Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Late Winter Harvest

Down the road from our farmhouse there's been lots of activity for the past couple weeks. Normally our road is very quiet with only the neighbors passing through. Late winter is the perfect time to harvest timber. The ground is still frozen so there is rather little damage done to the forest soils. We have been watching with interest as the piles of wood grow each day and then shrink back to nothing, only to grow again the next day.

This particular piece of land is owned by a neighboring municipality. A couple years ago, we noticed large blue shots of spray paint on different trees. This was the work of a Certified Forester who worked with the property owner to develop a plan to harvest the trees that were ready to be turned into wood planks for building. The licensed forester works with the State of Massachusetts to make sure the environment and all its inhabitants are protected. The forestry plan goes out to bid to different lumber suppliers. The highest bidder gets the job and the harvest. A permit must be applied for and posted while the job is going on. Independent loggers are hired to harvest the wood.

Here's what the loggers bring with them. They also bring a chain saw and a machine similar to a bobcat with a chain which they pull the logs out with. These guys are amazingly strong, wiry, and quick. They must love what they do - being outside all day. I supposed it must be a way of life that is getting rare but it still happens here in western Massachusetts.

First the loggers build little roads through the woods doing as little as possible to disturb the woods. Here's one they built on this piece of land. Notice the portable bridge that is spanning the little river so the vehicles can cross the stream. The minute the ground becomes too soft, they have to stop harvesting. Although the wood road looks rather raw right now, by the end of the summer it will fill in and be green again with new forest growth beginning to sprout.

Here's the beginning of a pile of wood that will be picked up soon. This will go to the sawmill and be cut up into planks of lumber, be kiln-dried and then used for construction.

Some people hate to see a forest being cut. We don't mind it because by thinning large trees ready for harvest, the smaller trees can grow and then in a few decades be cut for more timber. It's a way of keeping the forest healthy and actively growing and a way for a private landowner to pay the taxes. And it beats having a bunch of houses plopped down, as far as The Farmer and I are concerned. The logging roads that are built make great places to take a walk and enjoy the forest.


Jessica Marie said...

I don't know much about the timber industry, but I'm encouraged to read that there are environmentally concerned loggers.

Anonymous said...

You are so right-- it beats having the woods turned into a housing tract. By lightyears.
/s/ Gretchen

Anonymous said...

lambs .. we wants Lambs Pleaseeeeeee?

Anonymous said...

My parents used to have a house [my Dad built it himself, with his own two hands and one young helper, with the exception of the basement and the septic system] and some 9 acres of property in MA and they also let the local wood cutter cut certain trees, it kept the land healthy. It was hard work for the cutter who did everything by himself and was careful and also worked when the soil was cold, as I recall.

I have much more respect for this method from which everyone involved benefits, than I do for the clear cutting. I hate those bald spots on the hills.

Anonymous said...

I love your 'farm' writing as well as you 'knit' writing .. espcially of Berkshire MA .. my greatgrandfather came from Ireland to help dig the Hoosic Tunnel; my grandfather was born in Florida MA and my grandmother in Munroe ... on The Farm ... I love all the farming/lambing bits ... brings me back to my childhood and roots!
That same grandma taught me to knit ... in Greenfield!!
Thank to you and The Farmer for keeping my homeland healthy ... and for loving it! Blessings, Elizabeyh

Emily said...

Thank you for sharing winter timber harvest in your neck of the woods. I'm in the pacific northwest, and we don't have frozen ground to aid winter harvest, but my hubby does cut and custom mill, and it is an important task from all angles (the land, the people, the use of the wood). You are such a good teacher of so many topics!