays. Multiple campsites were developed. We enjoyed a common campfire area and a westward view point where a flag pole was hoisted. In 1972, our family’s boys were all active in Boy Scouts of America. Our San Anselmo, CA Troop-105 consisted of all Bay Area boys of Estonian descent. I have fond memories of an organized Scout Camp of our troop and a similar troop of Estonian boys from the Los Angeles area being at the property for a week. It was a grand time for us kids. We met new friends, learned a lot about living in the woods, survival techniques, pioneering, marksmanship and Estonian cultural scouting. To this day I have lifelong friends from this event. I remember enjoying pioneering and knot tying. We cut many small redwood trees for pole material and carried them back to camp where we built a large tower-gate over an entry road that cars could drive under, a couple of rope bridges among other small projects. When our families and guests came to visit at the end, we had a campfire show organized and a flagpole ceremony that was quite memorable for me. This made going to the property special for me. Although not always with a large crowd, I enjoyed the duties of property maintenance and camp development. My father was a hard worker and I liked following his footsteps. We planted Christmas trees in the winter and did a lot of shovel work on the roads and around camp. My father was a good hunter also. He taught my brothers and me how to be good hunters and marksman. This also helped me become attached to our family forest property as well as California’s public woodlands.
How long have you been a member of FLC?
I can’t remember the exact year, thinking it’s been more than ten years now. I discovered FLC while searching online about forestland ownership. I had recently experienced the dissolving of our family forest partnership due to parting interests among owners. I had made the decision to buy out the entire partnership. At the time, it was more of an emotional decision to buy and keep the property. It was a very expensive purchase for me. I was able to obtain a costly interest only loan. I wanted to learn all I could to help support my initial thoughts that this was the right thing to do.
How has FLC changed your experience or supported your efforts?
FLC was a great discovery for me. I began to learn so much to help me with my confidence, ownership direction and planning. I felt assured hearing that I had chosen a reputable Registered Professional Forester (RPF). I remember feeling so much better about my investment because I was so vulnerable to a catastrophic failure. My educational experience grows each year. I enjoy the annual meeting seminars and field day experiences. The newsletters always have something to learn from. FLC has many experienced forest landowners including many who are RPFs. They are all a very nice, wonderful resource and very much like family.
What are your ongoing plans for your property?
I harvested timber in 2003 to pay down my enormous debt. Property financing improved and all is much better in that arena nowadays. When I tell my friends that I wish I could buy more land and grow, they just shake their heads. I could not afford a NTMP for the first harvest and a THP served me well enough then. Planning forward, I learned the value of a NTMP and was successful at obtaining one in 2016. I also currently have a NRCS contract on 12 acres for a shaded fuel break. This is an exercise to evaluate the success of such a program for me. It is quite a job pruning the trees to specifications. Progress is moving along well and I look forward to when the masticator work begins this fall. I have until the end of 2018 to complete the work but hope to do so by next summer. 2017 is a great year for the redwood market but I am now thinking that my next harvest may best be planned for a few years down the road if market prices hold or improve. My shaded fuel break and timber stand improvements should benefit me. I want to plan for planting redwood saplings following the next harvest.