Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pine Brush Clean Up

Over the weekend I had a chance to work on cleaning up some of the wood left over from the pine removal project. Most of the work was done with a skid loader, but I did spend some time picking up branches by hand.

Looking south
The first section I worked on is located on the eastern side of the field that boarders the property line. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to move the brush into a long pile in the middle of the section. I had expected the stumps to be a problem, but I was able to navigate around them fairly easily.

The road on the edge of the property isn't in the best shape right now and something will need to be done to improve it. It had been planted in clover a few years ago, but most of that is gone. It does have some flowers which I planted from leftover seed I tossed out in the area.

The trees near the pond were not cut down and the soil and undergrowth wasn't disturbed much either. This time of year there are tons of asters flowering under the pine trees and I'm sure they will spread to the adjacent area in the future due to the open soil and timing.

I am hoping the brush settles a little bit in the next few months since there is a lot of it and I could very well run out of places to pile it. I am looking forward to seeing what types of animals will start to use the area now that it has been changed. If I'm lucky the brush piles will support a larger rabbit population which will in turn lure more birds of prey to the property.

The pine trees that were left standing near the pond provide a screen from the road and will also be a good place for birds that are using the area to perch. An ATV trail used to go through this part of the pine plantation, but it doesn't really go to anywhere now. I don't expect the pines to grow for decades, but I'm hoping they at least stay alive until some of the other trees species have filled in the area.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Removing the Pines: Part 3

Before the pine trees were removed I remembered to change the location of my trail camera since I feared it may be damaged during the logging process. Most of the trees around the pond were spared and I could have left it there, but I am glad I moved it since it captured some great pictures from a new setup in the far NE corner of the field.

Rainy day
When I went and moved the camera it was raining steadily and I'm glad I had a set of dry clothes to change into after finishing the outdoor tasks. I've never really had a problem with working in the rain as long as there isn't lightning or dangerous conditions.

A few hours after I moved the camera the logging machinery came in and the trees started coming down. The trees came down pretty quickly and the machinery they used didn't tear up the land too much.

Shortly after they stopped cutting for the day I was a surprise to see deer already using the area. I'm guessing it was just curious about what was going on and wanted to investigate. You can see that the fawn is starting to lose its spots and change to its cold weather coat.

The next day they were back to cutting. When setting up my trail camera I adjusted the settings to have a delay when taking pictures because I had feared the logging equipment would trigger the camera too often when it was in range of the sensor. In total the camera took about two hundred pictures in the week I had it in this location.

Not long after they finished working for the day a buck passed through the area. It didn't stick around long and I only was able to get one clear picture of it.

One of the other larger bucks also passed through the area, but like the other one it did not stay long. I think the deer will be extra cautious this year during hunting season and probably stay close to the edges until after dark. I plan to move the camera back to the pond in a week or two to see if the deer are still using it as often as before.

The section of pines that was removed just behind the deer will be the first area that gets cleaned up. I plan to do this mostly with the skid loader that has a toothed bucket, but there will still be plenty of manual labor after that is finished. For now the brush will be piled, but I plan to burn it at some point once the wood dries out a little bit. Some of the brush piles will be kept for habitat in places and I may also reconstruct the brush wall near the road to act as a screen for the next few years.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Removing the Pines: Part 2

In my first post about the removal of the pine plantation I mostly posted pictures of the section of pines that was on the eastern edge of the property. In total there were four sections of pines that were divided by lanes, but I haven't decided if I will keep that same structure in the future.

Looking west over the far west section of the former pine plantation
The western section has a lot of potential, but the brush situation is a mess and I haven't even started coming up with a strategy on how I will clean it up. The area picture above is on the northern edge where it borders mature oak trees and one White Pine that was spared from being cut. I don't think this area is well-suited for any type of agriculture since the soil is similar to that of my sand prairie.

From the middle of the western section looking to the south
The southern end has numerous oak trees growing throughout and I plan to leave them majority of them. Young oak trees are one of the better plant species for hosting insect larvae and since they don't grow quickly I'm not too worried about being able to manage them in the future. This end is also fairly sandy and is more suited for native vegetation than any garden crop I could try growing there with the exception of maybe some vine crops.

The same location as the previous picture, but looking more east.
This section of pines had the greatest width of all the sections of pine and was probably one of the healthier areas prior to being cut. Throughout the years I had removed the dead branches off the pines with chainsaws and a machete on a stick tool that I had designed for the task. After the dead branches were moved to the ground they acted as a natural mulch for the pines. In addition, when it rained in the area more rain reached the ground and wasn't caught up on dead twigs where it didn't really benefit the tree.
NW corner of the field
The back corner of the western pine plantation section had died off fairly young due to disease or a drought and oaks have already recolonized the space fairly well. There was very minimal damage to the trees in the corner from the logging machinery, but I may have to remove some myself since it seems a little bit crowded. To the right of the young oaks you can see one of the areas I initially planted with warm season grasses about 8 years ago which is still thriving and should really benefit from the added sunlight each day.

Looking east from the NW corner of the field along the back edge.
The back edge of the field is still fairly dense due to the amount of young oaks growing along the edge that were left standing. For the time being it will be helpful in providing cover for the deer which just lost a few prime acres of hiding ground.

Looking east across of southern edge of the section
The far southern end of this area will still get some shade from the mature Silver Maples growing just to the south, but the rest of it is basically full-sun now. The Poplars scattered throughout will look good this Fall, but it will be interesting to see how many can hold up without being protected/supported by the pines. It is neat to see the area this open and with a little bit of time and effort it should look even better.

Looking north through the Silver Maples from the garden in the backyard
The view of this section from the backyard isn't as cool as I though it would be, but that will change once the leaf canopy drops in a month or two. There is an ATV trail that cuts through the Silver Maples, but it may need to be change a bit since the trail is blocked by quite a bit of brush at the moment.

Looking south down the access lane that borders the east side of the section
Along the path in the middle of the field the loggers left a good sized White Pine in addition to most of the oaks which are still fairly stunted or lanky from reaching for sunlight. Cleaning up the access lanes in one of my first priorities since being able to get around the property is important. The lanes were planted with clover seed in the past and the added sunlight they receive now should help.