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Land Clearing Options

 
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One of the things I grossly underestimated in establishing the homestead was the cost of land clearing, and I didn't fully understand the pros and cons of each method (and perhaps I still don't...).

I have mentioned in other posts that the land I purchased in Fall 2014 had been clear cut by the prior owner around 2009.  While there remained a lot of uncut trees along the creek and springs, the majority of the land was regrowth - think lots of thick brush, saplings, and oh, nearly impenetrable wild blackberries!

I did some clearing with my tractor and bushhog, and while it worked to a degree, it was pretty hard on the equipment and frankly fairly dangerous, given the slopes, holes, stumps, rocks, etc..., especially in the Spring, Summer and Fall, with all the greenery hiding the hazards.  So, to establish some pasture area near where the building was planned, I looked into land clearing options, and tried a couple of them.  

The first option was a forestry mulcher.  These chop everything up, and leave a fairly thick layer of wood mulch on top of the soil.  The advantage are, it minimizes soil disturbance, protects the soil with layer of mulch, and neatly disposes of the brush, downed logs and branches, and can even grind the stumps down to the ground if you want to pay for the time to do that.  The disadvantages are cost - about $225 per hour - and the time it takes to clear an acre, about 8 hours.  The initial quote I got for about 8 acres was over $14,000 dollars!  I did hire him to do about 3 acres, and it was quite impressive to see what they can do - tried to include a video, but it won't upoad a .mov extension?  Other disadvantages are, if you have a lot of cedar, which I do, that wood doesn't really decompose all that quickly, and even the other mulch is going to take at least a year to decompose to the point where you can establish pasture.

The second option was a dozer, which I rented from a local equipment rental company, and hired a neighbor to drive it for me (he does it for his job, so knew what he was doing with it).  The advantage of a dozer is that it was needed to reshape some land and move some things around to my specifications, which it is very good at, and was able to add to an already extensive trail network with relative ease.  The cost was somewhat less expensive - about $2,800 for the rental for the week (40 hours of run-time) and about $1,700 for the driver for the week, and that cleared about 6 acres, plus a bunch of trails, plus creating some very useful level areas on otherwise very hilly land.  The disadvantage is you lose an awful lot of topsoil, even with a skilled operation, and it ends up all mixed into a non-useful tangle of trees, brush, limbs, rocks, stumps, etc..., making it hard to burn the pile, or even extract the useful topsoil to put back in place.  A gigantic hugel of sorts, I suppose, but  not dirt covered!  With thin topsoil to begin with here, it made it that much harder to get pasture established.  It didn't help that we had some real gully washers right after I limed and seeded but before mulching.  :(  Anyway, I felt less than good about my land stewardship taking that route.  Some pictures below for reference.  

If given a do-over, I think I would have hired an excavator to do the clearing - this would pull the stumps with minimal loss of topsoil, and could easily clear the brush and downed logs and stack neatly, either for a dead hedge, burning, or cover with soil for some amazing hugels, or even just bury.  From recent quotes, I think the cost would be about $3,500 per acre to clear land.  

Hope this is helpful to anyone looking to clear some land - no matter how you do it, it can be quite costly, and there are pros and cons to consider regardless of method.  

Does anyone else have experience with land clearing?

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gardener
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We do our clearing by hand tools, it took us a year to obliterate an acre and a half of wild blackberry and sumac but we were only working on it on weekends so 1.5 days a week.
This was all 7 year regrowth. and we used pick, shovel, stihl weed eater with a blade and a 7.5 hp. Sears Mulching mower with a 1.8" thick blade.
We turned all the organic waste into char which is now in the soil.

For large amounts of land I would go with the hire method over the wear out your own equipment method.
 
Posts: 120
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I like the forest mulcher option - you could have made the cedar into fence posts perhaps.  Doesn’t seem any more expensive than the excavator route.  I would have kept some of the bigger trees, at least for a few years, as the shade would make your pasture conversion easier.  Then once you cut them to the stump level you could let them rot into the soil.  Maybe a forest mulcher with the debris tilled into the soil, and a cover crop planted into that?  I’ve had good luck with Korean Lespedeza on a small-scale with that red clay dirt/soil.

My friend is in a similar situation… he cleared three acres of scrub forest with heavy machinery and now can’t get anything going, despite liming/seeding/fertilizing (he is not a permaculturist).  I imagine his clay soils are baking into pottery in the sun.

