Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#90 - Harvesting Lumber from Our Land

Our land is full of trees. Lots of trees. Since our land is on the edge of The Big Thicket Preserve, in the Piney Woods, we are fully forested and the trees grow like weeds, especially pine trees.

We had about three acres that we had partially cleared after we purchased this land ten years ago. To date, only about an acre remains free of dense forested land. The forest reclaims its territory very quickly and without much effort. It's always amazing to us how we find new pine trees sprouting in every direction, upon every visit to the acreage.

So, the last time we visited, we found that the pine trees growing in one area were towering already, so we decided to leave them be. Besides, we were devastated to find that the next door neighbor had clear cut their land.

The neighbors had clear cut their land and punched a few holes in our
dense wooded property line so they could obviously back up their
heavy equipment, which made destructive tracks around a large
portion of our land. These deep rivets make it impossible for our
own lawn tractor to mow, until we smooth out the land or the
tractor will fall into the rivets and the blades will be stuck. We did
have most of our land smoothed, by hired tractor workers and
these next door neighbors, in their effort to clear their own land,
made new tracks all along the backside of our property.
Along with the multiple holes punched in our property,
which meant they had to remove our forest line---trees belonging
to us, we find this to be very frustrating.

It looked like a bomb had gone off next door and nothing was there but dirt. We stood at the edge of our wooded zone and could not believe the vast difference between our forest and the cleared land next door.

This is looking from our property out over theirs toward the Farm to Market Road.

Then, we realized that run-off would be a problem because all of this land is on a slope. So, we decided to leave our newly grown trees as a buffer to help soil retention.

Lyla is checking it out with us. To the right is our property line.

To the left is our forested land and straight ahead is also our property
with our dense line of trees.
 Now, we are so glad that we left the trees there to grow because we'll harvest them for lumber to use on different building sites throughout our land. From decks to framing for our buildings to extra lumber for dis and will be very nice to have ample lumber available on our land, ready to be harvested.

The tracks you see below are the tracks left throughout our own
property as their equipment used our land to back up and turn around.
Irritating. Just because you own property and do not live there
full time does not mean you want people driving all over it
destroying your hard work to get it leveled.
 Of course, we need to start harvesting this Fall because we'll need to let the lumber dry for a long while before it can be used in any construction project.

Deputy Dave grew up in construction. In fact, for many years his father owned a commercial construction company in the Houston area that Deputy Dave and his two brothers worked in while growing up. Their dad had lots of free labor with his three sons, so all three of these young men grew up with great construction skills. Each of them have an "I can do attitude."

Today, if they have never tackled a specific kind of job, the unknown does not deter them because they all have confidence that they'll figure it out. Working in construction will do that to you.

His dad hit hard times, as many people do, and the construction company came to an end, but my husband had thankfully made the decision to pursue a different direction. So, while his brothers stayed in Houston area industries, Deputy Dave was sent overseas for military service. And I followed along.

Our land...we'd planted St. Augustine pallets of grass many years
ago and it has since spread out very nicely. It even survives drought
conditions and will give you a burst of green upon a good rain.
Even though Dave had only known construction his entire life, it didn't stop him from want to know something different...he had always wanted to join the Air Force, so he did. At 21 years of age he signed up. I drove him to the recruiters office and he joined the military. We had been childhood sweethearts and I trusted that everything would work out just fine and it did.

From the start, I fully supported his dream to be in the Air Force.

Ever since he made the decision to not work (professionally) in construction and to get away from the oil/chemical industry so popular in Houston, he began what would be a long career in law enforcement. Today, he's been with the Harris County Sheriff's Department for over twenty years and with his military service added into his retirement system points, he's eligible for retirement within two years.

Deputy Dave has always contended that once his baby, our Stefie, is able to walk across the stage for her graduation from university, then he will retire.

We look forward to that day. She probably has 1 1/2 years left to graduate. Then, we will be able to make the move...who knows, we might do it sooner. At least we'll start constructing a little cabin for our weekend use, as soon as possible.

Of course, life in the country will be less expensive because we will not have the high taxes that we have in the Greater Houston area, and we certainly won't have the very high home insurance costs that we have since we live near the bay, and we also won't have high car insurance payments because our primary residence will no longer be in Harris County, which is the county of the Greater Houston area. So many costs for daily living will automatically be reduced, drastically.

But, we are most excited right now about being able to harvest all of the trees growing on our land, a clustered grove of pine the area we'd previously cleared. So, we are checking out saw mill equipment. For now, I believe we'll be using a nice chain saw to get started. We've gone through a few chain saws on that acreage already, but it's time to get a nicer chain saw and possibly a band saw for milling the lumber harvested from our trees on our land. We've got to get started quickly because the drying time for the lumber needs to get going.

Within the next couple of weeks, I'll have an updated photo of this area.
Those trees are towering by now. They grow so very fast.
Plus, I'd like to harvest some wood from a massive white oak that fell some time back so I can do smaller wood-working projects of my own, using wood sculpting tools. I've done some sculpting, so I'm eager to experiment. If I could learn wood-turning, I definitely would. But, a few small hand-sculpturing projects will suit me just fine. However, I need to get the wood harvested off of our fallen tree so I can get started and so that I can have extra wood put back for me to use in future projects. I'll let you know how it goes.

So, today, Deputy Dave is pulling everything out of our garage here at the house in the Houston area and he's taking inventory of our equipment, working on our Cub Cadet lawn tractor for our next trip to the land coming soon, and will are looking at chain saws that would allow him to do some major cutting.

