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Author Topic: Western Larch Health  (Read 246 times)

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Offline JDowns71

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Western Larch Health
« on: September 13, 2021, 07:36:37 PM »
This is my first season in the woods so I'm eager to learn.

Next to the WRC the Western Larch is probably my favorite tree on the property.   I've noticed in areas where there is a close grouping of trees you obviously get sides of the tree that will not grow and it appears as though the trunks grow skinnier, and in some areas a few will slowly die.  I have one grouping of ten where two are dead and standing.   Where I find a lone Larch the branches grow much wider with a thicker trunk.

My question would be at what height is it beneficial to remove trees closer to promote a larger healthier tree?  And at what height is there no net gain if the tree is already stunted?

Regards,

Offline DMcCoy

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2021, 08:39:30 AM »
There are recommendations about 'release' and at what ages to do so, based on maximizing volume, which is how sawmills pay with the exception of the export market(DF) which includes ring count per inch.
Removing competition will allow the remaining trees access to both sunlight and soil water/nutrients.  While it is good to do this early, it can be done at any point and the remaining trees will benefit.
As a guy once told me about butchering a deer and cutting steaks - "If the meat isn't on one piece it will be on the other".  You can leave it alone and get tighter rings or you can have more volume on fewer trees if you reduce the number.  There is no 100% right answer, it depends on what you want the logs to be.  Personally I send my big fluffy trees to a sawmill for $$$.  I save my tight ring stuff for my own personal use because I believe it is stronger and more stable.  I have milled plenty of logs where you can see where the tree suddenly starting growing exponentially. I just milled a tree that was  @ 8" tree(DBH) at 40 years it ballooned out to 38" over the next 27 years once it got out in the open - solo.  While it did gain some in height it really just got fat.  Giant limbs, 3-4", and giant knots, it went to the mill except for the butt log which was oversized so I milled it myself.  The mill paid the exact same for #1 through #4 sawlog which surprised me -$850/mbf.
Personally I thin frequently, knowing the optimal tree spacing for mature doug fir is 16-20' at which point I will quit thinning and clear cut eventually. I don't know what spacing larch would be for your area.  You should be able to find that distance somewhere.
Obviously the dead ones come out first and you know that already.  After they are out you might have a better idea of what to do.  If I can't make up my mind I walk away until it becomes more obvious what direction I want to take any particular stand of trees.
Hope this helps.

Offline JDowns71

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2021, 04:34:35 PM »
@DMcCoy.   Thanks for the great insight.   The property really hasn't been touched for at least a decade. and I don't think any thinning was ever done since the logging days in the area.

The original house had a stove fire and burned to the ground.  There is a grouping of Larch that are dying from the top down that I would guess was either from the fire itself or a result of all the chemicals mixed with fire water damaged the trees.  There are no other trees that I've seen that exhibit this behavior so that might rule out pests.

There are about 8 Larch in there that should just be removed.  As you can see the brush below is thick with a few young trees.  That area will get cleared while preserving the young trees and there is no shortage of Larch or DF near the barn on the slope under 3ft that couldn't get easily transplanted.  Anything that grows on that slope grows with an initial "L" shaped trunk which when they get in the 20 foot range start to tilt and start to become a hazard to the barn area.



This Ponderosa is a good candidate based on your knowledge to thin which would allow the Larch next to it to improve.



 


Thanks for the valuable insight.

Regards,

Offline DMcCoy

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2021, 08:50:07 AM »
Thanks for the kind words.
Looking at your pictures, fire hazard was my first thought.  The dead limbs are ladder fuels that can lead to crown fire. I'm sure you know this but I wanted to mention it.
Ponderosa is fire resistant, I'm not sure about larch.
Obviously after removing the dead or most dead trees you will get a better look.  I'm not sure what the recommended spacing for being 'firewise' would be for your area but I'm sure that information is readily available from the state forester or website.
For us the recommendation after being thinned would be to limb the large trees 12' above the brush or preferably remove the brush and 12' above the grass and forbs.  Firewise thinning distances(spacing) changes with distance from structures and tree species.  Your location is much dryer than mine and I know the recommendations for the east side of the Cascades in OR is different than the west.
Again what you choose to do with it is a personal choice based on the values and goals you have.  Sawlogs, viewpoints, woodlot, recreational, fire buffer, and wildlife habitat are all co-mingled in making decisions.  Don't be afraid to step back once in a while when the decisions are not clear.  If you are new to chainsaws and felling there is a great set of diagrams on this site by John Vader.
Best of luck with your new adventure!

