Forestry: Management Objectives

By Aaron Lefland, Forestry and Stewardship Coordinator

During the cold winter months, our forestry team heads into the woods to continue Weston’s ongoing forest stand improvement project. Since the early 1980s, Land’s Sake has worked with the Weston Conservation Commission to rotationally manage parcels of town forest. As part of this process, unhealthy and low-grade trees are removed and turned into firewood. What remains are healthy, commercially valuable trees that will continue growing for years to come. This blog post discusses differing management strategies used to yield different forest compositions.

Firewood is really just the byproduct of rotational improvement cuts

Firewood is really just the byproduct of rotational improvement cuts

Understanding Rotational Harvesting and Improvement Cuts:

In order for a forestry operation to be sustainable, it is important that we understand how our activities impact the resource for which we are trying to manage, and ensure that resource continues to regenerate after we leave. One of the primary ways in which we ensure that our management is sustainable is by rotationally harvesting different parcels of forest. Most of the managed parcels around Weston are on a 15-20 year cycle. This means that once we cut a specific site, it will be allowed to regrow for at least 15 years before any more management occurs.

In addition to rotational harvesting, Land’s Sake removes trees using an “improvement cut” or “pre-commercial thinning” approach. There are a number of different types of cuts that can be made to a forest, all of which fall under the art and science of silviculture. Depending on the desired composition of a forest, a landowner may decide to remove more or less trees, certain species of tree, or a certain quality of tree. Here in Weston, one of the main management objectives is to improve the timber quality of the forest. To do so, we selectively harvest trees that are of lower commercial value and leave straighter, healthier trees to regenerate the forest.

By carrying out our improvement cuts on a rotational cycle, we ensure that there is a constant, sustained supply of the resource for which we are managing (trees!). This approach also minimizes any aesthetic or ecological impacts as a small percentage of total biomass is removed during each harvest.

A Different Management Objective; Sugar Maples:

Managing for Sugar Maples allows the trees to grow faster, produce more sap, and allows us to make more delicious maple syrup!

Managing for Sugar Maples allows trees in our sugar bush to grow faster, produce more sap, and allows us to make more delicious maple syrup!

In most cases around Weston, improving the timber quality of the forest is one of the primary management objectives. However, in some instances, we also try to select for a special species; the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). As many of you know, Land’s Sake has been producing local maple syrup for decades (check out our Maple Sugaring page under the Forestry tab for more information!) and relies on the sap from hundreds of sugar maples to produce this delicious treat.

In the Sear’s Forest, there is a large stand of sugar maples mixed with a variety of other species (we call it our “sugar bush”). To promote the growth of these sugar maples and create a more productive sugar bush, we remove some of the larger Oaks, Birches, and Norway Maples that crowd out the younger Sugar Maples and compete for their resources. This allows the remaining sugar maples to grow faster and produce more sap, and allows us to make more of our delicious syrup.

So What?

Even though felling trees and making firewood seem fairly straightforward, it is important to realize that a lot of thought and work goes into properly managing a forest. Years of careful work by Land’s Sake has proven that we can sustainably harvest our forests and minimize any negative impacts in the process.

If you would like to learn more about the process we use to produce our firewood, feel free to stop by our worksite in the Highland forest and say hello. We are usually in the woods from 9-4 during the workweek and would be happy to talk more about the work we are doing to improve Weston’s forests.

Forestry: How Does Land’s Sake Turn Trees into Firewood?

By Aaron Lefland, Forestry and Stewardship Coordinator

During the cold winter months, our forestry team heads into the woods to continue Weston’s ongoing forest stand improvement project. Since the early 1980s, Land’s Sake has worked with the Weston Conservation Commission to rotationally manage parcels of town forest. As part of this process, unhealthy and low-grade trees are removed and turned into firewood. What remains are healthy, commercially valuable trees that will continue growing for years to come. This blog post discusses the various methods we use throughout the process.

Marking Trees:

Before any work begins, a Land’s Sake staff member and a member of Weston’s Conservation Commission walk through the proposed site to mark all of the trees that will be cut. Each tree that is selected for harvest is marked with spray paint so that it can be easily identified in the winter. All of the trees that are marked are low grade, and when removed will allow the remaining trees to grow faster due to reduced competition. Once all of the trees are marked, a Land’s Sake staff member files a cutting plan to be approved by the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Felling:

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Pounding wedges into the base of a tree allows our forestry team to fell trees in the opposite direction of their lean

After the cutting plan has been approved and trees have been marked, Land’s Sake’s forestry team begins felling trees. Using a technique called directional felling, our staff is able to fall trees exactly where they want, even if the tree is leaning the opposite direction. This allows us to minimize damage to any surrounding trees, and to make our work easier once the tree is on the ground.

