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Timber Stand Improvement

Posted on January 5th, 2013

I have been enjoying timber stand improvement in the woodland around our house for the past decade or longer, but now the real challenge — timber stand improvement at Old Man’s Timber!  Old Man’s Timber has been protected from grazing, farming and logging for many years.  However, in addition to being protected the timber must be managed to ensure a high quality timber stand.  At Old Man’s Timber, the stand quality varies, as it is does in most timber stands.  Upland areas exist where there are mature red and black oaks, white and bur oaks, and quality hickory trees.  Additionally, along the floodplain there are some mature silver maples, birch along with a few black and bur oaks.  More about these areas in later postings.

The area along the southern border of the timber, near the reconstructed prairie, is an area that has become overgrow with weed trees: elm, ironwood, honey locust, etc.   Although fairly degraded, fortunately, there is a notable absence of honey suckle and multiflora rose, which are usually prevalent in  previously grazed or farmed timber stands.  The timber stand improvement work that I plan for this area includes:  1) cleaning up storm damaged trees, 2) removing weed trees (elm, ironwood, basswood, etc), 3) cutting honey locust for firewood and 4) reforesting the area with white oaks and bur oaks.  For sure its yeomans work, but the rewards are nearly immediate.  Simple as 1, 2, 3, 4!

Given that it is winter in Iowa, and we have been blessed with favorable conditions, now is a perfect time to get started.  We have a few inches of snow on the ground and daytime temperatures have varied from the upper teens to mid 30’s.  Perfect for working outside around a hot fire.  As usual, I wasn’t smart enough to get a good before photo of the entire area, but have a few photos worth posting.  The “TSI Before” photo shows a typical area along the southern edge of the timber.  As can be seen in this photo, the timber edge is a dense mixture of storm damaged trees, elm, ironwood and honey locust.  There are a few cherry and walnut trees scattered about, but no oaks.  Also, there is a band of Reed Canarygrass, that will have to be dealt with in the spring.  This species composition is fairly typical for sun exposed timber edges.

TSI Before — Looking North

The “TSI After” photo shows the results of a couple of days of cutting and burning.  Note the extinguished burn pile in the foreground and an active burn pile in the distance.  I am trying to limit the number of burn piles that I create, as they sterilize the soil for a few years.  The wood remaining on the ground will be cut for fire wood as well as the standing honey locust trees.  Fortunately I love to burn wood to heat our home and have a few friends in search of firewood as well!

TSI After — Looking West

In some ways timber stand improvement can be an overwhelming endeavor, but with reasonable expectations, and an interest in being outside during Iowa winters it can be a very rewarding and healthy activity for timber and woodland owner alike!