“It’s like money in the bank. Once these trees are free of competition they have more available light, more available water, more available nutrients. “
– Shawn Dias
Dave Pogson’s grandfather helped feed his family during the Dirty Thirties selling oak fence posts he felled with an axe in his bush south of Rock Lake.
Some 70 or so years later Dave and his brother Barry are preparing to harvest oak and ash from that same woodlot, which they also use to pasture cattle. But unlike their grandfather the Pogsons will harvest trees with the aid of chainsaws and a tractor.
And instead of fence posts, the brothers will use their homemade sawmill to make lumber they can use themselves and sell. Perhaps one-third to half of the timber they pull out will go for firewood. That’s because the emphasis is on rejuvenating their woodlot – removing dead and dying trees as well as those that will never make good lumber. By doing so they’ll reduce the competition for sunlight and nutrients for the remaining trees.
“It’s like money in the bank,” says Shawn Dias, a woodlot forester with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) based in Somerset.
“Once these trees are free of competition they have more available light, more available water, more available nutrients. That will put on more diameter growth over time versus if there was nothing done.”
The Pogsons built their own sawmill, powered with an 18-horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine, five or six years ago and they’ve been refining it ever since. Dave says they sell their lumber to local crafters and use it themselves. They might even make flooring and cupboards.
The part of the woodlot visited by participants in the low-impact logging workshop here Nov. 4 is mainly forested with oak and ash, with a lot of hazel underbrush. Although it’s also used as cattle pasture one wouldn’t know it; there are no signs of worn cattle paths or even old cow pies. Dave credits “holistic management” that he and Barry have adopted. Their cattle graze the area for five days. The pasture has 60 to 65 days without grazing to recover. The result is the Pogsons have a sustainable pasture and woodlot. Overgrazing reduces grass production and kills trees.
The woodlot has several “steps” of relatively flat land connected by steep slopes. Workshop participants walked the area scouting out a skidding trail designed to be efficient but also minimize damage to the terrain and remaining trees. Dragging trees up a steep slope can gouge the land making it vulnerable to severe erosion. Moreover, any soil washed away from this woodlot could end up in nearby Rock Lake, reducing its water quality.
Before harvesting begins, the logger needs a plan, says Ken Lallemont, a game of logging instructor from Catawba, Wisconsin. In addition to marking a skidding trail, the logger needs to know if they have the necessary equipment to get the logs out of the bush.
MAFRI has a program to assist woodlot owners to replant, but since the Pogsons have such a large woodlot and pasture it, they’re better off to focus on natural regeneration, says St. Pierre Jolys-based MAFRI woodlot forester Ian Kirby.
“There are thousands and thousands and thousands of acorns here waiting to get a shot at life, we’ve just got to give them the opportunity,” he says.
Coincidentally, dragging logs across the ground assists the process by scarifying the acorns, making them more likely to grow. [email protected]