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Soil compaction due to Bobcat?  RSS feed

 
nick bramlett
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So I have 5 acres in a bit of a valley in Georgia. The soil seems to be really fertile and full of life. Property is covered in mostly oak, hickory and/or ash (need to take a closers look when they leaf out in spring), tulip poplar, sycamore, maple, sweet gum, boxelder, alder, dogwood, and a couple patches of pine. Lots herbaceous cover too, but due to the time of year, I won't be able to list all of them bc I won't know till spring. Now, my thinking is, I really really hate the idea of cutting these trees down. I feel like I'd be committing an injustice. The diversity is higher than any other property I had looked at when I was property hunting and the ecosystem is obviously very established with some trees well over a 100 years old. The properties around mine don't display near as much diversity. I think this is bc my property is where two small creeks converge and the lay of the land provides has low spots, high spots, and slopes facing multiple directions. I'm thinking, of taking out most of the trees except for a select few here there that way I can get more light in so I can establish a food forest on about 3 acres and goat forage on about 2 acres. My strategy would be, save up and buy a sawmill and bobcat, and cut about a dozen trees at a time, process into lumber and plant with food forest multi level poly cultures, and I'd be doing this maybe once a year so it's a gradual change. My concern is, I'm afraid a 10,000 pound bobcat might compact the ground too much destroying a lot of the soil life that has taken decades if not centuries to build. However I can't think of any other way to get 10-16 foot long and 1-3foot diameter logs from where they're cut, to the saw mill at home base. My question is, will the fungi and soil life be able to recover from this kind of temporary but heavy traffic in fairly short order and hopefully team up with the fruit, nitrogen fixing, biodynamic trees and shrubs that'll be planted afterwards?
 
nick bramlett
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I don't believe it. Not a single person has two cents? Not even a bone for me to chew on?
 
chad duncan
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nick bramlett wrote:I don't believe it. Not a single person has two cents? Not even a bone for me to chew on?


Firstly, patience is a virtue. many people have 8 hour jobs they work at so at least wait that long before getting impatient about replies.
Secondly, I am sure you will be just fine, try to avoid scuffing the bark off of the living trees with the equipment you use and don't worry too much about the ground packing down to plant-proof densities. If you are super concerned about forming grooves where the tires run, then run in a few different paths to spread the 'damage' around. The earth will recover from a bobcat running over it several times.
 
chad duncan
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Also, 16 feet long and 3 foot diameter is one hell of a log to drag around. Is a bobcat even up to that sort of challenge?
 
Travis Johnson
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Well it depends...

A Bobcat that has tires will have a little more compaction than one with rubber tracks, but even rubber tracks does not spread the weight over the soil like that of a machine with steel tracks. I have always had bulldozers and am very fond of them, and my 10,200 pound bulldozer on steel tracks only exerts 5.2 pounds of pressure per square inch. The average person walking, exerts far more.

A bobcat for logging however is not a very good choice. They are made to scoop, where as you really need something that pulls. Even though I have a bulldozer, it too is not ideal for logging as it is designed to push dirt, and not pull. In this regard I think you would be better off with a farm tractor; a small four wheel drive Kubota (or the like) with a loader. With that on front, a pto, and a 3 point hitch, it gives you a lot of options. I have a small 25 hp Kubota and honestly I use that as much as my bulldozer in logging. It is fast, easy on fuel, and with a winch upon the back; excels at pulling wood out. I average about 6 cord per day with it. With a Bobcat you are going to bottom out on stumps, and they are rather tippy in the woods. I honestly think they would be a lesson in frustration.

But all this aside, I am not sure compaction would be an issue. I clear a lot of land in custom hire situations, and on my own farm, (62 acres this year alone), and I have never got good results without tillage. It breaks up the compaction, but also mixes the topsoil, and allows for better nitrogen conversion.

As for clearing land itself, there are different ideas on that. I raise sheep and as such open land availed for predator-free grazing, rapid plant growth from photosynthesis, the ability to be grazed, used for winter feed, or put into row crops...are all highly beneficial to my farm. I also crop rotate about every 7 years, so the ability to change uses is huge to me. Currently where I live there is a shortage of open land too, and as such it is worth more per acre then even house lots. I do not chase short term fads like farm values, however with a loss of forest product markets that I just do not see coming back (paper mills), I am converting land from forest to field for my growing flock of sheep. For me I think it is a very prudent decision.