Maybe some swales would help keep your seeds and inputs in the ground.  Or plant trees (nitrogen-fixing) on contour.

My acre of forest conversion worked out ok because its been a forest for at least 30 years, not clear-cut 10 years ago. I used mostly hand tools, and rented a brush mower on one day.
 
Artie Scott
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Thanks Dr. Redhawk, Josh, all good points.  About 2 acres was cleared using exactly the methods (and tools) you describe, Dr. Redhawk, and on weekends like you to boot!  But as you noted, it takes a long time that way, and more pasture than that was needed, so as the building date got closer, the need for a larger established pasture grew more urgent.  Josh, we did save some of the larger trees where possible, for just the reasons you said, mostly Poplar since they regrow from stumps so quickly, but also some oak and some Sycamore,  I should have clarified on the excavator - I would probably clear as much as I could by hand/tractor myself, and then bring in the excavator to remove the stumps that I needed to remove.  Not all of them, of course, as time and nature will do that work, but in some cases stumps need to go.  I probably would not have used a dozer for the clearing but for the need to have it on the property anyway for some leveling work, and the favorable weekly rate.  

On the cedars, I did salvage most of the bigger stuff for posts and building projects, but I meant the smaller regrowth and the branches and stumps - those pieces are pretty slow to decompose!

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of what things look like a year later - coming along, and in a few years I think I will be able to rebuild the soils enough to have good established pasture where the dozer did its thing, thanks to Dr. Redhawk's great wisdom around building healthy soils..  Live and learn, as they say!  
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One year later
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One year later
 
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I was in your exact situation.  Bought our property from someone who had clear cut it a few years prior.  8 acres were completely unusable due to the impenetrable GA brush.  We chose to get it all mulched.  It was costly but I'm satisfied with the results.  If we had needed immediate horse or cow pasture, though, this would not have been a good option.  Dozer would've been better.

After the mulching was complete, I used a heavy duty "bush and bog" disc harrow behind the tractor to improve garden areas.  This still required manual raking of roots into burn piles, but turned out quite nice after several weekends of work.  

If anyone is considering this as an option, be sure to have a way to maintain the new growth once mulching is complete.  In the south, the new growth will become unmanageable after a single season of growth.  I purchased an old tractor and bushhog shortly after having the land cleared, so the land could be maintained.  Another option is to fence in immediately and get goats.  The regrowth in mulched areas is perfect for them.  I left several strips of regrowth alone, to provide wildlife habitat.  The deer, turkey, and birds love this area.  
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Nice! Artie.
I want to get a tractor and single tooth subsoiler to work on another pasture with.
The unit I am looking at will need at least a 40 hp. tractor, I plan on using it to selectively remove trees by their roots being brought up with the subsoiler, then I can run passes with it again once I have the trees I want removed out.
From there it will be a matter of installing swales and turning ponds so I have water control.
Then seeding with a diverse number of plant types, it should end up as a nice silvopasture, shade trees along with lots of fodder for the animals.
For this pasture I'll be leaving the white oaks instead of hickories.
The main line water control features will allow me to have alleys and I shouldn't need to irrigate.

 
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Hi Artie,

My suggestion if your up for it, is use mixed species grazing to over graze the undesirable brush. If you just clear just enough space for setting up mobile netting, and use goats with other species in rotation to break paracite cycles. The goats will over graze if given the option and eventually kill all the undesirable species gowing on your land. Four grazings of goats per year will eliminate those undesirable brush species. Once the saplings and other brush dies of, it quickly loses its rooting becoming mulch. If you have other species of grazers move through to utalize the pasture between same species grazing cycles it breaks the paracite cycle.

My suggestion, invest in kiko goats, some mobile goat netting enough to do proper rotations, and also raise at least enough pasture chickens as a break in grazing cycles between goat rotations. This sould provide multiple revenue streams and or food benefits, while saving you money, as your land gets transferred back to pasture in a more healthy and eco-friendly way. Your initial investment could be as little as a few thousand, and then once the animals are at full population and reproducing aboundantly, you would be making three times that in profits annually at minimum.

Hope that helps!
 
Artie Scott
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Great point on the maintenance, LD, the regrowth is rampant, nourished and kept moist by all that great mulch!  I knocked it back several times the first year with the brush hog - figured that was just adding fertility, chop and drop style.  Pasture seeds I put down - grasses and clovers, mostly - didn't do much till this Spring, a year later, after a couple of seedings Spring and Fall, but beginning to come in now.

