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Spruce Pirate

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Posts posted by Spruce Pirate

  1. Sounds interesting J.  I've often wondered about a similar set up for 1st thinnings in spruce, but never got as far as actually costing anything.


    A couple of thoughts...… When you load the whole tree onto the forwarding trailer, with them being largely dead, brittle ash you're likely to break a lot of the branches off.  Some of these will get left behind in the wood, mostly the smaller ones, but hopefully you'll retain many in the bunk.  This might actually increase the capacity per load if I'm not mistaken?  The same at the point of chipping, hopefully it will be more compact, resulting in more material per grab getting fed into the chipper. 


    Jenkys are extracting brash from the mats along the road for us and chipping into walking floors in the wood, so there must be some sort of money in it.  Clearfell, after everything has been extracted the forwarder lifts all the mats, stacks brash at roadside, tracked chipper comes in, loaded by excavator with grab straight into a walking floor.  Commercial operation, non-grant aided as far as I know, customer getting a return on the brash.


    On a slight downside, if the spacing is that tight then a 30' pole is going to be quite something to manoeuvre around!  Either you're going to skin the retained trees which isn't going to be good or you're going to break the poles, especially as they're brittle ash.  Realistically I'd think you'd probably do both which is the worst combination.    There are good reasons for short-wood working in thinnings as opposed to long-wood.


    Be interested to see how you get on with it and if the figures add up.



  2. On ‎09‎/‎08‎/‎2019 at 11:06, Stubby said:

    Hand cutters are mostly required now a days for the " snot gobbling " steep banks were a harvester can't get .  Its back breaking arm wrenching hard work for little reward .  Coppice by all means but keep your gardening round .  

    Knowing practically nothing about coppicing I have a romantic image of hand-cutting and brash bonfires.  That said there's a bit along the road that's grown for biomass which is cut with a forager.  Is it a forage harvester you're talking about or forestry harvester or specific coppice harvester?

  3. Plenty of narrow roads on the continent:



    On ‎10‎/‎08‎/‎2019 at 11:55, Big J said:

    Most of the roads on the continent you wouldn't even think about the width of your vehicle. We haven't upgraded our roads to keep up with the development of vehicles in the UK.




    7 hours ago, Big J said:

    Additionally, the tight lanes cause poorer fuel economy. I'm lucky if I get 42-45mpg with the little van in Devon, but I get 56-58mpg in Scotland. So (and these are approximate values) with approximately 468k vehicles in Devon doing 12k a year, that's 5.6 billion miles a year. At at average of 42mpg, thats 133.7m litres. At 52mpg that's 108m litres. As well as a direct cost of £33m to the economy, that's an extra 66000 tonnes of co2 into the atmosphere, which seems like a high environmental cost for the sake of some hedges.

    By now you really should have learned that everything is better up here!!! :lol::lol::lol:

    • Haha 1

  4. I think a good assessor will decide whether someone is competent pretty quickly.  How a person looks, acts, what condition their kit is in, what kit they've got all help to inform an assessor whether or not the candidate knows what they're doing or not.  That is if the assessor themselves knows what they're about.  The blethering and having a cup of tea should then confirm experiencea and underlying knowledge.  After that a good assessor should know if they need to spend 45 minutes cutting a couple of trees to confirm what they think or whether they want to do lots of trees to make sure someone is actually up to scratch.  So either you have a full day cutting getting refreshed or you only do a wee bit followed by a lot of gossip, reminiscing and drinking tea.  This last part should still count as refresher as it is more than likely vocational and will cover all sorts of different scenarios and how they were / should have been dealt with.  Never underestimate the importance of a good blether! :lol:

    • Like 2


    2 minutes ago, Big J said:



    I'd like to get your opinions on a thinning approach I'd like to undertake on our next job. 

    We've about 10 acres of spruce to thin. It's had racks in 4 years ago, and the trees adjacent to the racks are noticeably much larger than the internal trees. 1 in 7 so far. 


    I'd suggested some further thinning as not much was taken out of the matrix at all. In in the interests of keeping it fairly simple, and in order to maximise the growth of the remaining crop, I was proposing a sort of hit and miss line thin between the racks. So, presently, there are 6 lines between each rack. Starting with line 3, you remove one tree. You then take the next tree from line 4, and then back to line 3, then back to 4 and so on. My theory is that having seen the hugely increased growth in the lines adjacent to the rack, conventional rack thinning results in improved growth and form in only two lines (those adjacent to the rack) whereas this hit and miss method results in additional space for all trees in all racks between the main racks (with extra space in lines 2, 3, 4 and 5, with additional space already present in lines 1 and 6 from the previous rack thinning). 


