We had a couple of days with a little rain, but now the skid roads have dried off enough to make the steep climb up into the forest. Mike went first with the bulldozer with the dogs anxious to work and I followed along with the Gator loaded a couple of saws, the falling axe and wedges.
By installing the road last year, we have better and easier access to areas of the forest where only the dozer could go before. Across the top of the hill is sweeping criss-cross patterns of roads that are wide, clear of limbs and easy to drive.
We have a small patch on the other side of this hill that has some trees that are in need of cleaning up.
There are several smaller trees that have defects that will be cut for eventual firewood bundles and one larger tree that is big enough to make logs that has a broken top.
When in the woods we spend a lot of time looking up to check the crown of the trees, to determine how thick the canopy is, and to find those that have perished and no longer have a live top. We are also looking for broken limbs or tops that can come crashing down as we are working below.
Now that the initial road has been etched through the woods, the tasks of widening and smoothing out the steep and narrow passages is in full swing.
This stump did not look like much but it was inhibiting the road width. The road cannot be extended out on the opposite side because of a steep drop off, this stump had to go. The pathway has to be a minimum of 12 feet across and preferably 14 feet in order to be wide enough for logging equipment.
Mike started on the top side of the stump and cleared away about a truckload of dirt, then he moved to the lower side and cleared out that much dirt again before attempting to push the stump out of the spot.
Mike had to sit cross-way in the road in order to dig out the dirt above and below the stump before being able to wiggle the taproots of the old tree.
More than an hour of powerful digging finally resulted in the stumps removal and the large lump was moved to the edge of the road to stabilize the steep bank.
With the couple of days of nice weather Mike was able to travel the logging roads with the bulldozer to the top of the hill so we could assess the storm damage along one of the ridges and into a canyon.
This is the root ball of an up-ended 100+ foot tall fir tree. After the very wet fall and winter, the wind that rolled through in April took down many tall trees. The root balls hanging in the air and the tops are down into the canyon. Hundreds of younger trees ranging from 30-40 year old, had tops snapped right out of them. In spots, the forest floor is littered with the green tops, most are not big enough to even be salvaged for firewood. The cleanup begins with the up-ended trees.
The first cut will be to remove the root ball from the tree. Hand work of pulling dirt, branches and understory vegetation will need to be done first so that the lower part of the tree is exposed for the cut. The canyon drops steeply below the root ball and cleaning around the base is about 10 feet below this root ball.
Sitting over the edge of the canyon, a skid road will need to be punched in with the bulldozer in order to reach the tree beneath this root ball with the long cable.
At first, the road looked fairly accessible and was made quickly, but it soon turned steeper with more understory of brush, small trees and the steep drop off into the canyon.
At times the bulldozer had to be tethered to a large fir tree by the winch and cables to avoid the steep plunge.
Barely visible in the understory, the bulldozer is scraping out a road for the removal of the downed patch of tall firs.
To the lower right is the root ball that will be the first to be detached from the toppled tree. From this early assessment, it looks like there are at least 10 trees in this one spot that were up-ended although it is hard to be sure through the tangle of vegetation in the canyon below.
Rain is again in the forecast and it may be a week or more before we are able to get up the hill to complete this job.
It has been a long, dark, cold, wet winter season. We are finally pulling the cat out of the barn where it was stowed during the dreary days.
First job was to back-blade the rock road. Back-blade-ing is simply driving the bulldozer backward with the blade scraping along the surface to smooth areas. Driving backward is a task that is designated strictly to Mike. If the blade is too high, it is ineffective, if it is too low it gouges the surface leaving washboard ruts that are worse than all the cattle muddy footy-prints.
It is a slow process to travel backwards from the barn, around to the outdoor feeders and then along the hillside all the way to the far end of the property where the spring breaks out of the hillside. This one road took nearly 2 hours.
The smoothed road will make it easier for the herd to walk back and forth and for the Gator to make it to the back of the field without driving through the pastures that are fenced off from the herd and driving so the grass to grow into hay.
It will still be a while before it is dry enough to start logging for this year.
The Bulldozer is fixed! Almost.
The hard part is fixed, the underbelly pan, the engine and the dash have all been replaced after the steering clutch was replaced along with several small nagging issues. The Cat has been started up several times and is running well. The Mobile Repair truck that has spent many hours of many days working on the process has deemed the job a success and has moved on to other logging sites.
Mike and I still have to replace the small shields, foot platforms, the hood, the rest of the roll cage, the seat and a few other guards and shields. There are still a lot of pieces laying about the barn where the work was taking place, but at least now we can begin to see the end of the project. And we still have a couple of months of winter left to work on it!
There is a bump in the road that is hampering the end of our logging for the year. It is a big bump, the size of a bulldozer.
Mike had been piling the logs in the landing into decks easily accessible for the self-loader log truck to grab, when the caterpillar stopped moving. The engine runs, the blade can go up and down, but the machine seems to be stuck between gears and will not shift to go into forward or reverse. He was down to trying to finish the last two loads of the year.
The two loads in the deck (one is domestic and one is export) are nearly complete and will not be viable logs for the mill if they are left to dry out through the winter months. Since the decks are on the other side of the river crossing, access will soon be cut off for the rest of the year. The earliest we would be able to ship them would be next June because of crossing restrictions.
Mike had to tow the dozer away from the deck landing with the tractor just to have access to the equipment for repair and access to the logs to finish piling and eventual hauling.
He is going to try to finish the two loads with the tractor and get them hauled before attempting the repair of the Caterpillar. That means that the straggler trees high on the hill will not be harvested this year, he will have to concentrate on the easier to reach logs in order to complete the job.
Now that the logging is complete for this spring on the far side of the property, Mike has been able to bring the bulldozer over to smooth up some of the deeply rutted roads from the extremely wet winter/spring. After bottoming out with the gator, and with the tractor, the ruts made the road impassable. The caterpillar was used to back-blade (run the dozer backward with the blade scraping along the ground). He had to do the run several times and even had to root out an old stump that we had gotten stuck on as we mudded around the barns.
The result of his afternoon of driving backwards means that we can now feed hay to the main herd when they go to the back of the 26 acre field to graze or hang out under the big fir trees. It also opens up the road for Mike to start gopher and mole trapping (this is the favorite activity for the dogs, they just love to help trap). This is a yearly game that is slow getting started this year because of that darn rutted road.
It feels like we are finally starting to get caught up from all the torrents of rain and tons of mud. Just in time for the dust season to start!