Forestry, Services

Quite often at ALM, we operate under NRCS Code 666 guidelines to complete projects that are partially funded by NRCS or other governmental entities. These guidelines can help a landowner understand the direction of the project and how it might be best implemented. All practices must be adapted to specific projects but these guidelines are a great place to start from.


Forests are not just collections of trees; they are complex ecosystems teeming with biodiversity, providing essential services like clean air, water filtration, and habitat for countless species. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed these various codes to guide forest management practices. Among these, NRCS Code 666 stands out as a crucial tool for Forest Stand Improvement (FSI). This article delves into the significance of NRCS Code 666 and its role in enhancing forest health and productivity.


Understanding Forest Stand Improvement (FSI)

Forest Stand Improvement refers to a set of silvicultural practices aimed at enhancing the composition, structure, and function of forest stands. These practices target specific areas within forests to promote the growth of desirable tree species, improve overall forest health, and enhance ecosystem resilience. FSI encompasses a wide range of techniques, including selective harvesting, thinning, mulching/masticating, tree planting, invasive species control, and prescribed burning. 

The Role of NRCS Code 666

NRCS Code 666 serves as a comprehensive guideline for implementing Forest Stand Improvement practices on private lands. It provides landowners, foresters, and conservation professionals with standardized protocols and recommendations tailored to different forest types and management objectives. By following NRCS guidelines, land managers can effectively plan and execute FSI projects while ensuring environmental sustainability and long-term forest productivity.

Key Components of NRCS Code 666
  1. Site Assessment: The first step in implementing FSI is to conduct a thorough assessment of the forest site. NRCS Code 666 outlines protocols for evaluating soil characteristics, topography, existing vegetation, and ecological conditions to determine the most suitable management strategies.



  2. Prescription Development: Based on the site assessment, NRCS Code 666 assists in developing customized prescriptions for forest management. These prescriptions may include recommendations for tree thinning, understory vegetation management, wildlife habitat improvement, and erosion control measures.



  3. Implementation Guidelines: NRCS provides detailed guidelines for implementing FSI practices, ensuring that activities are carried out in compliance with environmental regulations and best management practices. This includes recommendations for equipment use, timing of operations, and mitigation measures to minimize ecological impacts.



  4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuous monitoring is essential to assess the effectiveness of FSI practices and make necessary adjustments over time. NRCS Code 666 emphasizes the importance of long-term monitoring to track changes in forest structure, biodiversity, and ecosystem function, enabling adaptive management decisions.

Benefits of NRCS Code 666 Forest Stand Improvement
  • Enhanced Timber Production: By promoting the growth of high-value timber species and improving stand structure, FSI projects guided by NRCS Code 666 can increase timber yields and economic returns for landowners.


  • Biodiversity Conservation: FSI practices help create diverse forest habitats that support a wide range of plant and animal species. By enhancing biodiversity, NRCS Code 666 contributes to ecosystem resilience and conservation efforts.


  • Improved Ecological Functions: Healthy forests provide essential ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water filtration, and soil stabilization. Through targeted interventions, NRCS Code 666 helps maintain and enhance these critical ecological functions.


  • Sustainable Land Management: By promoting sustainable forest management practices, NRCS Code 666 fosters the long-term health and productivity of forest ecosystems, ensuring their continued benefits for future generations.




NRCS Code 666 plays a vital role in guiding Forest Stand Improvement efforts on private lands, offering a comprehensive framework for sustainable forest management. By following NRCS guidelines, landowners and conservation practitioners can enhance forest health, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience while meeting their management objectives. As forests face increasing pressures from climate change, invasive species, and human activities, the implementation of NRCS Code 666 becomes ever more critical in safeguarding these invaluable natural resources for the future.



Agriculture, Services

There are 3 options for removing your orchard to make way for the new. There are some positives for each and some cons for each, here we will try to line them out without making it too complicated.

Pile and Burn

This is exactly what it sounds like, throw them in a pile and light them off. Here are some pros and cons:



  • Most people have the equipment readily available to complete this project, usually just an excavator and or dozer.

  • Can be done in-house with the existing labor force.

  • Can be done at a very low out-of-pocket expense if the equipment is in-house

  • Results in a low amount of biomass re-entering the soil if that is not desired.


  • Can be an arduous task to get them to burn up cleanly

  • Requires handling the tree several times

  • A lot of smoke to make the neighbors happy

  • Typically a lot of roots to deal with afterward

  • If not piled cleanly there can be a lot of dirt and debris mixture left behind.

  • Can be a very long drawn-out process.

  • Full all-in costs are generally higher than expected due to hand labor.

  • Subject to approved burn times enforced by DEQ.

  • Very weather dependent if there is a desire to avoid working in the mud.

    Overall a pile and burn operation is great if a person wants a very low initial investment and is willing to work on it over a long duration of time.

Pile and Grind

This process starts much like a Pile and Burn operation. All the trees are ripped from the ground. The trees are then consolidated into a windrow or pile. The consolidation process generally requires an excavator and or dozer to complete efficiently. After the consolidation process is done a horizontal grinder is brought in to chew up the trees into a specified size usually called hog fuel and put into a pile with a conveyor belt. After the grinding is done the particles are spread back out over the ground or hauled off. After this, the ground must generally be ripped and raked to extract the remainder of the roots.


