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Timber management is a life-long project

ast spring I set a goal for myself. Over a period of several years, I planned to clear all the timber of undesirable trees, thin out the overcrowded ones, and open up areas to improve browse for wildlife as well as being able to one day harvest some timber.

I knew starting at one end of the farm with a chain saw in hopes of covering the whole area would be an impossible task. I would do 40 acres of timber per year until the project was complete or I died of old age, whichever came first.

I talked to a forest manager and a game biologist before I began. They both suggested I take out all locust, elm, and osage orange trees. Where there was overcrowding, which is almost everywhere, I should remove all trees less than six inches in diameter. Dropping trees along the edge of the timber would make good quail habitat and stacking brush inside the timber would provide winter cover for a multitude of birds and animals.

The next weekend, I started with a vengeance. I cut junk trees and small trees. I stacked brush and sawed firewood. By Saturday afternoon, most of an acre was looking good and I was so tired and sore, I could barely get myself home to collapse in bed. Sunday would be a whole new day. When I arose the next morning, it was not with the bounce or anticipation I had the day before.

My wife suggested we make a family outing of it. We could make a picnic lunch and invite Damon, Amanda, and the grandsons. If Damon and Amanda brought their chain saws, we could have a really good day. I thought I was a good salesman, but my wife was actually able to sell them on the idea this might be a fun way to spend Sunday afternoon.

It was a rather fun day other than extreme pain caused from walking up and down hills bent over double at the waist while sawing off little trees that were growing six inches apart.

By the time it got dark enough we were becoming concerned we might saw off something we would need another day, such as a leg, we had covered over an acre. I felt I needed a stretcher to get me back to the truck, but nobody else had enough energy to carry it, except the grandsons. They had a wonderful day playing in the creek and running the hills with the dogs. We dragged ourselves home thinking only 20 more weekends like this and we will have met my goal. Twenty more weekends like this would kill me.

One day per weekend devoted to timber management would get us there in only thirty-eight more weeks. This would be more realistic. After a few weeks, I found even this is a difficult schedule to maintain. It is sometimes hard to find time to devote one of only two days a week a person has off. There are other pressing issues such as fixing fence since the cows are getting out or going fishing since it is too hot to play lumberjack.

Summer work was sporadic. I felt good about the fall. It would be much easier to saw with the weather a bit cooler. Fall was going well until deer season started. Would I rather grab my bow and go after the big one or would it be more fun to drag my chainsaw around the woods? A bow is a lot lighter to carry so it usually won out over the chainsaw.

During the winter, I burn some firewood but fortunately, Damon needs more firewood than me. It is easy to get him to help cutting a big thorny locust or hedge trees. A person can get a load or two out of one of them. Unfortunately, it is impossible to convince anyone to cut 400 one- or two-inch trees to make a load of wood.

With this year's experience in timber management, I have come to the conclusion I have gotten myself into a lifetime project. I will never get done. If I get to the other end of the farm before I die, it will be time to start over. With a project like this, I can never say I have nothing to do or need an excuse to get outdoors.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.