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Serving small woodland owners and managers in the Willamette Valley and northwest Oregon
Updated: 5 hours 7 min ago

Measuring plots in the woods

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:05pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

In this series about young stand thinning , I’ve worked on the assumption that people know the density of trees in their woods. I realize that in many cases, people don’t really know that, so cannot easily apply that information to deciding if they have enough room for healthy growth or if trees need to be thinned.

If you know what distance the trees were said to have been planted, you may have a fair idea of the density (a 10’ x 10’ spacing is about 440 trees per acre, a 12’ x 12’ is about 300 tpa). This is a good start, but not necessarily very accurate.   Actual planting spacing can vary quite a bit according to the conditions in the field and experience of the planters.  And of course some seedlings die during establishment, or some other trees may seed in from outside.  So it is probably a good idea to go out and get a better idea of what you’ve got.  The basic way to do this is to measure some plots.

We commonly use circular plots for this since they are easy to install and measure accurately. We choose a radius for the size of the plot we want, (typically 1/100, 1/50, 1/20 or 1/10 of an acre). We use larger plots for larger trees, smaller plots (and typically more of them) for smaller trees. See the table at right.  It is never too early to get an idea of this.  Checking the work of a planting crew often involves checking planting density with a lot of small plots.

So how is this done? Let’s walk through the process together.

First, if you have not measured a plot before, make it easy for yourself. Choose some easy ground with trees that have been pruned up and are not overrun with blackberries.   Something like this, to the left.

I realize this may not describe the young stand you are actually interested in measuring, but since this is a training practice, that is fine. If you don’t have anything that fits this description, maybe ask a neighbor, or someone in your OSWA chapter to practice in theirs.

For this exercise you’ll want a few stakes, some flagging, paper and pencil, and a tape measure (a loggers tape is best). Oh, and maybe bring a friend along to help.

Go into the woods and toss several stakes out around the stand (each with a piece of flagging). Those will be the centers of your practice plots.  Working together, figure out which trees fall within the radius of your plot (for example, 16’ 7” feet for a 1/50 acre plot).  Some will be easy to tell, others will have to be measured from the plot center.  If on the line, count it as “in” only if the center of the tree is within the radius at breast height (which is why it is good to have a helper).  Let’s say you count 6 trees within your 1/50 acre plot.  What’s that mean? That represents a plot density of 300 tpa.  To find that, you multiply your plot count by the denominator of your plot size to get density (or 6 trees x 50 =300tpa).  Repeat on the other practice plots, or until you get the hang of it.

 

For bonus points, go back and measure the diameter of each of the “in” trees in the plot and record their diameter at breast height (dbh). If you figure the average and compare that to the illustration and description from the earlier post  you can learn how much competition those trees are contending with now, and how much room they have to grow in the future.

So that is the idea. Not that difficult, really.  Getting an accurate measure of a whole stand requires some rigor we will not go into here, but you’ll have to read more about that elsewhere.  But even a few plots can give you some important insight, so I’d encourage you to put in some plots, and start getting an eye for what you have.  It is easy to do when trees are small, before crown closure.  Yes, it can be hard work if your stand is brushy and full of blackberries.  You may want to do a little pruning and clearing in your plots to make it easier. But winter is a great time to do that sort of work.  Good luck.

 

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Living with Wood Sickness

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 3:55pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

The wood sickness is an all-too-common condition that afflicts many in the family forest landowner community.  As described earlier, it is characterized by large accumulations of wood in a person’s yard, shed, garage or barn, excessive buildup of chain saws and other logging tools, portable mills, and all sorts of secondary wood working tools. You know it when you see it.

People with this affliction treat wood with the same passion as collectors of fine wine treat their vintages. Each likes to hide things away and store them cool dark places, often for years at a time.  Yet each is able to recite the source and a story of how they came to own each piece or bottle.  They are determined and very patient waiting for each to find its destiny.

Orson Wells made a series of wine commercials late in his career that captured that spirit when he would declare “We sell no wine before its time.” The parallel sentiment among wood hoarders might be “we use no board before it’s stored.”

An afflicted friend of mine (who will remain unnamed) is remodeling a house and recently put in a hardwood floor. He patiently converted stacks of stickered wood into milled floorboards.  Then, he gradually and laboriously laid them out one by one to create a gorgeous floor of Oregon white oak, bordered with black walnut.  As discussed before, there is no cure for the wood sickness, but it can be helped by therapy.  The therapy is difficult and sometimes painful.  His therapy reduced the amount of wood in his stockpile while producing pain in his knees and back, but was otherwise effective and productive.

