Black Chokeberry Planting

One of the most interesting plantings of the Spring 2012 was a Black Chokeberry planting in Harrison County.  HRF transplanted 7500 Chokeberry plants into a converted cropfield.

Aside from the planting, HRF also installed nearly 5.5 miles of half inch irrigation tubing that will later have individual water emitters for each plant.  This method will hopefully get the plants through some of our more dry and hot summers.  HRF engineered and built it’s own device to help disperse the 1000 foot roles of tubing without tangles, kinks, or other mishaps.

After the tubing was installed, HRF dispersed nearly 75,000 lbs of mulch to provide each plant with mulching.  The landowner will return later to fill in between each plant.

This was certainly a very labor intensive project but we hope it was worth it for the landowner to start seeing the plants produce berries in the next few years.

LHSF 2012

Winter once again brings us back to the Loess Hills State Forest (LHSF).  It certainly wouldn’t have felt right without some snow on the ground, cold temperatures, and steep slopes to navigate.  The hills did not disappoint.  Hickory Ridge Forestry works again on some timber stand improvement (TSI) on a beautiful area of the Little Sioux unit within the LHSF.

The primary goal is to release the highest quality species such as black walnut and bur oaks providing them with reduced competition and a better opportunity for production and growth.  The woods are great and there are truly some amazing stands of timber.  It’s been a pleasure to have the chance to help with the reclamation of these new acres.

Hopefully long after I am gone the benefits of our actions will be seen.  Healthy stands of high quality hardwoods will be there for generations to come.  Take a road trip and go exploring some time…there are thousands of acres to admire.

Hitchcock & More

It seems as though savanna restoration has consumed the brunt of HRF’s time from the summer carrying on into the fall.  Hickory Ridge Forestry spent time at Hitchcock Nature Center working on the initial phase of new savanna restoration on the westernmost edge of the loess hills.

HRF is proud to play a small part i the reclamation of acres within the boundaries of Hitchcock Nature Center.  It is an amazing collection of acres representing conservation and the restoration of a sensitive landscape to the fullest.  As year press on with the inclusion of prescribed fire the changes will be nothing short of astounding.

Included in this series of photos is savanna restoration south of Thurman, IA.  This is located on a premier private property with many years of restoration work already under it’s belt.  It’s a wonderful example of management devoted to conservation and it was also a privilege to work on that property as well.

Fall Savanna

HRF steadily works toward the completion of several savanna restoration projects this fall.  Nearly all fall in far southwestern IA where travel has been compromised due to massive flooding nearly all summer.  These projects are slowly changing the face of the leading edge of the loess hills in western Iowa.

Heavy thinning is allowing sunlight to flood the newly opened forest floor.  It’s hopeful that native grasses and forbes will start to re-emerge as they are immersed in warm sun.  Inclusion of future prescribed fire will lend itself to a wonderful healing process within these hills with oaks and other high quality hardwoods dominating the landscape over newly restored prairie.

Noah’s Ark

This year’s New York Says Thank You project took us to northern Georgia to rebuild a site taken away during a spring tornado just this year.  This project will help serve the local community and even more importantly help honor the name of one of our fallen soldiers.  Noah fought with honor and it was our honor to build this site in his name.

The weather was certainly hot and at times miserable but as Sunday morning rolled around a huge amount was accomplished.  With help from volunteers all across the country we built a 180’x55′ barn complete with animal stalls, a living quarters, and an office.  An amphitheater was constructed into the side of a hill complete with reclaimed boards for seating and a waterfall.  We built a 30’x20′ open air pavilion for use as an educational center.  Many other projects on the property were completed along the way.

We worked hard, had fun, and met some amazing new friends.  I would personally like to thank Charlie, Ed, Jeremy, Builder Bob, Hoot, Bubba, Pia, Mike, Big Tony, Rob, Jake, early FDNY fellas, and Mr. Jim.  It was a great time and we hope this will get Susan back on her feet.

To Rick and Lucy, thank you for your son.  Noah is the exemplification of HONOR.


HRF has finally been able to start on the savanna restoration projects for 2011.  The first property is an amazing piece of land on the leading edge of the Loess Hills.  It is filled with several varieties of oak, hickory, and some black walnut as the high quality species.  HRF is completing a heavy thinning of the understory, mid-canopy, and selective main canopy trees to open the upper level canopy and flood the forest floor with light.

