Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Use Wood: The Worlds Best Raw Material

Wood is an incredible raw material, quite possibly the world's best!.  It is fossil free, renewable, recyclable, sustainable, generates no waste, and is biodegradable.  Wood it the perfect material for making furniture, cabinets, flooring, which is what most of the high quality hardwoods in Pennsylvania are made into, and many other products from paper to construction lumber.  The videos I am sharing below are by the artist Trae Miljoe for the Danish Wood Initiative.  They are very well done and bring to light points we should all know and understand about our use of wood.

In the first, entitled Wood Takes the Chair, you will see how the stone age man creates his first chair out of wood and how he conquers the world evolving into a modern manufacturer of sustainable wood furniture.  In the second, entitled Why on Earth a Wood House, the artist gives the reasons why wood is the world's best building material.

- Wood is the strongest building material, relative to its weight
- Wood is quick, easy, and economical to use
- Wood is strong, yet flexible
- Wood it beautiful, keeps you warm, and is good for the senses
- Wood is the most environmentally friendly building material
- Wood is the only building material made by the sun and carbon from the air
- Wood stores carbon and reduces the greenhouse effect
- Wood is the only renewable building material in perpetual supply from properly managed forests,

And lastly, watch this video by Trae Miljoe.  It provides an excellent summary of a complex topic.
"Wood - nature's stroke of genius!"

Monday, December 29, 2014

Spruce Creek Pennsylvania - Protecting it's Water

The Clearwater Conservancy located in State College, Pennsylvania, is an association dedicated to the protection of the environment and its resources.  Clearwater's focus is on water and water quality protection.  Central Pennsylvania lies in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and has numerous pristine waterways.  Cleawater works to keep them that way by working with farmers and other landowners to take critical land adjacent to streams out of agricultural production and put them back in forests.  By planting wide "riparian buffers" surface water runoff is slowed and pollution is prevented from directly entering the stream.  Clearwater also serves as a local land trust by placing and holding conservation easements on strategic properties across the central Pennsylvania region. Often these properties become part of our public land resource as State Forest or Game Commission land.

Clearwater has recently released a video entitled "Preserving Fabled Waters: Restoration Efforts in the Spruce Creek Watershed." The video brings to light the importance of protecting our water and how we all need to do our part.  Spruce Creek is a famous Pennsylvania stream that even presidents have fished.  It is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so keeping it clean and protected is of the utmost importance.  The video really brings to light the important work the employees of the Clearwater Conservancy do.  They are all passionate about their work and need to be commended for their efforts.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winter Leaves that Hang On

Oak seedlings and saplings are know as marcescent.
As you spend the winter shoveling driveways, salting sidewalks, or just getting out and enjoying the wintery weather, have you noticed some trees hang on to their leaves after all the others have fallen to the ground?

Just like attracting pollinators is the purpose for colorful wildflower petals there’s a reason why some leaves hang on all winter. The winter retention of leaves is known as marcescence. Young beech, as well as their cousins, the oaks, not to mention musclewood, and witchhazel hang on to some of their leaves throughout much of the winter. They are known as "marcescent."

How does this happen?
In the fall trees create a separation zone, known as the abscission layer, between the leaf stem or petiole and the branch. If the separation layer is complete, the leaves will drop to the ground. Trees shed their leaves to prepare for harsh winter conditions by conserving valuable resources. They create this separation zone so the falling leaves do not damage the plant in the process. Marcescent trees do not form a complete abscission layer. So, some of the leaves hang on throughout the winter.

Why does this happen?
As with many natural occurrences the jury is out on the definite reason, most think genetics and environmental factors are primarily responsible for the late season hangers-on.

The fact that smaller, shorter, juvenile trees hang onto their leaves makes it likely the tree is protecting buds from deer throughout the winter. The branches of young trees are at a perfect height for browsing nutritious buds during winter. Cloaking the pointy buds in dry leaves may keep deer from eating next year’s growth. 

Leaves that fall to the forest floor in autumn slowly decompose adding much needed nutrients and organic matter to the soil. The theory is the young beech and oak hang onto their leaves into the spring so they can release the leaves to decompose after the fall leaves have already become part of the soil, thus adding a much needed nutrient boost just in time for the spring growth spurt.

Another concept suggests these leaves act as a snow fence, slowing down snow and directing it to the base of the tree as it falls, ensuring abundant moisture into the spring.

Regardless the reason for marcescent leaves, when growth begins next spring the expanding buds will push them off and clothe the branches with new greenery. Until that happens, enjoy the waving brown leaves and the texture they add to forests and yards.

Kathleen Salisbury, Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator, Why Do You Just Keep Me Hanging On? December 12, 2014.

Jim Finley, Penn State Professor of Forest Resources, Winter Leaves that Hang On. December 17, 2012.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

So You Want to Plant Some Seedlings?

