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Zen and the Art of Woodlot Management

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Kenster, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Branching off from another thread...

    My wood lot is about three acres. It is solid thicket. So thick you can hardly walk through all the yaupon and scrub brush and spindly saplings to get to the hundreds of big pignut hickories and oak (mostly water oak and pin oak.) Some of the saplings struggle to reach sunlight and are therefore so skinny they can't hold themselves up. They'll never make it long term.

    I've cut several meandering walking paths through the woods. Makes for a nice walk. The beagles and the grand daughters love it. So do I. I love trees! I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. I probably have more trees on my three acres than you'd find in any five counties in the Panhandle. When I'm walking back there I'm always looking up to check for damaged tops or newly dead (or dying) trees that I will need to take down for firewood. I never cut a good, green tree. Don't need to.

    There are a lot of standing dead that are beyond use as firewood. They look weak and rotten and ready to fall over. Bark is blown and I can see large woodpecker holes all over them. I just leave them alone. But I am concerned with all the yaupon that acts almost like a ground cover. I'm afraid that it is actually detrimental to the growth and health of my big trees. I'm not sure how to balance the health of the wood lot to preserve the good trees, with the desire to maintain the habitat for the critters who live out there. Lots of deer, for example. I could go in and scrape it all out and just leave the trees but I'm not really interested in having a three acre park. Maybe I should go in and clean out a small area around the trees that seem threatened by the underbrush and leave the rest in a natural state? I'm as much, or more, interested in maintaining the beauty of my woodland as in preserving trees for future firewood. I have plenty of access to lots of good, standing dead on friends properties. No need really to harvest my own wood except for, as previously mentioned, standing dead or storm damaged trees.

    Comments?

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  2. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Minister of Fire

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    Usually ground cover provides protection for the seedling and helps it grow a bit while really digging in it's roots. Saplings usually turn from spindly little things to trees when a large tree dies or drops and open up the canopy. I would consult someone more familiar with that location, like a local ag school or as state agency to ask some questions.
  3. Cate68

    Cate68 Member

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    Nice post, Kenster. I love your appreciation for nature and your desire to preserve your acres in their natural state. I'm not familiar with yaupon, but it soulds like your idea of clearing it away from trees it is threatening is your best bet.
  4. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    Here in Iowa we have the County extension service we can get advice from for our area, do you have resources like that.
  5. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    There's optimal spacing for species, but it's nice to keep them mixed. They will compete like crazy when small like that. Sounds like some areas were cleared and are growing back in real thick now- so you'll see successions over the years- some species come in quick, but are replaced by other species etc.

    As others said- talk to some ag folks locally- you may end up doing some trimming. Good for you doing some planning! I have a bit of that going on as well.
  6. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    Hi -

    I have a similar situation with a 6 acre property I manage for a church. I use a similar philosophy. I cut standing dead that are useful or dangerous.

    I made some meandering paths. I leave enough brushy stuff in places to somewhat screen the 'areas' created by the paths. The areas defined by the paths are loosly defined by predominant tree types, Oak, Silver Maple, Sassafras, ans Ash. With the Ash all dead now I'm considering adding some Black Locust.

    Talking to old timers about what the local sucession of trees was as a woods ages might help. Here Poplar, Silver Maple, Ash, Oak and Hickory in pretty much that order.

    A local thicket was so thick years ago after being clear cut that folks avoided it. Even avid hunters just ignored it. One day I went in there late in Deer season. Once I got in the thicket the 'brushy' stuff was mostly dead, and the deer had several bedding areas and a bunch of trails. We hunt it still today and my adult children don't consider it a thicket at all any more. With a bit of care and a few decades a lot can be accomplished.

    Good luck, Mike
  7. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I don't think the brush will be detrimental to the growth of large trees. Thick yaupon growth will probably reduce the number of seedlings that survive to sapling stage, but once the saplings get taller than the yaupon the effect starts to diminish. I wouldn't wory about the brush except if you feel you need more saplings. I tihnk the trees are better off with a healthy growth of Yaupon than they would bee with cleared ground and potential disturbance to the roots and soil.
  8. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    I dunno about TX but up here too much ground cover means there's not enough shade. If I was you I'd plant some Locust - It's the best firewood, it grows everywhere, and it'll help shade out some of that ground cover.
  9. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    Down south the woods are generally a lot more dense than up here. Unless there are floods or fires or cattle to clear out the underbrush, you can expect it to get pretty thick. Up north we have a lot more open woods in many areas. Of course there are lots of exceptions.
  10. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    Plus the Iowa DNR's Forestry Bureau,with 12 District Foresters.You're in District 10,mine is District 8.

    http://www.iowadnr.gov/forestry/
  11. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Old Spark, yes we have a good county agent here. I may give him a call or stop by the courthouse to see him.
  12. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Adios, good call. This area actually used to be a big ranch that was subdivided by heirs about 30 years ago into 5.5 to 7.0 or so acre parcels. We have 12 acres but much of it is rolling meadow land. Back in our woods there area areas with barbed wire still strung between some trees, showing that it use to be pasture land.
  13. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    For a forest to be healthy, some understory is needed. If you really want to make it as healthy as possible, I'd look for a forester.

    Depending on what stage of forest succession your acreage is in you can expect different trees, like mentioned in the above post. Your forest will sort it out on it's own, but if you want to clear around some of the trees, pick the ones you want and clear away some of the competition. I wouldn't worry about the groundcover as the climax trees (The ones that are the last ones in the chain to grow.) do just fine in the shade. They can live well over a hundred years in the shade until a spot in the canopy opens up for them.

    Matt
  14. Mrs. Krabappel

    Mrs. Krabappel Minister of Fire

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    Something to ponder from an ecological perspective-
    Snags (standing dead trees) or nurse logs (fallen dead trees) are arguably more alive than a living tree given the biomass of birds, mammals, insects, fungus, etc. that inhabit them. Snags are critical to a healthy forest because ~85 species of North American birds are cavity nesters. After serving as critical habitat, those dead trees eventually return much of that carbon and nitrogen back to the soil. Sometimes choosing to take down a green tree and leave the snag results in a healthier, more productive forest or woodlot.
  15. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    I always try to leave at least 2 or 3 old snags per acre when cutting or cleaning up.If the top's gone or its sound with a few hollow spots,it stays.Lots of small mammals & birds use them,either standing or on the ground.Am especially careful when cutting this time of year.
  16. Mrs. Krabappel

    Mrs. Krabappel Minister of Fire

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    From what I remember, 2-3 decent diameter snags/acre is the magic number.
  17. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Kathleen, where on earth did you come up with such an awful avatar?



    Kenster, I would consider leaving a wide boundary of the really thick stuff, especially if you want to keep the deer around. Three acres is not all that much to play with but you still can do many things. The county extension agent will have good ideas but do not think you have to go 100% with their opinions. The boundary of thick would be one thing they probably would never recommend. Personally, we love to have deer around and we have a bit more than the 3 acres. Still there are many things we do to keep the deer here.

    Ah, this morning out plowing snow showed all the fresh tracks very well and it pleases me to no end to see them. I also plow the walking paths we have back in the woods.
  18. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    When you are leaving snags, it makes a difference what types of trees are left standing dead. Around here, I think oak makes the least desirable snag because it rots slowly from the outside in. Often very old oak trees have very solid centers, which means there are usually fewer natural cavities and woodpecker holes in a dead oak than in other types of wood. CHerry and Black Locust seem especially prone to becoming hollow, making them better wildlife snags than oak.
  19. oldspark

    oldspark Guest

    I forgot about that web site, its a good one.

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