R. Steele, really great suggestions, and I think that is the direction I will (try) to go for any future clearings, now that I am here more (but not quite) full time.  Am also still working full time as a wage slave for a bit longer, so I might hold off on the further creation of pasture until ready to say goodbye to the boss permanently.  Caring for the goats and chickens and perhaps pigs will take some doing and a lot of learning!
 
Artie Scott
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Dr. Redhawk, I never thought to use a subsoiler to remove stumps - genius!  If you do go that route, I hope you let us all know how it works. From what little I have learned about tractors, I wish I had gone a bit bigger - I have a 54 HP, but could do some haying a bit more effectively if had I gone bigger.  That said, even the smaller tractors are so useful I don't know how I lived over half my life without one!  Hope you do get one - I use it for everything almost every day.  

R. Steele, meant to ask - why the Kiko goat breed?  Looked at some pictures online - crazy horns!  Hardiness and parasite resistance?

I did come across a link to Jeff Walters Sugar Mountain Farm blog which is really good around establishing pasture from woodland - webpage
 
Josh Garbo
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Artie, your later pics look real nice.  I'm curious what you did (lime, disc, fertilizer?) for my friend's sake.
 
Artie Scott
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Hi Josh, I just kept liming and seeding. In April last year, just after clearing, which didn’t seem to take, in Fall again, some frost seeding in February and again in early Spring.  I have a drag harrow I can put on the back of the ATV - I would run that on the shallow side, lime, run it again, seed and the run it again to cover.

Oh, and the clover helped too I think. I used ladino clover, which is eye-poppingly expensive - over $250 for a 50 pound bag!  Supposedly the white clover actually prefers clay soil, and it self seeds as well. I dump manure and bedding on the bare spots to provide some organic cover, which gets some roots going. What I - should - have done is immediately cover it all after seeding with old hay or straw. Lack of time and weather and materials kept me from it, and is not easy to cover 5 acres, but that probably would have been most effective. I also would have done better with a more diverse seed mix just to get roots in the ground.

 
master pollinator
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I think you chose the best option Artie.

An excavator is faster at removing a stump, but then what do you do with it? A bulldozer can remove the stump, push it to the edge of the field, and smooth the soil afterwards. An excavator can not to the latter two things.

Used in tandem, an excavator and bulldozer is best, but you are also running two machines, and if renting, need to pay for transportation for (2) pieces of equipment as well. That gets expensive really fast.

Mulching is a poor choice because while the debris is gone above ground, it still leaves a lot of wood below ground, and after the stumps and wood rots, you are left with a lot of rough ground. To smooth it, it requires a bulldozer, so why not just use a bulldozer in the beginning, get more acres done per day, and have a lot better job? You cannot leave it rough because it will mean a lot of broken legs for livestock if you are using it for pasture.

When you factor in everything, renting a BIG bulldozer is just the best option.
 
pollinator
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Travis, good to have your input!

Artie, I am doing some major clearing, and came up with similar price points. Because my clearing guy is pretty close, he brought both an excavator and a dozer. He used the dozer to push over the smaller trees, including the root ball generally. Then he used the ex to stack and compact the trunks and remove big garbage trees, and I am going to pile fill dirt on them to make massive hugels and make Paul Wheaton jealous. The price per hour using the excavator to dump dirt means the height is limited to what I can get dirt on with a full size skid steer, and fill dirt around here is free, so I figure my cost is around $15/hour for making the hugels once the trees are in piles. It will likely take me about ten hours an acre, so very reasonable. For the record I am paying around $3k an acre all-in, and most of it was done early enough in the spring that - this is important- I threw down grass and clover seeds before he ran the tracked machines through to smooth, but after the trees were out. This gave good seed-soil contact and incorporated a good amount of chips a little below soil level. Most of the seeds were legumes (cowpeas are cheap, also Sunn Hemp and crimson clover) and I threw down a 50# bag of birdseed per acre at $12, which is sunflower, millet and other annuals along with the cool season bluegrass and perennial rye. The summer growers will hopefully produce abundant fall mulch and keep it from baking. Getting nice rain right now, so hopefully it will get established well. I am getting 100 tons of rock dust for calcium from a local quarry (I ran an assay for $15) that should replace the need to lime, and I spread it with my manure spreader along with some wood chips.   I am dropping some quicklime as well, just to raise the pH during germination. I firmly feel that as long as I get cover through the first summer, it will come back strong.

