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Utility felling our trees this Feb.- Should we try to keep logs for use??  RSS feed

 
Posts: 4
Location: Connecticut
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bee
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Leaving aside how sad and angry this makes me... The megacorporation electric company has notified us that they will be clear-cutting the right-of-way along their transmission lines, behind our neighborhood. Surprisingly, the R.O.W. extends about 1/4 of the way into the back of our one-acre yard. (Why the lawyer didn't inform us of this possibility when we were buying the house a couple of years ago, is another dark joke, presumably!) This three-state, multi-year juggernaut has arrived, and is literally looming over us, since they've staged the trucks on the next hill over.

Currently, there is a long row of 20? ft evergreens, as well as our only oak tree; beech, maple, spruce and several other mature shade trees in this area. Until now, they screened the power lines almost entirely from view of the house. They are graciously allowing us to keep a birch and a couple of cedars and ornamentals.

The utility will take the trees away, or if we prefer, they will leave some, or all, in log lengths of 18-22 ft. I presume they could also leave the limbs and branches, or the chips if they're chipping them - but I'd have to check on that. They cut the trees to ground level, but don't bother to stump them. The ground slopes at a grade of about 8-10%, from the front of the yard down to the R.O.W. area - so we'd be bringing materials uphill if we moved it far.

Tree trunks of that size must weigh a few thousand pounds, so we'd need to chainsaw them, presumably, before we could do anything with them? We'd have to rent any equipment needed- and we might have a problem getting a truck down there due to the septic galleries bisecting the back yard - can't be driven over. It's just myself and the better half, 40 years old and not as fit as we should be, all gardening aside.

If they can leave wood chips, I can certainly find a use for those. We have a 10 foot pile of branches already, just due to deadwood falling all over the yard. We've only used it for bonfires, so far. Slackers! We have a fireplace, but don't anticipate wanting more than a small amount of firewood. Oak chips or logs could grow mushrooms, perhaps?

Logs could form raised bed borders, and I'm sure hugelkultur mounds/beds will be suggested. I would consider that, since it's way at the back of the yard, but only if they won't pose a significant termite risk. Are there other good uses for the slain bodies of our sylvan sentinels?

I know that letting them take away the trees, removes nutrients and biomass that grew from the site. I imagine we don't have the energy/equipment to utilize more than a portion of the "forest products" they are creating, but I'd like to try to do what we can.


I will update with more details of exact numbers and tree species soon, if that helps. I should be able to talk to the utility contact about the details of what they will and won't do, on Monday. We have to tell them what we want to do, in the next week or two.

Thanks to anyone reading this long post, and much appreciation for any advice you have. Anybody have experience with a situation like this?


 Bee
 
pollinator
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I'm sorry to hear about the situation.


I would recommend asking for everything you can--even logs from other properties if you have space or desire. You can always give away or burn excess later. I find that in terms of hugelkultur, fertility, gardening, etc, I can always use more wood, chips, branches, etc of almost any kind. You might not be able to process it all right away and that's ok so long as you're ok with it. You might even try leaving the logs in place if they're too much to handle and inoculating them with mushrooms (not my speciality) to break them down sooner
 
pollinator
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Take all the raminal woodchip you can get from every property.
Even though it is conifer take all the raminal woodchip, regular woodchip, logs and 20ft timber, after a year or two all the resins/oil will be gone so it is a win for your soil.
 
master steward
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I can think of a LOT of uses for that wood! Do you happen to know how thick the trees are?

With a chainsaw (or even a big bow saw) and a hatchet/ax, you could do a lot of the stuff in the round wood "badge"/course (there's lots of tutorials here: https://permies.com/wiki/97401/PEP-Badge-Wood-Woodworking).

I recently made the 3 log bench-- I very much recommend making one shorter in length than ours. My husband's back is still recovering.




An even easier thing is just to cut them into rounds, and use them as seating...or for kids to play on.




If you have kids (or are a kid at heart!), you could make them into sandpit




Or use the logs (either cut into rounds that you stand on end, or roll them on their side), to line garden beds. I do that a lot. Here's a few of mine:








Irene has some lovely ones terraces/garden boarders




 
master pollinator
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Awesome photos. YES you can use it all. Do not let a single twig leave your property. You say your property is on a slope - terracing! With time the wood will rot but it will take years and your terraces will be beautiful with training plants tumbling over the logs. And furniture! So jealous!
 
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I would get a guy with a sawmill lined up and have him cut them into boards. Seriously - that could be a lot of good lumber. You could turn around and sell the boards if you didn't need them all, but I've found having some wood around is always a good thing.

I made friends with a local sawmill guy and have literally found logs by the side of the road, had him cut them up, then used the wood to make furniture.
 
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Lots of great ideas here, especially the one to get as much as possible from other properties.  I'd add that since they are going to haul off whatever people don't want they might be willing to haul some of it to the front of your property and dump it there for you. I'd also be happy with large brush piles if they aren't going to chip it.  I would spread them out and cover as much ground as possible with them (at the back of your property).  Much better than bare soil, and my brush piles here typically have really nice soil underneath after a few seasons of breaking down.  Since you won't really want to plant too much on this right of way you might as well encourage healthy soil and a wild zone 5 area.
 
