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Transforming Pine Forest???

Posts: 2
Location: Central Massachusetts
forest garden chicken bee
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Hello all,

I'm hoping to get some humble opinions on a venture (Adventure) regarding a parcel of land that is separate from my home lot.

I'm trying not to be to long winded!

So here are the details:

I have a 2.25 acre parcel that is not attached to my main property and not part of my mortgage. The bank wouldn't touch it,

Because it is essentially landlocked. It sits behind my 2 acre home lot with a state owned public trail separating the two lots.

Long story short, I found a documented legal right of way to access the lot, and had a lawyer verify it. So no matter what the state does to the trail, I should always have access to the parcel.

Because it's landlocked, and road inaccessible, taxes are really affordable. So I bought it cash from the owner of the house on a separate deed.

It's mostly highland with a gentle southern slope. Along the southern edge of the property is a long field. It is a clearing maintained by a pipeline company. It's mostly grass and poison ivy.

The rest of it is mostly pine trees. There is some old foundation pieces from an old barn. Under the trees is just pine needles. Very little grass and other plants. There are a few deciduous trees sprinkled about. The barn foundation used to be a bottle pit and scrap metal pile which I already cleaned out.

So my initial plan was to slowly transform it from a stand of young pines into an apple orchard. I figured with a five year transformation plan and another 5-7 year grow plan, it'd be a nice orchard to keep me busy into retirement. Have friends and family over to pick apples, sell at the town farmer's market, etc, etc.

So, I meticulously marked out an acre of the land for the orchard and additional areas of tree removal for exposure to light. I get the bonus of the pipeline clearing I just need to trim out for morning and evening sun.

So then I dug up random soil pieces and submitted a soil test.

That's where things started to go south...

Kept simple, the PH is low at 4.5 and the nutrients are generally lacking. Phosphorus is just OK, and calcium and potassium is very low.

Based on my desired use for the land, the University extension recommended starting with 10000 lbs of dolomitic limestone.

Now, if this was road accessible maybe that wouldn't be too bad. That's where it gets tough.

No motor vehicles are allowed on the trail. Granted, I could cross the trail from property to property and probably be OK, but if I start rutting up the trail, I'll be drawing attention that I don't want and making things more complicated.

Even if I get across the trail, there is the pipeline to contend with. The owner of the pipeline will allow up to 15,000 lbs per axle IF the pipeline is at least 4 ft deep. For some reason, that determination is up to the property owner. That involves a survey and if it's not 4 ft deep, you must build it up to 4 ft to allow for traffic of that weight. Small tractors and lawn mowers don't pose an issue, just large vehicles.

So OK, maybe an old Cub or even a two-wheel tractor could be used for certain activities. Well,

Then's there's the issue of the pine trees. I can't get a truck or large tractor back there to remove the trees and rip out stumps.

OK, I can cut the trees down, harvest the wood for building material, and chip the rest.

Doable, but then I'm drying a lot of wood. OK. I could make Warre boxes or chicken coops and fund my plans.

So this got me thinking. Given the soil condition and the abundance of pine, perhaps growing blueberry bushes is not only realistic, but also attainable within reason.

So here's my plan-

1. Drop large pine trees.
2. Harvest lumber.
3. Chip branches.
4. Grind down stumps.
5. Fertilize.
6. Cover crop for a year or two.
7. Inoculate remaining stumps or logs with mushroom spores (There are a few that thrive in softwood)
8. Plant High bush Blueberries. Use pine chips and remaining needles for mulch.
9. Stick a couple beehives back there as well. Or move my current ones.

So that's most of the details. I've tried to maintain readability but to the point.

What do you all think? I'd rather get all of the hard work over with while I'm younger, but I don't want to get into a project where doom is guaranteed.

Opinions are appreciated. Thanks!

Posts: 421
Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
hugelkultur forest garden composting toilet building rocket stoves
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That link has been shared before on many a thread, but worth posting again. Your plan sounds great, but I would diversify that apple orchard into a glorious many species paradise. Get your cover crop going, but include some fast growing nitrogen fixing trees that will be long term as well. I would also suggest keeping some of the larger pines for shade purposes, Geoff Lawton always emphasizes the power of shade on moisture levels. Good luck.
Posts: 522
Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
hugelkultur dog trees woodworking
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Some things you might consider:

  • What pH is the University targeting? Apple trees enjoy a more acidic soil than most vegetables. You could get away with a lot less lime.
  • Wood ash will also increase the pH. You may find yourself with a large amount of slash after removing trees, which could be burned and incorporated into the soil.
  • The pH is only really important around the roots of the plants. Since you're not planting a hay field, you won't need to increase the pH for the whole area. Again, less lime.

  • In the meantime, blueberries should thrive in those pH conditions. I can't speak to the nutrient deficiencies, but I've often found the answer to those questions is more complex than "low/medium/high" so long as you're willing to go the slow route with cover crops, nutrient accumulators, and pH adjustments. Someone better versed in soil science might help that.

    You might also consider using human power. It seems like you're planning on using human power to move the finished product (blueberries/apples) out of the orchard. You could do the same for any amendments you might be considering. I'd also suggest looking into an ATV/UTV and a trailer. You'd be surprised how powerful an ATV and a tow strap can be for moving timber if you're not doing commercial-level operations. I've moved very large timbers with just that setup. You could even rent a little towable stump grinder that an ATV would happily tow.
    Elzear Fry
    Posts: 2
    Location: Central Massachusetts
    forest garden chicken bee
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    Thank you for the replies as indeed it is appreciated.

    The university is basing their lime recommendation on a ph level of 6.5. I consider that to be a bit high, and not all varieties want ph that high. I've attached the soil data for anyone curious.

    Now certainly if I'm working around ground stumps, I can lime mostly where the trees go as per your suggestion. Nothing will be in perfect rows.

    I've had success using wood stove ash on my existing garden and apple trees, it really helps. I'm not sure what a softwood ash brings to the table, I'll have to look into that. If it can fit the bill, you're right, I'll have a ton of slash to burn. Instead of chipping, burning might put me back on the path to apple and pear trees if the ash can raise ph. My original idea was trees,

    I've consulted with a well known orchardist in Northern NH, and he said this idea of mine is possible, but definitely work. He estimated 4000 lbs of Limestone to start along with a soybean cover crop. After he jokingly assumed it was a parking lot based on the soil analysis.

    I've looked into using ATV's and a log arch to move out the larger trees, I just need to be really gentle on the trail. I might have a lead on somebody that wants the wood. Liabilities and technicalities aside, might be a good solution if they're willing to cut and harvest.

    You're certainly on to something. Perhaps I can get away from the mono crop idea and diversify. Maybe not to the scale in that link, but I can aim for it. I like the idea of apple tree/pear tree/N fixer/ repeat.

    By the way, anyone have any ideas about water and irrigation? I can't pipe across the trail. Long term I'm hoping Mother Nature provides, but the first year of planting is critical. I'm thinking tree buckets and spikes, but I can't find an economical solution for up to 100 trees or bushes.


    [Thumbnail for soil-test-info.jpg]
    Soil test data
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