Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The reason for the tractor

Here is part of my reasoning behind finally purchasing some form of tractor. The picture shows a peninsula that semi-seperates the main rectangular pond from the northern shallow pond. It is at a strange angle, overgrown, and generally unusable. I believe it is from excavating the pond and allowed the excavator to reach further portions of the pond during renovations in the past. it is shaped sort of like an inverted V with the north side steep and the south side sloping gently towards the water. I want to shape it with a flattened top, leaving the steep north side, and creating a possible building site or at least a packed gravel pad for my wife to enjoy the pond. A small cabin would have a great view from here of both parts of the pond. I cleared the brush over a year ago with a brush cutter, but the vines and a few trees are coming back from the roots. I am heading out to mow the year old shrubbery before they grow enough next year to require a rotary cutter. A middle buster/sub soiler combo at TSC will be picked up soon for busting up that grass and other gardening uses, maybe while I am out mowing. I will then go over it with a box blade and level it off. The next post should be of my mowing results and maybe a little logging/sawmill action if time allows.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tractor for work and pleasure

I bit the bullet and purchased a real, albeit small, Kubota B6100E tractor for the property. I had to find one small enough to keep in the backyard for security, and transport it back and forth. It came with a finish mower and a 25 gallon sprayer. The mower means I can actually get the front entry and pond mown and usable. The sprayer has a wand and two nozzles in the pointing down. I can treat the turf areas for weeds and spray the pond edge to kill the hook stealing vegetation. After a little work, we should be able to play a little easier next year. A box blade will need to be purchased for trail maintenance, and renting a few other implements when needed will make structures and access easier. I can't wait to start leveling out the lumpy area in front of the pond and maybe starting on a gravel road to get the truck further in. It slips on slick clay where I must turn and go uphill just feet from the pond edge and keeps the truck confined to the entryway. We don't need that kind of structure in there. I am going to make a hitch connector for the Logrite Junior arch to pull the larger logs. The Junior may be able to handle a 16'x16" log, but it ways a bit much to pull very far by hand. I plan on getting out there within a week and getting some mowing done to start with a fresh cut next year. A few of the plants growing are shrubby perennials and vines that need to be knocked down now before I must cut them and growing grass. It will also clear out the matted down dead grass. I only have 14hp to work with and no rotary cutter. A rotary cutter may be on my rental list once I know I can keep up with the current grassy areas. We also plan to use the tractor for some foodplots on ours and my fathers future property.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fall Woodlot Report Part 3: Evaluating the pond

Having the pond on the middle of a forested area has been an interesting learning experience. Trees bring all sorts of extra issues to a pond. They can die when flooded, they drop leaves that make muck in the pond bottom, they reseed all over the pond shore, and they are attractive to beavers. A beaver has set up a homestead on the pond. All that great timber to chew on and a nice convenient pond to live in has inticed one to stay. I had passers through before, but they left when they could not keep the pond level stable. It has been stable for over a year now and this beaver has not left, I think. It has built a den (see photo), tried to bulldoze mud into the overflow pipe, and who knows what other damage I am going to find. Luckily the den is not in the dam; so no tunnels have been found yet that might undeermine it. A conibear trap is in order I believe to get rid of the nuisance.

Trees can be a problem around a pond. I have a large dead area that floods to much and will need more flood tolerant trees like bald cypress and tupelos. These areas also make a nice wetland zone between the seasonal creek and the pond. Sediment is trapped in this area and extends the life of the pond. Leaves from the trees can build up in the pond as well creating a 'pond muck'. It is an anearobic sediment of rotting vegetable matter. I have researched aerators and microbes to act against it. The microbes are more in line with my budget and I may try some next year to get the eradication process started. The microbes you add are the same as the ones added to septic systems. They work anearobically to break down the plant matter. Aeration is quicker, more expensive, and needs elctricity usually. Finally, the trees around the pond make plenty of seeds to sprout around the pond. Usually trees on a dam are bad, but I have been told mine is fine by an expert dam consultant. My issue now is they block access and views. I hope to clear some out completely and clear brush/prune under others to make fishing and viewing spots. Willows and buttonbush are another concern of mine. They can take over the shoreline quickly. I will be using an appropriate herbicide on any I find. These grow very close and in the water; so a proper herbicide for around water is needed to prevent damage to the pond itself. My next post will be on the TSI work I am doing salvaging dead trees and cutting culls to make construction wood with the sawmill for projects on the property.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Woodlot Report Part 2: Utilizing dead trees

