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Regenerating a forest after logging - resources

 
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Hi all,

Two years ago, we bought and moved into our five-acre homestead in Western PA (Allegheny Mountains, USDA zone 6).  The house and land were perfect--except that there had been selective logging done just before they put the property on the market.  This led to a huge amount of brush piles, downed wood, etc, all over 4 of our acres--its really an overwhelming amount.  We've cut what we can for firewood, made as many hugels as we can in our garden, but there's still a lot left.  We've worked to replant a good bit of the forest with chestnut and pawpaw and are slowly clearing the brush, making paths, and planting good things.  The good news is that the overstory that's left is oak, hickory, sugar maple, and cherry, primarily, which gives us lots of potential and harvests moving forward.

Most of my PDC was focused on garden and garden design, and so I've been looking for knowledge/resources on forest regeneration and management.  There are a lot of decisions to make, and I'm not always sure what ones are best.  Most of the books I've found on managing woodlots are really focusing on them for timbering and they are starting with the assumption that you don't have a mess everywhere.  Our goal is very different: its a food forest, habitat, and health of the forest.  Maybe occasionally some firewood or logs for natural building projects, but only those that are ready to come down.

I'm wondering if anyone has specific resources for how to regenerate the land from such a situation from an explicitly regenerative/permaculture framework.

Thanks!
 
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Location: South Central Kansas
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Dana Driscoll wrote:Hi all,

Two years ago, we bought and moved into our five-acre homestead in Western PA (Allegheny Mountains, USDA zone 6).  The house and land were perfect--except that there had been selective logging done just before they put the property on the market.  This led to a huge amount of brush piles, downed wood, etc, all over 4 of our acres--its really an overwhelming amount.  We've cut what we can for firewood, made as many hugels as we can in our garden, but there's still a lot left.  We've worked to replant a good bit of the forest with chestnut and pawpaw and are slowly clearing the brush, making paths, and planting good things.  The good news is that the overstory that's left is oak, hickory, sugar maple, and cherry, primarily, which gives us lots of potential and harvests moving forward.

Most of my PDC was focused on garden and garden design, and so I've been looking for knowledge/resources on forest regeneration and management.  There are a lot of decisions to make, and I'm not always sure what ones are best.  Most of the books I've found on managing woodlots are really focusing on them for timbering and they are starting with the assumption that you don't have a mess everywhere.  Our goal is very different: its a food forest, habitat, and health of the forest.  Maybe occasionally some firewood or logs for natural building projects, but only those that are ready to come down.

I'm wondering if anyone has specific resources for how to regenerate the land from such a situation from an explicitly regenerative/permaculture framework.

Thanks!



Why not make biochar with the leftovers?
Then treat the soil for the added beneficial boost it can give?

If you have a whole lot of leftovers you could use the trench conversion method.

Not sure about any other resources and each area has specific needs for the environment.
Maybe call your local extension office for advisement?
 
master gardener
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Photos would help some of us wrap their head around what exactly you are talking about with the piles everywhere.

With that being said, We have some brush piles and they are great habitats for birds and snakes. I often see birds going into them. It gives them some protection and a safe place to hide. It also protects young plants which can than germinate at the bottom and grow thru the brush without being eaten by wildlife. We have a number of brambles and berry producing shrubs coming up in ours.

so my suggestion is to do nothing about it! Unless i see photos and can understand more of what the problem is....

 
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Contact Eric Vaccarello of Land Clearing Specialists Inc. They are from, I believe Carnegie PA. The phone is (724) 695-8733. I knew the father, Joe, who started the business.
They have equipment like a Hydro Axe that can  mow a pile of brush, up to about 4 inch diameter in seconds. They have equipment that will go up to a 20" tree, grab it, saw it off at the bottom and lay it on the ground. They have equipment that can pick them up with the chipper and shove them thru and blow them into an 18 wheeler tractor.
I watched them clear a subdivision and asked about the cost. It was so cheap that I was horrified that I'd spent so many years cutting up endless crab apples and converting them to potash. I thought the price was really inexpensive,. That was just for using the hydro axe on brush. He would raise the mower dock above a tree 4 inches in diameter and lower in on the tree and it was gone in seconds.
Call them, get an estimate.
 
