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Turning timber pine woods into oak barren?

 
Posts: 6
Location: Michiana
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Uhm, hi! I'm really new here, and kinda to farming or gardening in general. I lived on a nonfunctional farm as a li'l one, we (my husband and I) did some urban duck keeping as adults, and I like to keep a kitchen herb or lettuce garden. But we've been in ever-changing rentals for the past 8 years, so setting up long term plans has been next to impossible.

But now! We bought about 25 acres of land! 20 more acres than I wanted, but hey, it was less expensive than other plots and came with a house already on it - bit better'n our original plan of buying 5 undeveloped acres hah.

Problem is, the land is all unlogged timber pine, save for a 3-5 acre hay field. The trees aren't less than 50ft for the shortest, meaning we have a good supply of potential plank materials, but not much else. And more annoyingly, it's on a steep slope with a lot of water at the bottom. It looks like road drainage gone wrong, or possibly caused by the new (already washed out lol) driveway the last owner put in.

My plan, since we won't need more than an acre or two right against the house, was to clear out the pine and try to establish an oak barren instead. Oak barren is closer to my areas natual habitat, there's a wildlife preserve right across the street where one is already being established by the DNR, and I thought it would be easier to grow forage brush at the edges, for goats I plan to keep.

That all out of the way, what are some common problems switching between logging land and anything else? Specific problems establishing oak trees? Advice for a beginner that isn't trying to be self-sufficient, or use up all available space, but just re-establish wildlife?

I'll get better pictures when the closing paperwork is officially signed. For now, I have one aerial.
Screenshot_20201230-233031_Maps.jpg
aerial photo
aerial photo
 
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Seanan, the National Map has Lidar and topographic wetland mapping for that location. Want me to post a few screen shots?
 
Seanan Miller
Posts: 6
Location: Michiana
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That would be fantastically useful! After we get our paperwork signed and start the move in, I also hope we can get a decent survey fairly quickly.

I don't want to disrupt much of the natural features, and we have plenty of uphill space for growing and keeping the few animals I do plan to have. But even now, all the downhill trees have had their roots well drowned, and I can tell the water is going to wash over the road end of the driveway all spring.
 
James Whitelaw
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Here is what I found on the national map and the USDA soil map.
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Seanan Miller
Posts: 6
Location: Michiana
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Thanks! I had suspected the water shouldn't be encroaching on our field and drive, but that'll give me a better idea where it might be easily directed back to, and a good survey should be able to tell me what I can do to change it. ...probably take out part of that expensive new driveway the last owners put in and see what I can do about better road drainage.

So, growing oaks in the hay field shouldn't be too hard once it dries out, right? Is there anything I should know about establishing them on land that's been growing pine on it for 40 years or so?
 
James Whitelaw
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The name of the soil type of that low area, 35—Aquents and Histosols, ponded jumps out. Maybe creating a pond where water can go so adjacent land can dry out.


35—Aquents and Histosols, ponded

Map Unit Setting

National map unit symbol: 67qn
Elevation: 600 to 1,400 feet
Mean annual precipitation: 30 to 36 inches
Mean annual air temperature: 45 to 48 degrees F
Frost-free period: 140 to 150 days
Farmland classification: Not prime farmland
Map Unit Composition

Aquents and similar soils: 51 percent
Histosols and similar soils: 49 percent
Estimates are based on observations, descriptions, and transects of the mapunit.
Description of Aquents

Setting

Landform: Marshes, depressions
Landform position (three-dimensional): Talf
Down-slope shape: Linear
Across-slope shape: Linear
Typical profile

H1 - 0 to 60 inches: variable
Properties and qualities

Slope: 0 to 2 percent
Depth to restrictive feature: More than 80 inches
Drainage class: Very poorly drained
Runoff class: Very low
Depth to water table: About 0 inches
Frequency of flooding: None
Frequency of ponding: Frequent
Interpretive groups

Land capability classification (irrigated): None specified
Land capability classification (nonirrigated): 6w
Hydric soil rating: Yes
Description of Histosols

Setting

Landform: Depressions, marshes
Landform position (three-dimensional): Talf
Down-slope shape: Linear
Across-slope shape: Linear
Parent material: Herbaceous organic material
Typical profile

Oa - 0 to 51 inches: muck
H2 - 51 to 60 inches: variable
Properties and qualities

Slope: 0 to 2 percent
Depth to restrictive feature: More than 80 inches
Drainage class: Very poorly drained
Runoff class: Very low
Capacity of the most limiting layer to transmit water (Ksat): Moderately high to high (0.20 to 5.95 in/hr)
Depth to water table: About 0 inches
Frequency of flooding: None
Frequency of ponding: Frequent
Interpretive groups

Land capability classification (irrigated): None specified
Land capability classification (nonirrigated): 5w
Hydrologic Soil Group: A/D
Ecological site: F097XA030MI - Mucky Depression
Hydric soil rating: Yes
 
James Whitelaw
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The central concept of Histosols is that of soils that are dominantly organic. They are mostly soils that are commonly called bogs, moors, or peats and mucks. A soil is classified as Histosols if it does not have permafrost and is dominated by organic soil materials.



Aquents are poorly to very poorly drained soils formed in human transported material or on excavated (cut) landscapes.

