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Author Topic: Tree top cleanup  (Read 2172 times)

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Offline dan-l-b

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Tree top cleanup
« on: January 06, 2004, 05:35:51 AM »
Bill (my Dad) and I are in quite a quandry right now.  Bill is the owner of 80 acres and he and my family both reside on this acreage.  Bill and I have taken staves and firewood off the place for 40 years.  We had a forester come in last year, do the cruise, set up the stands and make recommendations.  Overall the biggest problem was overpopulation.  Thinning of damaged, inferrior, wolf trees, and undesiralbe species was the overriding recommendations.  Great for the firewood business, hard on the sawmill work.  We are in mid-MO and the stand is a mix of whiteoak, blackoak, hickory, etc.  Here is the problem...In harvesting trees either for logs or firewood, one inevitably have the tops to contend with.  Since Bill and I both heat with wood, it was natural to agree to cleaning up the tops down to a 4-6" limb.  The rest to lay in the woods.  Well now I am "top grading" and there is just too much firewood being left in the woods.  In one area the limbs lay, in another I windrowed the limbs along a dry weather creek for wildlife cover.  The windrows are now a problem too.  
Any suggestions?  Any data to show the benefits of felled tree limbs to the forest floor or wildlife?  Bill loves this property and wants what is best for it, but he may constrain the process so much that I may have to stop. :( :(

Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2004, 08:04:41 AM »
Tops are a problem on any logging job, you seem to have the best of what you can do by running the stuff through your heaters.  In short, no solution other than what your doing and natural decomposition.  You can only create so much wildlife habitat with wind rows.

Best bet is to lay as much of the top on the ground to keep it as wet as possible, and to encourage decomposition.

Burning wind rows is another solution, but one with its own dangers and environmental problems.  You may want to check with the Mo Conservation Commission and see what they recommend.
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Online beenthere

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2004, 08:05:52 AM »
dan-l-b
I would guess that you would resort to following the owners plans and desires. But I hear what you are saying, and also have a hard time not cleaning up the white oak tops down to at least a 2-3" limb larger pieces make good firewood, (although they are a lot of hand work and labor). I don't like leaving those tops in the way of walking, and tractoring through the woods, so try to find the time to clean them up some. I like to do that in the winter when I usually start a fire in the middle, keep it going by burning the smallest tops and trimming up the rest for a pile of firewood. Sometimes I don't get back in to get that firewood until the pile is somewhat rotted down, so I leave it there (procrastinate too long and it turns to dust). But the woods is easier to get around in, and looks neat.
Good luck on your decision. Maybe it will lead to having your own woods to work in someday.
south central Wisconsin
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Offline dan-l-b

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2004, 10:55:18 AM »
Thanks for the replies, yes beenthere, the owners desires are paramont, and I know I have to clean up.  Just wish there was some majical statistic or study on how much better it is to leave material as to take  it out to the nth degree.  On gradual slopes I will use some of the top limbs as erosion barrier and run my compact excavator over the mess making a short term durable mat.  When I started this thread I kinda felt like I was asking that guy who writes the column in successful farming dealing with family farm issues :D :D :D

Offline Stephen_Wiley

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2004, 11:27:24 AM »
Dan,

Most of the beneficial nutrients returning to the soil are from the leaves. There is some value although in the branches. Have you considered the following:

1.  Chipper mounted to back of tractor - reduces material and expediate decomposition. Maintains access for equipment.

2.  On erosion sites use branch material to create 'wattling'. This consists of partially burying (trenching) longitudinal rows and filling with branch material.

Many of the studies performed on leaving branch material have been positive. With the exception if the branch material is too excessive, it creates an environment for feeding and breeding of  wood pests and fuel wood for fire hazard.

You may want to also check to see if  there is anyone in your area who has a chipper/forwarder providing cleaning services.
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Online Corley5

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2004, 12:19:21 PM »
Tops that are cut up so they are laying fairly flat on the ground will rot down surprisingly fast.  Tops that are up off the forest floor where they can stay partly dry will last a long time.  We try to get everything that isn't cut for firewood laying flat in our woods.  Three of four years and it's pretty well gone or soft enough that you can run over it with a tractor and it'll crumble or squash depending on the time of the year.  I've been thinking that a PTO 3pt mounted chipper would be a handy tool especially for around the house, trails and to get rid of the sawmill edgings ;D
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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2004, 02:40:36 PM »
I was always told that 90% of the nutrients are in the leaves and fine twigs.  So, if you wanted to cut a little smaller, that probably won't have too much impact.

Around these parts, specs usually state to cut tops so they are no higher than 4'.  That gets them down on the ground and lets them rot quicker.

The stuff that rots the fastest is the sapwood, no matter what species.  If you cut down to where there is only a little bit of heartwood, it should reduce itself pretty quick.
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Offline dan-l-b

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2004, 03:37:24 PM »
Hey Corley5, have joked  ::) ::)about bringing in a chipper but it seems like it leaves things "too clean".  Have a customer up on the blacktop that used one around his place and everytime I go by I think about what the wildlife use for cover. That actually could be as much about him as it is the chipper.  I wonder what a chipper that would handle slabs would cost?  Is there such a thing as a good used chipper?

Offline rebocardo

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Re: Tree top cleanup
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2004, 08:48:54 PM »
I know it is a lot of work, but, on the urban oaks I have been taking down I use all the wood down to less than 1/2 an inch in diameter. On the small branches where a chainsaw is not suitable I use a sawzall with an aggressive pruning blade. I just keep it running and zip up and down the branches, cut off the small twigs and stuff and then section the bigger branches into 14 inch lengthes. I sold all the branch pieces and all my firewood this year.

So, it saved it from the dump and I got paid a small amount to do it. I currently have about 1/2 a cord of sweetgum and oak branches cut up for next year. It makes great kindling.

Around here Home Depoy rents chippers for $150 a day. If you worked from 6am to 8pm on a pile of branches cut up small enough to fit and just feed that thing all day long you could chip a lot of wood. Just do it in shifts so one person does not get too tired and stick their hand in their by accident. You could even sell the wood chips for mulch.

 


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