Forest management. Seeing the trees and the forest is a skill for sure. Zooming in and out not only on what is in front of you but also what is now and what it will become in 20 and 30 years. We are always observing with an eye on understanding life expectancy and transition from pioneer species like our cherry and alder to apex species like cedar and maple.
Observation is great but it is most useful informs action.
This is like thinning really big carrots, and the scale of it is a little daunting. One day’s work allows me to cruise and actively thin an area about 400 feet square. It is hard to see the difference.
First out are the little guys with no chance of getting leaves up into the canopy. Shade tolerant species stay put since they represent the successional canopy as long as they get enough light to stay healthy. We spend a lot of time looking up, then looking out.
All this gets done by hand, so bucking logs into lengths I can carry is the rule. Stumps get cut even with the ground, tops get chipped for mulch projects. I try and leave about a third of the volume of wood in place and in contact with the soil. Doing that builds soil fertility by adding organic matter and alder roots will begin to release nitrogen in the coming year or two (red alder is a nitrogen fixer).
How many tools does it take? The more tools the harder the job, right? A tape measure is handy too as is my roofing hatchet. Distance between dominant trees should be between 15-20 feet, and bucking logs in 16″ divisible numbers is handy so we don’t end up with the inevitable “shorty” that makes woodpile management a little harder.
Near the end of the day it looks like we did a lot of work if we look at the pile. Looking back into the forest shows the need for continuing the thinning operation. The last step is unloading the full truck bed of chips in an area that needs it. Cistern garden is lacking so we put this pile uphill from the trees it will be spread on. This pile is slow release nitrogen and good fungus development waiting to happen. I can probably assume at least two more full time weekends of doing this to get the first of 10 woodlots finished out.
I’ve been thinking about a work party for this kind of work, at least the hauling and chipping. A pig roast, a bonfire, some entertainment as a reward for a hard weekend’s work and camaraderie seem like a good trade off. It’s just that this is kind of dangerous so we’ll have to think through the method and planning well before we ever host a party.
Remember, when getting a little dirty always wear protection. Safety first!