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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.