It does sound like you may be in some forest wetland. You do have to be careful with laws regarding that, but with farming they tend to be lax. In Maine you are allowed to graze any land, though limited on what stumps you can remove in wetlands. Even then there is some disagreement on what happens in these areas once the trees have been removed. A wetland expert explained to me that with 60 foot high trees sucking up a lot more water than 4 feet high grass, the water table actually rises and makes farming more difficult. I disagree. In my experience clearing land even in wetland dries it up. That is because wind and sun can fall upon it and wick away the moisture. Also, with forest land the topography is pocked with holes that impede water flow. However upon smoothing that topography up, it allows water to move over the soil. From there I can control it with swales, ditches, and berms; something that is incredibly easy for me to build with my bulldozer.

This is my set up for logging. It is small scale granted, but effective. These photos were taken today as I am in the process of clearing a 30 acre plot from forest into field. (I'll use a much bigger excavator and bulldozer for clearing the stumps and shaping the land).

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Devin Lavign
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Is the skid steer a wheeled or tracked one?

You will get more compaction with wheeled version than tracks. Tracked equipment actually are designed to "float" more on the soil and will compact a lot less than wheels. Wheels will focus more of the weight into a small spot.

That said a skid steer wont compact too much in comparison to other equipment. If it is only short term temp moving of logs, I would say use the skid steer and pull those logs out.
 
nick bramlett
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I was kidding about being impatient. I suppose I could've been more obvious but oh well. Thanks for the advice everybody! Haven't bought the skid steer yet but shooting for one with rubber tracks. I was throwing out the 16ft long 3 ft diameter as the largest size I could expect but if that's too much weight I can just cut it in half. I like the tractor idea, however I'm self employed as a landscaper and figure a skid steer would have more potential to make me money than a tractor. Main concern was the compaction, and second was the ruining of the current ecology in order to make room for a new one. However, what can be done? Gotta give somewhere to get something elsewhere. I think you guys are right, the compaction shouldn't be too bad, after all, people completely regrade property destroying all the soil fungi and life and the soil still gets re-colonized. I'm at an advantage since I'm not grading, and am only rolling over it a few dozen times to get some logs out. I'd say that's comparable to a dinosaur or an elephant walking through the woods and there sure as he'll were forests during the dinosaur age.
 
Travis Johnson
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For me it boils down to numbers, but then again I am a numbers kind of guy.

While clearing land seems drastic, lets do the math based on current numbers in Maine. On average I get 30 cord per acre, and so the average price of a cord of wood stands around $70 per cord. That means for every acre of land I clear, I make about $2100 in cash. That is great, but one has to remember that it takes 35 years for those trees to grow to marketable size. Deducting that, I get a meager amount of $60 of value per acre per year.

Now let us calculate what an acre of open land has for value.

An acre of land can support 10 breeding stock ewes here in Maine, and they typically give twins. Add in some mortality and I average 1.5 lambs per breeding stock ewe, or expressed another way, 15 lambs per acre. These sell for about $100 profit, or $1500 per year per acre. That is a far cry better than growing forest products!!

But it costs money to convert forest into field, and the costs vary wildly. On flat ground like in the pictures posted, I average $201 per acre. That is everything deducted; equipment, fuel, rock removal, seed, etc. On steep ground with a lot of earth moving to cover up ledge rock, it approaches $955 an acre.

I base my return on investments on feed; a practical measurement in which to judge. Here I average 7 big round bales per acre, and with a value of $35 per bale, so I get a value of $245 per acre. Since I can clear an acre of ground for $201 per acre, it nets a return on investment ratio of .82. Since this is a decimal and not a whole number, it simply means in the first year of haying it, I can recoup the money invested in having the land cleared. In farming it is rare that such a return on investment is so good.

So I have choices:
Keep it in forest and make $60 per acre per year
Grow hay for a crop and sell it at $245 per acre per year
Graze sheep and make $1500 per acre per year

I cannot clear land fast enough!!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Travis Johnson wrote:For me it boils down to numbers, but then again I am a numbers kind of guy.


Keep it in forest and make $60 per acre per year
Grow hay for a crop and sell it at $245 per acre per year
Graze sheep and make $1500 per acre per year

I cannot clear land fast enough!!


Hi Tavis,
What about the variables other than today's dollars and cents?  Isn't this the dilemma of modern civilization?  Many think we are running out of land to profit from clearing as fast as we can go.

