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My first post! Question about oak trees

 
                                        
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Yes I am new here.  I have just recently discovered permaculture as an idea...Browsing these forums and my live oak tree fell on my deck . .  .so I thought I would ask the knowledgable folks here.  We just bought our three acres in the California foothills last Fall. Our site is heavily forested, ninety percent oak ten percent pine and a few (very few) other trees.  So why are all of our oak trees falling?  We had a very cold very wet snowstorm in early December. (it usually only snows about once every five years here) and we lost three trees and tons(literally) of branches.  Quite few crowns just snapped right off.  Then came the rains.  This year has been fairly heavy, but not really out of the ordinary.  Some of the recent rains were late in the season.  We lost two more trees to the rain, the root balls just pulled straight out of the ground.  One of the black oaks was massive and it took four other trees with it as it fell.  One winter, nine oak trees gone.  This site was clear cut many years ago and many of the oaks are growing out of older stumps.  Oak root fungus is rampant.  The previous owners had way too many horses for the acreage and they most certainly caused some damage.  The neighbors are very surprised with how many oaks everyone is loosing this year as well.  So what is the deal?  is this normal for living in a forest?  just a random year?  Chance?  Also, is there any way to identify which trees are likely to fall so I can harvest those?  any way to manage the land in a way to prevent such enormous tree loss in the future?  I know that was a long post!!  At least we have firewood for the next few years. .  .
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2523
Location: FL
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Clear cut you say?  Sounds like you have a bunch of trees of similar age and size, being hit with a root fungus at the same time.  The same weather patterns impacting the trees.  Weak roots, big trees, add a big storm and the expected result would be a lot of down trees. 

Clear the trees within falling distance of your house.

It would also be prudent to avoid the area during storms.  If you have not cleared the trees near the house, consider seeking shelter elsewhere during storms as these trees are a clear danger.
 
                                        
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Yes, obviously clear cut.  I guess forty or fifty? Years ago.  The tree closest to the house fell today, just barely grazed the back deck, but five or six up slope look tall enough to hit the house.  Yes, the tree that fell today had a huge twenty inch yellowish bronze mushroom growing right at it's base in Janurary.  The root balls of these very large oak trees are comically small.  I will take a picture tomorrow and post to see if perhaps somebody can positively ID that it's a fungus issue.  Any way to mitigate damage caused by fungus?
 
 
Ken Peavey
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Location: FL
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I'm no expert on fungus or trees, but from the picture you describe it would appear mitigation is no longer a possibility.  I'm seeing a safety issue.  Take the trees down before your kids get hurt.  Contact your insurance company, they might even pay for cutting them down as a liability reduction measure.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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I think you are in need of a consulting forester. Yes, take out the obvious danger trees. Beyond that, you need to know what your trees are suffering from and what you should be doing as far as regeneration goes. Ask around, see if you can find a forester who is open to non-chemical management. Even if you can't, any forester would be able to help you identify what the issues are,  which trees should come out, and which species you might want to plant.

Other than removing danger trees, you could decide to do nothing. But it would still be good to know whether the problems are due to disease or some other factor(s). If there is a fungal disease on your land, it could affect which trees you should plant for either ornamental or food use.
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i couldn't agree more..take any trees down that are close enough to damage your home..also this might be enough to allow more aire and light into the trees that you leave up..the firewood should be great to sell or if you have a company that buys oak for lumber..you might have them come in and remove them..they might be more prepared.

I would also considering removing say every other oak throughout the property, and leave the non oaks if they are quality trees..examine the oaks and keep only the best of them..and remove the ones that show signs of collapse.

then you might also plant some understory trees under the ones that you keep, such as fruit or hazelnut..that could benefit from the newly admitted light
 
                        
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Excellent ideas in this thread.  At least you are not in a hurricane zone.  I would definitely clear trees within falling distance from the house.  Identify the direction of prevailing winds -- but it sounds like these are just falling because they are already dead not because the wind is blowing them over.

Get a soil test and find out what you need to do in terms of soil remediation and how long it will take and what you can grow under the conditions you have.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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Saw up the first few trees and make a really good really big woodshed, and get yourself a good wood burning stove. Make an opportunity out of this crisis,
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Find a beautiful healthy oak in your area and collect its acorns and plant them where you want trees.    Protect the seedlings from deer, etc.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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are the trees black oak? our property is 90% live oak, but we have a few black oaks. and every winter they drop branches( one tree dropped 3 huge branches in a few months time this year) black oaks are known to drop limbs for no reason( at least to us).
 
