Blackhawk chapter of WWOA and Walnut Council Field Day
(I would like to thank Carol Nielsen for many of the photos included in this article. Click on any image to open a larger view.)
It was a brisk Saturday morning in October 2014. The Walnut Council; Wisconsin Chapter and the WWOA (Wisconsin Woodland Owner's Association); Blackhawk chapter held a joint field day near Waterloo Wisconsin on the farm of, and hosted by, the Weiland family.
This is the first time I've attended one of these field days. All the stars were aligned, you might say. I wish I could've seen this 20 years ago when we first started planting trees on a large scale [more information on my re-forestation experience]. I had a great time and came away with a ton of new ideas and techniques (and reinforcement of some 'old').
The day started with some warm coffee and a lot of people meeting and greeting each other. Since I was new and didn't really know anyone else (and I am very shy) I was happy to watch and take it all in.
Finally we all sat down for a brief business meeting which was mainly about the two groups welcoming members of both groups and saying how we should do this more often (at least that's what I heard - my hearing isn't the best and I was sitting towards the rear - yes that was dumb).
Luckily for me, our host had a strong voice so I could understand him as he gave us some background of his plantation and introduced the program for the rest of the day:
- Pruning demonstration
- Portable saw-mill demonstration - cutting fenceposts from Locust logs.
- Goats as a management tool to control invasive species.
- Lunch: a goat soup was provided as a demonstration - to supplement our sack lunches (it was good).
- Tour mixed hardwood/softwood stand planted in 1998-99
- Tour mixed hardwood/softwood stand planted in 2006
|Notice the vine-covered 'bush' |
in the foreground.
Here is how they solved this problem. A Brownie self-propelled, single person, man-lift.
When compared to the alternatives for pruning high branches, this unit provides:
- ease of use (compared to pole saws which are hard on the body)
- far more accurate cuts because the cut is right in front of you even 16 feet above the ground.
- single user; the lift is completely controlled by the person in the 'bucket' and it is compact enough to easily maneuver between tree rows - as long as the hills are not too steep or snow too deep.
I've seen many sawmills in operation and this was a nice unit and fun to watch. It wasn't he highlight of the day for me.
|Cucumber vine takes over|
|Hungry goats to the rescue|
The goats also provide alternate sources of income for this working farm: milk, cheese and meat. During lunch break our hosts offered us some goat soup as a demonstration of that particular market. It was good soup. Why is it little hard to think of eating goat?
Tree farm toursAfter lunch we all loaded into a wagon and two ATV Gators (and some walked) for a tour of the 200 plus acres of woodlots. This was really the highlight of the day. I'd forgotten how beautiful the foliage was until I saw these pictures.
This picture gives a hint of what was to come. There are alternate rows of conifer and hardwood. The Black Walnut are yellow (what leaves are left) and the Red Oak are red(ish).
This plantation is a beautiful example of the planting technique which has been recommended (required) for CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) re-forestation. Alternate hardwood (deciduous) and softwood (conifer) every other row. The conifers act as trainers for the hardwood so they will grow straight and self-prune. Here you see Pine/Walnut/Pine/Red Oak alternation. This was repeated - more or less for this entire 185 acre planting (1998-99).
You can imagine how many jaws were dropping among those in attendance.
Note: if you zoom in on the white stake behind Bob, you can one of his innovations. His various wood plots are color coded and he numbers each row with a white stake on every 10 rows. Therefore we can see that this is Walnut row is the 90th row in the red woodlot.
These rows were obviously carefully planted and well spaced with a good (great) survival rate. They have been pruned. The question was how much more pruning was needed and when thinning should start.
The consensus was that the Red Oak are doing just fine and can take care of themselves and will self-prune.
The Walnut could start to be thinned in places. Look up when making this decision. Which tree is dominant in the canopy? Is this dominant tree straight and clean for16 feet - or is the less dominate tree of better form? (perhaps consider taking out the dominant to release the better formed tree.) These decisions should to be made early in the process, of course.
Much emphasis was made on top-down pruning techniques. Don't worry about lateral branches if they are not close-crotch. Pay primary attention to the leader. Make sure there is only one leader. The lateral branches will take care of themselves (in a stand like this, at least). Walnut are particularly good at developing multiple tops due to death of the terminal bud (from deer, insect, disease, and cold).
|About pruning and thinning.|
Some of these Pine 'trainer' rows could be "row thinned" in places. Some newer recommendations for CRP plantations call for two rows of hardwoods for every row of conifer (I hope I got that right - since my farm is already planted it's a moot point for me). No one seemed too concerned about pruning up the conifers.
Here's a web site that I googled which explains some of these thinning techniques [Web site from University of Georgia]