February 23, 2013

Non-Progress on the New Fence

With all the rain we've been having, the ground is saturated. Besides making a muddy mess by the goat sheds, it's meant I can't work on my garden bed revamping project, nor can we make any headway on putting up the new fence (details on that here). We have, however, done some assessing in the area we want fenced in.

We've been having a problem with our woods, which is primarily pines. That problem has been the falling down of numerous of those pines. We first became aware of it about the time Dan made the posts and beam for the kitchen. At the time there were (and still are) an alarming number of windblown pines, most caught in other trees.

Fallen and caught up in other trees,
bending them over and weakening them.

Most are broken midway up the trunk, snapped like a twig.

Broken off in the middle of the trunk

I can't help but wonder how this happened.

Add to that some becoming uprooted, likely due to the softening of the ground as it becomes water logged.


We've researched disease and insect problems, which may be contributing factors. The experts' solution for both of these is the same, clear cut and burn everything to prevent spreading.

After reading Joel Salatin's You Can Farm, I've realized that just maybe we are witnessing forest succession. Fast growing, light loving pines are pioneer species and the first to claim an open area. They have a relatively short life span for trees, 30 to 50 years. This gives shade tolerant hardwoods an opportunity to establish themselves by the time the pines die off. Because of competition, our pines had grown tall and spindly, like light starved tomato seedlings. Because of that their trunks are weak, and it's amazing to watch them bend and sway like tall grasses in fierce winds. And a little bit scary. It seems that after every major storm we can find new pine trees downed. Or almost downed.

Anyway, back to the fence. There are several of these semi-fallen leaning pines in the area we want to fence for the new goat browse. The are, in fact, right over the proposed fenceline. To make it even more challenging, kudzu vines have pretty much bound these trees all together.

6 trees caught up in each other, right over where the fence will go.

Since we neither want these falling on the fence nor on the goats, they must come down before we put up the fence. That's the plan anyway, and where the project stands at the moment. Hopefully we can get those trees down soon.

Non-Progress on the New Fence © February 2013 by Leigh 


icebear said...

clearcutting. my parents' just had it done on their ten acre or so property. it was actually a good thing as we have records from the first settlers that the town was 90% clear at the time of settlement. They were actually paid for the lumber that was cleared and made a pretty penny. Sometimes clearcutting isn't the shame that people make it out to be. There are many ways to be good stewards of the land we have been given, we don't have to allow it to become a mess of entangled, weak and diseased trees. :o)

Dani said...

Reckon after all the clearing which lies ahead, you'll have some fine firewood for next year :)

Ron said...

That's what I was thinking... more firewood.

daisy g said...

Sounds like a big project. Looking forward to seeing you tackle it all. ;0)

Rosalyn said...

This is a problem when the entire forest stand is the same age--they all start to die and fall at the same time, completely changing forest cover. I definitely think you should take most of them down, especially as they pose a risk to the goats. But I would personally leave as many younger, healthy trees as possible, in order to encourage more diversity in the age structure in the future. Clearcutting completely can just continue the cycle, causing this to be a problem 50 or so years down the road once more. Additionally, the goats would love browsing in the young forest, if you decide to keep it up as a wooded area. A way to rejuvenate your stand when most of the trees come down is to just continue to plant a few trees here and there, each year, and you'll always have trees of a different age living together. Also, considering that your pines sound like an early successional species, I'd recommend planting longer-lived shade tolerant trees under any trees that remain. That will ensure that your forest is a more sustainable resource. And more diverse, creating better habitat as well! I'm not sure what your specific habitat is where you live, but mixing some longer-living hardwoods in would be a good idea I think.

Sorry for the super long comment but having worked in forest ecology it's a bit dear to my heart! Good luck and I look forward to seeing the process and results!l

Leigh said...

Icebear, we did look into having a professional cutting down the problem trees. Not exactly clearcutting because we'd leave the younger hardwoods, but at least removing the dangerous ones. The pros have a 10 acre minimum and we only have 2. One guy did say some of the smaller tree services around here might do it, but to beware because being small operations they do not carry their own insurance. Any injuries or problems would fall on us (ha, no pun intended).

Dani and Orange Jeep Dad, firewood yes, but with limited use. These are all pines, which are not options for our wood burning stoves because they are highly resinous. What we would like to use them for, is an outdoor barbeque, oven, cooking arrangement (still a very distant future project), or perhaps an outdoor furnace or boiler (also just an idea).

The other problem is getting them out of there. We have no way to drag them out.

Daisy, me too, LOL

Rosalyn, we live in the southeastern pine-oak forest region, so what we have going on is just that. I so agree about clearcutting not being a sustainable management technique for forests. What we'd like to do is take down the trees (almost all pines) that are broken and otherwise leaning, and allow the hardwoods and young pines to continue to grow. As I mentioned above, we can't really find anyone to do that for us, and doing it ourselves is a huge and (need I say it) dangerous task.

Right now, we'll just tackle the area we are fencing in for for a goat browse. If we don't the invading kudzu will continue engulfing our woods from that side of the property.

Anonymous said...

I hope you can find someone local. Maybe advertise on Craigslist, and require proof of insurance. Your issue of how to get it out of the woods is one of mine too, as my boys are both turning 18 in the next couple years, and I might be 100% on my own. Might not be in the budget now, but maybe you could invest in a used 4wheeler and cart down the road.

Sharon said...

The trees almost look like you had a tornado or wind shear go through them. Be careful!

Leigh said...

