Rick Freeman

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since Jan 08, 2012
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NW Montana, Hardiness Zone 4b
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Recent posts by Rick Freeman

What species? DBH? Taper?

You have a basic monoculture plantation that has value and reflects past investment. Why not treat it as an investment and choose the best way forward in those terms? Within that framework, the question is "Is your best alternative use ("foregone use") for the same 'bare-ground' more or less valuable to you in context of your preferred time frame?"

So, to assess the value of this stand you'll have to decide what ecological benefits the species confers (easy research) and what products it can yield.

In Montana P. engelmannii is the preferred house-log tree because of its high tensile-strength:weight ratio. Light strong house-logs that have relatively good insulating value. The old-timers would set down a course of western larch (rot-resistant) and build E. spruce on top of them.

Personally, I use rough-cut 1" spruce boards around the site for everything imaginable because they're so freaking light. They aren't strong boards, and I wouldn't use them structurally.

And, they can make beautiful trim.

After you evaluate, if you choose to keep the stand for future products, then you'll want to do some thinning. Don't worry about retaining the euclidean pattern. Spruce tend to clump in natural regeneration. Pick for quality and retain the best/healthiest. If you are planning to harvest in the future for timber, invest the time now to limb (at least 10 feet up). (We are talking about a monoculture in rows, after all.) You'll have stronger trim and boards and fetch a better price.

And, I would plant every imaginable shade-tolerant, acid-tolerant tree, shrub, vine and herb I could get my hands on in the understory and find every source of local mycelia and mushrooms I could get my fingers on (esp. from old stands of the same species) and start inoculating. And look around at some olders, mixed stands in the area that includes your spruce species and see what likes to grow with it. Guaranteed you'll find evidence of a mycorrhizal relationship. Plant those species with some borrowed mycelium.
10 years ago
Hi, can anyone recommend a good cold-hearty, shrub-form astragalus?
11 years ago
Knapweed honey is great.

In forest restoration, shade-creation (tree planting) is the best strategy against Centaurea (as other approaches are too cost prohibitive and don't have the long-term effect of deep shade).

And, in an edible forest garden, it won't last long... maybe a couple of years... before it loses its advantage and disappears for all the reasons above.
11 years ago
I think Kay Bee has it right. Humus creates buffering systems that tend to reduce the need for input, acid or base. As far as Ca and the Albrecht method, it's not so much the "most important" cation as its proportion of base sat. needs to be around 69% but in balance with Mg... and K and Na. http://www.permaculture.org/nm/images/uploads/Cation_Anion_Process.pdf
11 years ago
Well, Jodie, I wish you all the best. From your photos and your self-description you seem to be most attractive in all the good ways, and if I lived (way-y-y-y) over there, I would be begging you for a date right now. But.... here I am in a field of snow. LOL. Good luck on your path and may you always have at least a teeny bit of healthy soil hidden under your finger nail.
11 years ago
In western Montana, fruit trees have a hard life. Soils are new or have little profile development (little humus), winters temperatures can spike downwards (sometimes after a series of warm days), fire-blight is always a threat, etc. etc. Given all these challenges, we need to be careful with our planting stock and put a lot of prep into the site just to get it through the first year or so -- especially on newly developed sites. Given all this overhead (money and labor) just to get a tree growing, doesn't it make sense to do some pruning to alleviate snow damage and thwart aphids?

BTW, Excuse me for cross-posting. I just now realized that I posted on the earthworks forum but can't seem to delete.
11 years ago
Well, I tried to make it but I got bogged down in Seeley Lake (on my way from the Swan) and didn't make it to town until 7. My apologies to all concerned!! Since space is dear and limited to 8, and since other folks seem to want to participate, I"ll not put my name in next time. I live so far out of town that the logistics are difficult. If, however, I am in town at the right time AND if the meeting isn't at capacity (8 people, right?), then I'll drop in. Again, I sincerely apologize for not making it!!
11 years ago
Thank you Maggie. That's an interesting idea. Hmm. I wonder how beagles would do.
11 years ago
In the north country (zone 4), some of us start hardening off our fruit trees by late August -- meaning that we don't want to disturb soil (eg., pulling roots or tilling) or water the plants within an area that contains the rhizosphere of any given tree. (We don't want to stimulate microbial activity.) Thus, for 2 months or so, these areas are not suitable for growing annuals. As the trees mature and the rhizosphere expands, this area grows and adds up to a large area considering all the trees in a food forest garden. Do you have any suggestions for coping with this use-conflict?
11 years ago