Then as soon as we can, goats go in. If you can get kikos they are beater goats and probably the best for vine and sapling suppression. We have a major sweetgum problem, and goats do better than sheep to eliminate them. And I hate hate hate goats, but the right tool for the job. Plus it will be pretty dry the first year, which goats thrive in, as opposed to sheep. As soon as it looks more like a pasture and less like a mine reclamation project, the goats will get sold off.

Done right it is expensive, but should pay off for a long time.
 
R. Steele
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Hi Artie,

To answer why Kikos: The Kiko goat breed standard is a near zero imput pasture rased breed. So beyond proper rotations for adequate forage and given adequate water supply, any issures are culled from the breed standard. Birthing problems culled, hoof problems culled, paracite problems culled, bad mothering culled, not growing fast on all forage culled, leaving a breed standard of near zero maintenence, yet a fast growing quickly producing forage raised species of meat goat.

Papered goats sell anywhere from $600 to over $1000 depending on individual quality, and most breeders sell out before the kids are even ready for sale. So there is a strong demand for this breed if you're producing quality breeding stock, and it is a fast growth low input goat breed. They will do your work, and quickly multiply to give you the best net profits, plus you'll be helping/promoting the best permaculture meat goat breed available.

If you invest more in your initial breeding stock, getting quality papered animals, and decide to register your kids. You could be getting on average $700+ per kid at weaning, with each doe having on average 1.75 kids per year. So the high demand of quality breeders also makes it an advantage, since on the hoof meat prices aren't typically as lucrative per head.

With goat meat at an all time high for demand and prices, many ranchers and farmers are looking into permaculture practices of mixed species grazing to lower feild maintenence, better utalize pasture in rotational mob grazing, plus increas pasture usage for conversion into sellable daily gains, and break paracite cycles. So Kikos being the gold standard of low imput meat goat, creates a strong growing demand for them as breeders to fill the demand and for food.

Hope that helps!
 
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Hi Artie;
I agree with Travis about the large dozer being the most useful.  What nobody mentioned was why that dozer did not have a brush blade ?   With a brush blade and a good operator, you will hardly get any dirt in your piles. Only the root wad dirt.

That said your pasture is now looking great!
 
Travis Johnson
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I cannot answer for Artie really, but I suspect it being a rented machine it just did not have that option.

In fact here, my local rental shop does not like bulldozers to be used for stumping, stating it is hard on the undercarriage? I think it is nonsense as big bulldozers are made for stumping, but that is the issue with renting equipment; it is not yours to do what you want with it.

For cost, I clear a lot of land; for myself and others; and figure the cost is about $201 an acre. That is renting the equipment, fuel, seed, etc. To contract it out here, it is $3000 an acres Yikes!

The price radically goes down, the more a person waits however. Stumps rot from the bottom up, not the top down, so to save a lot of money, and reduce soil loss, just wait five years. It takes a lot smaller equipment, and the root ball is about 1/10th of what it is for fresh cut trees. The problem is, a clearcut looks like crap for several years, and that is NOT what most people want. You cannot exactly use a clear cut for much either, and those pesky property taxes are always due. But if a person can wait, they will be rewarded ten fold.
 
Artie Scott
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Travis, you nailed it, it was a rental, and even if I had been smart enough to ask for it, I doubt that would have been an option.  But, great point Thomas, next time I will know!  

R. Steele, that is fascinating on the Kiko goats - had no idea they could command a price like that!  

Thank you all for the great tips.

 
thomas rubino
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Hi Artie;
Next time rather than a rental place, look around your area for a professional logger.  Not only would he have the proper equipment.  He would know how to use it.
 
Artie Scott
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Very good point, Thomas, and there certainly are plenty of loggers around here!
 
Artie Scott
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Had an excavator our for some other work, and had him pick through my piles to give a sense of just how much dirt was in them after the dozer.  Those piles would not have burned like that, I don’t think.

That dirt pile is about have of what was there - some was re-spread and some used elsewhere.

TJ, thanks for confirming the price - always good to know what is a reasonable rate!  In this case, since he was already on site, he only charged about $100 per hour to pick through the piles and stack it.
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My husband and I created our own skid steer attachments geared to land clearing for the land owner.  If you own a skid steer or can rent one our land clearing attachments may be of interest to other land owners looking to clear their property.  