Limbing:

Once the tree is on the ground, the next step is to take off all of the limbs that are too small to be turned into firewood (also known as slash). This slash, which returns nutrients to the soil and provides habitats for various fauna, is cut to a maximum of two feet in height to minimize any aesthetic impact. The remaining logs are then cut to shorter lengths so that they are ready for skidding.

Skidding:

Because many of the trees are felled far away from our access roads, the large logs have to be dragged, or skidded, to a central area for processing. Using a giant winch powered by one of our farm tractors, we hook each log to a cable and drag it towards the tractor that is positioned on the access road. One of the main reasons that we do our forestry work in the winter is because the ground is frozen. Although skidding logs during the winter may displace some snow and leaf litter, the actual soil remains intact and any potential for erosion is mitigated.

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Forestry team member Luke cuts a log into 16″ lengths

Bucking:

Like many things in forestry, bucking is just a fancy word used to describe a simple process; in this case, cutting long logs into 16” lengths called rounds. All of the firewood we sell is 16”, and we measure each piece that we cut.

Splitting and Stacking:

The majority of our splitting is done using a small log splitter, which can be easily moved around the work site by hand, and can split wood far easier than if we were to do it all using a maul. However, we do sometimes use mauls to split wood, especially when we have volunteer or school groups out in the woods (check out our calendar to see when the next volunteer wood splitting day is!). Once we have a good-sized pile of wood, we will then stack the wood between two trees. To prevent the bottom layer of firewood from rotting, we put two long sticks called “runners” underneath each pile.

Seasoning:

All of our firewood is allowed to season naturally for approximately 7 months. Most of our work is finished in early April, and the firewood sits out in the woods until it is delivered in early November. All of our firewood is sold to members of the greater Weston community and can be ordered on our website in the late summer.

 

If you would like to learn more about the process we use to produce our firewood, feel free to stop by our worksite in the Highland forest and say hello. We are usually in the woods from 9-4 during the workweek and would be happy to talk more about the work we are doing to improve Weston’s forests.

Forestry: What is Growing in the Highland Forest?

Woodsplitter

Forestry team leader Aaron working the log splitter

By Aaron Lefland, Forestry and Stewardship Coordinator

Driving past the snowed-in farm stand, you probably wouldn’t think much is happening at Land’s Sake. However, this is the season when our forestry team heads into the woods to continue Weston’s ongoing forest stand improvement project. Since the early 1980s, Land’s Sake has worked with the Weston Conservation Commission to rotationally manage parcels of town forest. As part of this process, unhealthy and low-grade trees are removed and turned into firewood. What remains are healthy, commercially valuable trees that will continue growing for years to come.

Right now, the forestry team is working in the Highland Forest, across from the Sunset Corner parking area. This site is comprised of a mix of species including White Pine, Hemlock, Black Birch, Red Oak, and White Oak, though we will only cut hardwood species to make firewood. Each one of these species has their own unique characteristics, smells, and other physical properties. Learn about three of those species below!

Black Birch, (Betula lenta):

Many of you have probably tasted the refreshing, wintergreen-like flavor of birch beer. The flavoring for that drink actually comes from the sap of the Black Birch. Not surprisingly, when felling a Black Birch or splitting the logs into firewood, that wintergreen smell can diffuse and make the whole area smell quite lovely. Black Birch is also one of the best firewood species in the region as it gives off a tremendous amount of heat per log when compared with other species.

Red Oak, (Quercus rubra):

Anyone that has ever split wood with a maul probably has a favorite species of wood, and ours is definitely Red Oak. The straight and open grain of Red Oak makes it easy to split most pieces with one or two hits. Even when our logs are covered in snow, we know when we are trying to split this species because it is so easy. Red Oak also has a slightly sour smell when split, contrasting with the sweet smell of the Black Birch.

White Oak, (Quercus alba):

The last hardwood species commonly found in our work site is the majestic White Oak. This species is relative water and rot resistant, making it the perfect choice when constructing wine and whiskey barrels. In addition, White Oak is commonly used to make furniture and instruments. Land’s Sake has been happy to partner with local artisan Marc Thibeault, who will be making a banjo from White Oak harvested from our current work site.

If you would like to learn more about the work we are doing in the woods, feel free to stop by and say hello. We are usually in the woods from 9-4 during the workweek and would be happy to talk more about the work we are doing to improve Weston’s forests.