    My thoughts regarding the advantages are as follows:


    • It's very simple for the cutters to grasp. No need for them to selectively thin, as they'll have a rigid structure to work to
    • It creates a slightly more organic feel to the thinning than putting in another rack, as the hit and miss approach means you won't see a straight rack
    • It creates extra space and light for every tree between the existing racks
    • It suits my winch processor setup as it's super easy for me to do but you be a complete PITA for a harvester.


    My justification for going in relatively soon after the last thinning is that it's a sitka stand of not especially good form or YC. The ground is generally too dry and the trees at a little over 20 years old are only averaging 40-45ft, and I reckon are around 0.17-0.2 cube per tree. In performing a 15% thin, I think we can increase the growth rate of what remains, and we're offering £6/t for it standing, which I don't think is too bad for a low impact approach on a sensitive site.


    My hope is that if this method proves successful on this site, it could be used on other first thinnings. I'd then propose putting racks in at 1 in 14 intervals, with hit and miss thinning inbetween. Fewer racks is something I can get away with wiht the winch processor and it leaves a less mechanised finish for the landowner. 


    If you disagree with the approach, please say. I have a lot of time in machines to think about these things and I'm happy to be told when something is a shit idea!


    It's the last day of my easter "holiday" and I need to be up early tomorrow so I'll re-read your post tomorrow when my brain is working properly.  All I can remember right now is that the yield models show as little as 3 years between thinnings for sitka so you're not totally out with going in so soon.

    • Like 1

  6. Trouble is.......


    What is classed as a thinning machine?  In Conor's example an Ergo isn't exactly a small machine, certainly not in first thinnings.  Put almost any off the shelf machine from any of the big manuracturers into first thinnings and it'll look HUGE.  What the manufacturers class as thinnings machines are, in my opinion, really more suited to later thinnings.  In order to do first thinnings properly you're looking as specialist small scale machinery (such as yours J) or going back to hand cutting - or a combination of both.  Problem then is a lack of funds to cover the costs.  Problem if you put machines that are too big in is you end up skinning trees and damaging the ground , you end up with butt rot and potentially unstable crops.  The result can be seen all over the place either non-thin regime or a delayed thin, more instability followed by premature clearfell.


    There's still quite a bit of figuring out to be done in the thinning conundrum, small scale equipment seems to be getting better, but I thing there's still a bit to do to persuade people (owners / investors) that it's worthwhile doing properly.



    I should add that I'm talking really about upland spruce (sitka) forests, those who are luckier to be lower down with better soils and more diverse crops may be able to make thinnings work easier.

    • Like 5

  7. 8 minutes ago, Conor Wright said:

    Really liking the low impact, high quality approach you're taking. Certainly beats this.. two hundred tonnes extracted from mixed sitka, Norway and larch stand down the lane from my place, first thin, loads of damage to surrounding trees and ground.

    Have you ever taken the time to work out your production rate as regards litres of fuel per tonne roadside? Interested to see how it may compare to larger scale enterprises..



    What machines were used there?

  8. 9 minutes ago, Paul Cleaver said:

    thanks for the above SP - what is your view on the following link from 1 month ago which shows concern regarding the Ancient Scots pines in Scotland   https://inews.co.uk/news/scotland/scotlands-ancient-pine-forests-at-risk-disease-climate-warms/

    I don't think that's really any new news as far as the industry is concerned.  Been found more on native pine largely due to looking for it more rather than any big jump in spread as far as I can see.  It is now so endemic in plantation stuff that its no longer surveyed for by the FC in plantations.


    The native pinewoods it could have an effect on, especially in tight canopys and thicket stages.  Stuff we looked at in Tentsmuir Forest a few years ago that was really badly infected and very sparse in needle coverage has recovered very well thanks to intensive thinning to let the air flow through.  Native pinewoods with non-intervention managment policies might suffer quite badly if there are areas of dense canopy.  On the other hand, as I understand it, it's very rarely fatal to trees so they might be able to withstand it.

    • Like 1


    4 minutes ago, Paul Cleaver said:

    looks like a spruce, its either Norway spruce or sitka (sitka have longer needles than Norway) - it could be Dothistroma  needle blight. I know Norway spruce can be affected I don't know about sitka .

    There is concern in Scotland about this disease which can attack scots pine.

    Current seasonal trends of warmer springs and wetter summers (in Scotland) have optimised the conditions for the disease :(


    Dothistroma has been found on spruces, but not to any significant degree as far as I'm aware.  The pictures looks more like Elatobium (spruce aphid) to me, but I'm not totally sure.  Could also be wind blast if there's been a particularly cold east wind?



    8 minutes ago, openspaceman said:

    They're not pine, look like spruce to me and as it happened over winter my guess is spruce aphid.

    Just scrolled up to look at pictures again and saw your post, so yes, I'd agree with that.

    • Like 1
    • Thanks 1

  10. Depends on where you are.


    FCS are now Scottish Forestry or Forestry & Land Scotland, not sure exactly what they're calling themselves, but they're still basically the same organisation.  Almost all cutting work with FCS is now on a multi-supplier framework agreement so it depends on who you're working for as to what you'll get as well as what level of skill and experience you bring to it.  Our rates with them are pretty healthy, although there's still room for improvement in some areas.


