April 15, 2019

Spring Chores: Trees

One of the spring projects on Dan's seasonal to-do list is our trees. His list included:
  • the falling pines in our woods
  • overhanging branches along pasture fencelines
  • letting in sunlight for an upcoming solar project
  • firewood

From time to time, I've shown you photos of the pine trees in our woods. Of our five acres, about half is wooded with mature pines and young hardwoods. In the past couple of years the pines have been giving way to the hardwoods. This is ecological succession and can't be helped, but woe to humans who want to fence it in!

Photo from my Tending Fences blog post.

Some of these pines simply uproot.

This usually happens when we have saturated ground from a lot of rain.

Others simply break off anywhere along the trunk.

Pines grow quickly but most of ours are
tall and spindly from competition for sunlight.

Some of these are alive, but some dead. Dan tries to get the worst ones down before they fall on their own. Either way, it seems to create a lot of waste and is why he invested in his sawmill. As sad as it is to see those trees come down, they have been the source of timber and lumber for our barn and carport renovation.

This large pine tree was on the fenceline between two goat areas.

Although it looked healthy, in fact the heartwood was not sound

Here's the same tree, now ready for the sawmill.

The twigs and branches of all the trees we cut become woodchips.

The other bonus is that once the pines are down the hardwoods begin to grow and flourish!

I count three pine stumps in the foreground of this photo. What
remains are hardwoods which are beginning to fill out and grow.

Thinning limbs that extend out over our pasture is also on Dan's tree project list. This is actually one of our subgoals for pasture improvement. Forage doesn't do well in dense shade, but in our hot climate it appreciates light shade from a high canopy.

We saved some of the limbs for next year's firewood,
and used some to plant mushroom plugs (post here).

April is greening month! Limbs thinned means better light to the pasture.

The solar project is one of our 2019 goals. We want to put our extra fridge and freezer on a small, dedicated solar system. I've observed optimal sunlight for the past several years, but we also knew we would get more energy if we took down one strategically placed maple tree.

The fact that it was leaning helped with the decision!

This was done last February.

I think taking down trees to install solar is something of a catch-22. Shade from trees reduces temperatures by ten to fifteen degrees. Remove the shade and the house is a lot harder to cool!

Lastly, Dan selected a few trees to become next winter's firewood. How does he decide which trees to cut? Usually the most mature hardwoods.

The oak in the center of the photo before cutting.

They should be cut before they become old and weak. The tree above is mature, but also has a hollow spot which was once a branch.

Rainwater collects in it & becomes a mosquito nursery!

The water is also an invitation to wood rot.

Something else we've learned is that they need to be cut before they become too large for the chainsaw. We had a couple of old oaks that measured 48" across at their base. They had to come down because they were dead, but they were difficult to deal with. This one was still manageable.

It will become next winter's firewood. He'll work on cutting up over the next several months, but in the meantime it's a great place for the kids to play.

One thing we are careful to do is to make sure that each tree that comes down has at least one replacement.

One of the replacements for our two old oak trees.
The rotting stump of the old tree is on the left.

This is good stewardship. If this kind of stewardship was practiced universally, then hardwood trees would make a fantastic renewable resource. Unfortunately, this doesn't fit the mass production mindset and has forced us to turn the petroleum based plastics, vinyls, polyethylene, etc as an alternative. The triple whammy is that fossil fuels are needed to make, transport, and recycle them. Okay, I'm not intending to get out my soap box LOL. But I do think that properly stewarding our trees instead of trying to find alternatives would go a long way in helping the health of our planet.

This is a big spring chore tended to! I think Dan would have liked to make a little more progress, but for now, he's happy with what he's gotten done.

Spring Chores: Trees © April 2019 by


Gorges Smythe said...

I've got about 98 acres of hardwoods that I haven't seen in nearly 10 years because I'm so crippled up. I can only imagine what they look like by now, with all the storms we've had the last few years.

Leigh said...

Gorges, that's a lot of trees! A real treasure. :)

Ed said...

