A Professor and a Practitioner

A Professor and a Practitioner

Irwin Post, a longtime contributor and friend of the magazine, passed away last Sunday. Professionally speaking he held a lot of titles: forest engineer, consulting forester, logger, sawyer, woodworker, teacher, small-business owner, writer among them. He was both a professor and a practitioner who lived what he taught.

The last story Irwin wrote for us ran in last spring’s issue. In it, he critiqued what he called “hunter-gatherer forestry” – where the best timber on a parcel of land is hunted and gathered while the rest of the wood is overlooked and left to stagnate. He then went into detail on what he called “intensive forestry,” an alternative system where every bit of land is managed and significant investments are made in every stand decades before trees are harvested.

This sounds idealistic, and it is. And yet it was no mere intellectual exercise for him. Irwin advocated by example. His Chester, Vermont, woodlot is a testament to this management style – the whole forest a grid of well-maintained wood roads, every block thought out and purposeful. Irwin scrutinized every market – from bark, to chips, to sawdust, to every grade and species of lumber, to publications that were willing to pay him to share the lessons he’d learned. And Irwin did it all – the marking, the cutting and processing with equipment he designed and built himself, the value-added touches, the marketing, the selling, the writing about it. He and his wife Melissa lived simply but richly in a home they built themselves from trees they grew and cut and finished. They were sustained, both spiritually and financially, by the food in their expansive gardens and by the woodlot Irwin micromanaged. I find both of them and the life they’ve made very inspiring.

This sort of inspiration becomes part of our legacy when we pass on. Irwin wrote feature stories for us – some of which I’ll provide links to below – and stories for Sawmill and Woodlot, among other magazines. He’s listed as a contributing author on our book More than a Woodlot. That’s tens of thousands of readers he shared his wisdom with over the years, many of them hands-on types who took his gospel into the woods with them.

That’s a lot of legacy.

 
Discussion
  1. Jim Curtis → in Massachusetts
    Jan 19, 2018

    The definition of a life well-lived.

  2. Frank Kelley → in Chester, VT
    Jan 19, 2018

    A visit to Irwin’s lumber mill was a wonderful opportunity to learn about wood, trees, communities, respect, and so much more. His wisdom will be missed.

  3. Julie Kelley → in Chester, VT
    Jan 19, 2018

    Irwin was a wonderful man.  He lives around the corner from us.  We have purchased our firewood from him for years.  When it came time for our daughter to be granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we chose to build an accessible trail through our woods.  Irwin provided the wood for the bridges and, with one of his sons, helped build them.  He welcomed local school children to his saw mill operation and let them pick out wood to take to the school for a Loose Parts playground.  He cared about the woods but he cared about people even more.  He will be missed.

  4. Alex, Kitty and Aaron Wang → in Westford, MA/Shanghai, China
    Jan 22, 2018

    It was an absolute shock to hear Irwin’s passing away…We can’t believe such a gentle, kind and loving person leaving us so early. We were hoping he’d recover soon and to see him again this summer!

    Irwin was a person who has a special talent to truly put his mind and hands together - just look at the “little” charming business he operates. We vividly remember he brought our super excited 7-year old Aaron onto his gigantic machines and demonstrated how these monsters worked. Irwin was talented in so any aspects - as a skier, as a ski instructor, as a professor, as an engineer, as a business owner, as a community volunteer, a loving son/father/husband, and the list goes on and on… He certainly didn’t waste his talent as he had helped and influenced so many others.

    Irwin will be dearly missed by us, as a friend and a source of inspiration.

  5. Sam Comstock → in Chester, VT
    Jan 24, 2018

    Irwin’s lasting legacy is a notion that provides a little comfort, for while I am so not ready to say goodbye, I know he will always be with me. I first met Irwin in print, where I appreciated his technical approach and his ethics toward the land. Later, when he and Melissa moved in nearby, he soon discovered I was lacking tire chains for my tractor, and he happened to have a solution in the form of an old set of skidder chains, a cutting torch, and handfuls of shackles. It took an afternoon’s work and quite a bit of acetylene, but I came away with not only the best tire chains I’d ever had, but with a dear friend and mentor. His willingness to wield the cutting torch is somewhat symbolic of how his mind worked, to not be bound by how things currently are, but to see them as how they might become.

    Irwin’s greetings always came with an exclamation point, a big smile, and a hearty handshake. His advice, time, and use of equipment came easily and freely, and when it came to materials we bartered beef and labor for lumber extensively. There is a 24 foot 7x8 Hemlock sill from his mill on our house’s foundation, thousands of feet of ship-lapped White Pine siding our barns, and a raspberry patch transplanted from his and Melissa’s garden here. He played a large role in my forest management plan, and I see him everywhere I turn out there. Perhaps what I will ultimately benefit the most from is due to his passion and engineer’s meticulous approach to safety; he is in my head when I fell a tree, when I work from heights, or fasten a load. It is an admirably legacy, which I will cherish and do my best to honor.

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