Have you considered silvopasture and agror forestry methods which would leave forest plants in place while farming and or grazing in amongst the semi cleared forest?
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Nick,

If you are going to buy the equipment most useful to your landscaping business, how about renting (or bartering for the use of) the machinery that would work best on the few days when you are pulling your big logs out of the woods?

As for the soil compaction, it is good to consider it at this point.  The amount of damage to the soil community is related to number of trips over the ground, weight of the equipment you drive over it, amount of time the traffic is spread over, likely there are some other variables, maybe moisture level in the soil when driven over, I don't know what else...

One trip will not do significant damage.  A thousand trips an hour is going to be a problem.  Aim for somewhere in between. 

The question of whether to spread or concentrate the traffic is also a matter of balancing some variables against others.

If you concentrate the compaction in the exact  same parallel 6 inch wide tracks, you'll have killed a lot of organisms in that very small space, and can count on organisms present in the neighboring soil to recolonize.  If you manage to compact and kill the soil in a 12 foot wide swath,  the organisms in the neighboring soil will take a lot longer to recolonize the damaged ground. 

Tillage seems obvious to reverse compaction, but it does not necessarily work that way.  Repeated tillage compacts at the level just beneath the depth the tillage equipment reaches.  If it comes to tilling to reverse compaction, make sure to re-inoculate with the endemic  soil micro-organisms and plan not to repeat it.  Also, if you take out forest, there is usually a high ratio of fungi to bacteria, but without plants to support soil fungi, the fungi biomass will decrease.  Fungi to bacteria ratio will determine what you are able to grow in the soil once cleared.


 
Travis Johnson
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:
Travis Johnson wrote:For me it boils down to numbers, but then again I am a numbers kind of guy.


Keep it in forest and make $60 per acre per year
Grow hay for a crop and sell it at $245 per acre per year
Graze sheep and make $1500 per acre per year

I cannot clear land fast enough!!


Hi Tavis,
What about the variables other than today's dollars and cents?  Isn't this the dilemma of modern civilization?  Many think we are running out of land to profit from clearing as fast as we can go.

Have you considered silvopasture and agror forestry methods which would leave forest plants in place while farming and or grazing in amongst the semi cleared forest?


We have tried Agroforestry silvopasture in the past, but it did not work so well. This was also before coyotes entered Maine and made predators a much bigger concern for sheep farmers. Now that Maine is introducing wolves, there is even more concern. Having that open land for livestock guardian animals to look out upon and then go to work, is a huge aspect of things, so for a sheep farmer, open land is even mor important than it was in the 1970's before coyotes arrived.

I have traveled abroad and been to almost every state in this country so I have seen places where Silvopasture and Agroforestry would work, but in Maine it is quite difficult. We have short growing seasons and can be difficult to get adequate soil temperatures to get things really growing. You cannot winter graze in Maine because of another slew of factors, so getting as much winter feed and pasture grass out of what you do graze/hay/row crop is incredibly important.

Land base make up is also another factor in Maine. We are the most forested state in the nation and as such only 10% of the land base is open land (open land being defined as pasture, row crops or hay), the rest being forest. My farm is no different, so with so much forest netting me so little in return, conversion to field makes much more sense. For a lot of people arriving in Maine and wanting to farm...and this included the Amish in the last few years who stayed clear of Maine due to our short growing seasons; the availability of open land is such that many people have resorted to clearing forest. This crosses all segments, not just sheep farmers; from homesteaders who just cannot afford open land, but can afford logged over forest, to large dairy farmers who can no longer depend on fickle landowners in having the same fields year after year, they clear land for their needs. It is understandable. When a big dairy farm filed bankrupcy and left my fields up for grabs, I had 18 different people ask for the fields...that is how sought after open land is. 

Even then conversion is a slow process. I average about 10 acres per year simply because I do everything myself; with removing the trees (logging) taking the most time. I would get frustrated at that, but it is interesting to note this was exactly what my forefathers accomplished. I have a book written by my ancestors who cleared this area in 1838 and it says, "me and my chum brother cleared and burned the brush on 10 acres of land that summer." Considering they used an axe and ox I am embarrassed at my speed with a chainsaw and bulldozer, BUT they also had far fewer trees per acre. They were massive, but not nearly as many as I have to contend with. But this brings up another point, and that in 1900 the reverse here was true; 90% of the land base had been converted into field, but due to the migration west and from industrialization with people moving to the cities, it reverted back to forest. You can even tell what the open land was used for by just looking at the old rock walls.

