Quick 24 News
News Blog

Stream It or Skip It?


Big Timber debuted on the Canadian History Channel in 2020 before migrating to Netflix, where it initially cracked the trending top ten before settling into the streamer’s library of reality offerings. Now, big boss Kevin Wenstob, his wife Sarah Fleming, and their sons and crewmembers are back for a second big season chronicling their logging and sawmill operations in Vancouver, British Columbia.

BIG TIMBER: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

 
Opening Shot: A vast stretch of forested mountainside, mists clinging to its steepest reaches.Somewhere in there are high elevation logging claims full of prized red cedar.

The Gist: Kevin Wenstob, owner of an independent, family-run sawmill on Vancouver Island in western Canada, has two claims in the region, but as season two of Big Timber begins, he can’t log either of them. The license is spent on the older claim, and work was paused anyway after Kevin discovered a stand of “legacy” trees on the land. (Anything above two meters in diameter, and trees are afforded protected status by the Canadian government.) As for the newer claim, which rests at a thousand feet of elevation, conditions are iffy after a lingering winter. When Kevin and his sawyer Coleman drive up to check it out, a blanket of thick snow – “it’s like concrete” – means no logging is possible for at least a few weeks. And the logging season only lasts for sixteen. 

With his claims kaput for now and wife and sawmill co-owner Sarah Fleming still taking customer orders for highly-valued, decay-resistant red cedar, Kevin has to find wood somewhere. So he sources a few boats from his equipment yard and takes to the waters of Port Alberni and Hook Bay to look for salvage logs along the wild shoreline. It’s a low-intensity logging method that’s been around for centuries, and these days it’s even considered environmentally friendly. Kevin and his sons, millhand Jack and heavy equipment mechanic Erik, are joined by Coleman and Kevin’s nephew Jake on the log hunt, which involves targeting a log, rigging a choke with a heavy chain, and yanking it off the sand with the power of a landing barge’s outboard motors. The team then corrals their catch with the aid of a smaller boat, the trusty yellow and red “Mchappy,” and prepares them for grading and sorting on shore. 

A hunk of cedar log weighing in by the ton is worth thousands in the marketplace, and Kevin’s log salvaging pivot can bring in upwards of $30,000 a day. That’s good money, and will make Sarah and the customers happy. But what about the government? As it turns out, when the legacy discovery forced a work stoppage, Kevin and his team had to leave logged wood sitting on the old claim. And without access to that product, he’s facing down the possibility of a financial penalty to the tune of a million dollars. Will Kevin’s waterborne salvaging operation keep the sawmill afloat until snowmelt enables work on the new claim?     

Big Timber
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? In aesthetic and vocation, Big Timber runs on a parallel with Gold Rush and Gold Rush: Whitewater on Discovery, where independent teams run by a big personality lay claims in Canada’s Yukon territory and proceed to risk life, limb, and livelihood to conduct placer gold mining operations in the rough-and-tumble wilderness.

Our Take: Kevin Wenstob calls it his boneyard. It’s a massive cache of worn-out, blown-out, rusted-out, or otherwise decommissioned equipment. But it’s really a toy box, and the source of endless viewability for a show like Big Timber, where so much entertainment lies in watching people have to work a problem before they can work for real. In the first episode of the second season, “Ready to Start,” what isn’t at all ready to start is The Seacrest, a sturdy but weatherbeaten vessel that in a former life was a crash recovery boat for the Royal Canadian Air Force. So, of course, it’s sitting dormant in Kevin’s boneyard. He’s the kind of guy who just has stuff like this lying around. There’s a great sequence as Erik Wenstob, who knows his way around an old engine, approaches the Seacrest with the innate curiosity of his work, tinkers with a few parts of the boat’s enormous twin diesel engines, and nurses the sleepy motors back into operation. Well, one of them, anyway. So what do they do? They look to the next boat, a landing barge, and Erik spends a workday fabricating metal safety mesh for its windows. You don’t want 5,000 pounds of errant cedar log careening through the cabin window of your watercraft.

It’s the best thing about shows like this, watching large and often specialized machines go into action to solve workplace problems on a grand scale, and Big Timber does it with the best of them – think Deadliest Catch, think Wicked Tuna – and it has that other crucial component, too, which is a hearty sense of character. “Easy Street is just around the corner,” Kevin assures an exasperated Sarah with a grin, as their sawmill looks at bare supply bays and he’s finagling a fleet of log salvage boats out of the rusty margins of his boneyard. At the end of the day, she believes in his ability to see the big picture, and we do, too. Something’s always gonna break. All you gotta do is get in there and fix it.

Sex and Skin: None, just some innuendo. (See below.)

Parting Shot: After a long day of boat engine mishaps, building a dock out of ancient wharf pieces, and sourcing, choking, rolling, and pulling cedar off the shores of Vancouver Island, Kevin and his team have a throng of 12 good-sized logs queued alongside the Mchappy. “We’ve only just begun!” Kevin says happily. Maybe he’s a Carpenters fan. 

Sleeper Star: Last season on Big Timber, it appeared to hoist thousands of tons of dock pieces onto flatbed trailers. Now, “The Monster” has returned. It’s Kevin Wenstob’s gargantuan army green crane he got from surplus US military stock, where it was once used to load missiles. Watching him hoist the bulky landing barge with The Monster and nothing but a C-hook, four chains, and two tenuous safety lines is utterly captivating. 

Most Pilot-y Line: “I’ve gotta get wood, and I’ve gotta get it now!” 

Our Call: STREAM IT. Fans of Discovery’s suite of vocational reality shows will get the feel of Big Timber right away, where logging and sawmill operations are a balance of danger, opportunity, and Murphy’s Law.

Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges





Source link

Comments are closed.