Offline JDowns71

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2021, 03:07:08 PM »
Thanks for the kind words.
Looking at your pictures, fire hazard was my first thought.  The dead limbs are ladder fuels that can lead to crown fire. I'm sure you know this but I wanted to mention it.
Ponderosa is fire resistant, I'm not sure about larch.
Obviously after removing the dead or most dead trees you will get a better look.  I'm not sure what the recommended spacing for being 'firewise' would be for your area but I'm sure that information is readily available from the state forester or website.
For us the recommendation after being thinned would be to limb the large trees 12' above the brush or preferably remove the brush and 12' above the grass and forbs.  Firewise thinning distances(spacing) changes with distance from structures and tree species.  Your location is much dryer than mine and I know the recommendations for the east side of the Cascades in OR is different than the west.
Again what you choose to do with it is a personal choice based on the values and goals you have.  Sawlogs, viewpoints, woodlot, recreational, fire buffer, and wildlife habitat are all co-mingled in making decisions.  Don't be afraid to step back once in a while when the decisions are not clear.  If you are new to chainsaws and felling there is a great set of diagrams on this site by John Vader.
Best of luck with your new adventure!
I agree with the fire hazard comment.  The company that's coming out to clear in early October wouldn't touch the place this summer due to fire restrictions, even though private properties are exempt here, it was mainly liability that we delayed.   

His first comment was this place was a potential powder keg of tinder.  We do have an HOA here that oversees about 1000 acres with lots from 10 - 200 acres.  Mainly to manage the private roads, snow removal, and mail boxes by the main road.   There is talk this year to start collectively discussing fire hazards as there are a few lots like mine that are not well maintained.

Western Larch is considered the most fire resistant in its range due to its mature thick bark, low sap content, and self pruning lower branches.  But that may be negated when you have 8' high brush and 20' dead dogwood right underneath it.   :-\

I never really considered fire hazard when de-limbing, but thanks for mentioning it as that makes perfect sense.  My first thought was actually esthetics for when we create trails and for general viewing.   But doing that further research will ensure I'm meeting the goals of esthetics along with fire protection.




 

Down where the WRC and Grand Fir are, this is a very typical view with so many dead branches at eye level just walking around is cumbersome.

The main goal for the property is first to reconnect the old logging road that goes around the permitter of the property and make a few connections so we have access for equipment.   Also to create trails between unique sites for enjoyment.   Overall goal is to make the land enjoyable for the kids (for me all the nephews and nieces), providing habitat for all the wildlife we have here (deer, elk, grouse, turkey, and general birds and critters).  This place will eventually get passed down to the kids and they will benefit from todays work that will mature in the future for them.  Sister and brother in law would love to do a tree house somewhere, aquifers can be managed into creeks, etc.  Right now you can't walk five feet without wondering if you are going to fall in a ditch, step into a wasp nest, or just exhaust yourself getting from point A to point B.

There are some unique spots I have found.  There is one spot that is a massive Service Berry (June Berry) stand with about 20 trunks with the biggest being 6" and the whole thing is about 25' tall in a nice canopy surrounded by ferns.  Clearing to an area like that with paths and creating a small fire pit would be a unique spot. Promoting certain growth like the Rocky Mountain Maples, Service Berries, possibly some sort of oak, while balancing larger tree health and re-population.  Those type of plans.

My comfort level with chainsaws would extend to removing things like the dead dogwoods, alders, downed logs and limbs, and hanging limbs.  With no experience felling trees and due to the slope, density of trees, and high probability of leaving a tree hanging,  I made an early decision that for any felling I would just hire a professional.  I don't mind learning the process and felling an easy tree under supervision to gain experience, but for safety sake I'd rather just have a professional come out and do that type of work for me.  

Offline JDowns71

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2021, 04:21:18 PM »
The Northside of the property is the most heavily dense with Dogwood, Alder, and Rocky Mountain Maple.   In this area where there is plenty of sunshine the growth tends to be multi-stocked and shorter surrounded by tons of brush.



 

Most of this will get cleared with the machine and I'll mark some healthy clumps to leave.   If they need to get removed later or thinned like the following Dogwood then I'm comfortable doing that.




 

Leaners like this...Not gonna even attempt that. :D



 



Offline DMcCoy

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2021, 08:15:08 AM »
I has assumed your area was more arid, with less brush.  Looks similar to my place.
I started out with thick trees with lots of dead baby tree limbs.  I want a mixed species forest.  This is doug fir, (1) western hemlock, alder, a few big leaf maple and some 'brood mare' western red cedars I left after logging this area 20 or so years ago. The brush components I try and remove especially elderberry.  There is a couple of cascara buckthorn- Rhamnus purshiana which can grow to 30' which I have left but it isn't considered a wood tree.


 
An area of Alder I thinned and limbed.  Adventitious bud growth happens with Alder, so the branch 'fuzz' is a maintenance issue.



My wife has been trying to get me to buy a tractor grapple for years.  I got one this year.  I had to add 3rd function hydraulics to use it.  I cannot stress how nice this is for clean up.  Waited 5-6 mo. to get it but it is well built, US made and competitively priced.  