Big rocks: Pasture only
Big and medium rocks: Hay mown with a hand scythe
Big, medium and small rocks: Row crops

And of course the reason the land was allowed to revert back to forest was because of the rise of paper making in Maine. In 1946 New England had 254 paper mills operating and wood paid better then crops that were now streaming from the mid-west. At the same time horses were being replaced by tractors, and without 4 wheel drive, positraction, and rubber tires, those old tractors bogged down in the mud and the farmers...unwilling to go back to horse farming, abandoned the fields that were wet. Today we slog through sags in fields without giving it much thought.

It is interesting to note too that in the pictures of the logging I am doing, the land was never farmed. You can tell that from the reddish soil that gets churned up from logging. That is the iron in the topsoil that is rusting; something that would have occurred 200 years ago had the land been tilled or even pastured as just the hooves of livestock would have brought it up to the surface. Also there are no rock walls surrounding it, but giving its long distance from the house, it only makes sense that it never got cleared. As that same book said from my Great Uncle in 1838, "the farm was never fully cleared in my father's lifetime." Back then however, virgin soil was said to have hay grow over a mans head, while the depleted soil in Europe might only reach hip high. So after I am done clearing it, it will be interesting to see how well crops grow.

But having said all this, do not get me wrong. I love forestry. My forest is a a Certified Tree Farm, certified under the USDA-NRCS, and even under the restrictive Forest Stewardship Council. I am even a Certified Professional Logger with money tied up in sawmills and logging equipment. But it is no different than say if you had 9 cars and 1 tractor and were making your money off the latter; wouldn't you trade some of those cars in and buy another tractor to make your homestead more sustainable? It is no different with me. I doubt I will live long enough to clear my farm of forest, but I understand Nick's choices. Like what he is about to do, I used my forest products and sawmill to build my own home and barn, cleared more land to raise more sheep, and managed to retire from a private job at a shipyard and farm full time. He is where I was twenty years ago and I see little need in saving a resource (trees) that could be used instead to build his home so he can stay debt free.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Travis, Thanks for clarifying. 

More questions: after clearing, how long will the land support those sheep?  Does the vegetation and the level of grazing support the continued fertility of the soil?  If so, do you have to rotate the sheep around to different pastures?  Are you feeding the breeding stock year round totally off those cleared acres, lambing in the spring and slaughtering when winter comes on? 

And, re in the land that WAS cleared so many years ago, has anyone been raising sheep as you do?  How does that soil, compare with the soil from new cleared forest. 

If the soil that was cleared in pre revolutionary war days is spent by similar grazing practices as yours, then it seems the long cycling of years needs to be counted.

Sustainable can mean keeping body and soul together to support a family's lifetime, while to others  it can mean the soil does not get depleted regardless of the number of years managed that way.

I'm just curious about the long term effects on the soils in Maine after clearing the forest.
 
Travis Johnson
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Great questions!!

I am a 9th generational farmer on this farm (my children will be 10), and we have always had sheep. It has progressed through some other uses like raising hops ( 1800-1838 ), potatoes ( 1838-1988 ) and dairy farming (1988-2014), but sheep has been its mainstay. There was a 20 year period that we did not have sheep, from 1988-2008 when my Grandfather retired and I reintroduced sheep to the farm, but other than that, sheep have always been here.

When I chose sheep, I did so with a lot of thought. In fact I made a matrix, listing every possible farming commodity that did well in Maine, then cross referenced it with things such as interest level, housing, feed, soil type, etc. For instance I have always wanted to raise commercial broccoli...it grows well in Maine and on soil like mine, but I lacked the equipment and storage facilities to do so...therefore it did not score as high. The matrix sounds more complicated then it is really, what I tried to do was allow what we grew to fit the land and not the other way around. In that way I am a Permie, an in other ways more conventional...but I want to do what works. In this case our barn had burned and I needed hardy livestock that needed little shelter, thrived in cold weather, and grazed. Since new England has excellent pastures, and we always grew grass well, sheep fit the matrix the best. The fact that we always had sheep and they did well was just a confirmation of that. I never tried to force my farm to raise sheep because they were cute and I always loved them. Nope, they fit my farm the best.

