I visited the farm to check on the thinning. You can see the plan at this link. Frank Meyer and Gasburg Timber did a great job. If this sounds like an endorsement, it is. You can see Gasburg loggers in action (on a different tract) at the links here and here. You can see for yourself from the pictures. They left healthy trees w/o signs of damage from the machines or activities. You won’t be able to see how they took care of the soils at the loading decks and used the slash to cushion the weight of the machines in the stands of trees. The picture above shows the “lightly thinned” trees, leaving a basal area of 100. Below is the stand from the front gate.
below is a heavier thinning, down to 80 basal area. A little more than half the total trees were removed. With the 100 BA it is a little less than half. I like the park-like appearance. It reminds me of the ponderosa pine out west. And for the first time I was able to walk through the woods in relative comfort. But this is humid loblolly Virginia, not dry SW ponderosa pine forests. The openness won’t last. When the sun hits the ground, the brush will grow thick. By June, there will be chest high green and probably prickly. Good for the wildlife (the quail will love the overgrown corridors); hard on the guy (i.e. me) walking through.
Below is the 80 BA from the road. You can see my truck on the top of the hill, for comparison. These trees were planted in 1996, so they have been there for 14 years and are 15 years old.
The thinning will allow the trees to grow a lot faster. They were just about reaching the point where they would compete too much with each other for light, water and nutrients. Now there will be enough of everything. The decaying slash will provide nutrients for the next couple years. After that, when the canopy closes again, I will do a burn of the undergrowth and then apply biosolids. Everything in the appropriate time. Feed the trees when they need it and can use it best. There would not be much use doing those things now. I would be afraid to burn with all that slash and if we apply biosolids before the trees can shade out out the brush, biosolids will just make it grow that much faster. I have nothing against brush, but I am not in the brush business.
Below shows the stumps from the thinning. Below that shows one of the stumps with my foot for comparison. Notice from the rings that the tree grew consistently fast, but this was probably the last year it would do that before the competition set in. All the trees would grow slower and within a few more years, some of them die, doing no good for anybody and creating both fire hazards and an invitation to pests, like southern pine beetles.
It is hard to tell, because they are well camouflaged, but below are wild turkeys. I couldn’t get a great picture because they fly off when they see you. I don’t have the patience or skill to do active good wildlife photography. I like to take pictures of trees. They don’t spook or move. Turkeys have good color vision. I was wearing my red coat, so they could see me a long way away. There were at least ten of them.
I went to the other forest too and have some pictures and comments from that one. I will write some more tomorrow.