Mo & Terry Smedley
Post mortem of logging project
Part of any engineered project is assessing what went right and what went wrong, and documenting what should be done differently next time. So here's my assessment of our 2007 logging project:
Cutting Contract Arrangements
We hired J&L to do the logging on a percentage basis - we shared the revenue from the sale of the delivered logs. This arrangement did not align our interests. My objectives were largely non-financial - opening up the area around the house, getting the the area cleaned up for planting or other landscaping - income from the sale of logs was down on the list of things I wanted to accomplish. Jack's objectives were financial - maximize the return on the commercial logs that could be removed.
This misalignment of interests showed up in at least two different ways:
1) Some trees marked for removal were left standing because they had no commercial value
2) To minimize the cutting expense, trees were felled en-masse - well ahead of the trucking capacity to remove them.
What I'd do differently: Agree on an hourly or per-stump contract for cutting, limbing, and bucking services Match the cutting production to the loading rate so that a large block of timber is not cut prior to the time it can be loaded out.
Cleanup is most efficient if materials are not handled more than once. When cutting was taking place so far ahead of loading and hauling, it was necessary to double and triple handle debris: To expose logs and give quick access to trucks, limbs were first piled using the excavator. After trucks were clear, the piles were taken apart by the excavator and fed into the chipper. To quickly move chipping equipment from one area to another, chips were blown into piles. A third pass was required to load the piles into the trailer for ultimate dispersal to the trail paving project.
What I'd do differently: A far more efficient process (at greater cutting expense) would have been to cut just enough timber for one or two loads. If you can get to the individual branches before they're picked up or run over by machinery, they can be fed whole into the chipper very quickly. If trucks can be scheduled a few days out from the cutting, the individual branches can be chipped directly into the trailer for hauling. That process would eliminate intermediate piling and unpiling of branches and the piling and unpiling of chips. Further, being able to chip whole branches is far more efficient than chipping up the hundreds of small pieces that result when limbs are piled mechanically or are driven over by machinery. The clear downside of this approach is that small bits of cutting take place over a period of weeks, rather than being compressed into a single day or two. It would take a clear alignment of interests between the timber owner and the cutter to make this work.
I used a mix of excavator, tractor, chipper, and stump cutter for this task. All of that equipment worked well. The only equipment issue I had was a mismatch between the size of some of the merchantable logs and the capacity of the excavator. A small percentage of the logs I could not lift or drag, and they had to stay where they were felled until the self-loader arrived. The Kubota KX71 weighs about 6,200 pounds. The next size up, the KX121, is about 3,000 pounds heavier.
What I'd do differently: A slightly heaver excavator would allow yarding of any but the very largest of trees on our property. I'd want to stick with something in the "mini" class, nothing larger than 12,000 pounds. If cutting is at such a rate that logs are not buried under one another or under large piles of debris, a 10 to 12,000 pound excavator would be able to yard the logs (if not lift them) to a landing for later loading. It would be important to remove as many of the branches as possible prior to putting any sized excavator on top of the debris. This avoids the problem noted above where discrete branches get busted up into hundreds of smaller pieces that have to be processed through the chipper.