Distiller transforms hemlock, spruce, pine and cedar

  • Sep. 10, 2010 3:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-The arrival of a huge 100-gallon still from a southern BC lavender farm caused a stir in Old Massett recently. Project coordinator Lana Wilhelm said the still arrived Aug. 21 and was taken out to one of Old Massett’s woodlots where hundreds of pounds of boughs of hemlock, spruce, pine and red cedar were chipped and steamed to produce essential oils. The sight of such a crazy-looking machine (owned by Dave Stanley of Damali Lavender Farm in the Cowichan Valley) caused some “rubbernecking” in Old Massett, said Ms Wilhelm. She said the goal of the work over the next two weeks was to analyze whether they would be able to obtain enough boughs from existing forestry operations to produce needed volumes. They also sought to actually produce at least a litre from each of the four species, which will be used to create a test market line of body products over the winter (a company in the Lower Mainland is involved in this part).The distilling process also creates a product called hydrosol (plant water), which can be used in diffusers and cleaners, she said. The remaining compost can be sold as mulch. “There are different products from each process,” she said. Ms Wilhelm said the during the time the still was on the islands, they met the oil yield objectives for red cedar and pine, but found that hemlock and spruce were not as productive.”There were so many variables it is hard to say why until we crunch the data,” she said. The data they collected here will go towards building a business plan for essential oil production. Huge thanks to Dan Abbott who was extremely helpful at the Old Massett Village Council woodlot, she said. “He took pity on us dragging out tarps of boughs from the middle of recent clearcuts and helped use his logging equipment to move boughs to the road,” she said. She then took the still (on Aug. 29) to Kitimaat Village where a similar study got underway with the Haisla. This time the bough-collectors followed juvenile tree spacers and powerline pruners. The species collected were hemlock, balsam fir, spruce and red cedar. The project will also continue in Bella Bella with the Heiltsuk. The project is part of the Great Bear Initiative’s Non-timber Forest Products Working Group and is funded through the Coast Opportunities Fund.