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Choosing trees to keep and cut in A young forest

 
Mick Cressman
Posts: 23
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I've read the forum for months, and learned an awful lot, and appreciated the civility of the members.  I was walking my property today and realized that my forest, at least on top of my hill, is nearly all sugar maple, black cherry, beech, and yellow birch, with an understory of elderberry and pin cherry.  From when I bought this place until now, I thought woodlot management would be easy: thin out the less valuable trees and leave the sugar maples to grow big and thick for sugaring...but now that I know what all my trees are, I don't want to cut any down (except the old, fungus-infected beeches)!  Any general ideas for the uses of these trees or what (if anything!) I can do to improve my stand...for any purpose whatsoever?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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sounds like you have a lot of useful trees and plants. is the forest overgrown? how is the diversity with the lower plants near the ground? its hard to cut down a good tree sometimes, but you have to know that your doing it for the better in the long run. its not like your coming through, clear cutting it and leaving it to waste. chances are since your on this website you will replace it with another tree or one or two or more of the many useful plants we use or that grow well for you.
 
Mick Cressman
Posts: 23
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Thanks for the reply.  The forest is mostly younger trees (say 3-8 inches in diameter) with some large black cherries and maples.  It was agricultural land at some point in the past, and has been logged heavily in the more recent past.  Most trees are thin and tall, all struggling to shade their neighbors.  Someday when I'm more settled I would like to try raising some forest run pigs for my family, but I would also like to get back into sugaring.  I had figured (when  I didn't identify many of the trees) I would clear some areas out and plant some precocious oak hybrids from Oikos, but I'm not sure what trees are more valuable to me now.  I didn't have too much trouble clearing land for our cabin, it was mostly ash, red maple, and a few beeches and sugar maples.  But when I don't have to cut a tree, I prefer not to.  I guess I also have read a bit about woodlot management, but never from a permaculture perspective.  Is there a good source for this kind of thing? 
 
                            
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Yeah, it can be tough to cut down perfectly good trees but if they're struggling to compete, it's really for the best.  When I first bought my young forest, I was that way.  Now I  appraise each situation and make the cuts.  I have a tree value/priority hierarchy.  Specimen trees are at the top.  Native trees with market value (e.g. Douglas Firs) are in the middle.
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I would advise some thinning, since three scraggly trees are not half as good as one large, healthy tree. This applies to sugaring, fruit/nut yields, and timber production. If you like all the kinds of trees, try to remove equal amounts of all of them (so as to keep a nice mixture).
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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well from the sounds of it i would personally thin the trees out some for a few reasons. one giving you more sun to grow more understory plants which brings way too many benefits alone, two giving you more edge (you know how us permies love edges) and three allowing the trees you do leave to flourish without as much competition and trouble, enabling them to grow stronger and healthier than they would otherwise.

even if you didnt thin out the trees, eventually the forest would. certain trees would take off ahead of others, shading some which would create thin spindly growth, eventually falling over in a storm, burned in a forest fire, or some other problem trees encounter. your better off imo moving forward to the climax forest you want in the long run. just dont burn all those trees you cut down and make use of them, keep the material ON PROPERTY, do not let it leave and youll be good. build trellises, sheds, small cabins, walls, etc with the wood.

as long as you dont just cut trees that get in your way, rather than selectively take them out youll be good. leave trees you want ( food producing/useful trees )
 
Mick Cressman
Posts: 23
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Thanks for the replies all.  Maybe the first thing to make absolutely sure there aren't any red or silver maples, and then maybe half the beeches, and then start thinning the more valuable trees.  By the way, there are also a number of eastern hophornbeams in the undergrowth.  Any good uses for these trees, or important roles they fill?  Will they get shaded out and die as they grow so slowly?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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heres a small tid bit about the hophornbeam.

Medicine: Chippewa used the wood at the heart of the branch in making a cough syrup, and in a medicine for kidney disorders.

Technology: he wood is very strong as the name implies and was used for the frames for dwellings, and from the crooks of branches, pothooks were made to suspend cooking vessels over fires.

Note: Also called Iron woodMedicine


not sure how to make the medicine, but it sounds as if the wood is good for building. if they can coppice well (research it) you could have a perpetual timber building supply. if not you still get wood to build with when and if you thin them out.

Uses
Hop hornbeam wood is hard and durable. It is used chiefly in the manufacture of tool handles, but also for fence posts and fuel. Hop hornbeam serves well as a landscape tree owing to its tolerance for very dry soils and shade, as well as its ability to live in a stressful urban environment. Native Americans used hop hornbeam to treat toothache and sore muscles, coughs, hemorrhages in the lungs, kidney disease, tuberculosis, and a host of other ailments.
 
Sherry Willis
Posts: 29
Location: Missouri
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Mick,

I feel for you, we're in the exact same boat!  We have 13 acres of forest that was logged 10 years ago and is crowded and full of spindly trees.  But when it comes to actually cutting them..........it's very hard.  We came here from Wyoming, where it takes YEARS of babying to even get a tree to grow.  Hopefully it'll get easier as our woods get healthier.....

