Friday, September 14, 2012

Clearing Plans

Cedar removal is going to be a top priority work activity this winter.  In preparation, I’ve been going around to assess the condition of the brush piles and determine the area necessary to allow the cut cedars to bring the piles back up to their original eight foot height.  I’ve built enough brush piles that there is now one within dragging distance of all potential cedar clearing areas.  This particular pile was built in February 2004 and contained mostly medium sized cedars of 10 to 12 feet.  Cedars of that size take a while to decompose, so this pile is still about a third of its original height.

Here’s the cedar that stands above that brush pile.  Using a large cedar to give stability to the pile allows me to build a higher pile and reduce the ground area actually covered by brush.  Supporting a large pile of brush doesn’t seem to have any negative impacts on the health of the cedar.

The piles support a wide variety of wildlife species.  Each has been penetrated by at least one burrowing animal.  There are only a couple of species that actually excavate, but there are many more that are ready to take over a burrow after the builder has moved on.

My 2004 clearing activities were concentrated on the upper slopes of the hill.  I knew that I would eventually be working to clear more of the hillside, so I established the brush pile all the way at the bottom of the hill.  After nine growing seasons, my cedar dragging corridor from work area to brush pile is just as open as the day it was created.

The upper slopes show a good mix of vegetation despite being stunted by lack of rainfall.  The biggest surprise here was the number of Spiranthes magnicamporum orchids that bloomed within a few years of clearing.

In a couple of places I just created openings so I could see how the vegetation responded to increased sunlight.  There was nothing unusual in most places, but the diversity of species increased dramatically.

Several large slabs of limestone bedrock project from the hillside.  An area of vigorously growing tall grass develops down hill from each slab.  Rain water falling on the slabs runs off, giving a small area an increased amount of water.  Plants growing near the rock benefit by this added moisture.  It’s the same effect you get at the edge of a driveway or sidewalk where water flows off into the lawn.

Uncleared areas show very little ground cover.  Shade and dry soil make it tough for much of anything to grow here.  Removing the medium sized cedars should increase sunlight penetration by 30 to 50 percent.  That should be enough to make a difference in the plant composition on the ground.



  1. I'm curious here, how old is this forest ? from the tree trunk sizes it appears to be very young, Was it ever logged off in the past ?

    I've studied and researched old growth habitats from my former area for 24 years and was fascinated by a number of natural phenomena in the old growth verses areas mismanaged by humans. Recently I've only undertaken writing about my experiences on my "Earth Internet" blog as a means of recording and documenting my ideas and experience (successes & failures) with regard rebuilding degraded habitats.

    Just a bit curious as to a bit of the history of this beautiful site you reveal to us. You often expose many of the invasives to us through your work and photos. Such invasives are often helped out by decades past human ignorance. Believe it or not, my experiences reveal similar problems here in Scandinavia. Don't be fooled by how green and lush looking everything is. It has issues of it's own.

    Thanks for the reveals Steven


  2. On another note about water which is an obsession of mine. Your observations can also been seen out in the west where water running off highways in the deserts will have greater growth than a few yards further in the field.

    I also some time back wrote about using rocks in the landscape as a means of rainwater catchment and channeling to plants, plus they act as a mulch of sorts where wind and sun can't get to it. There are numerous areas in Southern California Geology where plant communities will be small and lower to the ground on a sunny southern slope with the exception of an area with countless large Granite Boulders which have very huge shrubs of the same species as the lower growing out in open exposed areas, but they look like miniature trees as a result of this water concentration phenomena and mulching effect by the boulders.

    Very interesting. such things should be giving gardeners and landscape planners ideas.


  3. Hi Kevin. The oldest trees in my clearing area are close to 100 years old. All of the trees in this area were cut in the mid 1800's to be made into charcoal for use in the iron furnaces. The cleared land was then heavily farmed through the early 1900's, resulting in severe soil erosion. Eventually, the soil was unable to produce crops or pasture and the fields were abandoned around 1930. In this area, the native prairie plants were able to reestablish themselves in the poor soil. It's for those plants that I now manage.

  4. How interesting, thanks a whole lot. Believe it or not the history of an ecosystem location is important to me in my personal research. Thanks again.

    BTW, found this link on the Asian Longhorn Beetle which has caused problem in your state and the free tree giver away.

    Free trees to replace some lost to beetles

    Thanks again, very informative