In my previous post I provided you with news about my new tree planting publication.  The publication focuses mainly on planting hardwood seedlings.  One of our service foresters, Tom Erdman, saw the release and shared with me an informational fact sheet he wrote about tree planting.  I wanted to share this information.  It brings to light some of the real difficulties concerning tree planting success.  Enjoy!

Look Look at a soils map (soils book or Web Soil Survey); or look at past land use.  If the land grew corn or soybeans last year, weeds will be temporarily controlled, and it’s probably somewhat well drained land.  If it was open pasture, it might be acceptable, but look for evidence of soil compaction and poorly drained areas.  A current pasture is NOT a good place to plant a young tree.  Livestock eat baby trees.

 Don’t purchase seedlings from southern nursery sources – they may not grow well in our climatic zone.  The Climatic Zone in northern PA is “5” and the remainder is “6” except for the extreme SE which is zone “7”.   Look up your climatic zone.
     Seedling sources:  Private nurseries, catalogues, on-line, PA Game Commission, Conservation Districts… experiment with small quantities first - the year before you decide to plant thousands of seedlings.
     Expect some mortality the year or two after planting.   So, order extra seedlings.  Plant the best seedlings first, and reserve the remainder in a temporary bed for potential future use.

Seedling choice:
Hardwoods take time & money to establish, with annual weed control and tree shelter maintenance necessary.    Conifers, especially spruce, take less maintenance – although they will also benefit (grow faster) with weed control for the first couple of years.  Plant native species.

Tree Shelters:
Almost all hardwood (deciduous) seedlings NEED tree shelters, or fencing, to protect them from browsing; deer, rabbit, woodchuck, vole, etc.  Depending on the shelter, seedlings often grow considerably faster in tree shelters, sometimes reaching 4’ vertical growth in one year.  This will be spindly growth until the crown develops above the top of the shelter.  This accelerated early growth is invaluable in getting above the local browse level.  Use a good stake.  Rotten stakes are the most common cause of tree shelter and thus seedling failures.

Weed Control:
Hardwood seedlings NEED weed control.  Their re-located roots do not compete well with the established root systems of existing grasses & weeds.  Your seedlings will grow much slower, if they survive at all, if you don’t control the competing vegetation.  Herbicides, mulch, hand pulling, and weed mats can be used.

Consider the time it takes to plant an acre of hardwood tree seedlings – the following are estimates                                                   
     Planting:                    1 minute/seedling 
     Install tree shelter:  5 minutes/seedling  (this will also be a yearly cost, for maintenance))
     Herbicide spray:       1 minute/seedling         yearly cost                          
     Insect control:          1 minute/seedling         yearly cost                              
Herbicide treatments and insect control may be necessary more than once/year.  Destructive insects thrive in a protected tree shelters.

Example:  100 hardwood seedlings/acre* X 8 minutes/seedling = 800 minutes = 13.3 hours - for one acre!
The following year it might be half that time, for established seedlings, but still will involve about 5 hours/acre.  How many acres of hardwoods would you like to plant???   If you don’t maintain them, you’ve wasted your previously spent time and money.                         
*20’ X 20’ = 108 seedlings/acre, 1 acre = 43,560 sq. ft.
Seedling/shipping costs, tree shelter and stake cost, herbicides/pesticides, sprayers and personal protection clothing/gear, plus the time needed for maintenance and herbicide application, for at least 3-5 years after planting…

1.       If you don’t have any acceptable hardwoods growing on your property, it might be worth it for you to plant a stand of deciduous trees.  But if you already have hardwoods established, look to see if you can improve those first to meet whatever your objectives are.
2.       Try not to dream of planting and growing hardwood trees for economic gain.  It will take at least 60 years to get a small to medium sized sawtimber tree.  Who will own your land in sixty+ years?  And if you tally your planting and yearly establishment costs, compound them over 60 years, and then compare that value to what another potential investment return might be over those sixty years, which would be greater?

3.       Be careful about planting hardwoods in an already established woodland, unless it has been logged off heavily or there are pre-existing canopy openings.  The current established trees will probably grow faster than your introduced seedlings and their live crowns will continually grow up and outward, creating more shade in the future than there is today.  You may have to periodically thin the existing tree to continually provide the sunlight that your planted trees will require.

4.       Conifers are easier and less costly to establish, but their market value for timber is not great at this time.  Blocks of them planted at 8’ X 8’ can be great for establishing critical, and often lacking, winter cover for wildlife.  You can also plant small patches of 20-50 in forest openings if you don’t have open land.

