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Maintaining Trails on a Property

 
gardener
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Something I did today, as a gardening and homesteading project in Longview, WA, was maintaining a couple trails on the property.

Since plums are expected to be ripe around the end of June, it is important that access to the plum trees is navigable. So, I used an electric weed-whacker to chop down the stuff growing on the trails.


And these are some of the plums that I'm looking forward to harvesting! (or at least, I'm fairly certain I identified them correctly?)
 
master pollinator
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I have always felt that access was hugely important upon a homestead as well. If a person cannot easily get somewhere, then it just will not be accessed and thus cannot be enjoyed for a variety of reasons.

For my farm, maintaining trails starts right after I log a certain area. I do not do this on every skid trail I make, but on the major trails, I will take a bulldozer and push out stumps, and grade the soil so that my tractor can easy traverse the area. On areas I want to be able to take my truck, I might fill in low areas, and might add some culverts too. These are not heavy haul roads by any means, they just give me quick access in good weather for my truck or tractor.

That is a huge first step because after a few years, brambes and saplings begin to grow, and it is important for me to be able to go in and bushog these trails. That allows for hiking, snowshoeing, gathering of firewood, etc.

I actually have a trail plan for my farm that maps out these trails and roads pretty well. It is mostly a long term plan because there are areas that I want to access better, and yes, some of these do include heavy haul roads. That is what I call an all season road with gravel and capable of supporting heavy trucks. Every so often, I will invest in these types of roads, and over the years, ever so slowly my heavy haul roads get threaded further and further back. And eventually I will be able to put in an off grid cabin here or there because I can access these sites.

I often joke with myself though, that by the time I get to all the distant fields that I want to get too, hovercrafts will be in wide usage and it will all have been for not! (LOL)
 
pollinator
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Dave Burton wrote:Something I did today, as a gardening and homesteading project in Longview, WA, was maintaining a couple trails on the property.

Since plums are expected to be ripe around the end of June, it is important that access to the plum trees is navigable. So, I used an electric weed-whacker to chop down the stuff growing on the trails.


And these are some of the plums that I'm looking forward to harvesting! (or at least, I'm fairly certain I identified them correctly?)



In your pictures I see apples and blackberry blooms, but no plums...🙁
 
Dave Burton
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I think I may need to ask for clarification on where the plums are, then, so I can make the right trail. But I'm sure this helped for later.
 
pollinator
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This is an issue for me as well. My homestead has pretty extensive ATV trails, but I do need to get out and prune back branches that have grown into the trail. Currently, you just get thwacked by them, not fun.
 
master pollinator
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I use an electric lawnmower to maintain our trails through fields, and loppers to maintain them through woods.

 
Dave Burton
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I finally found honest-to-God real plum trees! And a lot of them!


Now, I'm pretty sure I was where I was supposed to be this time!


There were a lot of blackberries, teasel, and some type of thistle! So, I was trying my best to not get scrapped up too much. My overalls were awesome at keeping me safe very well! These are some pictures from my adventure of taking back the trails!










And I'll probably need to go back in the areas nearest to the plum trees with some pruners or shears, because the electric weedwhacker was mostly only able to handle the access paths.
 
Travis Johnson
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This is an example of a Heavy Haul Road, and then a path through our forest.

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Heavy Haul Road
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Trail through the woods
 
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I use one of these things (and also a machete and hand axe) so far it has worked pretty well - be careful about hitting rocks...mine is getting pretty banged up but still doing the job after a year or so!

It will take out small woody things around and a bit over 1/4" diameter if you swipe hard enough :)
 
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Cordless electric hedge cutters are the most efficient means I've found of clearing ground and keeping it clear. Very efficient when tunnels are being created through thickets. I use a 32 inch model for most tasks. A long reach model is used like a sickle bar mower.
 
Travis Johnson
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I typically use one of these to help knock back ye ole vegetation for my farm trails, but fuel consumption is pretty high, so I have reverted back to bulldozers! :-)

(The fun starts about 2 minutes in)

 
Dave Burton
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Today, I was improving access to the plum tree's branches, not just the ability to walk there. So, I spent most of today attacking the blackberries and pulling them out of the plum trees' branches. these are some pictures from my carnage against the blackberries! I also got rid of some dead branches on the plum trees, too.





I used the brambles and debris I made to start work on making my first raised beds (hugelkultur).
 
Dave Burton
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I cleared some more of the debris on the trails that I made and added that to my raised beds.
 
pollinator
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Dave,

I don’t know why it took me so long to read through this thread, especially considering that I do much the same thing on my property, but I like what you are doing with your trails!  Especially I like that the pruning leftovers are being put to good use by applying them to your new hugel beds.  I am about to do something similar when I get to my own trails that need pruning.  Those extra chips will be applied to my mulch beds and get decomposed with wine cap mushrooms.

Great work there,

Eric
 
Dave Burton
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Thank you, Eric!

I did find a few more bigger sticks and branches this morning, and I added them onto my growing pile. It'll eventually become a hugelkultur raised bed; it just takes time. I've got lots of digging in the pond in my future to get all of the soil out of it, and I'm planning to put a lot of that soil of this hugelkultur raised bed.



Please tell me how the wine cap mushrooms taste! I haven't grown or tasted those before!

I wish you well with maintaining your trails! I ought to take a picture of my arms, because I've got some marks to show for my blackberry fighting! (I left some blackberries that weren't by the plum trees, because I do intend to eat as much fresh ripe blackberries as I possibly can!)
 
