The tail end of fall brings prevailing winds from the north.  With those winds the temperatures drop and the late November ritual of discovering cold weather bibs begins again.

Hickory Ridge Forestry has been working on some neglected farm ground where the terraces have gone mismanaged for several years.  Nearly two miles of terraces have been overtaken by dense woody vegetation.  Some trees have diameters exceeding 24″.  HRF has busily been sawing, shearing, spraying, and piling debris for later burning.  This removal will allow more sunlight, nutrients, and water to reach the adjacent crops as opposed to being siphoned into the woody vegetation.

HRF will wrap up 2010 with a crop tree thinning in far southwestern IA before the holidays arrive.  The biggest news however is the anticipated arrival of a baby boy for Jill and Wes in the first few weeks of December.  It’s going to be a wonderful holiday season and we pray for the safe and healthy arrival of our baby boy in the coming weeks.

Autumn Arrival

The occasional early morning frost, not a trace of humidity, and temperatures that now struggle to reach seventy degrees can mean only one thing.  Autumn is finally here.  After dealing with a brutally hot and wet summer, these beautiful days are a great change of pace.  Leaves are filling with color rapidly now as flocks of geese and ducks are starting to move into lakes and ponds that haven’t seen them in quite some time.

This fall HRF is busily working away at some really great projects.  Two mechanical shearing projects have been focused on the removal and hopeful eradication of eastern red cedar, honey locust, and Russian olive.  Countless hours were spent behind the controls of a compact track loader equipped with HRF’s tree shear and then with the grapple attachment.  This woody vegetation was cut, sprayed (aside from the cedar), and piled for later consumption using prescribed fire.  The main goal of these projects is to open up these natural areas, return fire to the equation, and hopefully over time help restore these properties to native prairie.

The end of October and early November has Hickory Ridge Forestry at Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, IA for a very nice savanna restoration project followed by some timber stand improvement.  HRF is proud and honored to be a part of the amazing restoration, reclamation, and renovation of this incredible landscape.  The loess hills in western Iowa are unique, but the intensive management that is occurring at Hitchcock is creating a large site unlike anything in the hills.  It will be incredible to watch the land evolve as more conservation efforts take place to restore the sensitive landscape back to a high quality healthy state.


The end of August is near and it’s been a brutally hot summer.  Working conditions have certainly been uncomfortable as heat index values stayed consistently above 110 degrees for several stretches.  Couple those temperatures with personal protective gear in the woods and it becomes excessively hot.  Luckily we’ve had a bit of a break and one’s breath was actually visible in the early morning hours recently.

The savanna near Glenwood is complete now along with two parcels of land with some heavy TSI near Council Bluffs.  The latter of these two projects has some of the most beautiful woods HRF has had the pleasure of working on in recent memory.  Absolutely gorgeous stands mixed with black walnut, bur oak, and red oak dominate the parcels.  With the recent thinning we’re allowing much more sunlight to reach the forest floor while eliminating invasive species with the hope that natural regeneration of these high quality trees will now take over.

Hickory Ridge Forestry is heading south to Mena, Arkansas to team up with the New York Says Thank You Foundation again over Labor day.  This year’s projects include the building of three single family homes and a community center, along with a host of smaller specialized projects.  Please check back after the holiday for updates, photos, and new stories of friendship and the rebuilding of more than just homes.  For more information please visit for more information.  It is going to be incredible.

Wet Summer

The summer of 2010 has been challenging and very wet to say the least.  It seems as though record rainfall and river levels are making things difficult all over the Midwest.  Things are no different with HRF.  One of the main issues is access to certain sites that are a little more remote than others takes some effort.  Four new photos have been added to the tree planting gallery to show the effects of the flooding on approximately 16,000 seedlings.

Hickory Ridge Forestry has finished cedar eradication recently clearing nearly 25 acres by hand.  It will take some time for the residue to dry down to be suitable for a prescribed burn within a year or two.  Following the cedars HRF moved south near Thurman for a TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) project.  We did a crop tree release benefiting the highest quality oaks and hickories on the site.  It’s always amazing to see what is left in the woods when competition and invasives are removed.

The truly unfortunate issue with this summer so far has been the maddening masses of mosquitoes that are thriving in the woods and beyond.  They are making conditions very unfavorable for woods work and nearly impossible to document some of these great sites and projects with photos.  Swarms of attacking mosquitoes and a steady hand with the camera don’t go hand in hand.

Hopefully the remainder of the summer will dry out a bit and relieve some of the burden on the waterlogged Midwest.  HRF looks towards a lot of timber improvement and savanna restoration in the upcoming months.  If the insects allow please look for new photos soon.

Spring Reforestation Efforts

Spring has been a very busy season for Hickory Ridge Forestry.  In between dodging multiple rainstorms, HRF has been attacking the goal of planting 65,200 trees in western Iowa ranging from Fremont county to Monona, and points east also.

50,000 trees were planted over 80+ acres along the Missouri River bottoms on ground managed by the Iowa DNR and owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Hopefully in the years to come the two sites planted will change into forests filled with black walnut, pecans, multiple species of oak, and several varieties of shrubs and bushes.

8000 trees are currently being planted at Preparation Canyon State Park north of Pisgah, IA.  Approximately 150 acres of the park was heavily devastated by the 2008 tornado that also passed through the Little Sioux Scout ranch.   HRF is scouring the hillsides and valleys planting trees where accessible through some of the remaining downed timber and debris.  Of these 8000 trees half are receiving a tree shelter to protect them from weather elements and more specifically mammal browsing.  HRF is proud to help with the reforestation efforts on this great park.

