Travis Johnson wrote:I cannot answer for Artie really, but I suspect it being a rented machine it just did not have that option.
In fact here, my local rental shop does not like bulldozers to be used for stumping, stating it is hard on the undercarriage? I think it is nonsense as big bulldozers are made for stumping, but that is the issue with renting equipment; it is not yours to do what you want with it.
For cost, I clear a lot of land; for myself and others; and figure the cost is about $201 an acre. That is renting the equipment, fuel, seed, etc. To contract it out here, it is $3000 an acres Yikes!
The price radically goes down, the more a person waits however. Stumps rot from the bottom up, not the top down, so to save a lot of money, and reduce soil loss, just wait five years. It takes a lot smaller equipment, and the root ball is about 1/10th of what it is for fresh cut trees. The problem is, a clearcut looks like crap for several years, and that is NOT what most people want. You cannot exactly use a clear cut for much either, and those pesky property taxes are always due. But if a person can wait, they will be rewarded ten fold.
Dillon Nichols wrote:Interesting! Here the prevailing opinion is do it immediately; 5 years will let the alder stumps rot, but they're dead easy. The cottonwood and maple will *all* coppice like it or not, never going to get easier. And 5 years won't do too much to most doug fir and all cedar stumps... plus 5 years of scrub growth and invasives will kill your visibility and make more problems to eliminate later...
Artie Scott wrote:One of the things I grossly underestimated in establishing the homestead was the cost of land clearing, and I didn't fully understand the pros and cons of each method (and perhaps I still don't...).
I have mentioned in other posts that the land I purchased in Fall 2014 had been clear cut by the prior owner around 2009. While there remained a lot of uncut trees along the creek and springs, the majority of the land was regrowth - think lots of thick brush, saplings, and oh, nearly impenetrable wild blackberries!
I did some clearing with my tractor and bushhog, and while it worked to a degree, it was pretty hard on the equipment and frankly fairly dangerous, given the slopes, holes, stumps, rocks, etc..., especially in the Spring, Summer and Fall, with all the greenery hiding the hazards. So, to establish some pasture area near where the building was planned, I looked into land clearing options, and tried a couple of them.
The first option was a forestry mulcher. These chop everything up, and leave a fairly thick layer of wood mulch on top of the soil. The advantage are, it minimizes soil disturbance, protects the soil with layer of mulch, and neatly disposes of the brush, downed logs and branches, and can even grind the stumps down to the ground if you want to pay for the time to do that. The disadvantages are cost - about $225 per hour - and the time it takes to clear an acre, about 8 hours. The initial quote I got for about 8 acres was over $14,000 dollars! I did hire him to do about 3 acres, and it was quite impressive to see what they can do - tried to include a video, but it won't upoad a .mov extension? Other disadvantages are, if you have a lot of cedar, which I do, that wood doesn't really decompose all that quickly, and even the other mulch is going to take at least a year to decompose to the point where you can establish pasture.
The second option was a dozer, which I rented from a local equipment rental company, and hired a neighbor to drive it for me (he does it for his job, so knew what he was doing with it). The advantage of a dozer is that it was needed to reshape some land and move some things around to my specifications, which it is very good at, and was able to add to an already extensive trail network with relative ease. The cost was somewhat less expensive - about $2,800 for the rental for the week (40 hours of run-time) and about $1,700 for the driver for the week, and that cleared about 6 acres, plus a bunch of trails, plus creating some very useful level areas on otherwise very hilly land. The disadvantage is you lose an awful lot of topsoil, even with a skilled operation, and it ends up all mixed into a non-useful tangle of trees, brush, limbs, rocks, stumps, etc..., making it hard to burn the pile, or even extract the useful topsoil to put back in place. A gigantic hugel of sorts, I suppose, but not dirt covered! With thin topsoil to begin with here, it made it that much harder to get pasture established. It didn't help that we had some real gully washers right after I limed and seeded but before mulching. :( Anyway, I felt less than good about my land stewardship taking that route. Some pictures below for reference.
If given a do-over, I think I would have hired an excavator to do the clearing - this would pull the stumps with minimal loss of topsoil, and could easily clear the brush and downed logs and stack neatly, either for a dead hedge, burning, or cover with soil for some amazing hugels, or even just bury. From recent quotes, I think the cost would be about $3,500 per acre to clear land.
Hope this is helpful to anyone looking to clear some land - no matter how you do it, it can be quite costly, and there are pros and cons to consider regardless of method.
Does anyone else have experience with land clearing?
Kai Walker wrote:Many people just slash and burn (controlled burn that is).
VERY cheap and you get the wood ash and some bio char in the process.
Or call a logging company and make a deal then use bulldozer to grade properly.
Logging companies usually only want the trunks, not the smaller limbs.
Pearl Sutton wrote:Silly question: is what y'all are calling an excavator like a backhoe that swivels? Is the swiveling part important? Will a backhoe do this same work? Why or why not?
Nick Kitchener wrote:Anyone used a dozer, and then immediately covered the exposed ground with a thick layer of hay by unrolling round bales? It seems that people are focussing on growing things too soon instead of building soil. Of in the case of a dozer, replacing the topsoil.
Artie Scott wrote:
Some people here call an excavator a trackhoe to distinguish it from a backhoe - I didn’t know what my guy was talking about when he kept referring to bringing a trackhoe to do the job! From what I have seen, a backhoe is a lot less expensive, and the large bucket in front is pretty useful for moving piles of dirt, pushing stumps, etc. But, as Dillon noted, just not as efficient at digging.
Travis Johnson wrote:I'll just say it:
Excavators are better than sex.
I do not say that lightly either by the way. I would sell two of my children for a Hitachi 1200 Excavator (in front shovel configuration).
With a 34,000 pound excavator, I can clear about 2 acres per day, but it still leaves me with the problem of pushing the stump to the edge of the field. It is possible to burn the stump piles, or if a person wishes, they can dig a hole and bury the stumps, but the latter method takes a lot longer, and requires a deep depth to bedrock.
An excavator and bulldozer combination is pretty fast, but requires renting two machines. However a dozer works on any slope, and in mud.
The fastest land clearing combination is an excavator plucking the stump out, and a wheeled loader pushing the stump to the edge of the field, BUT that requires terrain, and weather where the wheel loader can operate, but it is super-fast.
This was my excavator working on a 18 acre land clearing job in 2017 on the side of a mountain. Of course it works better with both tracks on the idler and sprockets. It only took me 5 hours to get the track back on!
Kai Walker wrote:Step 1
Plan the area
Get an excavator and an operator.
Use excavator to dig a pit 5 feet deep
Use excavator to bury the vegetation trees and all
Cover the pit with the soil you dug up
It is not a pseudo hugelgarden and you can successfully plant great things!
Figure out how many years you have to eat beans and rice to pay for all that work.
Optional - slash and burn - use saved money to replant with things you want and with anything leftover invest in your permaculture. (or even invest it - take wife on a vacation, get house paid off faster, etc)
Another method might be to lease out the land for grazing if it is appropriate then clear it the rest of the way.
Cattle first then sheep.
Not many options that do not include herbicides.
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