Bringing in the Big Guys

Area: northwest corner of the property, approximately 1/2 acre. Original condition: dense brush and small trees. Current condition: cleared but highly uneven due to prior excavation and many large fallen trees and rotting logs. Plan: turn into pasture; part may be used for veggie garden and/or small grain field.

This section is bordered on the south by some very tall trees, mostly Douglas Fir and some sickly Bigleaf Maples. We want to remove these trees so that the area receives southern sunlight, required for growing food. It will also provide more exposure to the house, brightening it up considerably and allowing for an open view to the rest of the property (reminder to readers in more Southern climes: we have relatively mild summers here and the increased exposure won’t be a problem). We can’t fell these trees ourselves because they are too tall for a non-professional, not to mention they are adjacent to power lines. Some would also crush our house if they fell the wrong way.

So yesterday a couple fellas from a tree service came by to take a look at what we needed done. Most of the trees are not straight and there aren’t enough of them to make it worthwhile selling them (or so we were told), so we will end up keeping the wood for one of three things: branches and small limbs will be chipped and used around the property, small trunks will be cut into firewood-sized logs that we will split ourselves and use to heat our home next year (when we get around to buying a wood stove), and the good straight portions will be left for milling. What this means is we will have our own lumber to use as we need for building coops and other outbuildings. I think it’s very cool that we will be able to build structures on our property with wood from trees that grew there!

As I mentioned in a recent post, we want to try and keep the organic material here on the property, and were hoping to have a stump grinder come and turn the resulting stumps into mulch. Apparently this requires a very expensive piece of equipment and a decent-sized stump will cost about $90 to grind. We’ll have a lot of stumps. The guy advised against it for cost reasons, and said it would be much faster and cheaper to have an excavator dig the stumps out. I reluctantly agreed, because this means the stumps will be piled up and burned. I have reservations about burning, because of the air pollution it creates and also because it seems a waste of organic material to me. But the cost of grinding everything would soon be prohibitive, and there were a few other considerations too.

Because this particular section of the property is littered with large, fallen trees and huge rotting logs, we’ll need an excavator to come in and remove them. It would then make sense that we have him remove the stumps at the same time (you pay just to have the excavator brought out to your place, let alone the hourly rate). The stumps and fallen logs could then all be piled up and burned together. It will also make light work of piling up the logs the tree fallers generate when they take down the big guys. The other consideration is that this particular area is in bad need of grading. There are huge piles of earth that must have been left there when the garage site was excavated, and they look like large lumps. The excavator, once he’s removed the fallen trees, will basically shove these mounds over and smooth the whole thing out so we end up with a nice, smooth, gently sloping area in which to plant pasture grass and perhaps have our gardens. So it wouldn’t make much sense to spend the money grinding stumps only to have the remaining roots (which can be huge) ripped out by the excavator. They can’t be fed into a chipper, they will be too big to bury in our little “stump dumps”, and will end up needing to be burned anyhow. If we do this right (and these guys seem to know what they’re doing) we’ll only have to burn once.

Besides feeling a bit blue about the burning part, and being a bit concerned about the topsoil situation when this area is graded, the changes it will make are going to be so huge and significant that it’s still all rather exciting. I can’t wait to see the guys at work, and I know the kids will be excited, too. I plan on taking lots of pictures and even shooting some videos, so stay tuned!

The good news is that this is the only area of the whole property that will need this sort of treatment. The rest of the property, we are proud to say, can be done by ourselves. Yup, me and my hubby have become confident land clearers! Armed with His and Hers chainsaws and our Weed Whacker on Steroids, we have made great progress on other sections of the property and that’s without the pigs. While it is hard work it is also immensely satisfying, not to mention we really enjoy working together. And it will allow us to preserve the topsoil and recycle the organic matter.

Next week is when all the excitement begins, so stay tuned!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin & the boys on April 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Such great plans, all coming together.

    Are the videos you will shoot for DS? I was imagining before you wrote about making videos, that it would be a very realistic “Mighty Machines” episode for him to watch!! 😉

    Fingers crossed for gentle slopes to plant on!


  2. Posted by natalie on April 23, 2010 at 6:44 am

    We had a stump that my husband wanted to burn which he did despite our dislike of pollutants… it’s now half burned in the yard… not ideal but possibly a nice roost for chickens next year.

    Around Gabriola, I have seen folks line up stumps as a fence/privacy screen… might you line yours up on the edge of your property, even just to get them out of the way? My kids had such a blast digging out the dirt before ours got burned. Actually any upturned stump we come across is an instant hit with them:)

    Good luck with the burning… one good, efficient burn is better than not:)



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