Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Steep Hill Clearing Site

I’m still evaluating the old clearing sites to see which ones need some additional work.  I need to get an estimate of how many days it will take to complete the work and how much brush can be added to the existing piles.  Steep topography sometimes adds an extra challenge to cedar clearing.  Measured on the down hill side, this brush pile originally reached a height of 12 feet.  That’s mainly because the ground dropped three feet from the front to the back of the pile, so by the time I had the top of the pile level with the ground in front, the back of the pile had already received three feet of brush. 

This is the area directly uphill from the brush pile.  The slope certainly made it easy to drag the cedars.  The only problem I had was weather related.  The ground was frozen and we kept getting dustings of snow at night.  Temperatures warmed enough during the day to turn the snow to slush and coming down the hill was like trying to walk down a water slide.  Some of the larger cedars were just thrown down the hill and they managed to slide all the way to the bottom.

I quit working if it got warm enough to thaw the soil surface.  I didn’t want to create ruts that could start an erosion problem.  It’s definitely easier to drag brush down hill, but a slope can be a problem under certain conditions.

It took several years before the vegetation finally covered the cleared area.  Now that this area has developed so nicely, it’s time to open up the neighboring section.

The stand of cedars is not very thick, but it’s enough to inhibit plant growth.  This is what the other section looked like before being cleared.  In the background is that previously cleared area.  Completion of this next section will about double the size of the opening. I’ll keep clearing until the brush pile is back up to its record height.  I’m hoping to accomplish the task without ice this time.

There is a good diversity of plant species beneath the cedars, but lack of sunlight inhibits their growth.  One of the fun things about clearing is watching these small plants respond to the increased light and grow to their full potential.

Even with plenty of sunlight, growing conditions are not good on this hillside.  Rock is here in all sizes from gravel to bedrock slabs.  Rain water runs off quickly and that sunlight so desperately needed by the plants, bakes the ground hard each summer.  Like the first section, the plants will be slow to rebound, but I’m confident that I’ll see improvement every year.

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