Owning trees is a big responsibility and many do not understand how to manage them. A previous owner of our plot of timber cleared out all the young trees leaving only very old mature trees. Those trees have for the most part died off leaving behind several dozen scraggly immature trees that have spent their whole lives struggling and are now poor specimens as a result. Had I been around to give advice, I would have suggested he take a few of the mature adults down leaving some of the better young trees to thrive and turn into beautiful mature trees of their own that can be enjoyed for decades. I've taken to planting specimen trees to fill that space someday but it probably won't happen in my lifetime.

wyomingheart said...

Great job on the trees! We only have about 3 acres in woods, but they are full of black walnut trees. We have cleared the scrub around about an acre, so that we can gather the nuts this fall. In the process of clearing the scrub, we found a wonderful spring, and an old dump site to clean up! We also found several small hickory trees, so that was a bonus as well. It takes time to erase what nature has overtaken, but the possibilities are endless! Thanks for a great post!

LizC said...

Hard work, and good work! My family has a homestead property in the Tillamook Burn, and careful "tree shepherding" makes all the difference... the family is able to pull out commercially- and building-useful trees to keep the land healthier, without sacrificing beauty. Pretty awesome!

Your wooded area is beautiful!

Powell River Books said...

Our friend John had a mill to cut boards. It was amazing to see how he was able to move large logs from the lake up a bank and manage it all by himself on and off the mill. He's and amazing guy. You have lots of work to get your firewood and to clear trees that need cutting. Having a large property comes with large chores I guess. - Margy

Leigh said...

Ed, that's a good illustration of tree stewardship. We honestly didn't think we had very many hardwoods until they were given room to start to grow. Now I see that we have a lot of them! I do love my trees.

Wyomingheart, it's a challenge to find the right balance! Sounds like you need goats to help keep the brush cleared. ;)

LizC, good for your family! Productivity, beauty, and healthy plants and soil from careful stewardship. That's the way it's supposed to be!

Margy, after reading some of Wayne's books, I agree, John is an amazing guy! And having a sawmill is a wonderful addition to any place with trees. We used to think we wanted a lot more acreage, but I have to admit that five is actually plenty for just the two of us.

Helen said...

My parents owned land in Wisconsin. Half of it was in forest cropland, which gave them a benefit on their land taxes. Every 20 years you have to have the trees cut, you can clear cut or selective cut. My dad had them selective cut where they took out the oldest trees. My dad also took any free arbor day trees and planted them for wind breaks or in the yard in Illinois. He knew his trees. I should have had him teach me more when I had the chance.

Mike Yukon said...

What are your plans for all that new lumber?

Leigh said...

Helen, I think your dad did it right. And I know what you mean about not learning from our parents when we have the chance.

Mike, he's going to cut it into 4x4s and store it until it's needed. He likes the 4-bys because they can easily be ripped in half for 2x4s. We have a few more building projects in mind: a greenhouse, grazing frames for the chickens, and posts. He uses them as crossmembers in fence braces. We also still have two more windows to replace in the house, so he'll use them there too.

Kelly said...

I'll try to keep an eye out for more on your solar project. My husband has always dreamed of being able to generate our own power and, with the availability of storage cells now (Tesla?), he's thinking more seriously about it. He's a forester by education (though not practicing), so I count on him to manage our timber properly.

Debbie - Mountain Mama said...

I love that you use the trees you take down, for lumber, mulch, and heat! You are lucky to have a man who can take down trees and 'recycle' them that way....my sweetie is fabulous, but that's beyond his capacity at this age I think. Perhaps if I had known him when he was younger! It sure would be nice to not have to pay for firewood any more, but at least I get a good deal from the man I order from - $150/cord. It's far cheaper than oil, that's for sure!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I wish we promoted and practiced stewardship and conservation as you are doing. Wood, carefully managed and stewarded, is a resource for generations.

Mama Pea said...

Managing a wood lot of any size is nearly a full time chore. We hope to do better with ours now that we have a tractor with which to make some primitive roads into and through our woods. Being able to harvest wood on your own land to use as a heat source is the way to go!

Renee Nefe said...

so today something reminded me that I hadn't looked at your blog in "forever" so I spent my lunch looking back at all that I had missed. Your carport is looking great!