 
Seanan Miller
Posts: 6
Location: Michiana
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I can certainly attest to the poor drainage. There's a pond on the property that was marked as a creek,  and maybe come spring it'll be one again, but for now it's just standing water up to my waist. There are some old pines currently standing in it, high water mark hidden somewhere below where the water is currently.

I'm not sure if I can put in a pond. I want to, eventually, if only because the ducks will love it, but that would be a long term project...

Heck, I don't even think the previous owners were supposed to change the end of the drive. It's an obvious unprofessional job: just old tin roof scraps pounded into the ground to hold gravel, and lots of cracking asphalt further uphill. All of which is washing away into the roadside drainage ditch, although we were told it's less than 2 years old.

Michigan is fairly restrictive about changing any natual water feature, which I don't mind at all. But it does mean I have to apply to make any major changes, hence the need for a good survey right away. And the possibility of a long-ish wait.

What I  really want is to start uphill, where it will be drier, and in the hay field, if that doesn't seem like it will collect more water. Then kinda... meet in the middle, once we know what can be done around our pond-creek.

I'm just unsure that's feasible or if I should wait and see what can be done about the extra water.
 
James Whitelaw
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As far as planting oaks in the wet area, I understand that Pin Oaks and Swamp Oaks (duh) do well in swampy areas.
 
Seanan Miller
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Location: Michiana
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I ordered a bunch of bebbs oak and some red oak hybrid that a local nursery grows. They should be showing up pretty quick. Hopefully local hybrids are okay? Nowhere seemed against them, and it looked like wild oak hybridized fairly easily itself.

I hadn't heard of pin oak, but looking, it does seem like it would do better downhill than the other varieties. Worst case, the hybrid is supposed to be stable over several generations and produce enough acorns that, if we ever get the water level lower, they might spread a bit.

Thanks!
 
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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What is growing in the hayfield now? If it isn’t well maintained, you might already have all kinds of young trees growing in it.

If it is heavily fertilized, and especially if it’s fescue, you will have to kill a circle of grass around each tree you plant, or the tree wont be able to compete.
 
Seanan Miller
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Location: Michiana
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The current owner couldn't tell me: they've rented it out for the past decade. They thought it was alfalfa or wheat, but I am sure it's been heavily fertilized.

I had figured it would be a pain no matter what to get some trees well established, though! So it's good to hear my assumption that I'd need to keep it pretty clear isn't too far off. I only bought 20, expecting 5+ to not make it. Since I am a tree amateur lol

Is a heavily mulched four foot circle a good amount of clearance? Is used duck bedding okay? Or would that get weedy too fast, and I just have to commit myself to pulling weeds everyday until my sapling is older?
 
James Whitelaw
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Google StreetView has two images from 2019 and 2017 respectively
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Posts: 11
Location: Fluvanna County, VA
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forest garden urban bike
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We are trying to do something similar with 20 acres. The pine was logged 4 years ago. There are hardwoods on one side of the property and there were oaks, maples, and sycamore mixed into the pine.  Everything is coming back naturally.  We are cutting the pine and selectively leaving the larger hardwoods every 10 to 20 feet for a more open feel. We have been brush hogging trails and have noticed an increase in deer. We do have to worry about when to cut so we don't remove the late fall flowers for the monarch  butterflies.  The birds of prey hunt our scraggly mess and there are lots of small bird nests in the saplings and brambles.  The scrub would make for great goat forage but we are not on the property full time so no goats, only machines for keeping things down.

It might be easier to log the pine and work with a clean slate, IMO.

Melissa
 
M Green
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Location: Fluvanna County, VA
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Congratulations! That sounds amazing.
 
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Somewhere on here is an interesting thread about "ringing" trees and allowing them to die, naturally, upright, until ready to harvest (1-2yrs?). Apparently this creates much stronger wood as the sap is absorbed (?) or something. Just thought I would mention it as it seems you will be harvesting to create dimensional lumber.

As to re-establishing a "wildlife" forest, I would speak to DNR about your plan; extending what they are already doing may lead to some verbal or written insight into their plans and research. Contacting local or state conservation groups may also yield some very useful insights and "intelligence. Heck, if the investigative work has already been done, avail yourself of it!

There is also the possibility of free/subsidized trees, shrubs etc from these sorts of organizations due to environmental improvement initiatives, over purchasing, or having them add to their order on your behalf. Bulk purchases are generally cheaper.

I would also check the local heritage/history folks/groups as they may even have photographs of what your (or nearby) land historically looked like as far as natural foliage.

As to where the driveway is washing out/marshy areas or the creek/pond, don't fight water, it will ALWAYS win. You CAN work with it, gently redirect, or even excavate damp zones to create low spots for the water to collect/drain to, creating useful rather than bothersome water.

I would not be too hasty doing anything, just yet. I would live a solid 12 mths to see what happens, where it happens; how do things change seasonally and with different weather?  

Now is the perfect time to get friendly with someone who owns a drone; or the perfect excuse to buy one and become skilled in it's operation. This will allow you to survey the land, regularly, through all seasons and all weather, giving you insight that would otherwise be unavailable, or unnoticed.

Whatever you do, take the time to really "learn" your land - taking the time now will save you a tremendous amount of work, energy, and funds, down the road. Don't view this as a "wasted year", view it as an investment in your property, so you can use it in the best way possible.

 
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