Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Sustainable Living and Land use › Sustainable Forestry › Crazy winter weather the norm??
- February 19, 2016 at 7:43 pm #87763Brad JohnsonParticipant
Wow, this winter’s weather has really gotten me thinking about work in the woods. I have never seen it like this, and it sounds like others have not either. I have seen every kind of ground condition possible this winter, except for normal frozen ground. Is this the way winter is going to be from here on out? Given the fact that logging in NE is hard enough as is, this year’s conditions seem to be adding on another layer of difficulty. When you combine that with poor log and pulp prices, and firewood heading down as oil/gas prices remain low, the outlook seems to be a little bleak. Perhaps this is just what we are going to have to deal with – any weather, any time, anywhere…
-BradFebruary 20, 2016 at 5:09 am #87764mitchmaineParticipant
do you remember back about ten years ago, when the weather started effecting the november workshop at low impact forestry? all of a sudden, the weather started getting hard to predict, and we started logging in the rain and mud. and we started doing lif 2 later in the year to get some frost. looks like the new trend is no frost. my grandmother used to say “cheer up, next year will be different”. she never said better or worse just different. good luck out there. stay safe. mitchFebruary 20, 2016 at 6:51 am #87765Carl RussellModerator
Yes very frustrating. I have worked outdoors year-round for most of my adult life, and I have to agree with Mitch that about 10 years ago the averages began to change. The challenge now is there seems to be no new normal… It’s all over the place.
For years we would plan on good cold by the end of October, frozen ground by the end of November, and good solid logging condition from December through March. Of course there were fall mud seasons, and January thaws, but they were temporary setbacks. Now it seems we have fall mud seasons and January thaws with temporary winter weather.
I worked many Decembers in subzero temps, and while we always had one or two heavy snow storms, we generally could count on the 6-10 inch storms on semi regular frequency, not waiting all winter and getting some absurd 2 foot dump. At least this winter it has been relatively easy to get around, and not having to shovel trees is great.
The last two weeks I’ve been pulling hemlock and spruce on a bobsled 1/2 mile off some tough terrain. There are patches of mud, open ground frozen like concrete, snowy patches, and ice all on the same trail. The ground is very steep in places, and without snow the loads slide sideways a lot without a natural burm of frozen snow. I have a few hundred feet of sawlogs spread all along the trail as bumpers to keep us headed in the right direction.
The biggest problem I have run into is that I cannot move these big loads without bridle chains to control descent. With the variable ground conditions I have found places where the chains cut into earth in the midst of ice, and we are grounded. Pinning good horses when they are moving 5-6000 pounds of wood is a bad precedent. It has happened every one of the last 5 loads I’ve taken, and they are beginning to lose their resolve.
I end up under the side of the load with a peavey prying and digging under the runner to release enough tension to make them believe they can move it again….. But I cannot afford to disengage the chain completely as we are in the midst of ground where there is no way to hold back that much weight…..
I mean, I’m cut out for this. I didn’t chose logging with horses because I thought it was a smooth ride, but this I can do without.
My biggest frustration is that with this work I do not have many options to moderate load size. I have to pull at least 500 feet each trip, and to watch a team go from scraping and digging, to testing and fainting is disheartening when it has nothing to do with them, and I have no control over the conditions…
Anyway, maybe we’ll get some better conditions this week….
CarlFebruary 20, 2016 at 8:32 am #87766Brad JohnsonParticipant
Yes, the variability has been tough to handle. I feel for the horses, given the fact that every day seems to present a new set of conditions – muddy to icy to firm to…hard to guess what we are going to get. For the first time this winter I have been thinking that the screw in studs I use of the horses’ shoes are not quite up to the task but I have not made a change yet. On the firm, icy days sharp shod would be the ticket, but I have never tried it. The other thing that has been really tough is the lack of snow to slow the sliding of big logs behind my arch. When we head into the landing, which is on a side hill, the large diameter logs want to push the horses ahead and to the side, and when the ground is soft or bullet-proof it is tough for the horses to hold things back. I am having to be creative in how I approach the log pile. I have not used my bobsled at all this winter for the reasons you point out, Carl. Even the tractor with chains has been spun around 360 degrees with the front end slipping and sliding all over the place. At least we have not had to shovel any stumps – first time that has happened for me!
-BradFebruary 20, 2016 at 9:13 am #87767Carl RussellModerator
Kind of amazing to say, but I’m willing to shovel stumps if I had 18″ of snow just to cover the terrain…….. As long as there was temps to make it last a few weeks.
That bulletproof concrete-like ground is worst than ice. I just have Driltex on the caulks of pulling shoes, but they have a lot better purchase on ice than on the concrete.
CarlFebruary 20, 2016 at 9:43 am #87768JaredWoodcockParticipant
It will be interesting for newbies like me to see how equipment and methods change to adapt to poor conditions. How do the guys down in the mid atlantic do it? The winters down there are historically more moderate with lots of thaws.February 20, 2016 at 8:58 pm #87777JJKParticipant
I’m not a climatologist but my understanding is that climate change will, in the near future, make weather events tend more toward the extreme. We have been very mild here as well, but last week we had near record lows. The weather weirdness affects the jet stream, if it is driven south for a prolonged period of time, this could cause an uncommonly bitter winter. Unfortunately, it seems to be more or less unpredictable from year to year, so far. Interestingly, the melting arctic ice may be shifting the Gulf stream, which would cool Europe.February 24, 2016 at 9:49 am #87819LongViewFarmParticipant
I teach environmental studies at the high school level and cannot possibly hope to keep up with the scientific literature, so I quite often send the students out to literature review and have them report back to the class, after I’ve gone over the basics.
One statistic stuck in my mind from last week. In the 1950s the ratio of record hot days to record cold days was 1:1. There was extreme weather, yes, but in both directions. For the decade 2000-2010 the ratio of record hot days to record cold days was 10:1, with most of the increase in record hot days coming since the 80s. I expect we’ll continue to see more frequent intense weather events.
Can anybody answer to how this is affecting conventional machine loggers? If we are having trouble in the woods with our light kits, are they even getting out this year? They have a lot more overhead to pay too, how are they managing? Just curious.February 24, 2016 at 12:40 pm #87823Rick AlgerParticipant
The sawmill here in town, Milan Lumber, had temporary layoffs earlier in the winter because of low inventory, and they are now working at reduced hours. I think this is mostly weather related, but the paper mill closures in Maine are probably a factor as is the low price for biomass.
There are a lot of machines for sale.February 25, 2016 at 1:36 am #87846mcmParticipant
I’m way down south and I’ve never seen anything like this winter. I was fighting flies on Christmas day and had the windows open.
I have a masonry heater and typically burn 2 small fires a day December through end of February. This winter I’m burning 1 fire every fifth day or so when it actually gets cold.February 25, 2016 at 6:54 am #87847BaystatetomParticipant
Misery loves company right? I’ll chime in and say it has been a rough few months for me too. I tried to start logging in October but my landing was such a soupy mess I quit and waited until it froze. That took me into January when we got a good coating of ice, but then the wetter half of the lot was still mud so I didn’t shoe the oxen. I spent Jan and Feb falling on the ice on high ground and knee deep in mud on the low ground just a few feet apart. I am completely mudded out now in the woods but my landing is still frozen or at least it was up to last night. By the time the woods dries out my landing will be soup again. I never would have guessed that logging 20 mbf would take 3 winters.
The other thing to remember is there is no such thing as average when it comes to the weather. The average is what is in between crazy extremes.
Stay safe out there everyone,
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