In part 2, I will be discussing how I am utilizing dead wood from the flooded area. Trees are continuing to die in the flood prone area as their roots succumb to the lack of air and they suffocate. Trees have different abilities to survive flooding. The bald cypress I planted are extremely flood tolerant, and their knees are what allow them to breath when the majority of the root system is underwater. The willow oaks and nutmeg hickories that have died can only withstand 6 months or so of standing water. A few are on slightly higher gound allowing them to last a few years longer than others, but I believe they will all die eventually in this area. I have started trying to get these down before they die or after they are dead but still sound enough to take down. Wildlife trees are also important and the ones I cannot get to or were already damaged will remain for this purpose. The eastern red cedar's flood capacity is not known to me and I am leaving any live ones and taking any dead ones. Luckily, they do not rot and can wait around as dead standing trees until I get to them. Bugs love the hickory so much that the one I took down still had leaves on it and had bugs all the way to center. Smaker and firewood is all these will be good for. I have not taken down any willow oak that died this year. The cold weather should hold off the bugs until spring. I hope to salvage some timber for projects on the property, but they may become firewood if the bugs are to bad. The nice thing about the mill is I can cut down to the heartwood and make lumber while cutting up the sapwood into firewood if the bugs have only made it a little ways into the wood. The cedar I took down was beautiful, and one had a really interesting ring of sapwood inside the heartwood. It is going to become a picnic table for the property since it would be a waste to turn it into posts. Three hours of labor netted me 6 nice cedar saw logs, a short cedar elm, and a hickory that will become firewood. I have to more large cedars to get out and several small ones. There are also several willow oaks to take down that recently died and my not be full of bugs. Two may be to large for the log arch even. All told, I believe I can get quite a stack of lumber out of the dead trees with at least 7 more sawlogs of cedar and hopefully 9 of willow oak if the arch can get them all. I believe those willow oaks are going to be my pavilion posts, perlins, and such since there will be no ground contact. Well, that is enough on salvaging dead trees. Part 3 will be on the pond.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fall Woodlot Report Part 1: Forest Health

I am splitting up my recent observations and tasks into multiple posts. Today, I will cover the the health of the trees and the seedlings I planted. I suspected this spring that several more trees would die from the high water in the pond. The water was still in the forest and several cedars, oaks, and hickories had succumbed to the flooding. A few cedars I thought were in danger made it through and should not be in danger. The previous owner's modifications to the pond in 2006 must have affected the water level, and the addition of beaver trying to raise it over the last couple of years has raised it even further. There is hardly any sign of terrestrial plants where there were many when we purchased it. The flooding backs into previously forested areas the entire year, except maybe drought years, where the trees will continue to die unless I make changes to the pond. The new wetland areas are nice and I believe I will keep some for diversity and the fish. I am going to continue planting flood tolerant trees where the forest is continueing to die off. Bald cypress is doing well where I planted them 18 months ago. A growth rate of 4-5 feet in that time seems excellent to me. The photo is an example of those planted, albeit not the straightest but the driest to get to. I believe I will mix in some tupelo and sycamore in the next planting. I also planted mayhaw trees at the same time. Those have been flooded to the point I cannot spot any and are probably dead. I hope a few survived. Cottonwood was this years planting near the far north end of the dam. I found a nice series of mud puddles along my planting path and no sign of the cuttings. They should have been moist enough and were growing well earlier this year. I believe the hogs pound their roots to be a tasty treat. The entire area I planted was to wet to inspect, but at least 3/4 of them appear to have been eaten or killed. A few more of the oaks on the fringes of the pond have died since this spring as well. I had time to salvage the cedars, and it looks like I may be able to salvage a few of the oaks. The cutting and utilization of these trees will be part 2 of this series. Part 3 will be about the pond and its management.

Friday, November 12, 2010

2 trips in 2 weeks, amazing!

I made it out 2 times in the past 2 weeks. Hope to make it out again next week to hunt and possibly do a little milling. It sure is looking good out there. Cut some wood for the mill, fireplace, and to deer hunt. I scoped out a concrete pad I am sizing up to build a pavilion on for picnics. The trees were cut for either posts or picnic table for the pavilion. A beaver has been out there but not sure if it is still around. A lot of dirt has been pushed up around the overflow pipe on the dam and I found the den. I checked on the trees I have planted. The bald cypress are doing well with some around 5 feet tall. The cottonwood has been hit by animals, and all that is left is little mud puddles in a neat line where they were planted. The mayhaws also look to have drowned in the high water. I will need to get a closer look with waders or rubber boots to tell them apart from the brushy plants. I will get another post up soon with pics and better details.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A new blog for my woodworking

I started a new blog to showcase my woodworking projects at http://jtcwoodcrafts.blogspot.com/ . I will be showcasing some projects that use wood from my property and milled on the sawmill.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Finding replacement trees for newly flood prone areas

