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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
I had noticed that something had been nosing around the cedar seedlings that we had planted and placed protective cages around.
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.
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.
#92 Pearl had her brand new calf well hidden in the understory of brush under the alder trees.
We knew she had a calf but we did not know where. As I walked through the brush, a newborn calf was startled. The little one jumped up and started running away. Pearl was busy eating hay that we had scattered out for the herd. With all the chewing, she missed it when her calf jumped up and ran away from the herd and her safety of the tall brush.
We spent nearly a half hour looking for the wayward calf and realized that the baby must have tired and laid back down to nap and we could not find it. We had to rely on Pearl to finish eating first and then start bellowing to call the calf back to her. Which is just what she did.
The next feeding we found Pearl and her baby tucked once again under the big alder trees together. At this time we found out that on 5/4/17 Pearl had a heifer about 65 lbs. We decided to name her after her first adventure, welcome to the farm Skitter.
It’s unusual around here to get much in the way of windstorms during the spring months. This super wet, and cold winter had been out of the ordinary already. Last week there was a report of a swirling wind that hit just north of Vancouver, Washington. It was even classified as a tornado even though it was the lowest class at an EF-0 on Fujita scale. This means the swirling winds were less than 73 miles an hour.
During this spring storm, a gust was clocked at 80 miles and hour in the west hills of Portland, but the winds were not swirling.
Here on the farm, the trees swayed, branches broke off and flew through the pastures. The sound of the wind racing through the trees on the hilltop sounded more like a busy commute of Portland traffic that a spring day. Throughout Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington power outages were counted by the thousands then by the tens of thousands on the news reports as the storm raged on.
We noticed minimal damage around the barns, house and yard. Just a green coating of branches covering the ground. That was until we headed outdoors to feed the main herd across the river.
I took this picture from on top the bridge. The alder tree had broken off and fell toward the river, a big branch hit the bridge and shattered across the driving surface.
A quick clean up had to be performed to get the passage back open for travel.
I was not able to get a ‘before shot’, only this ‘after’ still showing some of the debris from the tree branch and the tree itself laying below the right side of the bridge about halfway across.
We still haven’t made it into the woods to see what kind of damage was inflicted on the tall timber.
I am looking forward to a little calmer weather.