We were wanting to clear our pasture land of invasive trees in our area, primarily cedar and mesquite.  We started out using a chainsaw but wanted something faster and easier.  That's when the Monster Tree Saw came to life.  It is an 8' saw blade that attaches to a skid steer.  The Monster Tree Saw allows you to cut trees flush to the ground.  

As our interest in clearing our property grew, we created other attachments to help in that process.  We now have the Monster Cedar Puller and Brush Forks.

By using these attachments and owning a skid steer, we can clear our land on days when we have extra time.  We have kept the cost of the attachments low in order to help other land owners achieve their land clearing goals.

Demonstration videos can be found at our website.  www.monsterskidsteerattachments.com

There are many types of ways to clear land, I hope this post gives members another option to investigate.

 
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Anyone used a dozer, and then immediately covered the exposed ground with a thick layer of hay by unrolling round bales? It seems that people are focussing on growing things too soon instead of building soil. Of in the case of a dozer, replacing the topsoil.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I cannot answer for Artie really, but I suspect it being a rented machine it just did not have that option.

In fact here, my local rental shop does not like bulldozers to be used for stumping, stating it is hard on the undercarriage? I think it is nonsense as big bulldozers are made for stumping, but that is the issue with renting equipment; it is not yours to do what you want with it.

For cost, I clear a lot of land; for myself and others; and figure the cost is about $201 an acre. That is renting the equipment, fuel, seed, etc. To contract it out here, it is $3000 an acres Yikes!

The price radically goes down, the more a person waits however. Stumps rot from the bottom up, not the top down, so to save a lot of money, and reduce soil loss, just wait five years. It takes a lot smaller equipment, and the root ball is about 1/10th of what it is for fresh cut trees. The problem is, a clearcut looks like crap for several years, and that is NOT what most people want. You cannot exactly use a clear cut for much either, and those pesky property taxes are always due. But if a person can wait, they will be rewarded ten fold.



Interesting! Here the prevailing opinion is do it immediately; 5 years will let the alder stumps rot, but they're dead easy. The cottonwood and maple will *all* coppice like it or not, never going to get easier. And 5 years won't do too much to most doug fir and all cedar stumps... plus 5 years of scrub growth and invasives will kill your visibility and make more problems to eliminate later...
 
Artie Scott
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My experience is similar to Dillon. I have a bunch of Tulip Poplar stumps which coppice like crazy, and are absolutely enormous and well embedded in clay, so no advantage to waiting on those.  Likewise with the oaks, another dominant species here, and of course sweet gum.

The next section I clear, which won’t be right away, I might try a three prong approach - kiko goats as R. Steele suggested to clear away as much brush as possible first; excavator to pop the stumps that are left; and a dozer with root rake to level things and push the stumps into position to create future hedgerows on contour, which should save on fencing costs for new pastures. Yeah, costly!  Somebody talk me out of buying an excavator please!
 
Travis Johnson
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Interesting! Here the prevailing opinion is do it immediately; 5 years will let the alder stumps rot, but they're dead easy. The cottonwood and maple will *all* coppice like it or not, never going to get easier. And 5 years won't do too much to most doug fir and all cedar stumps... plus 5 years of scrub growth and invasives will kill your visibility and make more problems to eliminate later...




Any hardwood coppices, but what does it matter, except for Ash, hardwood stumps push right out of the ground? Ash and White Pine are the stumps that have a tap root to hades.

Visibility is no problem on the saplings that pop up either, you have a 12 foot bulldozer blade in front of you. It is the big stumps that give you fits. Just let them rot down, and you have less of a root ball to deal with. My neighbor clear-cut some land and did this, waited 5 years and then did not even use a bulldozer, just a junk bucketloader and popped the stumps out with that. I have got two years on 70 acres of clear cut now that I am waiting to rot down. I'll wait a few more years and make my life easier, and soil better.

The more you wait, the more everything rots, and the more rot, the more soil you have. It is like have a 70 acre hugel.

People do not like the look of a clear cut though, or they want to get their new field into production immediately. I get it, but it is not better, just impatience.
 
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Artie Scott wrote:One of the things I grossly underestimated in establishing the homestead was the cost of land clearing, and I didn't fully understand the pros and cons of each method (and perhaps I still don't...).