In Summary:
This is not meant to discourage anyone from planting trees.  Plant a few oak trees if you don’t have any on your property.  And, plant a few of our other native hardwoods if you don’t have them currently growing in your woods – maybe chestnut, cucumber, or hickory.  Twenty-five to one hundred diverse, nut and seed producing trees can attract more wildlife to your property.  Improve the diversity of your forest, increase potential wildlife food production, and enjoy your labors.  Have your children and grandchildren help you.  Be careful of planting too much that might be neglected in years to come, and consequently lost. 

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humble folks may circumvent this restriction if they know how.  To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel.
By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree–and there will be one.”   Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac.

Tom Erdman,
PA Service Forester, Erie County 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Forest Landowners Tree Planting Guide Released

The list of forest management practices landowners are involved in is quite long. However, tree planting is something most have in common. It is an opportunity to leave a long term legacy on the ground. Planting trees is a simple yet rewarding task. But, how many have ever dreamed of establishing a forest where once there was pasture or a woodland where crops once grew? Imagine a healthy, diverse forest, a forest resistant to insects and diseases, a wooded area that will contribute to your property for generations to come.

Penn State Extension has just released a full-color tree planting guide for forest landowners that can help them transform their land. Entitled, “Forest Landowners Guide to Tree Planting Success,” this new guide, loaded with helpful images, focuses on the methods of selecting, establishing, and protecting tree seedlings to create wooded areas on rural properties. It begins with suggestions to help analyze the planting site and select appropriate tree species, then provides guidelines for preparing the site and the planting process, and offers advice on maintaining and supporting the seedlings as they mature. It also includes a helpful calendar outlining the steps for tree planting reforestation projects at specific times of the year and a useful reference section.

Trees provide many benefits; improved wildlife habitat, high quality wood products, stream water quality protection, elevated diversity, enhanced attractiveness, and increased estate value. Planting trees can accelerate the natural progression from field to forest or enrich a site with an uncommon species. Objectives for planting trees are numerous and varied and include everything from timber production to controlling erosion and improving water quality. Whatever your purpose for planting trees, following the guidelines outlined in this guide can help transform your land to meet your objectives. This guide will help you lay the groundwork for a rewarding and successful tree planting project by walking you through the steps to tree planting success from start to finish.

The guide was prepared by David Jackson, Penn State Forest Resources Educator, and Ruth Lunt, Pennsylvania Forest Steward and is available online.

Click here to order printed copies. 
Or contact the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Publications Distribution Center
Phone: 877-345-0691
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Renewable Natural Resources Extension Team Webinars

I wanted to share with you the upcoming December 2014 Renewable Natural Resources Extension Team Webinars from Penn State Extension.  These are excellent opportunities to learn and not have to travel out.  Webinars are provided on a monthly basis.  Most are recorded so if you miss the live webinar you can listen to the recording.

PA Forest Stewardship Webinar
Legacy Planning: Where to Get Help, December 9, 2014, noon and 7 p.m. ET.
Planning a woodland legacy is a process that involves considering many factors.  And, while everyone knows they need to make a plan, many people put it off because they don't know where to get started. We'll talk about how to find the help you need with a strong emphasis on selecting and working with professional advisors. You will need the help of one or more competent professional advisors to create a plan that will support your vision for the future. We will discuss the role of various professionals, prep work that can save you time and money when working with advisors, and how to go about selecting an advisor. Presented by Mary Sisock, Assistant Professor Forestry Extension, University of Vermont.

For more on Legacy Planning visit Penn State Extensions page by clicking here.

Below is the link to the PA Forests Web Seminar Center.  All the Stewardship Series webinars are archived here.

Northeast Woody/Warm-Season Biomass Consortium Webinar
Low-Tech, Small-Scale Production Methods and Pathways to Larger-Scale Commercialization, December 9, 1 p.m. ET.
In the Northeast, "marginal lands" are sustainable bioenergy's 'middle name', but, as Peterson and Galbraith lamented in 1932 and many others have since, the term marginal is often used subjectively and can be hard to pin down. Efforts to define marginal lands from a solely physical basis are not sufficient, for there is a fluid agroeconomic context that governs whether lands are economically marginal or not. Starting from two of our recent papers, we will discuss marginal lands and bioenergy in the Northeast from several perspectives, including our ongoing research on wetness-prone marginal lands. Presented by Gary Gilmore, PA DNCR Bureau of Forestry, and David Laird, Iowa State University.

PA Urban & Community Forestry Webinar
Preparing a TreeVitalize Proposal and Applying for Tree City USA, Wednesday, December 10, 12 – 1 p.m. ET.
Presented by Christine Ticehurst, TreeVitalize Coordinator, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and Vinnie Cotrone, Urban and Community Forest Educator, Penn State Extension.

Water Resources Webinar
The Development of Sustainable Bioremediation Technologies to Solve Global Water Challenges, Wednesday, December 17, 12 – 1 p.m. ET.
Presented by Dr. Rachel Brennan, Penn State University.