 
I made  the mistake once of leaving a skinny tree in an area I replanted, let it get bigger first was my thinking.  My reprod grew up for about 15 yrs and I realized my skinny tree had grown wide with
large branches and getting it down would damage quit a few tops of the reprod.  Fortunately I was able to winch it out backwards but I will never do that again. 
I plan my areas to be logged complete a bit in a patchwork fashion so I have a mixed age forest.  My acreage is small enough it will never be a source of primary income.  To have repetitive small harvests is the timber portion of my decision making. 

Offline JDowns71

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2021, 01:00:08 PM »
@DMcCoy Depending on which side of the slope you are on here there are stark differences.  The east slope and top ridge are dominated by Ponderosa and grass.   This property is unique in that the bottom of the property sits in a bowl and about 60 acres of surrounding property funnels into that bowl.  Due to the dry summer I haven't been able to observe water run off yet, but judging by the density of ferns, small mud pits about 6' in diameter with constant standing water, and the diversity of trees in the bowl ranging from WRC, Grand Fir, Aspen, Rocky Mountain Maple, Birch, and tons of ferns, that would leave me to believe there is a good source of constant water down there.   The well is situated near that area but higher on the ridge.  The north side is the most brush. Probably due to the fact thats where a road is and had easy access for previous homeowners to get timber up to the house.  The south side is much thicker with trees but is also the bowl area.

Your area of alders is exactly how I would like to promote the areas that are dense enough with Rocky Mountain Maple.  Right now they amount of brush and other trees are inhibiting the spread.   Higher up on the slope where the RMM grows with more light it grows more as a shrub with multiple stalks.  Down below its more spindly in a tree form.

Your post on the grapple is well timed.  I'm starting to prepare goals for next season. Brush gets cleared in early October then I'm back to Phoenix until next March.  My goals for next season for outdoors is to connect the old logging road at the bottom and top with new roads so I have a loop around the property. Roads will be most likely contracted out or at least advised for proper drainage since there is obviously water runoff through the existing roads.  Getting seasoned advice here will be critical so I'm not repairing every season.  Once the roads are in I can concentrate on some cleanup of lower hanging limbs, dead limbs in the dogwoods and other shrubs, etc.   So a grapple is going to come in handy to get material up to the top for chipping.  I have a heavy slope around the barn that is about 30' wide by about 200' long that I would like to heavily mulch to stop all the weed growth.  Eventually that area will get retaining blocks, back filled, and planted with some sort of erosion control low lying bushes.   I am looking at a Kubota L4060 with a bucket, mower, backhoe, logging arch, and a grapple.   Is that grapple the Wicked Grapple?  

I would love to start milling, but I'm tempering my expectations with the amount of work that is needed just to get the infrastructure in place to do so.  Roads and cleanup have to come first obviously.  I don't have a lot of areas near the barn or where the future house would go that are nearly flat enough.  The one spot that wold be perfect would require a 10-12' retaining wall and backfilled, the other is already mostly flat but closer to where the new house would go than I would want.  A friend of the family up here has an arborist company and beyond what I need to clear here I would have access to plenty of trunks. Lots to consider for the space required to cut, store, and dry.

Would love to hear your opinions on your grapple.  I see that as a necessary attachment to get a lot of the dead brush collected and transported up the hill.

I also have a lot of this down on the old logging road.  Plenty of cleanup to do.



 

Regards,

Offline DMcCoy

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2021, 04:09:22 PM »
Yes, it is the wicked 55 from everything attachments.  I do a fair amount of my own fabrication and was impressed by the fit and finish of the grapple.  The folks there at Everything Attachments I found easy to work with and pleasant.  They are behind but that's a story I run into everywhere.  They ended up doing a redesign because they could not source the DOM tubing they needed.
The 3rd function hydraulic valve I bought from Summit hydraulics because they are considerably cheaper.  All the remaining hydraulic parts came from surplus center.

The grapple does a great job of back raking - loose branches, black berries and misc debris.  Going forwards it acts like a scarifier, I can dig the root systems out of many plants.   I learned to roll the pile to get as much of the dirt out as possible before picking it up to move.
Being able to lift up a pile of blackberries is nice.   Being able to stack means the piles will burn easier.  It lifts logs with ease. 

Offline JDowns71

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2021, 06:11:59 PM »
Thanks for the feedback.   

Suppliers are delayed and backed up across a lot of industries.  Fortunately I have time until next March / April but I want to start to put together a strategy so things can get order well ahead of time.

Once things get cleared and I can walk freely I can finalize equipment needs.

Regards,

Offline beenthere

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Re: Western Larch Health
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2021, 06:25:50 PM »
Added The Thumb to my JD forks and like how they work for brush and for logs. Lighter in weight which allows for lifting bigger loads when on a smaller tractor. 



 
south central Wisconsin
 It may be that my sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others


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