My farm has a long history and officially we have been here since 1746, but we suspect it started much earlier than that based on family history; about 1670 or so. I am just not sure when we went from hunting/gathering in the "frontier" to farming. I do know my farm was cleared starting in the year 1800 and reached its peak in 1910. That being said, today we still have high fertility in the soil and for a variety of factors, but it has had its up and downs. As you probably know, planting root crops like potatoes absolutely destroys soil fertility. We crop rotated every two years and always used cover crops, but it is a tough crop on soil. It is hard on erosion too. In 1947 some swales were installed...incorrectly and it made more of a problem then it solved. Even today you can see the results of poor farming like improperly installed swales and berms from soil being level with the tops of rock walls on the uphill side. On the downhill side, it is a 3 feet drop. 3 feet of topsoil accumulation says a lot about erosion that took place!! I am not against swales...but let it be a warning to Permies everywhere, terminate them properly!

But twenty five years of dairy farming turned things around. There we crop rotated every 7 years from corn to grass as is recommended, and we spread dairy cow manure. Today we are reaching the high side of organic matter... even in our corn fields...and yes there is such a thing as having too much. Because of this dairy cow manure, we are at optimum levels on just about everything but lime. This is Maine and because of our forest, our topography, the jet-stream...and yes the coal fired power plants out in the mid-west; we are beseeched with acid rain. Adding to the problem is a lack of lime to combat PH levels in the 5.5 range. Yes this grew potatoes well, but not corn or grass!! The local lime quarry found they could make more money on selling cement and no longer sell to farmers. Our closest quarry is New Brunswick, so places like Pennsylvania that can buy it for $30 a ton or so, we pay $110. That was bad enough, but then the government got involved...

We have two alternative ways to increase our PH levels:

1) Algeafiber which is seaweed byproduct from a local manufacturer
2) wood ash from paper mills that use a lime slurry

The algeafiber is great and I have used it a lot! It is great stuff, but it takes 10 tons of it to equal 1 ton of lime. To really do any good it must be put on corn ground that can be tilled under. Too much on grass ground will smoother the grass and kill it, so you are limited in what you can use. That makes it less effective. Even on the corn ground moving so much of it costs a lot of money, almost to the point of making real lime that is imported from Canada cheaper!

2). Now wood ash USED to be free, because the paper mills wanted to get rid of it. Farmers wanted it and all was well in the world. But what farmers did not want was sludge, or the 1% of human excrement that waste water treatment plants cannot break down. Some farms loved it because it made their crops grow, BUT I never allowed it on this farm, nor has it ever been spread here. However now the municipalities, rather then pay $17 a ton to dump it in their municipal dumps, mix it with wood ash from the paper mills. We wanted that, but not the sludge, but now it is mixed together so that in order to get your PH levels up for free, you have to take the good with the bad. I won't do it, my farm is sludge free, so I am a bit low on lime.

But I do have a grazing plan, do rotationally graze, and crop-rotate as prescribed. (It depends on crop type, soil type, topography, etc). As such we provide wholly for our sheep, not just using it to feed our own sheep, but trading half of it in exchange for having the feed put up. THAT WILL END. I dislike the idea of having to buy more equipment, but we have just reached that point now where we must do so ourselves.

Market wise we differ from your scenario in that we lamb in the winter, raise them on pasture, and slaughter in the fall when the price is higher then those that Spring lamb. They are also of a bigger carcass and bring higher overall prices. They are woolies too which bring a better price as well. We also have an good following (for some reason) on 4H lambs which I guess is my weak spot. They always pick the biggest, best lambs, but watching kids raise them, win trophies, and get the love of sheep farming; has its own rewards. And of course there is always the Easter Market, but that too requires early winter lambing. (But is lucrative).

In my family; I am different, as I said run between aspects of permiculture and traditional agriculture. I guess that is because around here we have had so many people come in and tell us we are doing things all wrong, yet in a few years they fold up and are gone. There is nothing sustainable about that. Yet I have also seen my very own family make vital mistakes, and being too stubborn to change, ride their farm to the ground. There is nothing sustainable about that either. Observing, knowing the microclimate, and matching the commodity to the farm; those are the key factors to successful farming.


 
Thekla McDaniels
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Apparently, Travis, I asked the right person.  What a resource your knowledge is, and the length of time your family has been on your land.  IMO, the deepest sed in permaculture is the kind of pervasive knowledge and consideration given to the wide array of variables affecting a specific piece of land, and the test of sustainability is whether or not the practices will deplete the resources.  The teachings of permaculture are what people have to start with when they do not have the heritage and knowledge you've assimilated from the heritage you received.

Apologies, Nick, for having wandered off topic.  Your plans for your place in Georgia, and your concerns about compaction injuring the soil through the logging processes you are considering are the topic of this thread.
 
Travis Johnson
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I am to blame for the thread drift Nick, but please do not let it stop you from further posts. I love logging and would love to hear more about your plans for converting your wood into lumber. What you have for trees, what you plan to build for a house, etc. I love that sort of stuff and in some small way have hoped I have encouraged you. I started with a very modest house 25 years ago and now it is of size...and mostly built from lumber off my own property.

Do as much as you can for yourself!
 
Travis Johnson
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Apparently, Travis, I asked the right person.  What a resource your knowledge is, and the length of time your family has been on your land.  IMO, the deepest sed in permaculture is the kind of pervasive knowledge and consideration given to the wide array of variables affecting a specific piece of land, and the test of sustainability is whether or not the practices will deplete the resources.  The teachings of permaculture are what people have to start with when they do not have the heritage and knowledge you've assimilated from the heritage you received.

Apologies, Nick, for having wandered off topic.  Your plans for your place in Georgia, and your concerns about compaction injuring the soil through the logging processes you are considering are the topic of this thread.


Thank you Thelka, but having grown up on a farm where the milking parlor might have a seed dealer, veterinarian, milk truck driver, equipment salesman, and agronomist all file through in a single day; I never realized how much I have picked up over the years. I remember walking with my Grandfather through a pasture as he would hand me different weeds and grasses to pick up and taste. Yes taste. He could tell from what they were and how they tasted what the field needed for amendments...no soil test required. he was not a Permie type guy, but just knew what weeds thrived on and could combat it to make the crops he wanted to grow...really grow.

But of all the people I knew who tried to be self-sufficient, my Grandmother and Him, did so. Not that they wanted to be, we called it growing up poor. Still they had a huge garden, had a greenhouse they sold plants from, raised 50,000 broiler chickens, grew hundreds of acres of potatoes, several hundred sheep, 2 milk cows (selling the butter we churned watching Cartoons on Saturday Mornings), and cutting wood in the winter. Oh how firewood fueled everything, some 25 cord per year.

Somewhere along the way the family "made it", but at what price? People got divorced...including me...the only time the family got together was for a wedding or funeral...no one just stopped in to chat. We ate store bought junk like skillet meals, hot dogs and frozen veggies. No one had a garden, no one ate lamb, no one even took time to cook a decent meal unless it was Thanksgiving and yet we "made it" Fooey with that. As a family we did not make it at all; we died.

I guess if I have any heartburn regarding Permaculture, is not what it generally comprises of, its just that what we have typically done is given a different name. And then there can be people telling things; not what they say being wrong, but what they leave out. I honestly try and include everything; the things done right and the things done wrong, so people will know and change how they do things. I get wordy; but I am honest in doing so.
 
Tom Robertson
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80 percent of your compaction  is from the first 3 passes.
That's why loggers try to use skid roads
If you can make 2 passes then compaction is less.
So anything over 3 passes don't make too much difference.
Driving on wet land is 100 percent compaction.
 
Peter Ellis
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Nick, may I ask why you are thinking about taking out a forest to plant a forest?  Have you inventoried what you have and evaluated its potential role in a food forest? There are plenty of understory plants that you could integrate into your existing woods.  It takes decades to grow a food forest from cleared ground, but you have a forest already. Paw-Paw, for example, is a popular north american food forest tree that prefers a somewhat shaded environment, so you wouldn't want to start them in a clearing if you had the option of starting them on a forest edge, or in a relatively bright area in the woods.

Have you considered using some of your timber for growing mushrooms? It's another way of utilizing some of the trees or pieces.

My wife and I are facing a similar situation in Michigan, where we have 20 acres of woods.  We haven't had the opportunity to inventory and figure out what is already there. While our plans currently call for clearing an area for our house and some outbuildings and another area to give the south face of the house sufficient sun exposure, we will still be evaluating those areas for trees that we may want to find a way to keep even in places we want clear.  Depending on the trees and their exact locations, we may leave them in place, or try transplanting, if they're small enough, or propagate cuttings.

