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Clearing Invasive Eastern Red Cedar in pastures and gullies

 
pollinator
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The red cedar has got to go. In Dewey County Oklahoma in April of 2018 250,000 acres burned, much of it covered in red cedar that was not controlled. So the question is how best to cut it? I'm not particularly mechanical and will be working on my own much of the time, so I'm not sure I want to mess with a chainsaw. The bigger trees are probably 12' tall, 10' diameter, with a 6-8" trunk near the ground. I'm not inclined to snuggle up in the branches to get to the trunk so I'm wondering if I can use a pole saw to cut the trees at ground level? Something like this:
Silky 272-18 Telescoping Zubat PROFESSIONAL Series Ultralight Pole Saw, Extends from 8-13 feet, 330mm/13 inch curved blade, 1.5mm blade thickness
 
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I’d go with this: http://oregoncordless.com/. .
No maintenance. Seems safer that gas because it’s only running when you’re actually cutting. I think the pros all use chainsaw proof chaps. Seems like a good idea. I have an older model of the saw plus their hedge clipper and weed eater.

The pole saw would be a huge amount of work and take a lot of time.

Fire has been used to clear cedars. Of course, it wouldn’t be safe in many situations.
 
Ken W Wilson
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I forgot to mention that they make a 40v pole saw too.
 
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I do not have enough information to make a recommendation.

If I knew how many acres you wanted cleared, and what you had for equipment, I might be able to suggest something.

I do not think a chainsaw is a very efficient method. My suggestion based on almost no information may be a DR tree cutter mounted to an ATV. It will no cut big trees down, but it sounds like it would get 90% of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_VljUmmCvE
 
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Will cutting down the trees solve the problem?  Do you have a way of getting rid of the wood that will still be there to burn?

I live where the previous landowner was in the process of cutting all the cedar down.  It is a real mess that we don't have the ability to deal with.  I have forty acres of wood piles.  One entire side of my property has a wood pile "fence".

Start by trimming the small stuff around your building site so you will know if you will be able to cut them all down.

The good thing about my wood piles is that they make homes for the wildlife.  I just don't have a need for so many homes.
 
master pollinator
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We clear "Cedar" (native Ashe Juniper) every year mostly with hand tools.  If you cut off all the green part they usually don't grow back.  If you leave the trunk, in a few years it rots and you can push it over.  If you leave trunks, make sure they are fairly tall as they are a hazard if short.  If you're removing the trunks, they need to be cut flush with the ground or they become a tripping hazard.

We use the branches to stop erosion in our creeks and to make brush piles for animal habitat.  They rot away in a few years.

We leave clumps or individuals of larger trees for habitat, but try to take out the smaller ones.  Every few years we hire some guys to clear and chip the trees into mulch.

https://permies.com/t/51421/Creek-repair-brush-dams
 
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I'm with Travis on this one, for the most part. More information is needed about the land, usage situation, and final disposition of the harvested cedar.

I wouldn't use a pole saw just to avoid cutting branches located from ground to head-height on the trunk. You will likely need to limb up the trees anyways. A pole saw might work a treat for reaching in and trimming up those branches for proper trunk access.

If the timber is no good for structural lumber, you could see if any of it is good enough for making shingles or siding. Failing any of that, I would see if any of it would be useful for fenceposts and brush fill for either a brushpole fence or a debris barrier fence, depending on quality.

Lastly, you could see if there's caloric value, and a way to turn that into seasonal heat.

When that's all sorted through, I would see if there's a way to turn what can't be used into either wood chips, on on-contour debris sediment catchment.

-CK
 
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I think the pole saw would work alright; another option is to use it to girdle the trees, then come back in with the chainsaw once the needles have dropped.  At least here red cedar is a common fencing material, you may consider seeing if area landowners would be interested in cutting some for fence posts.
 
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Denise,

I lived down in your area for quite a few years.  If you cut the cedar tree below the bottom branch it will die.   The cheapest and easiest is to get them when they are small.  Don't discount the value of walking around with an axe or machete and cutting the very small ones when you have a little bit of spare time.  I've used a machine that ground whole trees and mulched them (expensive), I've used a heavy duty weed eater with a brush blade on some small or intermediate size, and an axe on the smallest. They need to be small enough that you don't have to "snuggle" though.  I've never used a pole saw but it should work if you can physically hold up.

