Archives for posts with tag: Cutting trails

Finally, this trail is open.

The weather got a little cold for planting, and with the most important anti-erosion measures in place, Rick suggested that we work on the trails.

Our property is criss-crossed with old logging trails, a number of which had become impassable because of fallen trees. With the emphasis on building, we’ve not done much trail maintenance in the past few years. As a result, our zone of “Kubota” access area has been getting smaller and smaller.

We use the Kubota extensively in gathering wood. It delivers us to the site, carries our tools, lifts logs (using chains and the front-end loader) and drags them into safe, accessible work areas, pushes rotten logs to the side to clear the trail, and then pulls our loaded, ragged, little trailer back out of the bush to our woodpile, for splitting and stacking. These two seniors would be hard pressed to heat with wood, without the assistance of our trusty tractor.

Rick’s motivation for trail clearance isn’t just about clearing nice paths. We’ve had high winds of late, and there are a few big trees, newly down, (one in particular) that he is itching to cut and gather. But I’m open to the task–because I like nice paths. In the process, we’re harvesting any burnable wood that has fallen across the trails–though gathering is not our first objective.

Most wood left on the forest floor begins to rot quickly. Beech turns to mush in just a year or two, as does Basswood (Linden.) Maple lasts a little longer. Ash, especially if kept up off of the dirt, can last for years. The champion of the forest is ironwood (hop hornbeam), some of which we’re still collecting from the last time loggers were on the property in 2004. If wood is spongy or mushy, we push it aside. Sometimes we’ll cut it, just enough so that it lies flat on the forest floor–just to accelerate its return to the soil. Sound wood is harvested down to about three inches across. Twigs and branch ends are cleared from the paths, often using it for filling in the divots left when a tree falls. This fills in the lumpiness, and creates habitat for critters.

Though trail clearance is our first objective, in the past two days, we’ve cut enough for next year’s heating requirements, just from trees that had fallen on the trails! And we haven’t yet touched the big ash trees that have Rick salivating. And, further up the slopes, there are some “widow-makers” that we won’t touch until nature brings them down. Regardless how tempting, safety is our first concern.

This is the tree Rick wants.


And here’s a widow-maker! We won’t touch that.

The temperatures have been in the mid-thirties, but we’ve hardly noticed, even stripping down during the heavy work. We are wearing “Michigan lingerie,” the orange vests that mark you has “human” during hunting season. It’d be a shame to get shot right on your own property. Every year in Michigan, somebody gets shot by hunters with more enthusiasm than sense. Let orange be your safety flag.

I had intended to post a full set of photos with this, documenting all of the aspects of wood gathering and trail clearing. But once the work started, the camera stayed in the tool bucket. What can I say?

Ibuprofen Monday

A.V. Walters

Spring Peeking Through

Spring Peeking Through

It was a glorious weekend. Temperatures in the 60s and sunshine! Almost all of the snow is gone—except in a few spots in the shade (north facing slopes) or where Rick piled it with the blower during the winter.

There are a thousand things we should be doing. But the ground is not yet thawed, and … well, we rationalized why the highest and best use of our time would be to open up the trails to the “back forty.” The property has a slightly graded panhandle (for road access) and then a chunk of steep hills and valleys leading to an upper meadow. On foot, it’s a heavy breathing hike. Until now, we’ve only been able to access it with a vehicle by going on an old logging road through the neighbors’ back yard. The neighbors have been good about it, but not enthusiastic. So, really it was about getting access and keeping good neighborly relations. It had nothing to do with the outrageous weather.

We need the access because back there is where we harvest the deadfall for our firewood heating supply. The hills are heavily forested and, especially with the Emerald Ash Borer losses, they are littered with standing and dropped dead trees.

This ash is doomed. Pileated woodpeckers have  chipped off the bark surface to get at the borers, below.

This ash is doomed. Pileated woodpeckers have chipped off the bark surface to get at the borers, below.

It breaks our hearts, to see these dead any dying trees but we’d be fools to let the wood go to waste. The property is criss-crossed with old (and pretty steep) logging roads, many of them blocked with fallen trees. The weekend would be a trail clearing exercise. It was not to be a harvesting foray.

It started like this, just to clear the trail:

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But one thing led to another…and there was this:

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And then, when we made it over the ridge and down the trail on the Kubota, we could hardly contain ourselves. So there was this:

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And then, a couple of stragglers on the way home yielded this:

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We are agog over how much safer and easier the firewood harvest can be with Kubota assist. You can chain lift logs for safer sawing access, or just drag them down the slopes to cut where there’s no danger of rolling. Even with that, it’s heavy work. We came home each night achy and sweaty, but elated. We’re naming the “new roads” as we open them up.

Believe it or not, that's the "road."

Believe it or not, that’s the “road.”

The woods are lovely this early in the year. There’s the carpet of leaves, and just the tips of the wild leeks and Dutchman’s Breeches peeking through.

There’s only one hitch. Now there’s no doubt that we need a little trailer. Our lovely circuitous trails can get us in to make wood—but that’s where the wood will stay until we can wrangle a trailer in. It’s too much wood to try to remove with just the loader.

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And like many in the Midwest, after the first incredible weekend of spring, we’re stiff and sore.