This thinning is also accomplishing a secondary goal of knocking back the low quality and invasive hardwoods.  These trees are monopolizing the understory and are essentially the next generation of growth.  We hope to add prescribed fire to the woods as early as this fall to help consume felled debris, knock back unwanted re-growth, and stimulate native grasses and forbes to return.

Included within the photos are images of flooding near the project.  It’s a sad and unwanted site.  Most of the areas in these photos are completely underwater at this stage.  New photos of savanna restoration will be added over the course of the next few months.

2011 Plantings

Spring of 2011 has not been short of challenges for reforestation efforts in southwest Iowa.  We’ve been fortunate to avoid the massive severe storms raking the southern United States, but high rivers and saturated soils make every rain event an unfortunate event.  Regardless of weather Hickory Ridge Forestry continues to reforest western counties of Iowa.

High quality hardwood plantings are the initial focus of the planting season.  Several different oak species along with black walnut are the highest proportion of hardwoods being planted.  A great mix of native Iowa shrubs along with a few other hardwoods and assorted conifers are helping to establish diverse woodlands along with wildlife habitat transition zones.

These initial plantings have taken things a step further with a high concentration of tree shelters installed to reduce the impact of mammal browse and ensure a much higher chance of success.  Nearly 30,000 blows with a 3 lb hand sledge secured the 1″ bamboo stakes to the shelters.

The final plantings deal primarily with the establishment of new shrub rows for the improvement of sensitive quail habitat.  These plantings coupled with newly established native grass and forbes acres hope to provide cover, food sources, and a more gradual transition to neighboring areas.  HRF is especially excited to lend a hand in this reconstruction to help as a future learning tool for habitat establishment and opportunities for the next generation of hunting conservationists. 

Times Not Yet Forgotten

These photos certainly are not recent.  They don’t even have color.  They do take a small look back into times where men truly had to work to get by.  These years aren’t that far behind us, but they can help to paint a picture of how much things have changed in a relatively short time.

Most of these photos capture my great grandfather, grandfather, and great uncle doing things they had to do…and things they loved.  Two man chainsaws were used to fell large cottonwoods on the river bottoms to feed the sawmill.  Massive belt driven circular saws were used to cut the firewood supply for the upcoming winter.  They hunted their food in the winter, fished the rivers in the warm months, and took a little time to race their cars if they could find the time.

These photos are where HRF came from.  I was lucky enough to spend time with most of these men growing up.  My grandfather is still the hardest working man I know.  HRF will continue to honor these men by the work it performs, and hopes in some small way it can strive for their standards.

LHSF 2011

Hickory Ridge Forestry will spend the remainder of winter in the Mondamin unit of the Loess Hills State Forest completing a large thinning project.

The first portion of the project involves a crop tree release specifically focusing on the highest quality oak, black walnut, and Kentucky coffeetree.  HRF will select and mark individual trees using quality characteristics.  After all trees are marked in the unit a thinning will occur to kill off competing trees in proximity to the canopy of our marked trees.  Over time this practice will allow the selected quality trees the chance to improve growth and overall production due to lack of competition.

The second portion of the project is a weed tree thinning focusing on the western slope of the Loess Hills.  Upon completion mainly oaks and walnuts will remain.  Hopefully prescribed fire will play a role in the future conservation of this leading edge of the hills to  consume remaining waste material and promote the growth of native Iowa grasses and forbes.

December Thinning

This years final project was a crop tree thinning in extreme southwest IA.  From certain vantage points on a clear day one can view the borders of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas.  Hickory Ridge Forestry was fortunate enough to finish this project before the first true snows and bitter northerly winds blew in.

This property has a great diversity of trees in need of thinning.  HRF selectively thinned around the highest quality oak, black walnut, and shagbark hickory trees within two parcels on the property.  HRF left most trees standing using the girdling technique to reduce the debris on the forest floor.  Treated trees will die and slowly deteriorate from the top down over time.

Remaining crop trees will greatly benefit from the additional sunlight and reduced competition for water and nutrients.  Our hope is the crop trees will grow more quickly and have more abundant mast production.  We hope to check back on the site in the future and see the benefits this procedure provided to the woodlands and wildlife.