big wood debuted on the Canadian History Channel in 2020 before migrating to Netflix, where it first 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 crew are back for a second big season chronicling their logging and sawmill operations in Vancouver, BC.
BIG WOOD: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening shot: A vast expanse of forested mountain, mists clinging to its steepest parts.
The essential: Kevin Wenstob, owner of an independent family sawmill on Vancouver Island in western Canada, has two concessions in the area, but as the second season of big wood starts, neither can connect. The license is spent on the old claim, and work was halted anyway after Kevin discovered a stand of “legacy” trees on the land. (Anything over two meters in diameter and the trees are given protected status by the Canadian government.) As for the new claim, which lies at a thousand feet above sea level, conditions are uncertain after a prolonged winter. When Kevin and his sawyer Coleman drive up to check, a deep blanket of snow – “it’s like concrete” – means no logging is possible for at least a few weeks. And the cutting season only lasts sixteen years.
With his claims kaput at the moment and his wife and sawmill co-owner Sarah Fleming still taking customer orders for high-value, rot-resistant red cedar, Kevin has to find wood somewhere. So he gets a few boats from his tackle yard and heads to the waters of Port Alberni and Hook Bay to look for salvage logs along the rugged 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, mechanic Jack and heavy equipment mechanic Erik, are joined by Coleman and Kevin’s nephew, Jake, for the log hunt, which involves targeting a log, rigging a choke with a heavy chain and rip it out of the sand with the power of a landing craft’s outboard motors. The team then gathers their catch using a smaller boat, the trusty yellow and red “Mchappy”, and prepares them for grading and sorting ashore.
A ton-weight piece of cedar log is worth thousands on the market, and Kevin’s log salvage swivel can fetch up to $30,000 a day. It’s a lot of money and it will make Sarah and the customers happy. But what about the government? It turns out that when the discovery of the legacy forced a work stoppage, Kevin and his team had to leave some downed timber on the old claim. And without access to this product, he faces the possibility of a financial penalty to the tune of a million dollars. Will Kevin’s waterborne salvage operation keep the sawmill afloat until snowmelt allows work on the new claim?
What shows will this remind you of? In aesthetics and vocation, big wood runs in parallel with Gold Rush and Gold Rush: Living Waters on Discovery, where independent teams led by a prominent figure claim Canada’s Yukon Territory and continue to risk their lives, limbs and livelihoods to conduct placer gold mining operations in the rugged wilderness .
Our opinion : Kevin Wenstob calls it his boneyard. It’s a massive cache of worn, blown, rusted, or otherwise decommissioned gear. But it really is a toy chest, and the source of endless visibility for a show like big wood, where so much fun is watching people have to solve a problem before they can work for real. In the first episode of the second season, “Ready to Start”, what is not ready to start at all is The Seacrest, a sturdy but weather-beaten ship that in a past life was a crash recovery boat for the Royal Canadian Air Force. So, of course, he slumbers in Kevin’s graveyard. He’s the kind of guy who just has stuff like that lying around. There’s a great sequence as Erik Wenstob, familiar with an old engine, approaches the Seacrest with the innate curiosity of his job, tinkers with some parts of the boat’s huge twin diesel engines and gets the dormant engines running again. Well, one of them, anyway. So what are they doing? They turn to the next boat, a landing craft, and Erik spends a day’s work making a metal security screen for its windows. You don’t want 5,000 pounds of stray cedar logs flying through your boat’s cabin window.
That’s the best thing about shows like this, watching large, often specialized machines spring into action to solve large-scale workplace problems, and big wood does it with the best of them – think Deadliest Takethink nasty tuna – and he also has that other crucial element, which is a sense of warm character. “Easy Street is just around the corner,” Kevin assures an exasperated Sarah with a smile, as their sawmill looks at empty supply bays and he searches for a fleet of log salvage boats out of the rusting margins. of his ossuary. Ultimately, she believes in her ability to see the big picture, and so do we. Something will always break. All you have to do is get in there and fix it.
Sex and skin: None, just a few hints. (See below.)
Farewell shot: After a long day of boat engine accidents, building a wharf from old wharf pieces and supplying, choking, rolling and pulling cedar off the coast of the island from Vancouver, Kevin and his team have a crowd of 12 good-sized logs lined up next to the Mchappy. “We’ve only just started!” said Kevin happily. Maybe he’s a Carpenters fan.
Sleeping Star: Last season on big wood, it appeared to be hoisting thousands of tons of dock parts onto flatbed trailers. Now “The Monster” is back. It’s Kevin Wenstob’s gargantuan army green crane that he salvaged from US military surplus stock, where it was once used to load missiles. Watching him hoist the bulky landing craft with The Monster and nothing but a C-hook, four chains and two tenuous safety ropes is utterly gripping.
The most pilot line: “I must go get some wood, and I must have it now!”
Our call: SPREAD IT. Fans of Discovery’s sequel to professional reality shows will feel like big wood right away, where logging and sawmill operations are a balance of danger, opportunity, and Murphy’s Law.
Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicagoland. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glenganges