Farm Forest Diary

Larry Caldwell larryc at
Sat Jan 25 03:26:42 EST 1997

It's the middle of tree planting season here in Douglas County, Oregon.
A couple years ago I ended up tending 93 acres of scrub timber and stump
farm.  The land lays across a valley, with a small stream running down
the middle.  The wife got a job here as CEO of a startup corporation, so
we relocated.  The world is changing.

The north slopes are pretty well forested with Douglas fir, with lots of
Madrone (arbutus), white oak, ponderosa pine, and incense cedar.  Some of 
the fir was planted by the previous owner.  The south slopes are either 
bare pasture or covered with Madrone.  The average slope is about 100%, 
and there is a real problem with erosion in the bare areas because of hoof 
action. I've decided to try to get a ponderosa plantation established on 
the south slopes.

I will have planted 7,000 doug fir seedlings and 4,000 ponderosa pine
seedlings over three winters.  The first summer here was mild, and I got
excellent survival out of seedlings.  The second summer had no rain and
25 days over 100 degrees, and seedling survival was terrible.  This
year I'm going into one south slope to replant ponderosa.  I put 800
seedlings there two years ago, and maybe 40 still survive.  I have
some plastic fabric mulch, and am thinking about mulching the exposed
seedlings to kill out the competing vegetation and cut down on evaporation.

Seedlings under the madrone have an excellent survival rate.  There is
several feet of fine loam under the madrone, which unfortunately is
much steeper than the angle of repose.  If I kill out the madrone
before the fir is mature, I'm going to get huge slides.  Of course,
the state forester wants me to aerial spray the madrone to kill it out.
Instead, I'm going to selectively slash and squirt to thin the madrone,
hopefully not so much that it destabilizes the slope.

It may seem like a lot of work, but if someone had done this back in the
1950's, this place would be worth millions and there's no way I could
have afforded it.  I'm dickering for the 160 acres ajoining to the south,
which has also been recently logged.  I think I'll hire a planting crew
for some of that, if I get it.  :)

Well, it's time to hit the slopes.  Makes me sound like a ski bunny,
doesn't it?  There's a storm coming in tomorrow, so planting this
weekend is likely to be cold and wet.

-- Larry

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