Good luck!

Sherry
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i have a similar forest ..most of it quite young as it was pulped off in the early 70's.

myself I'm trying to do similar things with mine, however, I have been cutting some trails through the property wide enough to mow with a riding mower (also handicap accessible).

I have been trying to steer my paths away from the larger and more forested areas into the clearings so I really don't have to remove any trees, there is an abundance of fallen trees and with the windstorms we have had this year, even more falling some overy my trails.

I'm also planting understory materials under my taller trees, there are even some fruit trees besides wild cherries here and there, like some apples that grew up from bait piles in the 80's.

I walked around the sunnier part of the woods with armloads of cuttings this past fall, and I'm not sure what of them will actually grow, but also have been throwing in seeds of wildflowers and plants..

I have put in a few nut trees on the south sunnier edge of the woods and some more fruit trees like apricots and appples..and wild plums, mulberries, etc..

my desire is to get people and animal food growing as we have no domestic animals on our property other than 2 cats, but we do have a lot of deer, turkey rabbits etc..that are wild and we may decide to harvest some of them in the future.

 
Mick Cressman
Posts: 23
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Melwynnd, thank goodness I don't have that problem!  I have a hard time keeping trees out of my garden, or anywhere else for that matter! 

Brenda, that brings up another interesting question:  are there any plants that grow in cool temperate climates that do well in shade (forest path) that you also don't need to mow?  Or maybe mow only once a season? 
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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white clover is pretty good along with a few other plants as a monoculture groundcover is not good. its low growing, doesnt need to be mowed, fixes N, creates good soil, attracts bees, and more.
 
Al Bliss
Posts: 3
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Where are you located? How many acres do you have?

The timber value of various species depends on local markets and the size of your woodlot. (It might be difficult to find a logger interested in a small woodlot.)

If sugar maple grows well in your area that's a good bet. Identify tall, straight individuals and favor those. If your trees average 3-8", however, it will be a long while before you can do much sugaring.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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sorry it took me so long to see this and answer it.

in my forest I have areas of blackberry, raspberry, grapes and strawberries, some wild mushrooms.

with your wild cherry trees, if they are that large, you might consider sellling some of the big ones for lumber, they can bring in quite a goodly  cash amount..and then you could consider replacing them with a cherry tree that will provide edible cherries, like sweets and sours..as they obviously would be guilded in your area with the wild cherries present.

bird can be sold as "logs" for "fancy fireplace decor"..although they aren't the best firewood a lot of "rich" people love to have a pile of birch logs for decor

beech, if large enough also make a good panel wood...

I also agree that it is best to leave up as many of the trees as you can, but you can use some of the softwoods that won't be long lived as nurse trees for your food forest type trees.

you also could put in some other nut trees if the beech are  growing well there, as nmost nuts will grow in similar situations..however some like walnuts are alleopathic
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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It's important to resign yourself to the fact that within the next few years many of these trees will be dead. So either you or nature will determine the composition of your future forest. If you postpone thinning it's quite likely that much of the understory will be completely shaded out so if you value understory plants that's a consideration in making thinning choices.

   In the last two weeks I've cut somewhere between 7000 and 10,000 young trees. I used a really light limbing saw for this. The lightweight saw made for good production and it was safer as well since there was no big bar swinging around. Your chances of hitting a rock or other obstacle are reduced when a proper sized saw is used.

    There are only two brands of any possible use that I've ever used. They are Husqvarna and Stihl. I live on Vancouver Island where most of the land is working forest. Most professional loggers use Husqvarna. Stihl is the brand most commonly seen in rental shops because they are very tough. You never see professionals monkeying with disposable saws. When I was young and stupid I bought a McCullough and Homelite. Both were a huge waste of money that cost me thousands of dollars worth of production. The McCullough was scrap metal the day it was manufactured.
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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Just a reply to Canada: I use both Stihl and Husky. The Stihl is 034 with 24" bar. Bought a Husky Rancher and added a 24" bar when the Stihl needed work. This year while cutting the Stihl needed attention, cleaning the muffler, cut the next couple cords with the Husky.


I had trouble years back cutting trees, loved them all, but lettings in sunlight for planting, removing standing dead, removing some so that others will grow better and fire prevention has altered how I think about cutting, cleaning and clearing.
 
Fred Morgan
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Hi all, just my two cents, but before I put it in, let me explain this is what I do for a living. We have about 200 hectares just of planted trees, about 154,000 the last time I added it up.

Now, before you know you are crowding, you should measure the growth of the trees. One way to do that is measure one year, and then the next year. But if you got lots of trees, just cut one down. What you are looking for is growth slowing down. The outer ring should appear larger than the inner rings, if it looks the same, or smaller, you got to thing. I recommend removing between 15 to 30 percent, better to err on the lower end, you can always remove more.

If you remove too much, it will cause branching, which is fine if you want it, and brush.

Now, my caveat, I am in the tropics.
 
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