In other areas, we'll be evaluating the existing trees for what we want to keep, what we want to harvest for our own construction, where we want to interplant elements of a food forest, where we want to work in clearings for livestock, etc.

The point of all of this is that we don't want to knock out trees we could use, or that can help us with other elements of a food forest, because it takes a lifetime or more to grow a forest from the ground up.
 
Devin Lavign
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Something to point out is the cost of a skid steer is pretty high in comparison to other equipment. You can buy a small tractor or a used dozer for less than a skid steer often times.

The only advantage of the skid steer is them being small and maneuverable.
 
Eddie Conna
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My dozier and my tractor with a backhoe attachment weight 10,000 lbs.  The bobcats I've seen range from 4000-7000 lbs.  I've never seen a 10,000 lb bobcat, but that would be one HUGE bobcat!

A bobcat should be fine for dragging large logs, if it had a log sled so the log doesn't dig into the ground.

A tracked machine will exert much less pressure than a wheeled one, even if they both weigh exactly the same...

Personally, I wouldn't worry about "compacting" the ground too much.  

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Eddie Conna wrote:My dozier and my tractor with a backhoe attachment weight 10,000 lbs.  The bobcats I've seen range from 4000-7000 lbs.  I've never seen a 10,000 lb bobcat, but that would be one HUGE bobcat!

A bobcat should be fine for dragging large logs, if it had a log sled so the log doesn't dig into the ground.

A tracked machine will exert much less pressure than a wheeled one, even if they both weigh exactly the same...

Personally, I wouldn't worry about "compacting" the ground too much.  



Hi Eddie,
Welcome to Permies!  It's clear you have plenty of knowledge about heavy equipment.  I'm interested in your perspective that compacting the ground is not that big a deal.  Can you say more about, share your experience on that, and how you came to that conclusion?
Thanks  Thekla
 
Eddie Conna
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I didn't say "compacting the ground isn't that big of a deal.  I said I don't think your bobcat weighs anywhere near 10,000 lbs, and a tracked machine will compact the ground much less than a wheeled one.

Without knowing exactly what you are doing, i cant say whether it's a big deal or not, but I suspect you're overthinking it.

Some advice:

If it's really wet, don't run the machine.  Wet ground compacts much more easily than dry.

I would NOT run a machine over areas that have septic, leech fields, etc.

As far as compacting soil you want to grow in... In the old days, farmers often used machines, like dozers etc, with tracks to plow, harvest, etc. 

One other thing.  I'd suggest a PORTABLE sawmill.  You can tow it to where the trees are, cut your wood, then bring the wood out.  much easier than dragging logs, and less chance of damaging a log. 



 
david fischer
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From an arborist


Compacting the soil within 20' of any tree with that much weight will kill that half of the tree, with the other half hanging on for another 2-3 years if you're lucky.

Think of how the tree grew up with perfect soil, now compact the soil into concrete density, roots will die faster than can be grown = dying trees.
 
Peter Kalokerinos
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If it were me, I'd buy a Lucas Mill and a large track loader (bobcat on tracks) with a 4 in 1 tilt bucket and rear rippers. Both are on my shopping list for next year. We're looking at loaders in the 4500-5000kg range in operating weight.

Tractors are useless IMO. People go on and on about the PTO, but what are you seriously going to use it for? slashing? you can do that with a trackloader/bobcat, in fact just about everything can be - yes the attachments are more expensive, but then there are significant advantages of a track loader:
- Tractors have bugger all lift capacity. Dont look at totals either, the practicalities of lifting weight at full extension with a loader on a tractor is not good. Lifing something that is 2+ tonne with a track loader is easy - you'd need a freaking huge tractor to do the same
- Tractors poor visability of the work area when loading (using the bucket)
- If tractors get stuck in the mud they dig a god awful hole to get out with the large wheels - tract loaders are more likely to get out without as much damage
- Track loaders are smaller an faster in tight areas
- You can grade/maintain roads with a track loader

You can compact the land until your heart is content and then run the rear ripper bar over it (keyline style) and you're all good.

But in saying all that, you dont have much land, so perhaps contracting out the work is a batter option....and hire a machine when you need/want. I've said it to a mate of mine in the same circumstance. I'd hire a 20-30 tonne excavator for 1-2 weeks (hell, evena  month), do the entire property and then get on with life. A small cheap tractor with a small loader would suffice after that big amount of work is done.

What do you want to spend your time doing? earthworks or growing stuff and enjoying the place?