I have mentioned in other posts that the land I purchased in Fall 2014 had been clear cut by the prior owner around 2009.  While there remained a lot of uncut trees along the creek and springs, the majority of the land was regrowth - think lots of thick brush, saplings, and oh, nearly impenetrable wild blackberries!

I did some clearing with my tractor and bushhog, and while it worked to a degree, it was pretty hard on the equipment and frankly fairly dangerous, given the slopes, holes, stumps, rocks, etc..., especially in the Spring, Summer and Fall, with all the greenery hiding the hazards.  So, to establish some pasture area near where the building was planned, I looked into land clearing options, and tried a couple of them.  

The first option was a forestry mulcher.  These chop everything up, and leave a fairly thick layer of wood mulch on top of the soil.  The advantage are, it minimizes soil disturbance, protects the soil with layer of mulch, and neatly disposes of the brush, downed logs and branches, and can even grind the stumps down to the ground if you want to pay for the time to do that.  The disadvantages are cost - about $225 per hour - and the time it takes to clear an acre, about 8 hours.  The initial quote I got for about 8 acres was over $14,000 dollars!  I did hire him to do about 3 acres, and it was quite impressive to see what they can do - tried to include a video, but it won't upoad a .mov extension?  Other disadvantages are, if you have a lot of cedar, which I do, that wood doesn't really decompose all that quickly, and even the other mulch is going to take at least a year to decompose to the point where you can establish pasture.

The second option was a dozer, which I rented from a local equipment rental company, and hired a neighbor to drive it for me (he does it for his job, so knew what he was doing with it).  The advantage of a dozer is that it was needed to reshape some land and move some things around to my specifications, which it is very good at, and was able to add to an already extensive trail network with relative ease.  The cost was somewhat less expensive - about $2,800 for the rental for the week (40 hours of run-time) and about $1,700 for the driver for the week, and that cleared about 6 acres, plus a bunch of trails, plus creating some very useful level areas on otherwise very hilly land.  The disadvantage is you lose an awful lot of topsoil, even with a skilled operation, and it ends up all mixed into a non-useful tangle of trees, brush, limbs, rocks, stumps, etc..., making it hard to burn the pile, or even extract the useful topsoil to put back in place.  A gigantic hugel of sorts, I suppose, but  not dirt covered!  With thin topsoil to begin with here, it made it that much harder to get pasture established.  It didn't help that we had some real gully washers right after I limed and seeded but before mulching.  :(  Anyway, I felt less than good about my land stewardship taking that route.  Some pictures below for reference.  

If given a do-over, I think I would have hired an excavator to do the clearing - this would pull the stumps with minimal loss of topsoil, and could easily clear the brush and downed logs and stack neatly, either for a dead hedge, burning, or cover with soil for some amazing hugels, or even just bury.  From recent quotes, I think the cost would be about $3,500 per acre to clear land.  

Hope this is helpful to anyone looking to clear some land - no matter how you do it, it can be quite costly, and there are pros and cons to consider regardless of method.  

Does anyone else have experience with land clearing?



Many people just slash and burn (controlled burn that is).

VERY cheap and you get the wood ash and some bio char in the process.

Or call a logging company and make a deal then use bulldozer to grade properly.

Logging companies usually only want the trunks, not the smaller limbs.
 
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Kai Walker wrote:Many people just slash and burn (controlled burn that is).

VERY cheap and you get the wood ash and some bio char in the process.

Or call a logging company and make a deal then use bulldozer to grade properly.

Logging companies usually only want the trunks, not the smaller limbs.




It really depends. years ago they just took the bole, but today they often chip whole trees.

For land clearing I would not get any logger in who just takes the bole, because the limbs leave a really big mess. You can burn them sure, but getting them into a burn pile takes time and money. Better off to chip everything possible, get money from it, and then burn what little remains on the landing.

Here in Maine we can still burn stumps, but it is against the law in New Hampshire and Vermont. Even then, stumps burn FOREVER so be prepared for smoke for the next year. It also presents a liability because the wind can kick up embers and cause a forest fire. I burn stumps, BUT I live in Maine and light them on fire after the first snow and let them burn n safety all winter, mostly burning out by the time the fire danger arrives in April.

One of the biggest myths I have heard regarding land clearing is "getting a logger in, and then giving them the wood to pay for the removal of stumps." That is just not going to happen. The value of the wood is well under the cost of stumping.
 