                                        
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We are fotunate enough to have black oak, live oak, and another oak species (blue oak? Or maybe a live oak hybrid?) living on our property.  The first two that fell were live oaks. . . The big one to fall was a black oak and it took a number of live oaks down with it.  I'm thinking that the fungus has something to do with it, but want to contact an arborist.  Many trees in our neighborhood fell, our neighbor's theory is that we had many years of drought and then a heavy heavy wet snowfall that heaved and stressed many underground roots from the top weight of the snow.  The snow was very unusual.  Then we had a bunch of rain and wind and that was what did it.  He lost four trees himself.  Thanks for all of the suggestions.  I think that I have cut up about four cords of firewood so far and we will burn that.  Gary, my property is an oak nursery!!! I've got fifteen sprouted acorns growing in pots right now, and I mowed down about a million .  May need to think about collecting acorns from a healthier tree somewhere else, but the oaks on the north side of our property seem to be in somewhat better shape.  This is my first year living here, so maybe I'm overly alarmed about this.  We will be thinning out many of the obviously sick, poorly positioned, and dubiously rooted (if we can tell) trees over the next few years.  I'll leave a snag or two for our woodpeckers and furry friends.  The good . . .now we have WAY more light on the northeast slope and a lot of room to plant something new.  BTW. I read about hugelkuture beds on another thread and I certainly have enough material to make some of these raised beds.  I don't know much about oak root fungus, but do I run the risk of just fueling this fungus if I Bury  a lot of wood into the ground?  Today was my last day of school, so I'll have time now. I wiliest some pics soon. 

Regards,

Brian
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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might be that you might want to be going in a different direction if you replant..something other than the oaks? Maybe you might also want to find some hardier trees, as it seems that the more southern states are now getting colder weather occasionally than usual, so possibly you will want to watch for hardier stock when you replant.

Here in Michigan we never have an oak tree go down, but our oaks are white or red oaks. Well i might be exaggerating on never, but i've never seen one fall over..wihtout  being cut down...or taken out by lightening or something.

maybe you might want to go to an entirely different species of trees.
 
                                        
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Here is a pic of one that fell . . . notice how there are three trees growing from the same root system . . .there once were four.
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Luck.  It fell away from the house. 
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Many, many more candidates for removal, either natural, or with my chainsaw . . . .
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Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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Definately heavy wet snow breaks the oaks up--it's not random. We always stay out from underneath the trees in heavy snow or wind(or both!). Yes they will fall over out of soggy soil. And it's not that the rootball is small, but rather that the roots tear off/break and don't rip out of the ground with the tree, especially when rotten.

Also, oaks are NOT a good tree to learn how to fall trees with. They are tricky to fall where you want them to, and they will twist and buck. Hire someone who knows how to do it. Get a real chainsaw to cut them up(oak is a hardwood!). (Not saying you aren't experienced or whatever, but just for the sake of conversation...).

Good luck! I know it's hard to lose trees, but, that's the way it goes!
 
Amy Leonard
Posts: 13
Location: Louts, CA (USDA zone 7)
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Tardyvivking - you must be in my neighborhood! I am in the Lotus/Rescue of the footlhills and the same snow storm did the same to our pastures, and as a result of all the downed wood they are producing much less forage for our critters (goats,llamas and a pig). This same storm prompted us to go off the grid after no power for a week - again.

I see that this thread is from lats year, but I am hoping that someone can respond with some helpful information about how to use that downed wood (limbs & broad corwns) to stabalize our hillsides. Swales? small hugul beds? Uphill or downhill from trees that remain? I want to increase water retention in the soil and improve sunlight etc to help the forage production go back up - having a feed bill sucks.

Thank you forum peeps!
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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i live in the same foothills and this past year was a bad one for limbs breaking and trees falling. its not an every year occurance imo. though the older black oaks can and will drop limbs for no reason at all (to us humans). think of it as a blessing in disguise, these hills are far too overgrown and the trees need some thinning. back years ago the native americans used to do rotational burns which kept the trees spaced well and the understory from growing too thick. since that stopped everything has grown too dense. we use the downed wood for fuel and hugelkutur.
 
Amy Leonard
Posts: 13
Location: Louts, CA (USDA zone 7)
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Yes- I have lived in the foothills my whole life and appreciate that most years it is below the snow line. The pics below illustrate what we are dealing with. This time of year it is usually wetter, and here the critters are grinding it up to dust, and when the rain does arrive it is going to get moved downslope. We have several thousand feet of fence to replace before we can move them to an different pasture, so are trying to come up with methods that can be used with them instead of without them. The herd has been reduced to 3 goats, 3 llamas and 1 pig and best we figure this is about 5 acres of pasture.
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hillside view 1
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hillside view 2
 
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