Mo & Terry Smedley


Logging Project (Summer 2007)

This summer , we undertook a project to "daylight" the area around the house by removing some ... actually lots ... of trees.   We hired a logger to bring down just under 100 trees, limb and buck them, and haul the logs to town where they were sold at a sorting yard.  We removed eight truckloads of logs, which scaled to about 25,000 board-feet of wood.    To put that in perspective, it takes about 20,000 board-feet of wood (for framing and sheathing) to build a 2,000 square foot house.   Our market timing was poor - earlier in the year, mixed pulpwood loads were selling for record high prices, but by summer's end the market had reversed itself.  Getting heavy log trucks across our property dictated that the logging be done towards the end of summer when the ground was dry and firm, so we didn't have the luxury of timing the market.

I've assembled pictures of our project from its inception in July to where we left it for the winter in late October.  There's still a lot of landscaping work to finish up next summer.  And after narrowly escaping tree damage to the house in a series of windstorms this fall, we may elect to remove a few more trees around the Southwest corner of the house (that is the usual direction for Pacific storms).   A Douglas-fir tree in this part of the country will grow to about 140 feet in 50 years time, so unless you're prepared to clear the ground 150 feet out in all directions there will always be some risk of a tree coming over on the house.   It's interesting to consider that a tree far away from the house, but still within "reach", can almost certainly cause far more damage than a tree right up next to the house.  Just imagine how fast the top of a 140 foot tree will be moving by the time it becomes horizontal - there are a few pictures here that show how fast a falling tree comes down.

While we contracted out the cutting, limbing, bucking, and hauling, that was the quick part of the story - done in a few days.  The biggest effort came when we cleaned up the enormous mess that is left behind after logging.  We used a combination of techniques - chipping, piling, burning, and firewood production to get rid of all of the fiber left on the ground after the merchantable logs were hauled away.  There were days when I thought we'd never see the end of it.    Something I relearn every now and then:  the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Our logger was Jack Adams of J&L Tree Service in Aberdeen.   Jack has dropped a few trees for us from time to time over the years.  I am in awe of his ability to put a tree down right where he wants it.  You'll see some pictures that show the felled trees lined up perfectly parallel to one another. 

Click here for a post-mortem on my thoughts about how to do this more efficiently the next time around.

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I refer to this as my naive phase.  Here's the equipment I assembled to clean up the mess - the tractor and chipper that we own, and a rented excavator.  Not pictured is a stump grinder that I purchased earlier in the year in anticipation of this project.  On this July day, I was sure this was going to be enough equipment to make the cleanup a breeze. I rented a Kubota KX71 mini-excavator for five weeks.  It had a hydraulic thumb which made it easy to grab trees, logs, or piles of brush.  We could never have survived the cleanup without this piece of machinery.  I shed a tear when I had to finally send it back to the rental yard.  I thought for sure Santa would bring me one of my own..... For about a week before the logging began, I used the excavator to clean brush and small trees from several areas around the house.  Our chipper (a Vermeer BC625) was in steady use reducing the piles of small trees and branches to chips.... and at least a few of those chips got used "paving" an access road across the front yard for the log trucks that would be coming soon.  This part of the project made me very nervous - our septic drain field passes right underneath the only reasonable path for the trucks.
I refer to this as our "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" phase.  After removing a few small trees and some brush, we (mostly Mo) is cleaning up.  You can see the red flagging on the trees we will be removing.  In just a few days the entire area in this picture is going to be covered with a couple of feet (and more!) of logging debris. More tagged trees in the back of the house. More tagged trees. This is a good shot of the trees right in the back of the house that are tagged for removal.
Mo made sure we got good pictures of what things looked like "before" the logging begins.   That enormous spruce tree behind the garage is coming out, as is a similarly-sized fir tree right behind it.  The spruce has as trunk that is about 4-1/2 feet in diameter.  Stay tuned - you'll see the tape measure laid across the stump! And we're removing a few of those trees to the right of the "other" garage.
These are the first two trees that Jack brought down.   Jack's grandson Travis is helping out. One of the big trees about half way to horizontal.  The earth moves when they hit the ground! The first log truck arrives mid-morning.  We used self-loaders to avoid having to bring in a dedicated yarder/loader. Jack supervises loading of the first of the logs.
More log loading. Earl, the driver/operator, swings the logs over the bunks. That's a heavy truck to be driving across our front yard!  The first load out, on the way to the sorting yard.  It scaled out at 3,300 board-feet. Here's a picture that shows how fast a tree comes to horizontal.  If that were to hit the house....
Jack lays them out perfectly parallel. Earl's back for a second load... ...while Jack and Travis bring down more trees. This shows how close the truck was to the house.  I took this picture out the window of my "train room" while Earl is loading up the truck.
Earl had to back around the side of the house to the landing we'd made in back.  But at least there will be no more trucks going across the front yard (and the septic drain field). I gave Earl one of Dad's Bethlehem Steel flags for this load. After getting a few log loads out, the magnitude of the mess left behind is starting to become apparent.  I'm using the excavator to pile the limbs, stack up firewood logs, and yard merchantable logs to a landing. No doubt about it - using the excavator was an experience.  It made easy work of moving logs around.
This is about where Mo was cleaning up the ground before logging began.  Branches are at least two feet deep everywhere. I wondered if we'd ever see the ground again. Here I'm dragging a log out of the middle of a giant pile of limbs.  That got to be a real challenge - keeping track of where the logs were buried to make sure we got them all yarded up to a landing for loading onto the truck. Jacy relaxes in the sun - probably wondering what I had done to her peaceful "squirrel garden" in the backyard.

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