We have been starting maple seeds from my neighbor's tree in the house and then transferring them outside. There is now one that is going to shade the window by my computer very nicely this summer. We have a few others that are trying to catch up...there is also one that hubby bought several years ago but it isn't growing as well as the others. Odd

Out in the front yard are Aspen trees that came with the house. Although these trees are native to my state, they are not native to where we live(even though developers & landscapers plant them everywhere) We have had to remove 2 of the 3 trees and the last one isn't doing that well. I think that I'll suggest that we replace them with more homegrown maples. They seem to like it here.

Leigh said...

Kelly, it's a good goal. We won't be able to go whole-house solar, but we figure we can at least have a few small subsystems. Like a back up for my pantry fridge and freezer. That seems to be a priority in our hot climate.

Debbie, we've kept an eye on the price of firewood and notice it's gone up quite a bit this year. And it's no longer sold by the cord but by the face cord. Still, it's cheaper than oil. Or heating with electricity!

TB, I just think that this is the way we ought to be living. And I always hope we can encourage or inspire others to take even small steps too.

Mama Pea, we couldn't do it without our tractor! It is such a workhorse. You'll really enjoy yours.

Leigh said...

Renee! It's so good to hear from you! For awhile blogger didn't link your comment name to your blog, so I completely lost track of you.

I love that you are starting maples like that. We need to start a few more pecans. The shade is invaluable! Plus they are pretty. Odd aspens don't do well for you. It doesn't seem that plants have their distinct preferences.

The Wykeham Observer said...

It's sure good to see you make use of all the tree, the lumber for different kinds of shelter and the chips for landscaping and fertility. Just to think of what's wasted in our society, it makes a heart feel good. Phil

Leigh said...

Phil, in regards to waste, the public doesn't see the half of it. When Dan drove a big truck he got to see it all up close when he made pickups and deliveries. Even the most massive amount of household waste pales in comparison to what gets wasted on the manufacturing level.

Rose said...

This was a very interesting read...wondering what kind of soil do you have?

Woolly Bits said...

unfortunately I live on an island that has not followed the principle of replanting what's taken out:( that's why ireland has so little in mature woods:( one thing I really miss about living in germany - walking through a proper wood! there are very few mature trees around here, usually a few hawthorns, blackthorns along walls and a sycamore here and there. one thing most irish people do as soon as they buy a piece of land to build on (or a house for that matter) is to take every tree out they can find:( I can understand taking away trees that threaten to damage the house - but what's the point in taking them out when they are at the other end of the property? well, anyway, we were lucky that the previous owner planted a line of ash trees and a few sycamores along the property line, which provides shelter from wind, sun and view! unfortunately we only have less than an acre of land, so there was a limit to our tree planting, but we put in what we could to see which species work well and which don't. after 20 years we had to take out some of them, but others thrive, so that most of our land is fully planted by now. and this time of the year is the best, when the fresh green covers everything again:)

Kev Alviti said...

My brother and I always talk about tree karma. Try to make sure it's in the positive, plant more than you cut down and all is good in the world.

Chris said...

You're really speaking my language. I'm nodding my head at everything. Only our trees aren't pines, they're acacias or eucalyptus. The latter can get up to 30-40 metres (approx 100ft) mark. BIG trees. Narrow block. That's why we don't have any fencing. Well, one of the reasons. And the girth! Oh my. For the big guys, we call in the professionals. But we try to take out the smaller ones.

I know you said you had Oaks before, but what other kinds of hardwoods do you have? Good luck with your new solar project! Will be interesting to follow.

Leigh said...

Oh my, looks like I fell behind in answering comments!

Rose, our soil is officially "cecil sandy loam." The topsoil is a light brown sandy loam with little organic matter, and the subsoil is red clay. Our pines have shallow roots, plus being old and spindly, well, you see the problem.

Bettina, it does take awhile to learn what's happy to grow in a particular area, isn't it? I can fully appreciate why you miss Germany! When I think of Germany I think of trees. Odd that the Irish rather not have trees around. I'd miss them too.

Kev, that's the best way to do it!

Chris, probably for the best to not have too many fences! I just had to have my goats!!! Besides our oaks we have mostly maples and pecans. One basswood and a few others I really should identify.

The solar project isn't getting to the top of the to-do list fast enough for me. We need to finish with some planting and fencing, then we can get on to other things.