2020 Timber Sale Chronicle

Discussion in 'The Wood Market' started by Flamestead, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    We own a small farm with about 60 acres of woods, and are having a harvest done on the accessible land this year (about 40 ac). Over the years I’ve seen harvests done well and done poorly - I hope for this thread to be an example of one done well.

    Looking back, our house was built in 1790, and was likely a highly diversified farm. In the mid 1800’s nearly all the trees would have been removed for sheep pasture, and following the sheep it became a dairy farm until about 1990, and mostly beef cattle since then. There are stone walls surrounding the property, and there is remnants of barbed wire on the boundary, too. I suspect the steepest section reverted from pasture to woods first, possibly as early as the 1870’s, and the rest transitioned over time.

    A harvest was done in the 1970’s, and firewood for the house has been cut all along, up through today (8 to 12 cord per year by us since 2001). We enrolled in the state’s tax program, and have had a forest management plan as a direct result of that...
     
  2. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    I'll be adding quite a bit of detail, but here in a nutshell is the estimated harvest:

    82 MBF of saw logs,
    148 cord firewood, and
    500 tons of White Pine and Hemlock pulp.

    I hope to break even, but will not be surprised to owe money by the time we build landings and roads. More on this to come once the harvest gets bid on.
     
  3. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    In 2002 we hired a forester to draw up a management plan. This husband/wife team came highly recommended (at the time I shared office space with the County Forester, and had many occasions to ask questions and to read the literature he had throughout his office).

    He came and walked the woods with me, asking about our goals, and teaching me some about what we were seeing (e.g., there's often buck grass growing under Hophornbeam). They explained what they would do for a plan, and we hired them. They came back and first established the property boundaries (easy due to the stone walls). Next they did a survey of the trees, where stand in one point, tally tree species within the radius of a sampling circle and estimate their basal area. Then walk in a straight line a certain distance a repeat until the whole property has been covered in a systematic grid. Then came a long wait while they created the plan.

    The plan was 50-60 pages long, and came in a 3-ring binder. It included a property map, with the land broken into logical management units based on access, intended use, and tree species. We had 6 units, including one for the homestead, and one for the agricultural land (pasture, hayfield, etc). In VT's tax program, you exclude at least 2 acres for the homestead, and agricultural land gets taxed at a higher rate than woodland does, due to ag land's higher productive value. There was also a soil survey map. I had access to online aerial images at the time, but they didn't.

    There was some boilerplate text on wildlife management, recreational uses, maple sugaring, etc., a glossary of terms, State regulations (Acceptable Management Practices), a page of resource contact info, a several page primer on management techniques, a sample timber sale contract, and then each unit had an inventory of trees and specific recommendations for management for the next 20 years, divided into 5-years planning periods.

    In 2002 this cost us $638 for our 63.8 acres of woodland.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  4. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    Starting in 2002, much condensed, ...
    Stand 1: This stand is not overstocked but some of the badly weeviled White Pine should be girdled or felled to make room for better quality trees to grow. Do a TSI cut of 30 sq ft of basal area, releasing the best quality trees. Re-check in planning period 4 to see if a commercial thinning is possible.

    Stand 2: Release 75 to 100 of the best quality trees per acre. Evaluate in period 4 for potential to do a commercial selection cut.

    Stand 3: Check to see if a commercial thinning is possible, and if so, reduce stocking by about 40 sq ft of basal area, which should produce 2.2 MBF/ac of sawtimber. If thinned later (2nd or 3rd period), reduce by 40 to 50 sq ft basal area, which should yield 3 to 4 MBF/ ac of sawtimber and 2 cords/ac of firewood.

    Stand 4: Do a non-commercial crop tree release of 75 to 100 of the best trees per ac.


    I got a rapid education on basal area, TSI, crop trees, MBF, non-commercial, etc. I read quite a bit online (e.g., https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/gtr/gtr_nrs132.pdf), books like "Working with Your Woodland. A Landowner's Guide", Northern Woodlands magazine (highly recommended), and talking with the foresters every chance I got.

    Meanwhile, I started harvesting 8+ cords of firewood each year, cutting the worst trees away from the best ones ("releasing" the best trees to the sunlight). At first I was limited by only having a 2WD tractor and trailer, but then a 4WD with logging winch opened up more of the property to me. I did girdle some trees, timidly at first, especially on the steepest slopes where I'll never get my tractor. This activity was reported to the state annually, and was allowed despite not being exactly what the plan suggested.
     