We've had to buy machinery due to the scale of our place. Contractors are just too expensive, but its a tedious process and awfully time consuming.





 
Peter Kalokerinos
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PS - if it cant be eaten or used to support edibles, our policy is stick it in a hugel bed or have the timber milled. We feel the start from the begining and get it right approach is better than battling allelopathic issues etc with our natives here
 
Travis Johnson
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david fischer wrote:From an arborist


Compacting the soil within 20' of any tree with that much weight will kill that half of the tree, with the other half hanging on for another 2-3 years if you're lucky.

Think of how the tree grew up with perfect soil, now compact the soil into concrete density, roots will die faster than can be grown = dying trees.


This has not been my experience at all and our soil here is high in manganese and is prone to compaction. For generations we have selectively logged and if what you say was indeed true, most of our trees would have been killed. I have used everything from a small farm tractor, to grapple skidders on this land, and I have not seen what you describe.

I am wondering if perhaps there is a difference in an urban setting versus natural forest?

I do know however that certain trees do not like their toes tickled. Oaks are like that. Just building a road around an oak will cause them to die due to the grubbing of the road. I have had to explain that phenomenon to more than one homeowner having a driveway installed. I never said it was a fun conversation.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Travis Johnson wrote:
david fischer wrote:From an arborist


Compacting the soil within 20' of any tree with that much weight will kill that half of the tree, with the other half hanging on for another 2-3 years if you're lucky.

Think of how the tree grew up with perfect soil, now compact the soil into concrete density, roots will die faster than can be grown = dying trees.


This has not been my experience at all and our soil here is high in manganese and is prone to compaction. For generations we have selectively logged and if what you say was indeed true, most of our trees would have been killed. I have used everything from a small farm tractor, to grapple skidders on this land, and I have not seen what you describe.

I am wondering if perhaps there is a difference in an urban setting versus natural forest?

I do know however that certain trees do not like their toes tickled. Oaks are like that. Just building a road around an oak will cause them to die due to the grubbing of the road. I have had to explain that phenomenon to more than one homeowner having a driveway installed. I never said it was a fun conversation.


Just conjecture about the possible differences for trees growing in forest and growing in an urban or suburban setting  here: 
(apologies David if your conclusion is drawn from non urban and suburban experience )

It is possible for compaction to exist beneath the layers we are most aware of... say 4 to 8  feet down, which would make a restricted area for root growth, then when compaction happened on one side because of an extended episode of heavy traffic, then the tree could have less capacity to recover.

I think when urban and sub-urbanization happen, there is a lot of earth moving and shaping, some lots get subsoil as their topsoil is moved elsewhere, some get topsoil deposited.  Sometimes all the existing topsoil is removed and sold, leaving shaped and graded subsoil. 

Compaction occurs at different levels depending on the loading, what machines drove over it, what kind of tracks or tires they are on and how much they weigh.  I think it is a safe assumption that compaction occurs everywhere, when a field or hillside is made in to a subdivision.  I think that changes how well a tree can grow and recover from possible injury to root system.

Consider another difference between forest and urban/suburban.  The trees growing in the forest are the native species, or imports that took hold there because they were suited to the conditions.  If they are seedlings from prior generations of trees, they likely have had nurse trees aid their establishment, they likely have full complement of fungi and bacteria in the soil, as well as the protozoans nematodes etc, the full complement of soil microbiome on up through the invertebrates and vertebrates.  All of these factors are going to enhance the survival of individual tress that suffer damage or attack of some kind.

I don't see how urban/suburban trees could possibly have conditions like that.  They also may have endured a few seasons pot bound.  They may have been planted as large trees, they may be growing essentially as container stock, where their roots are constricted not by a pot, but by the size and shape of the hole that was dug the day they were planted.

I think the OP's question is a good one, sparking a great discussioin.  There are lots of variables to consider.  Compaction is an important consideration, and better to consider it before than after the event, but as we say here, each situation is unique.

About the oaks, I too have seen minimal root disturbance ill an oak tree.  I've also seen avocado trees killed by raising the level of the soil be a couple of feet (no compaction involved).  Some tress can have their original soil level buried under a 10 foot deposit of sand and gravel, and regrow
 
david fischer
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Nick, I hope all of this helps. It pretty much comes down to a crap shoot. Some trees will be fine with soil compaction, others are sensitive. Unless you can afford a helicopter...

Portable saw mills are handy too.
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