pollinator
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I have lived in a logged over site once, for 8 years.  My basic conclusion from a lot of trial and error is that almost nothing I did made much of a difference and that the forest recovered on its own more or less anyway.  I brought in and scattered pounds of covercrop and nurse tree seeds....hardly any appeared.  I tried to plant out small plants of selected trees, with a view to food and biodiversity....these proved by and large a challenge due to competition with the abundant root sprouts, blackberries and other regeneration.  One thing that probably did do some good was to move some logs and brush around into rough windrows more or less on contour, especially where I noticed erosion beginning to occur.  Mulch and soil would then pile up against these on the uphill side, and provide a good starting place for seedlings whether wild or introduced.  This was in central Georgia, and several of the summers concerned were droughty....a big challenge for starting anything at scale.  If I had done my seeding and planting in a rainier summer or two, there might have been a lot more quick impact.  If you value the success of new plants, be sure you can provide reliable irrigation and fencing against deer for the first few years until the trees are established and get above browsing height.  Eventually I learned to think, and to work, in patches...where I would set out to "improve" a spot that might eventually hold several mature trees....fence this, sheet-mulch it, and plant garden in it for a few years while the young trees establish...they will benefit hugely from the additional water and attention mainly focused on the annuals. Eventually when the shade fills in and makes annuals difficult, move the patch to another spot.  
 
pollinator
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When a field has a lot of stones, folks sometime make stone walls. So you could build alot of log walls esp on contour to trap water and soil, but really anywhere just to make it look nice.
You can also just leave them as is and given 5 years they will be gone.  If it was me I would just ignore the messy wild area and focus on the more intensive food forest-orchard and the vegetable garden. Maybe in year 7 I would then shift my focus to the messy wild areas.
 
gardener
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I also bought land (about 5 years ago) that had been cut over by the prior owner.  It has been about 10 years now since the clear cut.

In my view, the most efficient approach is to let Mother Nature do what she does best - heal and regenerate the land. Clear what you need for gardens, pastures, house area, etc... and then sit back and enjoy watching the transformation to the rest of the land.

The downed limbs and brush and stumps will rot and return to the soil, protecting and enriching it. An explosion of diverse plants will emerge, attracting birds and wildlife. And over time, it will be a lovely forest once again.

All that said, if you want to control the regrowth into a food forest of specific species, then you might have a lot of work ahead of you to clear the brush and stumps, etc. and try to control what regrows  - can be tough!
 
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I'm in a similar situation, but with tree loss due to the ash borer rather than logging. 10 big ashes (as in trunks bigger than I can get my arms around at chest height) have come down so far, with another dozen or so to go. It's opened up the canopy, and I'd like to use this as an opportunity to help the biome regenerate if I can--so ideas and resources for my zone 5 midwest climate would be appreciated!
 
pollinator
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I love the suggestions involving setting the brush piles up on-contour as sediment traps. It's like you're setting it up to let natural erosion and seasonal leaf drop build hugelbeets for you, or terraces if the grade isn't too great and the traps are well-anchored.

Of the other suggestions, I think making biochar is probably the most potentially impactful. If it was properly made, inoculated, and then distributed, probably into wet spots throughout the property, but pretty much everywhere, given the choice, and then perhaps sprayed with actively aerated compost extract and fungal slurries regularly until established, that would have the best potential to boost the soil microbiology. As the microscopic soil actors and their macrobiotic neighbours are the real work force, nurturing them, giving them plenty of living space (the biochar) and food (the forest duff already there, and the small slash remnants) is, in my opinion, the only sustainable way to introduce the kind of systemic change that is being discussed.

Oh, you could work in islands, building supportive guilds out from individual tree species you want to introduce, and patterning those islands on the property such that when these oases of fertility expand, they form a polycultural quilt of sorts, with the edge habitats all the richer for the diversity. But you'd still be nurturing the soil life to encourage the change you're seeking to make.

So I suggest you start small if you're going to experiment in this manner. If you haven't already come across it, Dr. Bryant Redhawk's Wiki of Epic Soil Threads has about as much information as you could want on the topic of creating soil from lifeless dirt. Considering you're starting from a much better place, some of the details on improving already good soil to specific ends might come in handy.

I hope some of this has been of use. Please keep us updated, and good luck.

-CK
 
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if you can get a gang of helpers or maybe just yourself get a wood chipper , borrow, buy or rent , and sounds like you will have wood chips for mulch and compost that will be a resource for a long time
 
Dana Driscoll
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Thanks all.  It's raining here today but I'll take photos soon.  Its basically four acres of mostly downed trees, open canopy, etc.  So probably almost an acre of brush and debris itself.  I think its largely too wet to chip up (thought about that already) and we don't have any heavy equipment (try to avoid too much fossil fuel inputs as we can).  I like the biochar idea; if we have a dry summer, that could work well in August, etc.  We do have a lot of wet areas on the property as well.
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