You can get help with most of the expense if you decide to hire it done.  There are programs to do that through the NRCS and some prairie chicken and wild turkey programs.  

Good luck, you are on the right track.

Bryan
 
denise ra
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More info on the property - 400 acres, some flat, lots sloped. It's 95% pasture. There's no electric and I am starting fresh so have no tools, no ATV, no pickup, no tractor, no nuthin'. I can only guess that there are 1 or 2 cedars per acre, mostly spread out. They work their way up out of the gullies. I will be there in a week and will ask the rangeland specialist if the trees are small enough for prescribed fire to kill. Much of the acreage is undergrazed and covered in dried standing little bluestem, so those areas might burn hot enough to get the cedars. I'll ask her what works. Maybe NRCS will pay for it too.

Anne brings up a good point about what to do with all the cut trees. I'd love to chip most of them where they stand. Their trunks are generally 4-6" diameter so I'm guessing they are not much good structurally. They were used  for fence on the property at some point, as some are still in the t-post fenceline. I need to go give a few of them a shove and see if they are rotted at the ground. Fence pride is a very real thing around here so I was astonished when I saw a cedar fence - the posts were set about every four feet. That's a lot of digging!

Tyler Ludens, how many trees are you clearing by hand, what size, and how long does it take you? Obviously, you don't get them all if you also hire it done, so you can't keep up?

Chris Kott, As wildfire is a real thing here no one would use cedar siding. I might use some for firewood but I would probably not make debris barrier fences on the prairie as I think that would be creating a fire hazard and asking for trouble. The trees that are in the gullies could definitely be left with a stump, limbed and laid on contour for erosion control.

Bryan Elliot, Good point about keeping up with the small ones. I've got nothing but spare time once I'm on the property. I hadn't thought about a weed eater. I'm on the edge of Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat so I will ask around about that. If I leave the trees where they drop, any idea how long til they decompose? Will chipping them kill pasture grasses?
 
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I am going to suggest something kinda expensive but necessary.

With 400 acres, I assume you will need a tractor at some point.  Assuming you do get a tractor, there is a device called a tree saw that attaches to the PTO.  Basically, you back up to the offending tree and saw.  While you saw, a bar pushes the tree over and you are done, the tree cut flush with the ground.  Some versions substitute a grapple for the bar and then you can grab and drag the tree.  But as you stated, you have 400 acres and 2 trees/acre, then you have 800 trees!  That in my opinion is WAAAAYYY too many to do by hand.  I strongly recommend the tractor route.


Eric
 
Tyler Ludens
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denise ra wrote:
Tyler Ludens, how many trees are you clearing by hand, what size, and how long does it take you? Obviously, you don't get them all if you also hire it done, so you can't keep up?



Our 20 acres were largely infested by cedar when we bought the place 20+ years ago, and we didn't start seriously going after them until recently, in concert with other activities for our Wildlife Management tax status and land restoration goals.  We're trying to clear a couple of acres per year, but we don't take them all out.  We keep most of the mature old ones and remove the smaller what are called "regrowth" cedars.  Trees we clear only by hand are about 4 inches in diameter max.  Some parts of our land are so grown up with these smaller trees that the ground is completely shaded and barren ("cedar desert").  I don't know if we will ever achieve our goal of getting rid of all the regrowth cedar.

Once the medium-sized trees are removed it's relatively easy to keep up with the babies by lopping them when they are about an inch in diameter, right at ground level.  This size should also be killable by fire, but here on our small place we can't do controlled burns.

 
Anne Miller
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Denise said

 If I leave the trees where they drop, any idea how long til they decompose? Will chipping them kill pasture grasses?

 

Like Tyler, my trees are Ash Juniper though to me cedar is cedar when you think of wood.  We have been here over five years and I image all those brush piles were cut 5 to 10 years prior to that. I see very little decomposition if any.

About the time the trees were originally cut, there was some wood chipping done near where the house would be built.  The only thing that grows in that area is plantain and maybe a prickly pear, no grass, no trees, etc.

