Our John Deere Gator is our most used piece of equipment on the farm.
At the bare minimum it is used twice a day for feeding the main herd across the river and it is used much more than that on most days. We can be seen driving up the county road to check the far field, or up the hill during the summer months to go logging. We take it around by the river and through the old railroad grade when looking for missing/hiding critters.
The Gator hauls chain saws, wood chunks, hay, firewood, dogs, rocks and people. Sometimes it is loaded down with wire, t-posts, cedar posts, drivers and shovels for fence fixing, other times with 5 gallon buckets of diesel for the bulldozer. Many, many times it carries tools with various bits and pieces to fix other equipment that has broken.
This beast of burden is not very pretty to look at with mud and muck covering most of the outside and underbelly surfaces. But with the temperature dipping into the teens at night, it is welcomed into the warm garage so the goop doesn’t freeze and lock up the tires.
This beast is simply too valuable to miss a day of work on the farm.
The weekend was spent out at the log deck in a rush to cut several Gator loads of 16 inch wood before the weather changed from the mid 40’s to the possibility of snow.
From the looks of the deck, one would think that it had already snowed. But this is only sawdust left from the previous day of cutting.
The 16 inch pieces will be taken from the pile and hauled into the barn where I have my cool Super Splitter, the tabletop centrifugal wood splitter. Once into smaller pieces, the wood will be stacked into 1/2 cord cribs that have been emptied over the last month.
I fell behind on filling the cribs since we have been spending more time going uphill to transplant seedlings in the logged areas of the woods. We do not like to transplant trees with snow on the ground so I may be out by the log deck since light snow would not bother the cutting process.
The log decks are stacking up faster than the log truck can haul them off. The fire danger is now at the level where all equipment has to be out of the woods by 1pm and that includes trucks for hauling. Firewatch is required for 3 hours after the last piece of equipment is shut down or out of the woods for the day.
Hauling logs off the hill.
One may ask what one does during the 3 hours. Aside from loading the Gator with firewood that had been cut earlier in the day, my phone works well on this high spot and long postponed communications are caught up. I crank up the sound and listen to a book on tape or music, I walk the new roads and the old paths, and I spend a lot of time looking up (usually from the shade of the big patches of trees left to grow).
A walk through the woods looks very different from when the logging operation started. Slowly, the areas that were so damaged with the helter-skelter broken trees tangled with each other are getting cleaned out.
It is at this point where we spend much of our time looking up, judging the health and thinned spacing of each tree that is left standing. Groupings of trees assist each other to remain standing and if we thin the trees too much the wind we experience at the top of this ridge would flatten them all.
By looking up from the areas that needed cleared out, we can see damage that was hidden earlier by the thick canopy, and we have also found a couple of spots where there has been evidence of root rot (the disease that can spread from tree to tree through the roots).
Our logging crew has been exceptional in their quest to get our forest back to a more healthy state. They walk the areas each day before and after work, they take time to address our issues and ask questions so intentions are clear.
The logging crew with their specialized equipment are making good progress through the most damaged areas of the forest. Log decks are growing in the landing that was cleared out at the top of the hill.
As the crew takes down the trees that were snapped in half or had the tops broken out, the machines pile the cut timber by their sort depending on what mill they will be going to. The piles of long skinny logs (the most damaged trees) that are too small to make boards, are strictly planned for the pulp mill. Slightly larger logs that can be milled are in a different pile. The big logs are divided into species with white fir in one pile while Douglas fir is in another.
This cleared area is big enough for all the decks of timber while still affording enough space for log trucks to come in, turn around and load from the decks.
Work has begun on the top of the hill. It started with the official, OSHA (Occupational Safety And Health Administration) required signage.
Since there will be more than one person working on the site, this sign is required alongside the road that leads into the woods.
The signage will stay in place throughout the logging process to assure that anyone entering will be aware of dangers. If we were to have multiple access points, there would need to be signs at each entrance.
The next piece of necessary resources to arrive is the shovel. This wide, low piece of logging equipment has a long arm that can reach out and maneuver heavy logs, tear out stumps in the path and shovel around slash piles out of the way.
Our woods seem to be filled with equipment and people. So far we have one operator for the feller/processor, one for the shovel, one and sometimes two fellers (those manually cutting the larger trees) and Mike on our bulldozer. This truck is also the same one that will be hauling loads from the top of the hill.