Grapple Skidder in New Upper Field
We are re-clearing about thirty acres of the old fields around the house area that had grown up to forest over the past 70 years plus more across the road to add to the roughly 20 acres of pasture we already have. This is a process we started getting ready for at the end of last summer. The cutting didn’t actually start happening until this summer. The machine in the photo above is a grapple skidder which is capable of grabbing and dragging many whole trees out at a time.
Closer View of Grapple Skidder
Some of the wood goes to cabinetry, some to lumber, some to firewood and the rest to bio-mass for making wood pellets. The fields will be rough with stumps cut low. The standard procedure after cutting the timber is to graze bulldozers who’ll eat the stumps – they prefer high stumps. We’ll use pigs and sheep instead. This is a little slower but much gentler on the soils. The livestock also have the advantage of fertilizing the soil – something bulldozers don’t do.
Business End of Grapple Skidder
The new fields will give us more pasture allowing us to improve our rotational grazing, give us more late fall pasture which has long been an issue, let the land rest more between grazing, have for more livestock in the future and possibly we’ll hay some sections. Most of our pastures are on swiftly tilting land – not something one would want to run a tractor across for haying. Hand haying would be a possibility but a better solution is simply to use the more sloped areas for just pasture. The flatter areas can rotate as hay fields someday, when the stumps are gone.
Buncher Grabber which does the Tree & Brush Cutting
Between the fields we’ve left rows of sugar maple trees along the stone walls. In most cases these are the same maples that were row trees when these fields were last open pastures. We even have a few giant wolf maples with massive girths which were probably alive back when the settlers first cleared this land about 200 years ago.
In addition to the row maples we’ve left butternut, beach and apple trees for the shade, fruit and nuts they’ll provide. There are also a few majestic ash, spruce and tall white pine clumps. These and the inter-field row trees break up the wind and provide moving spots of shade from the hot summer mid-day sun.
Our next step is to seed the new field areas. There is some seed in the soil but I want more clover than will occur without seeding and I would like alfalfa for its high protein content. This fall and next year we’ll fence the outside perimeter and make some major paddock divisions. By this fall there will be limited grazing. Next year the pasture will be well established. In five years the new fields will be lush and photogenic.
Skid Grapple & Buncher Grabber
I mention the beauty because there is a funny story there. One fall a woman and her husband stopped by and were taking photos looking into our fields from the road. I chatted with them. They asked if they could setup tripods to get calendar photos to which I said fine. She raved about how beautiful the “untouched forests looked as a backdrop to the fields” and ranted against loggers. I kept my mouth shut. Maybe I shouldn’t have. The fact was that three years before we had heavily cut that very spot to open the pasture and reveal the forest verge she was admiring. The picturesque pastures and open tree lines along the “gorgeous stone walls” come as a result of logging and animal agriculture.
I’m well aware of the ravages of bad clear cuts, having worked in the conservation corp on repairing such damage. I’ve been sick at heart to see badly done clear cuts. However, when logging is properly done it it is a sustainable long term crop, the land recovers quickly, the bio-diversity increases and the cycle revolves. We, like the beavers and forest fires, are moving the wheel around which allows the forests to become grass lands to grow to regen and forests again. What has been will be again and theses forests have been pastures before. This is the cycle of nature and we are a part of it. In time, even the parking lots will return to fields of wild flowers, to misquote Joani Mitchell.
The field clearing is a large clear cut which is very different from the selective cutting of individual trees, often just a few per acre, that we normally do. While this has been going on around the home fields area we’ve also been harvesting high grade timber further north in a selective cut. The skid forwarder shown above allows for more precise selective cutting and getting the wood out from deep in the forest without making a mess.
These are two of our projects for the summer but not our big project for 2009.
Outdoors: 74°F/56°F Cloudy with some Rain 2″
Tiny Cottage: 74°F/69°F Archimedes moved to North Herd, 100 square bales yesterday