Stephanie, actually we were thinking about a farm tractor. :)

There are plenty of local folks in the yellow pages who advertise tree removal. In the Southern Appalachians, most of them are DIYers. We've talked with a number of them. None carry their own insurance plus they are high priced. The three we've hired to take limbs off our old oaks really didn't do that good of a job.

Sharon, yeah, unfortunately the woods are off limits at the moment. Of course eventually, they'll all come down on their own anyway!

Katidids said...

Oh, What a dangerous mess. and the kudzu is so rampent once it starts. I agree with the others, clear cut as bet you can and keep that kudzu weedeated as often as possible. A few hardwoods planted would be helpful

Woolly Bits said...

I can imagine that this is a big problem, not easily solved with just 4 hands, a ladder and a chainsaw:) we had to top several ash trees years back and it was a major job. not getting younger and even more aware of the danger, we looked for a professional - and found one! he only had to top off one ash and a bit of a sycamore close by, which he managed to do in one afternoon! he had mounted one of those "baskets" on a lever to a trailer, was able to drive unterneath the tree and did the job very efficiently and safely. ok, we paid for the job, but we are left with a lot of firewood instead and didn't have to risk our lives in cutting the tree down! all we have to do now is to chop up the firewood, which is a lot of work, but much safer than climbing into a big tree like a monkey and risk your life and limbs in the process! and he did have insurance, we had him show us the paperwork beforehand...
though if you did consider a total clearance, any problems that might come up again in 50 years - very likely won't be your problems anymore:)

Leigh said...

Katidids, your comment has me thinking. Clearcutting would eliminate the existing hardwoods too. It would seem counterproductive to do that and then replant them, wouldn't you think? I think our original plan will work well. We'll clear out those 6 leaning trees in the proposed goat browse to make it safe, and then let the goats eat the kudzu :)

Bettina, it is dangerous work. Dan has been trying to find one of those bucket trucks to rent to finish cutting the dead wood on the two oaks by the house. Total clearance of the back woods is out of the question because #1 we'd lose the hardwoods too, which we want to keep. We don't mind the healthy pines either actually. The rest is thick and inaccessible. I can only imagine what they'd want to charge us for that. It was $800 just to do the one oak by the house. Two acres of trees though would likely be through the roof! (Which is reason #2 why it's out of the question. :)

Mama Pea said...

We don't have the kudzu (thankfully!) to contend with but our woods of birch trees are dying at a fast clip. The problem doesn't seem to be disease but the general warming trend. The birch apparently need and thrive in the long, cold winters that we used to have. We do indeed seem to be in a warming trend where we just are not getting the severe winters anymore. And our beautiful birch trees are suffering. If it's not one thing, it's another!

Quinn said...

You may already know about this, but a lot of people don't so I'll mention it. I don't know which state you are in, but if you google the US Forest Service website, then Forest Stewardship Program, you can find what resources may be available to you in terms of professional advice and/or assistance. Varies from state to state, but worth a half hour online, anyway.

Snags and hangers are dangerous to work around even when you're not trying to remove them. Taking them down...ugh. So much more unpredictable than felling a healthy tree. Be prepared for trouble, and maybe it won't happen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sharon, that you may have had some sort of weather event. If all those trees that are just snapped off are in a line, then it could be from either a microburst or a small tornado. We've had one or two near us, and that telltale mid-trunk snap looks pretty similar. Your local U.S. weather service office may have a record that would be helpful. Something to check out before presuming / investigating a more dire cause. --Sue in MA

MTWaggin said...

Welcome to my world...fallen trees and two were even part of my fence! So this girl is getting a new chainsaw for her birthday and this will be the summer of the woods! They just have such shallow roots that when they die out it doesn't take much for them to topple.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, I'm so sorry to hear about your birches. I love birches and miss them here in the south. When I was a little girl, we lost all the elms to Dutch Elm disease. It's always sad.

Quinn, we haven't been in touch with the Forest Service, but Dan has talked to folks through the cooperative extension. I'll have to see what I can find out about the Forest Stewardship Program. For now, we're not planning to do anything more than take down the ones that overhang where the new fence will go.

Sue, it's true when we have a bad storm, especially with wind, that we lose a few more. Sometimes though, on a calm day you can hear one come down. The trees are infested with pine bark beetle, we've seen them. There are also several disease processes in the region which could cause some of the symptoms. These apparently only attack weakened trees, which if these are at the end of their life cycle, would make sense.

Sherry, I asked for a me sized chain saw but Dan gave me an emphatic no. :) He has a very healthy respect for chain saws and for trees. He almost cut his toe off once, not from carelessness, but from a freak bounce of the chainsaw off a branch. There's no way to predict what can happen! (IOW, do be careful!)

Practical Parsimony said...

Never pay anyone to cut and carry off an oak or hickory. Those people resell to bbq joints. Advertise for someone to cut it for the wood. Lots of bbq joints have people they can send, not employees, just their suppliers.

Ask me how I know.

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

Ehrm, Timber..... :)

Leigh said...

Linda, I agree. The two times we've hired someone to limb trees, we kept the wood!

We're not actually looking to have someone take down those 2 acres of trees. Dan did talk to a couple of professionals, but for reasons mentioned above comments, we're leaving as is for the moment.

Cloud, we looked into that. Because almost all the trees are infested with pine bark beetle, however, no one will take the trees for timber.

Unknown said...

Oh no. Sounds like a huge job but knowing you and how you guys tackle obstacles from reading for a while now, I have no doubt you will handle this too, the best way possible with keeping to being good stewards of your land while protecting your animals. Your research, knowledge and commitment is awesome, good luck. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out for you all on the other side.

Leigh said...

Jen, thanks. :)