    Unfortunately the days of being able to rock up to the forest office and pick up a bit of cutting work locally are now long gone so if you're looking for cutting work with the Forestry, certainly in Scotland, you'll need to find out which contractors are on their agreements and get in touch with them.

    • Like 2

  11. I've done quite a few of these over the years for different folks.  Have used oak, lime, sitka, larch and possible ash, but can't remember for sure.  I tend to cut them a few days to a week before they're needed as it lets the fresh smell disipate a wee bit, but keeps them from cracking too quickly.  Most folk only want them for single use anyway so if the split in the long run its not a big deal.  The spruce ones were for the community council for some event and are stored in our shed, they've stood up surprisingly well with very few split after over a year, they're only about 6" diameter so that might make a difference.  Have done some up to about 2' diameter for cake stands, not sure how well they stood the test of time.

  12. On ‎25‎/‎03‎/‎2019 at 09:54, Gary Prentice said:

    I find that surprising as I'd expect self seeders to be more likely to have retain tap roots than transplanted trees.

    It's something that I've often heard quoted Gary, but I've never quite understood as clearly trees have been growing quite happily by themselves for a very, very long time.  I think the theory is that by notch planting the roots are put into the ground deeper to start off with but self seeders tend to spread out on the surface more.  It is fair to say that this is in the context of conifers rather than broadleaf's.  It also assumes that the trees are planted right! :lol:

    • Thanks 1

  13. A few thoughts.....


    Nat regen is generally unreliable for tree crops as seed fall, conditions, germination rates and spacing are all unpredictable.  None of these are insurmountable problems, especially if you are wanting to establish an amenity woodland rather than a commercial crop.


    Bad Points:

    • Timescale can be highly variable, you may get a good crop quickly, but it might take a prolonged period of time.  This can be problematic if grants are being claimed or if the landowner wants to see results.
    • Spacing again can be highly variable, you may have areas of a site with 10K+ stems per ha and others at sub 1K / ha meaning you spend a lot on either enrichment planting or cleaning.
    • Species can be unpredictable, almost bound to get birch, other species can be less reliable.
    • Shallow rooting, generally considered that self seeders do not root as well as planted trees (although quite how natural forests have managed to survive quite so well if this is the case has always puzzled me).
    • A lot of the savings are simply not there - if you're talking about doing ground prep to encourage nat regen then you might as well plant (cost not that much more for a more guaranteed result); if you're talking about having to stake and tube any planted trees then the nat regen is also going to need some form of protection.

    Good Points:

    • Saves you buying and planting trees.
    • Minimal ground prep.
    • Spacing and size class more variable over site (if this is what you want).
    • Trees grow from local seed (phenotype??) better environmentally.
    • You can always go back and do enrichment planting later if you have/want to.


    Not sure of soil conditions on your site, in my experience birch will regenerate almost anywhere from dry to wet, cherry a little bit more unpredictable.  Bramble is a problem for all large mamals moving through, this is a nightmare for those of us who have to work in these places, but it will also keep the nibblers largely at bay.  Bramble can suppress trees and cause poor form as a result, again this needn't be a problem if it isn't going to be a crop.


    If it's only 4.5 acres that's roughly 2 ha so you're not really looking at that much planting, albeit if you can save yourself some planting that's probably a good thing.  What's happening in the 4.5 acres being thinned, are you looking for regen under the remaining crop?  If so would it be worth fencing the whole thing as opposed to using tubes on the clearfell?


    I've never heard of anyone broadcasting seed as a form of establishement, but this doesn't mean it doesn't happen.  I have the feeling that you'd end up paying a seed collector or nursery a lot of money for seed to get a result which isn't guaranteed and would be slightly pointless if you've got seed trees on site which would give the same result.


    • Like 1

  14. On ‎11‎/‎03‎/‎2019 at 22:06, jmac said:

    That looks a handy wee tool, what is it? What size of winch is on it?

    It's a mini-skidder.   Czeck machine, imported by RIKO.  Winch rated to pull a ton, can pull a wee bit more, but not much (1.2 is the record so far.  Pretty mobile, easily transported, good for small scale stuff.

  15. Ah, the dulcet tones of a rock breaker!  My favourite time working on roadlines is when they stop pecking and go back to stripping.


    Scenery and tree size here not quite as impressive as yours but the soundtrack is similar.


    DSC_0190 a.jpg

    DSC_0196 b.jpg

  16. I had a lot of bother with the ear defender popping out when I first got the Husky Technical helmet, then one day it just popped back in perfectly and been fine ever since.  Not sure what I did differently, it looked alright, but was forever popping out.  Must be something subtle I'd missed.


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