There are many people like Jay who are coping and trying to come to grips with their obsession. You see them around town from time to time.  No more so than this time of year, when they commonly emerge from garages and workshops coated in therapeutic sawdust, to display and maybe sell the products of their therapy at art shops, Christmas Bazars and the Local Goods from the Woods fair.  They may be friends, family or even complete strangers, but please show them some holiday spirit.  Meet them half way.

I bet that turned fruit bowl would look terrific in your sister’s dining room.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Exploring your property’s past: a trip back in time

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 5:51pm

By Amy Grotta,  OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Old basins found at the Matteson Forest probably belonged to a dairy farmer in the mid-20th century.

Ah, November. The wet and the darkness set in and we feel like turning on the teapot and bundling up. For woodland owners, winter lends an opportunity to catch up on indoor projects: accounting, taxes, and maybe updating or writing a management plan.

Another indoor activity that I guarantee will be more interesting than any of the above is researching and putting together a history of your woodland. It may mean digging through old family files or recording the memories of an elder relative, if your property has been in the family for a while. For those with a newer relationship to their land, it may mean a lot of online research. Either way, it can be a revealing and rewarding process; and by documenting what you learn you will gain a richer connection to  your woodland and ensure this history is not lost to future generations.

Not all woodland owners are history buffs, but fortunately Pat Wheeler, a Benton County Master Woodland Manager, is one of them. After painstakingly researching the history of her own property, she not only shared many of the online resources she used with her Extension agent, but also volunteered (or was arm-twisted?) to write up a history of the Cameron Tract (an OSU Research Forest in Benton County).

Once I learned about Pat’s efforts, I became very intrigued and immediately saw an opportunity to put together a similar document for the Matteson Forest. The donor, Marion Matteson, bequeathed the property to OSU in the his will, and we never had an opportunity to meet him or learn much about his relationship to the property (he had no children). We obtained some information about recent management activity from a distant cousin, and we knew from old aerial photographs and some remnants of foundations and machinery that there had once been a couple of homesteads on the property. But that was about it.

So, armed with Pat’s resource list, I set to work. And soon I was in far deeper than I anticipated. It turns out that the Matteson ancestors came over on the Oregon Trail, and were among the first white settlers in the Gaston area, so there was a lot of history to discover. I found myself examining census records from the 1860’s, cemetery inventories, and land patent records, all available online.  I checked out a book about the history of Gaston from my library, and even made a trip to the Pacific University historical archives to look at the proceedings of a 1973 symposium related to the construction of Scoggins Dam.

Eventually I was able to piece together as much as I could into a cohesive, semi-complete story, which I then sent to the distant cousin for fact checking. I learned that what is now the Matteson Forest had been parts of three separate land claims dating to the 1870’s. Over the next century these ownerships changed hands many times, from homesteaders and land speculators, to bank foreclosure during the Depression, to loggers and small farmers.

1909 ownership map of the Matteson Forest vicinity. Source: www.historicmapworks.com

Meanwhile the Mattesons who had come on the Oregon Trail staked claims elsewhere in the area, including where the town of Gaston is now situated. Eventually one branch of the family, Marion Matteson’s grandparents, operated a dairy farm on the Scoggins Valley flats. When the Scoggins Dam was built and farmers were bought out to make way for the reservoir, Marion Matteson and his brother started buying property upslope (including the current Matteson Forest) and transitioned from dairy to timber.

The history of the Matteson Tract will be included in the management plan for the property, which is currently in development. Having knowledge of the property’s past gives me and others involved with managing the Matteson Tract a new lens with which to view the land and frame our management decisions. We can deduce, for example, that the oldest timber stands on the property are second-growth, having regenerated naturally after early owners cleared the merchantable timber. These areas may have subsequently seen light use by the early homesteaders, perhaps for livestock ranging and firewood. On the other hand, the areas now occupied by medium-aged Douglas-fir plantations had been in pasture for decades. A rambling apple tree in a small clearing dates back to the earliest known homestead on the property, and may be 100 years old.

I admit I spent far too many hours developing this property history – once you’ve gone down the rabbit trail, it’s hard to pull yourself back out. But I consider it time well spent. On a personal note, I have been facing some serious health issues and this was the perfect project to distract me from reality for a while.  Perhaps you or another member of your woodland family are also in need of a distraction this winter. If so, I encourage you to dig into your own property history and record it for others in the future. You can find our resource list for getting started, along with the Cameron and Matteson Tract examples, on the Oregon Forest Management Planning website.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs