Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by HiouchiDump, Sep 23, 2004.

  1. HiouchiDump

    HiouchiDump Well-Known Member

    Sep 18, 2004
    California and Washington
    Hi there,

    I have 20 very wooded acres in Northern California and I am trying to put together my plan of attack for managing them. I have about a 2 acre area completely cleared for garden and future building. The rest is a mix of about 20% dead but still standing pines, 60% living pines, 10% redwood, and 10% other (junipers, small oaks, wester cedar, etc.) The 20% dead trees are probably due to a fire 10-15 years ago. As far as I can tell, the lot has never been logged (nary a stump in sight). The property is a rocky mountain top, so the trees tend to be scrawny (tall, as they are old, but still quite thin). Nonetheless there is plenty of rain here and the trees and brush are very dense, making most of the lot impassible without a hatchet.

    My goal is to thin but not clear. I like the woods and want to keep most of the lot in a relatively natural state, but what I have today can only be characterized as a fire hazard.

    My thoughts are as follows:

    1. Cut down all the dead trees and haul out any that are already fallen, split 'em up and save anything that's not rotted for firewood. Chip anything that is not suitable for firewood.

    2. Cut some of the larger, straighter trees, de-bark them and move them inside to dry for future construction use.

    3. Cut down a bunch of the small ones for fence posts.

    These are the easy calls. The tougher one is what to do with the rest. To reduce the fire risk, I need more open area. I will probably leave a few acres that has a natural rocky firebreak around it as a untouched thicket for wildlife. For the rest, my thought is to simply wander through and, anywhere I find two trees with significantly overlapping branches, cut down the smaller one, until all the trees have space between them. Seems simple enough, although moving all that wood and making trails through the brush to move it certainly won't be easy work.

    Then of course comes the question - will all this work really help? I am surrounded on all sides by national forest, which of course is never thinned. Fire runs up hill and I'm king of the mountain ;). A fire may be less likely to start on my land, but if a fire starts out there in the national forest, is having a nice thinned oasis in the middle really going to give me any tangible fire resistance, or is it all just going to burn anyway? I suppose it's mostly a matter of luck.

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. Fool

    Fool Member

    Sep 9, 2004
    I'm no expert, but I thought I would provide what little information I can.

    I recommend a book I just finished reading called "The Woodlot Management Handbook: Making the Most of Your Wooded Property for Conservation, Income or Both" by Stewart Hilts and Peter Mitchell.

    This book goes into quite a bit of detail and enlightened me to the fact that managing a woodlot takes a great deal of skill and knowledge.

  3. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    May 9, 2002
    You have the right idea HiouchiDump. I'm a forester but completely unfamiliar with your tree species. You might consider calling your state forester for assistance in forming your plan. Here in Idaho, that service is completely free.

    The only things I'd consider from here, is to leave those tall straight trees you are considering for furniture, and instead cull out the twisted and imperfect trees with character. It solves a couple issues at once, leaving you with a healthy gene pool, and interesting wood to build with.

    As to fire protection, I'm in the same boat as you. The most manicured forests will still catch fire and burn, it's their nature. You can limit the damage by following your plan and building fire breaks, but it really does come down to luck unless you have water and lots of it to defend your space with. Most folks are lucky to be able to have a defensable area around their home and outbuildings.

    You really should get rid of the brush though. You can leave pockets for wildlife, but that is usually the means of fire spread.
  4. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

    Feb 24, 2003
    Me I'm in the same boat as being King of the Hill,and it burns here every year.So far I've been lucky having Forestry Department help me putting out fires.

    I sprayed Brush Killer around my buildings,then rake all the dead stuff back.

    Think about this,if it is Dry and Windy a fire can jump a very large area.Around here I've seen it jump 40 feet no problem.Plus it makes its own Wind.

    The safest I've felt is when I had Goats.Cleaned everything off slick.

    big rockpile
  5. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    [If you can, try to leave a scattering of the dead trees as habitat for the various cavity nesting birds. They are usually insect eaters and will help with disease control.

  6. UpstateNY

    UpstateNY Active Member

    Aug 3, 2004
    Upstate NY binghamton area
    You need a horse. Ok, I have never done this before. My Dad used to talk about it (he did use a horse when he was younger and my grandfather used many horses and teams) but we never used a horse as I was growing up. There was one guy that did use a horse to drag trees out. The main advantage is you can drag trees out without building/creating tractor roads. The guy with the horse would make timber deals with people who had small wood lots. They wanted just a select few removed to manage the lot and make a little $ without any destruction to the woods. He could selectively remove trees and within a year you could go back into those woods and other then spotting a stump here or there you could not tell anyone had done any logging.
    I used to cut firewood and cut trees in our woodlot with my dad. We used a tractor, pullies, come alongs and a lot of back muscle to remove trees with very few tractor paths. (we had a couple main paths and then cut above the paths and moved trees down hill to the main path and then dragged them out with the tractor.) It was hard work but..... many good hours/memories with my Dad. I now have my own family and only 5 acres, all open. At times I miss having a wood lot to manage. The time spent in the woods and the rewards of walking through a healthy, well managed wood lot should not be over looked with your other goals.
    Oh my Dad did own a horse that he was going to train to work in the woods etc. But by that time, the boys were moving out, he was doing less farming/land stuff and the horse just became a big dog. He did spend many hours walking the fields with, and talking to that horse. In the evening they would stroll and talk and every morning my Dad started his day by going out to "visit" Chico. (Others would call it morning chores, my Dad called it his morning visit.) The horse never was broke to ride or pull, did not know much other then his name. My Dad called Chico his "hay burner" but he bought a lot of hay and grain for many years, just to burn.
    Sorry to ramble off. I saw the wood lot post and it brought back all those ideas of working a good wood lot with just a horse and thought I would pass the ideas on to you. Thanks