Monday, February 1, 2010

Forestry is sometimes also part of farming

There are things to do in the woods in the winter. Tree pruning is one of them. What is tree pruning and why would I do it? Well, first of all its not what your Mom did around the house every fall with the roses and other shrubs. It's got to do with larger trees eventually destined for human use.

Tree pruning is actually a silviculture practice that, if done properly, will increases the amount of clear wood in a tree's bole. By clippping or sawing the lower branches off the bole (trunk) of a worthwhile tree, you can increase the amount of clear wood that the tree will produce after a number of years. Pruning increases the strength, value, and fibre continuity by reducing the number of knots in the bottom portion of the bole. Since the bottom of the tree is the largest part of bole this is where the majority of the value and volume is and coincidentally where pruning takes place.

There are various tools for pruning. The Japanese have nice tools, as do the Scandinavians. Some people have adapted hand saws, while others use good 'ol bucksaws, it really depends on the size and value of the tree you are working on. The type and quality of the pruning also depends on when you start to treat the individual trees (ie when they were spaces, how long they have been allowed to stretch out under a canopy of larger trees etc.).

Obviously the farther up the tree you prune, the more clear wood you will eventually get. Some tree species are more worthwhile pruning. Black spruce on a medium site will probably never produce a large bole, so it's not worth spending any amount of time pruning up 12-16ft., while a white spruce or larch on good site may be worthwhile as the end result could be a beautiful beam for a log home.

So that's what I'm up to these days, clearing out older forest (for firewood) so younger trees can establish underneath, pruning the more valuable trees, and assessing future sites for growing various forest food like mushrooms. So it all comes around again...

Lots to do, so little time...