Eric Hanson
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Dave,

I actually did not get that many wine caps for the simple reason that they grew so fast that I had a hard time harvesting them before they became absolutely huge and rather unpalatable.  The mushrooms I did harvest tasted somewhat like a portobello but a bit nuttier/woodier.  I only snacked on fresh picked mushrooms, but I would think they would be better sautéed, or maybe in an omelette.  I will try cooking them the next time they flush.

Regarding your battles with wild blackberries, I can identify with you again.  I have about 600’ of wild raspberries and while their taste is unmatched, their thorns are absolutely wicked!  I, too have gone out looking for a wild snack and come back with scratched up arms.

I don’t know if you have access to one, but my experience is that the best tool for maintaining a wild trail is a flail mower.  These can chew through the heaviest vegetation and leave it looking like a fine carpet better than a dedicated finish mower.  They are a bit rare, but in my mind nothing beats them.

Eric
 
Dave Burton
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Aw, well, at least you got to taste a little bit!

I took a couple pictures of my scars from the blackberries! They did a number on me!

 
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Mowing roads and trails provides excellent compostable materials, so I think of mowing as harvesting compost ingredients, rather than just a chore.   I have a tow-behind sweeper, not motorized, that the ATV pulls and brushes load the mowings into a bin that hangs off the back side, and can be transported anywhere the ATV can go, dumped with the pull of a rope, and piles made.

There is a driveway/ATV trail method that can help keep them under control.  Make the driveway or trail 1 1/2 times as wide as the vehicle that uses it, so that when driving to the far side of it, one set of wheels goes down the middle.   Then whenever traversing it, drive slightly to one side or the other, never just down the center, and the tires will keep that whole width flattened down, and it stops the crowning in the middle.

 
pollinator
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!st off, awesome thread, and such a good topic. A big part of Permiculture is the design. We need to design in the access to get around the place to do the things we are doing. If access becomes impeded then the flow of resources drops.

Travis Johnson wrote:I have always felt that access was hugely important upon a homestead as well. If a person cannot easily get somewhere, then it just will not be accessed and thus cannot be enjoyed for a variety of reasons.



Very much yes!

I bought 40 acres of raw land. In the 3 years I have had it now, most of the work I have done is actually trail building and maintaining. At first I was just using pruning lopers and pruning saw. Then weed eater with brush blade. Then I bought a DR brush mower and what took weeks took minutes. In a few hours I could get more done with the brush mower than I could all year with hand tools and weed eater.

However, I would not have known where to go with the brush mower if not for at least the work with the hand tools. Even after getting the brush mower I still start the trails with hand tools than come back with the brush mower to clean it up. Unfortunately the mower is down for repairs, after fixing one part another was found needing replacement, and is on back order for 1-2 months. Which is one of the big problems with leaning too heavy on tech to do your work. While great when working, if something goes wrong you can be set back a lot. I have lost cutting back the entire spring growth to this machine not running. I wont be able to get it cut back until mid summer now. While I love the DR brush mower, and still feel it was the best investment I made for the property, it shows how being too invested in tech can really slow progress for your plans.

That said. Since I don't have access to the mower, I have been back to the hand tools, carving new pathways and removing falling logs and branches from paths. Exploring the property more and more. Though there is a thick area I have yet to really penetrate well. I had hoped to push into it this year but due to the mower breakdown I might not get to it this year. I would like to get a path through here though as it would be a primary corridor for my North side of the property. The thick brush there is what has prevented much exploration of that side of my property.

A little note for anyone who ends up with raw land like I did with thick vegetation. Follow and expand upon the game trails. The animals know where they are going which is typically to and from water. They also tend to find the least resistance pathways when possible. While there are exceptions to this, carving out trails on raw land typically means expanding the game trails at least at first. You might then push through things that the game can not to access places that the game would have had to go around and take a longer route to get to.
 
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I do a lot of work with a shovel. I use my backhoe for the big stuff and easy to get to places. But some places are just made to get up close and personel. This is a picture of my path that goes down through my creek bottom and back out again.
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Dave Burton:I bought a pair of cheap elbow length leather welding gloves from Harbor Freight, no blackberry shredding for me :) Or catbriar, I have a lot of that around too.
 
Dave Burton
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I'm currently working with what's available, and it's working pretty well.

Thank you, Pearl! I'll keep that in mind the next opportunity I have to go shopping for clothing.

That's a very nice trail you've made, Miles! And yes, some places are just easier to access and deal with on foot ad by hand.

Thank you, Devin! And yes, that's kinda been my experience, too. By going out with an electric weedwhacker, I can find out where to to go with a mower and what spots are better handled on foot, because of slope or terrain, and what's better handled with a mower, because of lack of slope and terrain.

With the way that everything is growing, I will probably have to go out on all the trails I've made in another couple weeks to chop and drop them all again to keep them accessible and walkable.
 
Dave Burton
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I did a little bit of cleaning some trails up, because things grow back pretty fast in the Pacific Northwest.



And I saw some blackberries starting to put on fruit after being pollinated.

 
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Hello all,
I'm looking for ideas on how to clear land invaded by thorny bushes of blackberries etc. I visited the property last week and the bushes are so thick I couldn't go around the house nor open the door to another building, so of course all remedies are of interest to me, especially those that use no motor.
While researching the topic I've learned that it's best to remove and uproot bramble when the sap is dormant, i.e. from November to March.
To prevent re-growth, cover the cut area with opaque cover like flattened cartons or black tarp. Also bramble hates potato plants, so plant spuds where you don't want bramble to grow.
To uproot bramble after cutting, use an asparagus gouge. Works great. Or buy or borrow a few goats and let them clear the land for you but watch out, they are not selective and will eat everything within reach.
 
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