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I love all the ideas so far.  I also wanted to add the idea of making biochar.  If you char it down near where they leave it you won't have to move a lot of weight to move the biochar to wherever you want it on your site as 75% of the weight and 50% of the volume will go away.  Just wanted to add that to the amazing list of things you can do with a windfall of wood.  
 
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Some great suggestions! Definitely get all the wood chips they'll give you. They can probably chip pretty large logs. If you don't think you can move the larger logs yourself, mark it out and have the power company arrange on contour on your property. Then you have the option of creating a hugelkultur swale later that will capture water and erosion trying to leave your property.
 
gardener
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Have you considered making a log cabin? Sounds like the power company will do most of the hardest parts. They might even cut them to specific lengths if you ask. Perhaps you could gather the neighbors for an old fashioned barn raising.

Of course, hugelkultures come to mind. Big ones!!!

Logs could be placed along the border of your property as a sort of horizontal fence. They would be out of the way & ready for use at a later time. Either as logs or as compost material.

Or partially hollowed out & used as planters.

In some parts of the country short beech logs (a foot or two) are sold as garden decorations. Oak is good for growing some types of edible mushrooms. A portable chainsaw mill is another option. Maple makes beautiful furniture.

The round wood PEP/PEX that Nicole mentioned has a very nice log picnic table.

There's always the fireplace but that seems like a waste of some valuable resources. One of the core principles of permaculture is zero waste. In my opinion the most wasteful thing would be letting the power company take them away. At the very least they should pay you to remove them.
 
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Great thead. I second the mushrooms comment. Logs too big to move can be drilled and inoculated in place. But do it quick after called.
 
garden master
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Awesome and horrifying first post! Horrifying because all those trees.... Awesome because you are looking at it realistically, and figuring out how to deal with the reality of the situation, many points for that, that's HARD. I'd be swearing up a storm. :)

I'm liking the terracing ideas quite a bit. A thought about moving them upslope with rented equipment that won't trash your septic runs: Rent a big winch. Drag the logs up the slope to the other side of the septic. If you put thought into it, that might the only thing you'd need to rent to make terraces. Use the big logs to terrace, add chips, add as much dirt as you can come up with (might be a good time to buy truckloads of topsoil if you can swing it and need it.)  Turn any of it you can't cope with into biochar, and add it to the beds too.  Cover crop them immediately with shallow rooted annuals, like herbs, that won't care that there's chips down below, add worms, and in a couple of years, those beds will be amazing soil! This could be turned into quite an asset!!

Welcome to Permies! Glad to meet you, sorry to meet you for this reason....
 
Bee Williams
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Thanks for all the great suggestions, everybody! Love the photos of your cute kids and gardens, Nicole!

Terracing sounds like a great idea. When I made a new (slightly) raised bed last spring I did my best to level the ground. A big log on the downslope would be a good start. And props to Mike for suggesting I build a log cabin - Dream big! :-) If I could figure out the contours properly, there are some erosion/runoff issues that maybe berms could solve... but I can't learn that in a week. There are even some erosion issues with a badly-landsdcaped septic ridge that potentially this could help.. need to ask an expert about that one.

It made me giggle that when I said, "I'm not sure if I can handle all this surplus wood!" people made sure to tell me to try and get more from other people if I can! LOL.. I know that "the right permaculture answer" is to keep materials re-cycling on the site they came from. But when I look at these trees in situ... they are BIG. It's hard to imagine that someone with zero experience, could get massive trunks moved upslope and where I want them. If there were a way to roll the trunk, it would be less of a fight against the terrain.

Spent hours reading about various winches, logging arches, ATVs, tractors. Seems like winch-and-drag would tear up the ground quite a bit. I'm not sure a winch would work from ~200 feet away? Also, I can't really come up with hundreds of $ to rent that equipment in the near future, because we need a new roof.

I'd like to make use of these trees, but my fear is that I would not manage to do anything with them, and they would sit there, somewhat in the way, reminding me of all my other incomplete projects. Could I move them in a year or two? I suppose, worst case scenario is that they decompose in place, and host a bunch of fungi and critters and slowly give back their nutrients.

There are some difficult areas overgrown with problem plants that could use endless woodchips for sheet-mulching and leveling. If the chips are fine enough, I could mulch perennial beds all over the yard. Branches could make a woven wattle fence, trellises, etc. Is simple wood ash anywhere near as good as biochar?

So, I'll see if the tree contractor will agree to cut them into 10 ft lengths, or at least move them into the position I want them, in the same general area they are working. Lots of soon-to-be-sunny space for more gardens back there. They can't dump chips in front, alas, because of the septic galleries - they are coming in from the R.O.W. under the lines. But I assume they will dump them wherever I want them in the back area.

Posting a couple of photos of the area  - Photo 1 taken today, shows 30" diameter maple (with 25 ft section that the ice storm took down), part of the line of evergreens, beeches, 18" dia. Norway spruce (if it were 10 inches upslope, it would have been safe.)  The other two photos are from the fall, and show many of the trees to be cut. I'm estimating 25 trees in all.

Likely I'll be posting questions later about how to handle the new microclimate that will be created back there - compacted soil, more sun and wind, etc. First things first. Thanks again to everyone who took time to reply - if you have further thoughts, please share!

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