Slowly Making My Way Through The Brush

Between other chores and post-holiday activities (those are the ones that simply could not be fit into the jam-packed holiday season and keep dribbling forth in long awaited get-togethers and social events), I have continued to hack my way into the tangle beyond the wild hazelnut tree.

I have found more scrub trees past the hazelnut than I expected and so far I have vanquished a very cumbersome elderberry, a Hawthorne with long spiky thorns that punctured me right through leather gloves and lots of brushy vegetation. We have also salvaged four Gator loads of firewood that has been hauled and stacked by the woodshed. By getting the messy and unwanted trees out of the way, I have found two more fairly large hazelnuts, a willow and two elderberries that need to come out before I can start cleaning up the copse of cherries.

Mike has been using the front tongs on the tractor to scoop up those large piles of debris along with old logs scattered around in the underbrush and placing them on theĀ  site of the original hazelnut where the fire burns daily. I have been finding bits and scraps of old fencing as we go and trying to get all the metal barb wire pieces out of the area is tricky. Many times I have found the wire has grown into the roots and the bark on whatever tree they were entangled with. We have to look twice before cutting anything with the chainsaw so we don’t hit wire.

Looking over what has been done so far looks like a drop in a bucket, but the progress that has been made wants me to continue with this area. We have already started planning what trees we will replant in this area and now that we can see into the wild cherries realize that many of them are so tangled, bent and broken that some of them will have to be cleaned out also. The first of the two large alders that fell at the rock bar has been cut into shorter lengths and moved with the tractor up to higher/more level ground and is destined to be cut into firewood.

I am enjoying the look that is emerging and now remember why it has taken me so long to dive into this one acre project but I am not sure if I will be completed this year.


A Bear In There

Since our hillside is very steep, logging cannot take place during the wet season because the dozer simply cannot get up and down the skid roads. We conclude our logging season, which was more just a cleaning up season this year from all of last winters damage, when the rains begin.

A tree with bear scratchings on the bark.The plan was to be finished logging with the last log truck load that went out last week. Mike took the dozer up the hill to get one last turn of logs for the load. He moved across the hillside from where we had been cleaning up and found a patch of trees that had significant scarring from a bear or two or three.

In this picture, the dark spot about 10 feet up the tree shows where a bear had ripped a hole through the bark, past the cambium (where the life-blood of the tree flows and what the bears are after) and into the wood. This example has already scarred over so this gouge is most likely happened a couple of years ago. Continue reading

A Story From Long Ago

Evidence of burned stump with tree growing from it.Where we are up the hill cleaning up the winter storm damage, we came across this tree that shows evidence of the fire that swept across this hillside in 1940.

The dark area you see near the lower middle of the picture shows charcoal. This was an old growth stump that had been charred as the fire went through. A seedling sprouted on one side of the old stump and began growing.

Now about 75 years old, the seedling is over 100 feet tall and all but enveloped the old, burnt stump that is nourishing its growth. On the picture, the right side of the stump is all bark from the grown seedling.

This tree will have to be cut off above the old stump in order to be felled. That means the undercut and the falling cut will be about 8 feet off the ground.

Fast Growing Trees

A quick check on the ring count of a tree that Mike fell on the top of the hill gives a person information about the age of the tree, years when unusual growth show damage from storms or drought, and the overall nutrient level of the soil.

A felled tree showing the ring count on the stump.The ring count on this tree shows that it is about 40 years old, the same amount of time that we have owned this farm.

Some of the rings show over a half inch of growth per year and closer to one inch growth, that is fast growing for a White / Grand Fir. The diameter of the base was 33 inches and was about 110 feet tall with 80 feet merchantable.

This tree had to be harvested at this time because all the trees around him had wind damage from the severe winter and in order to replant fir trees to fill in the area we needed to be able to have more sunlight into the opening. Fir trees need lots of space and light in order to be able to grow tall and strong.


Overcoming Obstacles

An old stump that has a tree growing out the other side of it.From the look of this old stump no one would think anything special was happening, just another old growth stump in the process of decay that takes about 200 years to break down all the nutrients of this once majestic, tall fir.

But a walk around to the other side of the old stump brings a surprise.

a root of a tree now exposed from a stump rotting below it.A new tree seedling had started growing about 50 years ago in the decay of the old stump. Since no soil could be found the seedling used the stump to sink his roots into. The new tree is the one on the right.

What looks like a gnarled knee is a root from the new tree burrowing into what had been the heart of the rotting stump. That old stump has shrunk in size every year as the outer decay slumps and flakes off. The ‘knee’ continued to grow bigger and bigger each year keeping the young tree with goofy but fairly stable footing.

The baby tree now nearing 85 feet tall is not standing straight. There is a danger of falling over during a storm and damaging other trees that are growing in more standard tree fashion. This will be one of the next trees harvested in this patch of the woods to retain the better trees in the stand.

A Nice Stick

Cutting down a tall fir tree is not the beginning of the story. Getting to the tree to cut it down can sometimes be much more work than the actual harvest.

The area that we are cleaning out is a tip of a canyon where the strong winter winds wreaked havoc on the timber. 10 trees were uprooted and laying criss-cross across and down into the canyon while others leaned and others yet had tops broken out of them.

If the downed and damaged trees were left unattended, the dangers could be significant. Bark beetles and other bugs could invade the trees and then once fed and breeding, move into the healthy forest where live trees could be infected. The fire danger increases as the trees that are down but not in contact with the soil dry out. Fire easily crawls through timber that is ‘laddered’ throughout the understory of the forest and can climb trees with terrific speed where it hops from tree to tree (called ‘crowning’) and then burns through a tremendous amount of wood.

A downed tree in the woods.A skid road was built (‘punched in’) to the top of the canyon and Mike fell this 140 foot tall Douglas Fir before trimming all the limbs off. The tree is currently at a downhill slope and Mike had to walk along the log as he limbed the branches off and measured 36 feet for the first log.

The butt of the tree measured 36 inches where it was cut into log length the log was still at 26 inches. It was cut into a log length of 36 feet. This one log off this one tree has 1120 board feet.

Once the tree is cut into log sized pieces, each individual piece is dragged uphill to the bulldozer with the steel cable to the skid road and dragged down the hill to the landing.

Not Cagey

I had noticed that something had been nosing around the cedar seedlings that we had planted and placed protective cages around.

Cages around the tender cedar seedling was pulled from plant.Out of the 25 seedlings in this area, only 1 plant with cage had been left alone. The rest had cages torn off the bamboo poles, had the poles broken off at ground level, or the cages were completely missing from the area just so the seedlings could be exposed for grazing.

The tender cedar trees were just too much of a temptation for cows, calves, elk or deer that could smell the delicacy beneath the protection of the cage.

I spent several hours re-caging what was left of the seedlings in hope that the cages will stay in place through the summer for the plant to get settled into the ground. As I worked my way around the hillside, I did see a few of the cedars that we had to replant that had been pulled out of the ground completely. Some survived, but most did not.Seedling cedar trees with plastic cages.

I had to do some looking but I did finally find the two missing cages scattered away from this planting area.

One of the cages had been carried nearly 50 yards away from this hillside. We are now back to being cagey.