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Meanwhile I'm sitting here in Wyoming unable to get anything to grow completely jealous of your land clearing issue. lol  In my drought infested flatland nothing kills like a horse left too long in one place.
 
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Silly question: is what y'all are calling an excavator like a backhoe that swivels? Is the swiveling part important? Will a backhoe do this same work? Why or why not?

Artie: When we were property shopping, we came out here looking for "10 acres in the back of beyond" until we figured out how much work clearing that was going to be. Ended up with 4 acres, on the edge of a small town, that was mostly cleared for pasture. Not what we wanted, but what we decided we might be able to handle. It's just me (56 yr old female) and my mom (81 year old female) and we were going to be in over our heads fast.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Silly question: is what y'all are calling an excavator like a backhoe that swivels? Is the swiveling part important? Will a backhoe do this same work? Why or why not?



Yup, exactly. On tracks; they come on wheels, but thisnis uncommon and always specifically mentioned.

Both the swivelling and the tracks are important... A wheel-loader with backhoe of matching power can do most of the same work... quite a bit slower. All of that stopping to lift stabilizers, reposition, continue...

It also can't handle equally rough terrain; tracks trump tires any day.

 
Pearl Sutton
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Thank you Dillon!  That makes sense, helps me understand what might be able to do what I need done. Backhoes are easy to find around here, excavators don't seem as prevalent.
 
Artie Scott
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Pearl, I clearly bit off more than I can chew here, but hey, that should keep me out of trouble for another couple of decades, right?  And I figure, how bad can it be to have a lot of zone 5?  ;). You and your Mom were much smarter in understanding what was involved in clearing land and how much you were willing and able to take on, and were obviously very strategic in selecting your property.

Some people here call an excavator a trackhoe to distinguish it from a backhoe - I didn’t know what my guy was talking about when he kept referring to bringing a trackhoe to do the job!  From what I have seen, a backhoe is a lot less expensive, and the large bucket in front is pretty useful for moving piles of dirt, pushing stumps, etc.  But, as Dillon noted, just not as efficient at digging.
 
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Nick Kitchener wrote:Anyone used a dozer, and then immediately covered the exposed ground with a thick layer of hay by unrolling round bales? It seems that people are focussing on growing things too soon instead of building soil. Of in the case of a dozer, replacing the topsoil.



Nick, I would have done that since we can get cheap round bales in the spring (like $40 delivered) but I got free wood chips and that is my plan going forward. You have to be very careful with hay, persistent broadleaf herbicides will nuke your field for a decade. I pass the fields where the hay is grown and can see chicory in there and the farmer confirmed they use no herbicides, but there is no hay cheap enough for me to put down that I can't confirm that.
 
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Artie Scott wrote:

Some people here call an excavator a trackhoe to distinguish it from a backhoe - I didn’t know what my guy was talking about when he kept referring to bringing a trackhoe to do the job!  From what I have seen, a backhoe is a lot less expensive, and the large bucket in front is pretty useful for moving piles of dirt, pushing stumps, etc.  But, as Dillon noted, just not as efficient at digging.



On top of digging, I have been doing a lot of picking/raking with my excavator; my property 'features' several huge former burn-piles where stumps, limbs, rocks, chunks of concrete, scrap metal, and topsoil were all shoved into a mound with a big dozer, lit on fire in a fit of either optimism or sadism, and abandoned.

Then scotch broom 8ft tall, and himalayan blackberry, covered them and destroyed all visibility.

The stumps, metal debris, and sudden 4ft pits make at least the center section a no-go for a tractor. The excavator is really an ideal tool here, I can pull broom, pile it, move all the piles off the work area, then tear into the piles with the rake trying to pull out all the big chunks of anythin, and raking across the surface to grab a lot of med-small junk. Then roughly level with bucket, and move on to working it with the tractor and by hand to get the smaller rocks and debris, and do a final grade.

Without the ability to lift and carry the huge wads of broom I would have to push them, and my 160 size excavator can't budge these piles pushing... a big enough loader could probably use some sort of spiked bucket/grapple to handle it in stages...
 
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I'll just say it:

Excavators are better than sex.

I do not say that lightly either by the way. I would sell two of my children for a Hitachi 1200 Excavator (in front shovel configuration).

With a 34,000 pound excavator, I can clear about 2 acres per day, but it still leaves me with the problem of pushing the stump to the edge of the field. It is possible to burn the stump piles, or if a person wishes, they can dig a hole and bury the stumps, but the latter method takes a lot longer, and requires a deep depth to bedrock.

