Sunday, January 10, 2010

we're winning the race!

well here we are back and way behind in reporting but if a picture is worth a thousand words then I should be able to save us all a bunch of time by commenting less on this post. After all it's summer at this point and next winter is just around the corner in this neck of the woods!

The west side of the meadow is now safe to wander.

All the dead trees have been fallen and transported to the landings

bucked and decked

and mostly hauled in to the mill yard and sorted and decked there.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

looking back at the fall

Here I am again finally and my apologies to anyone I left hanging for so long. My excuse is that I underwent back surgery and have had to curtail sitting and keyboarding for a few months.

Our blessings allowed us to attend Remembrance Day to do honour to our valiant Veterans and listen to my father again read the names of the fallen from our local community. Dad served as a Lancaster pilot based in England. He lost both his brothers in action, Men who bought our freedom with their supreme sacrifices. I am doing this blog mostly for my father so he can follow along keep an eye on what we are doing . . .

Things have progressed considerably since my last posting in the summer. We have removed the dead pine trees from more than half of the property and have built about a mile of access road.
Most of our wood is still on the landings as the mill yard is small and if we plug it with all the logs there will be no room to move. We have a few standing dead fir that Ed harvested and his little skid steer pretty much has her forks full to deck these logs.
A photo of the annual rings from heart to bark shows this tree to be about 300 years old when it died. You can take your own count if you like. I would gladly stand corrected . . .
The wood is still sound and relatively unchecked.

Our nights are getting colder now and the creek is freezing over. Just the fast running areas will be open for the water fowl. All the dead pine is now removed from the hillside and the aspen have been carefully saved. Spring will provide shade with the leafing of the aspen and the hillside will begin to recover from the removal of the dead wood.
Most of the remaining conifers are spruce but there is still a sprinkling of healthy second growth pine.
I imagine some will survive and some won't. I see it as a mistake that we overlook the possible resistance of these individual trees to the pest that has been plaguing them for millions of years in the form of the pine beetle.
so far they have won the war even if they appear to be losing this battle . . .
else the pine beetle would perish and that hasn't happened . . . nor will it . . .

Our best machines leave a light footprint and this little tractor has proved to be a very good skidder. It has a good sized and heavy diesel motor and reduction hubs with a diff lock. You have to be sure you are pointed where you want to go when you decide to lock those wheels together.
Things are busy but the pets need some quality time too!
In September Ed and Wendy had finished the siding on the garage complete with a new coat of paint when we arrived back from surgery. Thanks you guys! It looks really nice!

One morning when the weather turned cold and we had our first little storm, a murder of several hundred crows swarmed the ridge and worked it from south to north an a hunting pack. I think they were after grasshoppers primarily but I would not like to have been any size of creature smaller than a rabbit on that hillside.
It was an amazing thing to see and to have such activity in an area that we had just logged was really satisfying.
we are going to have to get used to a skyline without the big dead pines that etch our sunsets but the new forest is growing fast and we are soon getting used to the change
Our roads are narrow and hardly fit our machinery but the result is that the live trees are nearly undisturbed. Its no small job to remove all that dead wood and save the rest and my hat is off to Ed for his continued care and respect for emerging forest
and the logs continue to pile up in the mill yardMost of these logs came from the area directly behind them. The area was full of large trees and thick with undergrowth . . .
So it has gone from very dangerous and a huge fire hazard to this park like area that will soon regenerate habitat for the creatures we did not disturb with clear cutting.
Again it's obvious that not all these trees left here will stand but the danger is now limited and the shade these few will add to the forest floor will be enough to rationalize the slight danger they still pose
There is always a good pile of firewood and it will be bucked and stacked for future home heating.
and the smaller trees are stacked for rail fencing . . .
and there is always a bit of last cleanup to do
that sometimes entails moving the ashes from the fire pit to reduce the danger of wildfire . . .
This looks way worse than it is . . .
but is impressive nonetheless . . .
These two pieces of machinery, partly due to the considerable talent of our mechanic Ed, have been a very good investment and have proved to be the right size for our purposes. In my next blog I will show you how well a grapple works as a road building machine . . .

We have tried to keep our landings to a minimum both in size and number, but the reality is that there needs to be enough room to handle the logs and limb and buck and sort and burn the debris.
The debris that was so thick between these trees that nothing could walk between them has been carefully removed with minimal damage to the undergrowth of moss and shrubs.
Sometimes the removal requires some high lifting and the little skid steer is just the right tool with the right operator.
Our creek attracts late season Trumpeter swans and their signates . . . three in this case

to get a last feed and a rest in the quiet of our meadow.

We have noticed by the calender of events that Nick keeps of arrivals and departures of various visitors that their movements are pretty predictable . . . within a few days usually.
We have a building that has been crushed by the snow and has to be cleaned up so we decide that the location would be a good place for a burn pile . . .
Fire is always a startling sight when you are your own fire protection, but there is enough snow now and the bush is wet from the early winter rains so the fire hazard is minimal.

In order to provide acess to the west side of the meadow we had to build a road down the ridge on the west side of the property.
The grade turned out to be fairly steep, but the material in the bank proved to be ideal for our purposes. We built this hill from the bottom and placed each bucket into the hole at the bottom of the hill to reduce the grade.
The result is that the road has no spillage over the bank and has a solid shoulder.
This ridge was all big pines when we bought the property. After their demise and removal there are still a surprizing number of surviving smaller pines. The low bush juniper in the foreground have a good chance of flourishing despite the romoval of their shade trees.
This large pile of pine trees came from the area directly behind them. Surprizingly there are still twenty or so larger pine trees that have survived in the same area.
This area was also very thick with large pine that Ed has carefully extracted . . .

And getting the logs off the bank without disturbing the small aspen is a difficult and sometimes frustrating job . . . or so Ed tells me.
Fortunately he has a great sense of humour . . .
And it really does take time and care and skill to remove large limby dead trees while trying not to knock over these aspen saplings. We judge that it takes at least 5 times as much labour.

our point of land on the west side of the meadow is now green not grey
and the road down the ridge is hardly visible. The one dead tree in the center of the picture was the general height of the dead trees and the ridge behind it was not visible before we removed the trees . . . a considerable change to our kitchen view.
This is looking west on our south line and shows the last of the dead pine on the west side of the property.

One narrow trail through the center is all that Ed required to transport these logs to the landing for processing. This area has a limited amount of undergrowth and so every tree is even more important.

The cowboys are still rounding up the last of the strays and we meet them on our driveway on the way to town.

Town is Williams Lake . . . and a pretty sight it is as it nestles in for the winter. The plumes of exhaust are from the various drying kilns of the several sawmills and the larger plume on the extreme left is the gassafier generator that supplies much of the power for the town from wood waste.

Winter is on us in earnest at our elevation of exactly 1000 meters. We get lots of sunshine all year round but we get frost every month. It's an exillerating place to live.
Thanks for following along . . . our mill is ready and waiting for us to pick it up . . . we are busilly trying to get our logging finished before the real winter shuts us down and we are forced into the millyard to do some cutting. I'll post again in the new year as we start up with our new mill.
Have a great holiday season everyone and play safely! Best wishes for a prosperous and satisfying year in 2010 From Nicky and I and Vince and from Ed and Wendy too!