 
Tyler Ludens
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We had a house-sized cedar brush pile behind our house, so large that Black Vultures nested and raised a family in it.  Now it is mostly gone, replaced by a small grove of oaks and other trees.  Most of our piles have been smaller.  For some reason in this location they seem to rot quickly.  But most people think brush piles are messy and burn them.  For us they are a habitat-providing activity for our Wildlife Management.
 
Travis Johnson
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Eric Hanson wrote:I am going to suggest something kinda expensive but necessary.

With 400 acres, I assume you will need a tractor at some point.  Assuming you do get a tractor, there is a device called a tree saw that attaches to the PTO.  Basically, you back up to the offending tree and saw.  While you saw, a bar pushes the tree over and you are done, the tree cut flush with the ground.  Some versions substitute a grapple for the bar and then you can grab and drag the tree.  But as you stated, you have 400 acres and 2 trees/acre, then you have 800 trees!  That in my opinion is WAAAAYYY too many to do by hand.  I strongly recommend the tractor route.


Eric




I am not sure.


Once I had to move 350 cubic yards of gravel to make a road, and all I had was a 1 cubic yard dump body. It sounded insurmountable until i did the math, if my wife and I moved only 10 loads per day, in 35 days we would get the job done.

In this case if the person cuts only 15 trees per weekend, in 1 year all 400 acres will be cleared. If they cut 30 trees, it will be done in 6 months. At only 2 trees per acre, that would mean getting around to the trees would be the hardest part. A ATV would work well for that.

Don't get me wrong, I would do it via mechanization, but it could be done by a chainsaw is all I am saying.
 
Eric Hanson
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Travis, you shock me! You of all people I would assume would have an enormous cedar-mulching machine.  I am joking of course.  The OP stated that she was doing this by herself and did not want to get right up next to the trees.  I would think the PTO saw would be perfect for this (not exactly the most permie solution, but it sounds like we are at the drastic measures stage).  I think at this stage, just about any solution is going to be fairly mechanical.  I for one would not recommend the pole-saw.  These types of saws work fine for overhear trimming, but it would be terribly awkward sticking out sideways.  It could be done, but there are better ways.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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Eric Hanson wrote:Travis, you shock me! You of all people I would assume would have an enormous cedar-mulching machine.  I am joking of course.  The OP stated that she was doing this by herself and did not want to get right up next to the trees.  I would think the PTO saw would be perfect for this (not exactly the most permie solution, but it sounds like we are at the drastic measures stage).  I think at this stage, just about any solution is going to be fairly mechanical.  I for one would not recommend the pole-saw.  These types of saws work fine for overhear trimming, but it would be terribly awkward sticking out sideways.  It could be done, but there are better ways.

Eric




I tried to post this YouTube video earlier of what I think is a nice device for cutting trees. It can be attached to anything...bulldozer, tractor, skidsteer, etc, but my internet lately is wonky. I go to post and poofffff everything is gone. Which is frustrating...


 
Eric Hanson
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I have seen those too.  You are right in that it would be cheaper and mechanically more simple than the tree saw I was suggesting.

Maybe an option for the OP would be to rent a tractor or skid steer to cut down some of those trees.  She probably could not get it done in 1 weekend, but in a weekend she could make a nice dent in the project.

Eric
 
Anne Miller
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Where I live most of the folks hire a guy with a https://www.bobcat.com/index  He charges $750 a day and will not come out unless he can find another person in the same area with $750 to work on the same day.  What we did was rent the Bobcat from the local rental yard for a day at something like $350.00 a day.

We have not used it for clearing a lot of trees though that is what the neighbors hire the guy to do.  The guy get the "bucket" or "loader" (can't think of what it is called) that is on the front of the Bobcat and then he pushes the trees down.  Gets rid of lots of trees in a hurry.
 
denise ra
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The family has been absentee landlords on this land for 80 years. The tenant who has leased the land for 20 years is a respected native. When I arrived a few weeks ago he informed me the county was clearing a culvert next to the property as it was impacting the road. To do this the tenant took down 300' of old barbed wire fence which he will replace, and the county came into the cedar infested and treed gully with a massive piece of equipment and cleared everything, piling it up on the hill. It turns out there are some really big Juniperus Virginiana on the property. The one in the photo was 18-24" diameter. I'm wondering if I cover or partially cover this pile with dredgings from the nearby pond it will decompose eventually? In the meantime, it might make a nice windbreak for the horses and cattle :). And provide also something for tornadoes to throw around :( .
Slash-pile-and-culvert-work-Copy-Copy.jpg
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Lookin up from the bottom of the gully
 