  5. BronzyFern

    BronzyFern

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    Thanks for sharing. This is very interesting. I hope the story continues.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    A087AED4-73C7-4E3B-9F06-C9E19E586E0A.jpeg
    The property is a long rectangle, and goes up over and down the backside of the hill. The property lines are just off to the left and right sides of this pic. The hill gets steeper toward the top, and can’t be driven over by anything - we’ll need a log landing on each side.
     
  7. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    3D25AB42-FF21-43B3-897B-8EB53C6E9832.jpeg
    The house is on the left side of this pic above, about 600’ lower than here.
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  8. Chaz

    Chaz

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  9. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    Ok, summer of 2009 I’m between jobs and so I helped a neighbor in his woods in exchange for lumber from his bandsaw mill, that he built himself. Sadly, he passed away two years ago - he was an amazing person and great friend.

    He was a PhD forestry engineer who tried academia but left to be consultant, writer, sawmill operator, and logger. That summer we sprayed invasives with a low dose of glyphosate. Striped Maple seedlings, Beech, and ferns were the primary targets. This was all hand work, using backpack sprayers.

    The foresters who did my plan in 2002 indicated I had a fern issue. There was a dense covering, knee to waist high by mid summer in the lower sections of the woods, and essentially zero seedlings able to catch and start regeneration growth. This is part of why I had been dragging my feet about a commercial harvest. Based on what I learned working with the neighbor, I’ve been knocking back the ferns bit by bit with glyphosate. I would have sworn up and down that I never would have used it on my land, but watching his seedlings grow versus my ferns grow, I swallowed my pride.

    The basic strategy is to control them the summer before logging. Then the logging stirs the litter, and seedlings catch and grow before the ferns move back in. Since I’m working full time, I’m chipping away at it over a number of years.

    That summer as we were working in the woods he mentioned that a small, progressive logging company he consulted for was in need of an office manager. My wife applied, and still works for them. They have grown to have 7 crews logging, a team of foresters, and a summer crew that specializes in invasive management. This is who we are working with to do our 2020 harvest.
     
  10. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    DBE02DA2-3949-4F0A-8DE4-4147B8412C52.jpeg
    Above is an area I tried a group cut. There were essentially no valuable trees, so we cut them all for firewood. Note the ferns and lack of tree regrowth. B7E9E3A0-DFAD-4117-9FB6-BC62D9F94160.jpeg F90563C7-F7FD-4EEA-A0A2-5B897D403945.jpeg EB85A3EE-F8DF-4861-95FC-C3BE82A71EB4.jpeg

    Above are areas I’ve sprayed a first pass. I do strips so I don’t spray an area twice. This is 2 or 3 weeks later. Then I spray the remaining fern. 40F0B4E2-1225-48EB-BAD7-9267DE049D20.jpeg
    Last spring I cut Beech saplings. It simply regrows. I’ll come back through and spot spray the regrowth. Alternatively, I could cut and treat the stump. The Beech will never produce a valuable sawlog due to Beech Bark Disease. I am letting one grove grow, because I love Beech groves, but am weeding it out from the rest of the woods because it regrows rapidly and can outcompete the trees I want to be the replacements.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
    Sourwood, clay shooter, Bill2 and 3 others like this.
  11. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    84DA7627-8E09-4FD8-9ADF-C8C4D619F1FB.jpeg
    Above is an area treated a couple of years ago.

    516FDFD9-7966-4523-B827-D290950532B9.jpeg
    Fortunately as I move up the slope the ferns become much less of an issue, and on the backside of the hill there is no trouble with them.

    I also have a smattering of barberry and a recent invasion of oriental bittersweet. Fortunately no buckthorn. Yet.
     

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  12. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    The State requires annual reports of any activity (harvests, thinning, etc. ) so they can keep people from simply signing up and pocketing the tax break. The County foresters are spread too thinly to watch everyone, and spend a some of their time on a few bad apples.