It’s been a busy spring, but as this chapter closes HRF turns it’s attention to some really great projects over the summer including timber harvests, oak savanna restoration, eastern red cedar eradication, timber stand improvements, and a host of other activities.  New photos will be added soon along with updates of projects.  It’s going to be a great year for the improvement of our resources.

Spring 2010

Spring has finally arrived after a long hard winter and with this arrival comes the excitement of many wonderful projects to come as everything greens up with new life.

HRF is looking forward to the challenge of planting nearly 65,000 trees this spring in an effort to help reforest many areas in western Iowa.  One large planting will help the reclamation process of certain areas along the Missouri river that are slowly being transformed back into some more natural river bottom environments.  Another planting will be a major step forward in the reforestation of the tornado ravaged Preparation Canyon State Park north of Pisgah, Iowa.

All of the timber stand improvement (TSI) was completed on the Mondamin unit of the Loess Hills State Forest by the first of April, and although it may be hard to believe, there were still isolated pockets of snow to be found in the hills at that point.

It’s going to be a fun year with many great projects taking place.  HRF looks forward to a great year helping many wonderful people complete land improvements that will benefit our natural resources for generations to come.

Perfect Loess Hills Morning

The morning started out like every morning of this past week.  Alarm goes off at 4:00 and the coffee maker soon follows suit.  By 4:30 the caffeine is flowing through me and I’m beginning to actually wake up.  An early start is necessary to get a jump on the day’s warm temperatures above freezing that are sure to arrive.  Once 32 degrees hits, the snow conditions change rapidly from a nice solid crust to unpredictable slush.  With the snowmobile and all gear loaded up the trek north begins in the dark.  This darkness soon gives way to near zero visibility with dense fog for the next 30 miles.  At times the front of the truck is barely in eyesight.  Once at the project site, the ride up the hill is in the dark with sky to the east barely starting to turn gray.  As I finally get geared up with saw in hand I head into the woods to start cutting.   Stopped by the edge of the sun just beginning to crest the eastern ridge of the Loess Hills I’m mesmerized.  This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful sunrises ever created.  It floods the valley with a warm orange glow and changes the clear gray sky into multiple shades of blue.  Waking up early, driving through dark, and sifting through fog was all worth it.


Winter weather and the Loess Hills are doing all they can to try slowing down progress on the TSI project.  Access to the site is impossible without travel by snowmobile and navigation in the woods must come by way of snowshoes.  The woods have two feet of snow, the trees have been coated with ice, and blizzard like conditions blow in from time to time.  As the temperature rises slightly above freezing, the ice slowly melts, turning the woods into an ice cold rainstorm.  Hours later, the ice breaks free sending ice daggers hurtling towards the ground in an unpredictable pattern.  Branches break off from time to time, and the addition of a hardhat is welcome.  Days after, things seem to calm down slightly, but winds exceeding 50 M.P.H. descend on the hills creating hazardous conditions in the woods and near whiteout visibility nearly everywhere else.  Throughout this onslaught HRF has been in the woods marking timber for thinning, and if conditions allow cutting will begin in a matter of weeks.


HRF has stayed busy at the River City Hunting and Fishing Expo at the Mid-American Center in Council Bluffs.  There have been great people to talk to who have wonderful ideas in mind for improvement of their properties or learning about some new management strategies.  It’s impressive to see such a great interest in quality management with a strong emphasis on conservation and habitat.  Hopefully the winter snowstorms will subside enough to start allowing better access to projects so we can start seeing these improvements hit the ground.

In regards to the snow, access is the key issue.  It is nearly impossible to reach deep into a site aside from a snowmobile.  After that it’s time to strap on the snowshoes so not to step two feet or more deep with every step.  We’re not going to let the snow stop us.  Hickory Ridge Forestry is gearing up to start a large 200+ acre timber stand improvement (TSI) project for the Loess Hills State Forest just south of Pisgah.

In a few months when the project wraps up HRF and the state forest will have valuable data on all crop trees selected.  After all the thinning occurs to release the best of the high quality trees we’ll be able to cruise the timber years down the road and determine the rate of increase of growth on these selected trees.  Look for photos in the next few weeks of the beautiful snowed in loess hills, it’s truly an awesome sight.

Snow & Cold

December has not disappointed in regards to freezing temperatures and snowfall.  The last week of November kept us warm with temperatures nearing 60 degrees.  Within two weeks, temperatures had plummeted 50 degrees, and snow had fallen greater than a foot in some areas.

Luckily HRF was able to finish up all the machine work before the heavy snow fell.  There’s no time to relax however.  Many months of wonderful timber improvement projects lie ahead in the cold snowy hills.  If the weather will cooperate we’re looking at finishing up some cedar work and then taking a little break around Christmas to spend time with family and friends.

As the new year rolls in HRF will spend most of it’s working time just south of Pisgah doing timber stand improvement work for the Loess Hills State Forest.  This is really one of the best times to spend in the woods.  It’s not often one gets the chance to be deep in the woods as a silent snowfall blankets everything in sight.  Times like those can be surreal, but incredible regardless.

Hickory Ridge Forestry wants to take this chance to wish everyone a wonderful and safe holiday season.  Have a great Christmas and New Years and look for our next updates in 2010!