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They make good timbers for misc use like posts and lite structures. So just limb them after cutting them off and store them for later.
 
denise ra
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I'm wondering about using them for vigas for a hyperadobe roundhouse.
 
denise ra
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Down to what size do you think it is reasonable to save the trunks of the red Cedars? And, I started cutting the very smallest ones some of which are six feet tall, what do I do with them if I don't want to save the trunk? Do I throw them in the gullies, do I let them blow around on the pasture? If they're loose are they a hazard to the horses and cows?

As for drying Cedar trunks I'm assuming that needs to be done out of the weather? How long would the really big ones need to dry to be vigas for a house? Keeping in mind this is Western Oklahoma and summers are hot and humid.
 
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Denise,

Are the historic cedar posts debarked? You may be dry enough to get away with leaving the bark on, or drying them for a year to make the bark slip. Here you can get cedar posts down to 4". They last 20-30 years if debarked, but this is very humid. Debarking is a giant PITA and you still have to deal with the branches. I bought a pressure washer to do the debarking, there are so many branches a draw knife would be nearly impossible. But I think fenceposts are a great solution. You should be able to cover them with a tarp with a couple boughs on top to allow air circulation, open side away facing east. I've got a big stack drying now. Honestly as long as they are off the ground (especially because it looks like dryer western OK) they should dry fine. People didn't do anything special back when those fences went up originally.

I still don't know what to do with the slash, I have been using it as an accelerant for my biochar, but I have way too much. It does degrade in hugels, and my blueberries and raspberries love it. I think the brush dams are a great option.

If you decide you need to debark them for longevity or aesthetics, I would recommend either a small tractor with a grapple or a skid steer to get them where you are going to work on them. A couple hours borrowing or renting a truck or trailer to move them is nice if you are doing them in bulk. Bonus is that I cut them with the tractor pushing them away. Then a quick limbing and I take the post to the stack. I love the new electric saws, but I have a very light gas saw that works wonders that is even lighter, and will cut 12" no problem.

The question I have is why are they there and can you put something in to take that niche? I don't know what would work out there, maybe russian olive. Something so you aren't doing the same thing in 10 years. I spend a good deal of time pulling them when they get about knee high. Lucky for you on the little bluestem!  For the long term, if you can do high intensity grazing, they don't like that either.
 
denise ra
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Tj Jefferson, I can't say if they are debarked. The bark is pretty thin stuff and probably came off when they were limbed. What is the minimum diameter that will make a good fence post? What is the minimum length? A tarp won't last - in the last week the wind has blown 20+ mph for 3 full days and gusted to who knows what! And it blows from all four directions! I would have to build a primitive shed with raw cedar. Currently I don't have any machines on the place, including a chainsaw. I can see that a chainsaw will make the job go quicker; right now I have a Silky saw which is fine for the smaller ones. I could probably pull most of them off the pastures via the well or county roads but I need to purchase a 4 wheeler or old truck to do that with. My vehicle is not good for that.

The cedars grow up out of the gullys when fire is not allowed to burn the prairies. As I would like to be able to burn sometimes I don't want to plant trees up on the prairies. I'm pretty sure Russian Olive is frowned upon now because it invades. There are  a few elms, and the neighbor has Kentucky Coffee Bean trees along his road. Also, this tall white tree whatever it is though it is in a somewhat protected lower area. The cedar and white tree are easily 25' high.
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Unknown tree
 
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Denise,

I'm not sure if you are still looking for ideas on clearing your Eastern Red Cedar, but if you are interested you might look at my post in this forum regarding Land Clearing Tools and Techniques.  The post gives some details about our land clearing efforts in Texas which led to creating our own business manufacturing specialized skid steer attachments for the do it yourself land owner.  I think you might find the Monster Tree Saw an effective tool for clearing your Invasive Red Cedar.


 
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