Harold Estey, owner of Harold Estey Lumber in Londonderry, stands amidst piles of mulch in his lumber yard.

LONDONDERRY | In 1977, Harold Estey paid $17.05 to have a load of wood chips picked up from his lumber yard in Londonderry at the corner of Route 102 and Old Nashua Road.

"I had no use for them," said Estey, 60, of the scraps of wood.

In fact, most of the bark off the trees he sawed went to the dump back then, too.

Now, Estey keeps all the bark and the wood chips for mulch that he sells by the yard.

Last year alone, Harold Estey's Lumber Inc. sold 18,000 yards of the stuff he used to trash.

Estey sits in his office taking orders from customers by phone or in person using a form and pen. He doesn't have a Web site, or even an e-mail. He sells seven varieties of mulch that cost between $24 a yard for pine blend to $36 a yard for natural hemlock.

"Sometime in the mid-70s, we realized that mulch was good for keeping moisture in the ground around trees and flowers," Estey said.

His sweatshirt was covered with little chips of wood from the trees he'd been sawing all morning in the mill building.

Harold Thomas Estey was one of five children. He attended Central Elementary School, now Matthew Thornton, and graduated from Alvirne High School in Hudson in 1964. When his father died in 1965, Estey took over the mill.

"My father's name was Harold Linwood Estey and my son is Thomas Harold," Estey said. "No juniors. We just switched the names around."

Thomas works full time at the lumber yard with his father and Estey's brother, Bill, is semi-retired.

"My sisters didn't want to have too much to do with the mill," Estey said. "But, when we were little, we all helped out. I used to fill the wood boxes and feed and milk the cows. We didn't have a chance to have fun like kids today."

The farm had 40 cows when Estey was growing up. They used to wander across the road that is now Route 102 and mosey over to the land that Estey recently sold to the town to build the new South Fire Station.

"We got rid of the cows in 1976," Estey said. "They were a lot of work and the money for milk wasn't worth it."

Estey said the town has changed too much for his liking.

"There used to be a farm on every corner," he said. "Now, you've got the big box stores coming in. But a family business is entirely different."

Estey recalled that in the late 1950s, the mill | then under the name Derry Farm Saw Mill | used to send the first slab of bark from the trees to a place in Maine to make paper. The rest of the bark went to the dump and each log was sawed into different sizes of wood to be used for building material.

Estey is the only person who operates the saw.

"One log is worth hundreds of dollars," he said. "It's like cutting diamonds."

The mill gets a large percentage of its logs from Canada and Vermont.

"I won't say where, though," Estey said. "Then my competition will know."

Speaking of competition, Estey said "everyone is trying to outdo their neighbor" with fancy landscaping that includes his mulch. He treats his mulch with oxidization to enhance the colors that range from deep red to coal black.

"Between now and Mother's Day is my busiest time of year," Estey said.

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