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Managing the homestead woodlot.

Nothing you do with a forest is short-term

Many homesteads consist of both field/pasture and timber. Almost everyone agrees that we, as a society, have to cut trees for timber products. The agreement usually ends at that point.

To those of you who sneer at commercial timber practices, I am not suggesting that you rape the land. I am pointing out that any woodlot can be improved by selective cutting, if intelligently applied.

Three notable methods of forest management are even-aged, uneven-aged, and natural selection. Even-aged stands of timber are usually managed for a single species and a single product, such as pulp or saw-timber/veneer logs. This method involves the use of clearcutting, a practice often neither suitable nor desired on homesteads.

Uneven-aged stands can be managed for multiple wood products, yet still emphasize poles/sawlogs/veneer as end products.

Natural selection forest management is a special kind of uneven-aged management that is very Earth-loving and ecological. It can also be labor intensive.

Timber stand improvement (TSI): If your timber stand exceeds a minimum size - usually 2.5 to 10 acres, varying by state - you are probably eligible for state and federal aid through the TSI program. (In some states the name may vary). The combined governments may actually pay you to improve your forest. They do put some limitations on what you can do with the land for the next 10 years or so. For details, contact your state district forester.

Contact your state extension forester for all manner of pamphlets about forestry. I have implemented a TSI program on 80 acres, which will add significant income to my later years.

Neither TSI nor anything else you can do with a forest is short-term. It takes a minimum of 10 years to accomplish anything, but the results are worthwhile if you have a good-sized chunk of land.

A word of advice: Beware of the independent woodcutter. Stick with your district forester's advice.

If your woodlot is more than a very few acres, don't ignore it, manage it. No matter what method you choose, you and your forest will be better off, and most medium size or larger woodlots will supply all of your firewood needs from the thinnings.

If your woodlot is too small, consider planting about two acres in hybrid poplars, which will produce as much as five cords of firewood (albeit not of the best burning quality) every year after four or five years. This is extremely fast on the forest's time scale.

Homemade axe handles

are better, too

My double bit axe handle snapped while I was using it. It was a clean break following a run-off grain line typical of the many lathed handles milled today.

On my next trip to town I looked for a new handle. I found some skin packaged to paperboard. What a clever way to sell an inferior handle. There was absolutely no way to check out the quality of these. Another store had handles on the rack. Each had a slight warp and showed the same grain line weaknesses the other handle had. Somehow I could not convince myself to purchase one of these.

I went to my woodlot, to an oak I had recently felled. I cut out a three foot section, quartered it, and took one of the quarters to the house. This I split again and working with a hatchet and drawknife, shaped what I must admit is a quality axe handle. The grain lines run true from top to bottom, it's straight, and the handle is comfortable.

And in addition, it was a joy to make.

From now on, when I need a tool handle, I think I'll stay off the sidewalks and check the woodlot first.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Humiston, G. Frank
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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