An excavator and bulldozer combination is pretty fast, but requires renting two machines. However a dozer works on any slope, and in mud.

The fastest land clearing combination is an excavator plucking the stump out, and a wheeled loader pushing the stump to the edge of the field, BUT that requires terrain, and weather where the wheel loader can operate, but it is super-fast.

This was my excavator working on a 18 acre land clearing job in 2017 on the side of a mountain. Of course it works better with both tracks on the idler and sprockets. It only took me 5 hours to get the track back on!




Lost-Track.JPG
[Thumbnail for Lost-Track.JPG]
 
Kai Walker
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Step 1
Plan the area

Step 2
Get an excavator and an operator.

Step 3
Use excavator to dig a pit 5 feet deep

Step 4
Use excavator to bury the vegetation trees and all

Step 5
Cover the pit with the soil you dug up

Step 6
It is not a pseudo hugelgarden and you can successfully plant great things!

Step 7

Figure out how many years you have to eat beans and rice to pay for all that work.

Optional - slash and burn - use saved money to replant with things you want and with anything leftover invest in your permaculture. (or even invest it - take wife on a vacation, get house paid off faster, etc)

Another method might be to lease out the land for grazing if it is appropriate then clear it the rest of the way.

Cattle first then sheep.


Not many options that do not include herbicides.




 
Kai Walker
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About burying the stumps:
Leave them on the surface and cover with dirt. You then have a HUGELBEET!

Or a berm or a swale.

Or privacy wall.

A place for kids to use their sleds in the winter?

Steep enough 'wall' could keep in livestock too.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I'll just say it:

Excavators are better than sex.

I do not say that lightly either by the way. I would sell two of my children for a Hitachi 1200 Excavator (in front shovel configuration).

With a 34,000 pound excavator, I can clear about 2 acres per day, but it still leaves me with the problem of pushing the stump to the edge of the field. It is possible to burn the stump piles, or if a person wishes, they can dig a hole and bury the stumps, but the latter method takes a lot longer, and requires a deep depth to bedrock.

An excavator and bulldozer combination is pretty fast, but requires renting two machines. However a dozer works on any slope, and in mud.

The fastest land clearing combination is an excavator plucking the stump out, and a wheeled loader pushing the stump to the edge of the field, BUT that requires terrain, and weather where the wheel loader can operate, but it is super-fast.

This was my excavator working on a 18 acre land clearing job in 2017 on the side of a mountain. Of course it works better with both tracks on the idler and sprockets. It only took me 5 hours to get the track back on!






I completely agree. I have found sex to be the second least effective method of clearing land, only beating out meditation. I mean, if you're really vigorous about it you can clear about one butt-print worth of land per 30 mins, not even one excavator scoop for most folks...

In hindsight this is probably for the best. I don't think that provincial park really needed clearing.



What about a (sizable, like 80hp min) track loader paired with an excavator? I'm picturing this outpacing a dozer/excavator if there isn't a lot of grading to do....

I've got a friend that relies on a JD 450 with 4-in-1 and backhoe for everything a tractor can't do... it's not the best or fastest at much anything, but it sure is versatile!
 
Dillon Nichols
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Kai Walker wrote:Step 1
Plan the area

Step 2
Get an excavator and an operator.

Step 3
Use excavator to dig a pit 5 feet deep

Step 4
Use excavator to bury the vegetation trees and all

Step 5
Cover the pit with the soil you dug up

Step 6
It is not a pseudo hugelgarden and you can successfully plant great things!

Step 7

Figure out how many years you have to eat beans and rice to pay for all that work.

Optional - slash and burn - use saved money to replant with things you want and with anything leftover invest in your permaculture. (or even invest it - take wife on a vacation, get house paid off faster, etc)

Another method might be to lease out the land for grazing if it is appropriate then clear it the rest of the way.

Cattle first then sheep.


Not many options that do not include herbicides.






What about step 6.5, where you realize the cottonwood and alder(ie most of the trees since the loggers took everything else without replanting or leaving nurse trees) all suckered like mad inside your hugel and you have to call the excavator back to dig it out again?

Ymmv, but a definite hazard in my area! I am leaving this stuff to age a year or two before hugeling it...
 
Just the other day, I was thinking ... about this tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
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