I have come to the realization that the pond on the property is going to flood quite a bit of the timber. I need to salvage what I can, but also find suitable replacements for the species that cannot stand wet feet for a prolonged period. A few more oaks died, luckily junky ones full of epicormic sprouts, and some eastern redcedar that will not rot before I can get to them. I will probably take the few remaining willow oaks that flood because it is only a matter of time before the flooding suffocates their roots. I already planted cypress last year before realizing just how deep and prolonged the high water gets. A few drowned, and quite a few could be seen this spring sprouting above the water or competing vegetation. The competing vegetation needs to be cut down around these carefully. I decided something else needed to be tried to the North of the pond, and was offered some free cottonwood cutting by a fellow from the Forestry Forum. The problem of figuring out which species to put in ended right there. Free trees is the best way to experiment. The area is along a relatively plant free water course exiting the pond along the north end of the dam. I planted them in a strip between the dam and water course where they should have enough moisture through the dry parts of the year. Planting was simple. I just made sure the buds faced up and stuck them in the ground with 2 nodes above the surface. The pic is from a week after planting and they were budding out nicely. a few did not sprout from the late time I planted these and a few were stepped on by animals knocking off the sprouts. If they work out well I plan to find a way to clear out the brush and grass on the other side of this seasonal waterway to make a proper seedling planting area and plant cottonwoods and bald cypress. Well, the time between new posts should be shorter now that I have a plan, simple projects, and some time to get them done.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Suffering as a home body

I never realized how much I enjoyed the outdoors until circumstances forced me to stay at home. First, our beautiful little girl was born last August, and took up a lot of my time. My wife then developed some medical problems forcing me to stay around the house. Hopefully the end is in sight with a surgery and 6 weeks of recovery. I am amazed at the number of crazy ideas I have come up with during my time at home. Outbuildings, cabins, docks for the pond, all growing in size and complexity as time passed. Harvesting and management plans filled my mind with dreams of getting out to the property more often. Last week I settled down and determined what it would take to spend more time out there. Shelter of some sort would definitely help by letting me take the wife and kid with me, but the budget is tight. I took all those interesting ideas and drawings and filed them in a drawer. They were to large for the budget or to complex for the amount of time I have at the property. As I was strolling through the grocery store, a Mother Earth News DIY quarterly caught my eye. It contained an article called called "Build this Cozy Cabin" which can also be found on their website. Simple, inexpensive, and some of the larger timbers could be made on the sawmill out of post oak to save more money. The loft gives me a nice place for my daughter to sleep when she gets older and needs more space. It can also be found online here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/2006-06-01/Build-this-Cozy-Cabin.aspx . Now I have something to plan and budget for that will let us all enjoy the woods! I made time a few weeks back to plant some cottonwood cuttings that were given to me by a fellow ForestryForum.com member Brian Beauchamp, but that is post for another time, with pics!

Friday, February 26, 2010

All right, now we are getting somewhere! I took delivery of the Logrite Junior arch recently with the extension handle. It is a well made piece of equipment with everything lining up properly and nice, contnuous, smooth welds. Even the bolts were good quality. The arch can hold up to a 16" diameter log in the tongs and 16' in length because of the extension. I am not sure I would want to pull its full capacity by hand. I can now haul all my firewood as practically tree length material to my firewood pile. It will also hold a log above the ground for bucking into firewood lengths. No more hitting dirt and dulling the chain. I will also start hauling larger, heavier logs to the mill with it. The little lawn tractor was having a hard time dragging much of a log, even with a piece of old barrel as a skidding cone. Cedar was pretty much the limit for it, and short or small diameter pieces at that. I hope to get some use out of it this spring as a lot of cleaning needs to be done and some of those trees will make decent wood for the sawmill. I have been rereading some of my books in preparation for marking and cutting more junk trees to make room for the good ones to grow. I will have a report on how it worked out next time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wow, been a while!

It has been quite a while since I updated this series or been out to the woods. A new addition to the family in the form of a little girl will do that to a person. I had to make time to get out and check on the pond and property. A few items on the to do list had to be taken care of also. The pond was very high when I first pulled in the gate; so a walk around was the first order of business. I shortly found out it was to be a slosh around. Water was pouring into the pond with only 1/2" of rain for the month. The ground was visibly saturated with lots of ponding everywhere a low spot occured. In the back of the property, the culvert leading into the pond had water flowing over it. The culvert for the pond dam end letting the spillway lead into the creek was practically washed out. A large pond has formed where the overflow pipe emptied behind the dam. Drainage needs to be deepened for it as the picture shows.l The standing water there explained the stressed trees in that area. Lots of dirt work is going to be needed in the future, probably to tear out the culverts and add small bridges instead.
I was able to work on realeasing a small area of saplings near the sawmill area. There was a funky post oak and some gnarly, bent cedar elms over topping them. I was able to take down most of them, but time constraints meant I had to leave 2-3 for the next time. I also cut some problem trees that were to close to more desireable trees on the way back. The wet ground prevented me from picking up any of the wood; so I stacked it neatly on the side of the path. I hope to accomplish more the next time I am, barring anymore water damage. I need to finish releasing rhw incomplete area and cutting that wood into firewood. I then need to mark and cut any other bad form trees leading up to that area. I have the property blocked out into 5 areas, and I never really worked on area 1 last year. Twice the work, but twice the fun!