Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cedar Clearing Preparation

Weather conditions continue to be unsuited to doing clearing work in the prairies.  Frequent rains have left the soil saturated with water,  making it highly susceptible to damage from the trampling it would receive while I cleared cedars.  I’ve taken advantage of the occasional few hours of frozen ground in the early mornings to do some clearing at the site next to the old log landing.  As the day warms, the ground quickly thaws and becomes muddy, so I have to be quick to get anything accomplished.  I stop work as soon as the ground begins to feel soft.

The first task when beginning work on a new clearing site is choosing the location of the brush pile.  I try to pile the brush as high as possible while minimizing the basal area of the pile.  In order to accomplish this, I use large cedars as a support for one side of the pile.  The cedar on the right side of the photo and the double cedar a little farther back will act as the supports for this pile.  When I made my first pile in this fashion, I was concerned that there might be negative effects to the growing cedars, but this appears not to be the case.  Cedars that received piles over 20 years ago are still healthy and continue growing while the brush rots down around them.

I monitored the brush pile site through the last growing season to make sure there were no important plant species that would be covered.  Mosses and Golden Ragwort were the dominant species and these are common to many areas of Blue Jay Barrens.  Choosing a suitable brush pile site takes more time and planning than any other aspect of cedar clearing.

Big Loppers and Little Bow are my tools of choice for clearing cedars.  Big Loppers will cut anything up to two inches in diameter.  Little Bow, a standard 21 inch bow saw, will handle the rest of what I typically clear, which is usually less than six inches in diameter.  I prefer to use hand tools for my management work because they are quiet and allow me to enjoy the sounds of birds and other nature as I’m working.  In addition, they are easy to carry from the barn to the job site, they never fail to start when I’m ready to begin work and they don’t produce any unpleasant odors when in operation.

Clearing starts with a path that begins at the brush pile and runs up through the center of the clearing area.  The path needs to be wide enough for a person to easily travel while hauling a mass of cedars.  Dragging brush is much easier if you don’t have the surrounding growth snagging on you or the brush as you proceed to the pile.
This size corridor is ideal.  I can move some large loads of brush through here without difficulty.  I also personally benefit by being better able to view the clearing job ahead.  As I walk the corridor, I’m able to look to each side and see the numbers of different sized cedars to be cut and decide in what order I should proceed with the clearing. 

I begin the brush pile by building a vertical wall against the support trees.  This barrier helps to contain the material I will push in from the front side.  The initial cedars in the pile must be longer than the distance between the support trees, so they will be properly anchored at each end.  I build up to a height of about five feet before starting to add width to the pile.

This is what I accomplished before the ground began to get soft.  From here I’ll begin general clearing and increase the width of the brush pile.  I just need another frozen morning.

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