Thursday, October 13, 2016

More Pine Brush Clean Up

I have been trying to tackle the clean up of the pine plantation systematically, but it has been a slow process. I have been able to get a lot done each time I work on the project, but there are acres that still haven't been touched yet.

Over the past two weeks I have accomplished quite a bit on the eastern side of the field. With the branches and debris off the soil, grasses and forbs have started to fill in the space.

Looking south over the cleared section
I am not certain what plants will come up here since it has been covered in pine thatch for years, but I expect there will be quite a few unwanted varieties. The far east edge was formerly Imperial Whitetail Clover, but has since reverted back to a mix of other plants.

Looking south on the other side of the long brush pile
The other side of the brush pile has a fair amount of new lush growth due to the added sunlight, but this section still hasn't been cleaned up as much as the other side. Some of the areas where the soil has really been disturbed I have considered planting with winter rye to act as a cover crop and improve my hunting success rate in a month.

Looking south over the next section just to the west
It wasn't possible to form a central brush pile through the section next to the one on the far east side, but the majority of the area is cleared. The edges will need some work over the next couple months, but this might be easier to accomplish once the foliage drops for the year.

Looking south over the next section to the west
I started working on this section for the first time over the weekend and quickly started running out of places to go with the brush. This section by far had the most brush to deal with since I never trimmed the lower branches of the pines in this section historically. This section's best attribute is the White Pine near the center of the field and I look forward to the possibility of the tree growing faster now with less competition nearby.

Looking east over the northern end of the first three sections
Right now there is quite a bit of exposed soil, but I expect that quite a few plants will come up still before the weather gets too cold to allow for seed germination. I have continued to keep as many oak trees as possible alive while moving the brush around and in the years to come I am hoping that the majority of trees in the field will be oaks.

Another view of the White Pine
Having the access trail throughout this process have been great and I am glad that I was diligent through the years in keeping it open. Eventually the lanes can be tilled and will act as a fire break if I decided to burn any of the sections. The soil in this section is very sandy and would lend itself well the seed I have been collecting.

Looking SW over the far western section that was cleared.
Over the weekend I also started working on the north end of this section, but only did a little since I haven't really formulated a plan for the area yet. Of all of the sections this one has the most young oak and cherry trees, but I think many of the interior ones may have been damaged by the cutting. Native trees are pretty resilient though and I expect most will pull through. There are some mature oaks on the western edge of this section which will benefit from the extra sunlight and I expect them to develop more horizontal branches now.

The forecast for the weekend looks to be bringing more rain to an already saturated landscape. My fingers are crossed that it holds off since my window for seed harvesting is limited for some plants and an excessively wet climate can spoil the seed altogether. Soon I hope to collect some of the goldenrod and aster seeds, but it may be a bit still since some still are flowering. If anyone has good suggestions for native wildflowers that would look good in the areas pictured above feel free to let me know and I can look into adding it to the list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trail Camera Highlights

I posted some trail camera pictures not long ago so there were not that many new ones when I checked the camera after a week. However, there were a few good pictures that I thought I'd share. The property has had a lot of rain recently and the pond levels are high. Most of the trees have not started changing to their seasonal colors, but I expect to see that start happening in the next couple of weeks. Temperatures have started dropping a little which is good for days when I have time to work on cleaning up the pine branches.

Looking SW from NE corner of the field
It is nice to see some of the more mature deer moving around the area still during daylight. I'm hoping that due to the timing of the pines being removed that there is still a chance that the extra sunlight reaching the soil will stimulate plant growth that the deer can browse during the next six months. Going forward there should be more forage overall for the deer and other wildlife with the pine trees and the carpet of their needles removed.

Random dog
On Sunday while we were out cleaning up branches we had a few visitors who came jogging through our property with a dog. Due to the inviting nature of the property I am most likely going to have to invest in a gate near the road to prevent unauthorized access. I worry sometimes about my deer stands being stolen, but having a trail camera at least would help me with identification if needed.

This is the first picture I have had if this buck in 2016 that I am aware of. It is too bad he didn't step out far enough so that I could see what the other half looks like.

That is all for now. The deer tend to move more during the coming weeks so I expect some more good pictures in the near future. Soon I will be moving the camera back to the other pond and I expect the deer will be using it just as much as when the pines surrounded it.

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.