You can better see the St. Augustine grass in this area.
No, it's not green, but with a bit of rain, it is lush and gorgeously green.
These kinds of things are so exciting to both of us. For over twenty-five years, Deputy Dave has worked in the law enforcement profession, so he's ready to return to his carpentry roots. This time it will be for personal purposes, not for commercial construction that does not benefit him other than for the experience. He's not interested in commercial level construction, but he is wanting to do projects to construct his own buildings and to build a life for his family in the woods. We both will be delighted to see the land's trees be used in our own construction projects and in my small wood-working crafts. It's a dream-come-true for both of us.

And here we go again...

Backside of our property, near the lake. Howdy is checking
out an area that's been used by some people camping on our land.


Texan said...

I can tell you right now if our neighbors used our property for any reason without our permission let a lone to dig deep ruts in it!! Ya you know what would hit the fan here! We have great neighbors but you don't just use another persons land for your use without permission. I would be telling them they need to anti up for the leveling fee to fix the ruts and if they damaged any fencing they would so be fixing that as well. Them being on your property was plain and simple trespassing! grrrr. What a shame they cleared their land.

Mike said...

I'm with Tex. I'd be sending the Sheriff to their door and advise them to re level the land they ruined.

Charade said...

Geez, I can't believe people are so ready to trespass. Don't they know there are laws against that? Why can't you bill them for damages, since it looks pretty easy to prove where your damage came from?

When we bought our acreage last year, we posted the whole 100+ acres, although a few poachers still made their way to take a few turkey and deer. We stopped that by taking lots of target practice every time we came out here so the nearby culprits could hear lots of shooting going on. Now the deer and turkey roam freely, and the only thing stolen is a whole tree full of pears! Pretty sure it's the neighbor who has no trees, but he spends his days making wine - pear wine, do doubt. Since all our game cameras are pretty easy to spot, next year we're going to put a city-type surveillance camera on the pear tree. Ha!

LindaG said...

I was thinking same as the others. The neighbors here where we live now use to use our property as an extension of their driveway to get trailers in and out, so hubby planted bushes to stop them.
My brother-in-law used deer feeders for target practice when placed on his property by hunters without his permission.
You would be within your rights, I think, to bill said neighbors for the lumber (trees) they took without your permission; but I could understand you maybe not wanting to cause problems. Still, if Deputy Dave showed up in uniform, it might give them pause to think about doing it again.

How lucky will that be, when you harvest your own venison, too? :)

I hope your property is okay. And I hope, when you finally DO move, that you will be able to get fire insurance.

The BIL we're buying our retirement property from keeps asking if we've gotten insurance, yet his own insurance company stopped insuring the property when they finally bothered to look at it. I told hubby I didn't think anyone would insure it. I think I was right.

Until we can win a lottery and fix it up, anyway. ;)

Wishing my rain would go your way. Maybe the next gulf storm will go to you. Be safe!

Karen said...

Wow, what a mess your neighbors made of their property. I'm amazed they would want to clear cut their land like that; you'd think they would have at least kept a few trees, unless they intend to put crops in? It's also too bad they made a mess of your property in the process, too, hopefully they will fix what they've done.

How wonderful you will be able to build your home and buildings with your own lumber, this will make the whole process that much more special. Good luck with the chain saws and other equipment, I guess I could say 'Welcome to the Country' because it always seems you need another tool to get things done. It's obvious you're both ready for this new adventure, and lucky us, we get to tag along!

Dar said...

I'm new here and glad I stopped.
I'd agree that you would actually have a case there, to get some compensation for your loss of property. The neighbors did trespass as well as 'take' something that was not theirs to take. It's a tough call. At the very least, I'd send them the bill.
Good luck and have fun turning that pine plantation into a happy cabin grounds. We have a log cabin out of straight red pine like those and do we ever love it.

LindaG said...

Just wanted to mention the Sep/ Oct 2011 issue of Grit has a good article on timber on your property and how to mark it so hopefully no one else will cut your trees for you, just in case you don't normally read it. :-)

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Texan --- I guess I could look them up on the tax rolls, but since we don't actually have anyone living next to us. It is unbelievable that they backtracked all over our land. I do wish they would have had the courtesy to take their heavy equipment and smooth out their track marks on our land. If they plant more pines for harvesting in the future, I will definitely put them on notice that I'm a great neighbor, but that does not mean we can be tromped on...if there's tromping, there's got to be accountability. Geesh! If we were living out there full-time, I'd have been out there wagging my finger at them and telling them to finish the job they started over on our property.

Mike --- the neighbors have definitely gained heightened awareness from us.

Charade --- poachers are so irritating! Our land had deer stands set up by hunters who were trespassing. Deputy Dave knocked them all down and we did post our "No Trespassing" signs. When we are there, we do a bit of target practice in our hollow that is a safe fire-range practice pit. Every time we do that, it seems that we don't have any problems for quite a while. I can't wait to get our game cameras set up as well. Such a good idea.

Linda --- we definitely need to put up some gates/fences to keep people from driving on our property. It's amazing how people will take chances and go on other people's land. I have a funny story to write about this...involving my brother. I'll try to post it this week. As for the costs with owning land, it is steep. I'm with you for winning the lottery! It sure would speed things along!

Karen --- I will be eager to see what the neighbors plan to do with their land. It is so bare now...just empty. I'm hoping they'll re-forest. And the equipment that we need will be expensive. It seems that the people who buy all of that equipment have natural mechanic abilities to keep their stuff running for an eternity. My dad is one of those people who can keep a lawnmower working for 30 years, but it's more difficult with the equipment of today.

Dar --- I'd love to know about your experience with having a cabin made from Red Pine and to what extent it was used. I am thrilled about us getting to harvest the lumber directly from our land.

Linda --- I've never read that magazine, but I'd love to read that article. Maybe I can find it the next time I go to the Tractor Supply Store.