    Every 10 years a new plan has to be filed. This can be a simple continuation, or a revision. In 2012 we used the company my wife works for to do our revision (the original foresters had retired). They looked at our old plan but also sampled the woods and checked what I had been doing. Their plans typically cost $1200 for our sized acreage, but we got some employee discounts. They did some GIS map work, combined a couple of the management units for simplicity, and generally stuck with the basic ideas we had worked into the first plan.
    image.jpg
    here is an example page from the revised plan. Again, a three-ring binder document.
     
  13. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    In 2016 I injured my back in March, splitting firewood, and spent the summer recovering from surgery. That summer we hired her company to treat an area of heavy invasive growth on the fringe of the woods, in an area the previous owners had used as pasture. We applied for and received some USDA NRCS funding for this. I’m torn philosophical about getting assistance like this, and don’t see us going this route again. However, as you drive around the countryside and see the invasive pressure everywhere, it is something I wish could be addressed better in some way. Unfortunately, it (NRCS’s approach) is currently too piecemeal to be of lasting value.
    image.jpg

    I have been extremely pleased with the results of this treatment. It knocked back a major load of invasives, and I feel I will be able to stay on top of them now. Despite all this work, the neighboring property has a considerable load, so I expect an ongoing level of maintenance control.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  14. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    In the late winter of 2019 we decide it is time to do a harvest, particularly for the backside of the hill. The backside is landlocked, but close to a paved road. I contact one of the landowners back there that had done some logging of their own in the past, to start a discussion about access across his land. He is open to the discussion, so I walk his woods and mine with a logger friend to evaluate the landing space and access. It looks possible, but only for a logging truck, and not a Canada-bound semi.

    Next I meet with a forester. There is still a lot of snow on the ground, so we just look at maps and talk about access, costs, and the likely need to cut some nice trees to help defray costs.

    I learn that VT has imaged the state with lidar (foliage-penetrating radar).
    3992D538-C48C-4A42-AFF1-CA8FB9E6D811.jpeg
    My land is at the bottom of this screenshot. Just above the blue line you can see the stonewall. This is done through a full canopy. The green are skidder trails. The yellow points to a glacial streambed deposit that runs from the top to the bottom. Just a little below the left end of blue line is a pock mark - this is a 20’ wide stone quarry from the 1800s on our land. Lidar is amazing stuff.
     
  15. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    04C19A53-5D2D-4270-94CE-E8518827C602.jpeg
    Zoomed in, the blue parallels stone walls, and green skidder trails. The pics above of ferns were taken near the lower end of the green line. The red line shows a ditch coming from a stone-lined well at the stone wall. The ditch was dug to bury a lead water line for the house. It was replaced by a drilled well near the house in 1970. I have found the lead line in the ground by the barns as I dig for other projects.

    The foresters use the lidar to map existing skidder trails and to look for old landings.
     
  16. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    Things didn’t progress very fast this summer, but eventually the forester came back out and walked a bunch of the woods with me, asking questions and discussing options. Next, we marked the boundaries (despite them being pretty obvious stone walls). Orange flagging, a lot of it, all the way around.

    Then two of the foresters came and started marking trees. We had decided to mark the ‘take’ trees, meaning the marked trees will be cut. One blue stripe means to harvest the tree. A blue ‘x’ means to kill the tree, and it is the logger’s choice to market it, fell and leave it, or simply girdle it. Three blue slashes mark a cutting area boundary within the property lines.
     
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  17. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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  18. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    The general idea with this harvest is to end up with the best trees left to grow, and remove lower value trees that are competing for the sunlight. This is what I’ve been doing with my firewood cutting, but I’ve only been getting to a small portion of our woods. Most of what is being removed is low value. This is as opposed to a traditional “cut the best and leave the rest” approach.

    Here’s an article my neighbor wrote...
    Beyond Hunter-Gatherer Forestry | Articles | Features

    Most of the White Pine pulp from my harvest will be worthless. I’ll be paying the loggers to remove it so I can grow something of value. Some of the worst of the pine might end up as a big slash pile.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
  19. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    After marking all the areas over three days with 2 foresters, they came back another day and inventoried all the marked trees within multiple small sample areas to project the harvest yield (see the second post in this thread). Then they produced a prospectus. I’ll scan that for you...
     
  20. Flamestead

    Flamestead

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    47CE3EBE-74DC-498F-848B-5FBDB02A9AD5.jpeg Here’s my wife, visiting one of the crews on a job site (not ours). I think the forwarder carries 4+ cords per trip. The firewood stays very clean this way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020