  • All material that passes through the grinder is very specifically sized

  • The most efficient method is if it is desired for material to be completely removed from the site.


  • Generally requires handling and transporting the trees several times to consolidate and then spread back out.

  • Is difficult to evenly spread out the hog fuel after the grinding is done.

  • Repeated tracking over the ground to consolidate increases soil compaction.

  • Residual roots still need to be ripped and gathered

  • Cost is usually the highest of the 3 processes.

  • Equipment is very specialized and generally must be hired out with highly skilled operators

    In short, this is the best option for those wanting to repurpose the material for another use like bedding, or if it must be loaded and hauled off-site.

orchard removal

Mulch and Rotovate

This process is different from both of the others in that it does not require relocation or consolidation of the material, in fact, the more consolidated the less efficient the operation. The first step is to send in a large high-HP mulcher, to be efficient this must be at least 500 hp or more. The first mulcher drives right into the standing tree and pushes it over while mulching the trunk and crown of the root ball. This happens tree after tree through the entire mulcher in a continual motion.


The next step is to bring in a highspeed, high hp mulcher that will quickly reduce the mulched tree into finer and finer particles while evenly distributing the material. This may be done over 1-4 passes depending on the biomass density and the particle target size.

After the particle size is reached that is desired a rotovator on a 500+ hp tractor is used to thoroughly grind the stumps and roots into small pieces conducive to farming. After the initial grind on the stumps, the rotovator makes a full coverage pass over the entire area. This final pass further breaks down the roots and stump particles, fully mixes the mulch into the soil, and buries any over-sized chunks deep into the soil.




  • No need to consolidate trees.

  • Adaptable to different specifications and circumstances.

  • Because traffic is not as concentrated work can be done in wetter conditions. 

  • Little to no hand labor is required. 

  • Soil is thoroughly cultivated when completed in most applications.

  • Organic material is thoroughly spread and mixed into the soil as part of the process

  • No smoke or excess vehicle traffic transporting material off-site.

  • An acre can be completely converted from orchard to farmable at up to 10 acres per day.

Increased organic matter content.




  • Not generally suitable if the desire is to haul material offsite or process for other use.

  • If trees have already been placed in piles it may not be the most efficient method, however, this can vary.

  • Can be dusty when dry.

  • Generally slightly more expensive than piling and burning.

  • Very specialized equipment is not available to most farmers.

  • Increased variability of particle size over Pile and Grind

    This method is how we attack most orchards, It is a very effective combination of processes to deal with a crop removal project without the need to haul off or burn.


Agriculture, Services


When the time comes to remove a hazelnut orchard to make way for new developments, selecting the most suitable method is crucial. Among the available options, the Mulch and Rotovate technique proves to be highly advantageous for hazelnut orchard removal. This process, involving mulching the trees and thorough soil cultivation, offers specific benefits tailored to hazelnut orchards compared to alternative methods. In this article, we will explore why Mulching and Rotovating are often preferred for hazelnut orchard removal.

Efficiency and Adaptability for Hazelnut Orchards:

One of the notable advantages of the Mulch and Rotovate process for hazelnut orchard removal is its efficiency and adaptability to the unique needs of different clients. Unlike other approaches, it eliminates the need to relocate or consolidate the trees, saving time and reducing labor requirements. By employing a high-powered mulcher, hazelnut trees can be efficiently mulched in a continuous motion, streamlining the process and minimizing disruption to the surrounding area.

Thorough Soil Cultivation for Future Plantings:

Hazelnut orchard removal requires thorough soil cultivation to prepare the land for future plantings. With Mulch and Rotovate, the high-speed, powerful mulcher reduces the tree particles to a fine consistency, ensuring the effective distribution of the mulch material. The subsequent pass of the rotovator grinds the hazelnut stumps and roots into smaller pieces, facilitating their integration into the soil. This meticulous cultivation prepares the land for subsequent hazelnut plantings or other crops, promoting optimal growth conditions and maximizing future yields.

Enhanced Organic Matter Integration:

Mulch and Rotovate excel in harnessing the organic matter from hazelnut trees during the orchard removal process. By thoroughly spreading and mixing the mulch into the soil, the technique enhances the organic content and nutrient availability. This integration of organic matter promotes soil fertility, moisture retention, and overall soil health. Many growers also spread amendments in between the mulching and rotovating processes for us to mix into the soil.

Environmental Considerations and Hazelnut Orchard Removal:

Mulch and Rotovate offer environmental benefits specifically suited to hazelnut orchard removal. By mulching and cultivating the hazelnut trees on-site, it eliminates the need for excessive vehicle traffic and smoke-emitting burning processes, minimizing air pollution and carbon emissions. Furthermore, the method’s ability to operate efficiently in wetter conditions reduces the risk of soil compaction, safeguarding the delicate root systems of future hazelnut plantings. Some soils and conditions can not be worked in, but the options are much greater than other methods. This environmentally conscious approach aligns with sustainable agricultural practices and helps preserves the ecological balance of the land.

Cost-Effectiveness for Hazelnut Growers:

While there may be slightly higher initial costs associated with Mulch and Rotovate for hazelnut orchard removal, the long-term benefits make it a cost-effective choice for hazelnut growers. The elimination of manual labor reduced transportation needs, and avoidance of specialized equipment or operators contribute to overall cost savings. Additionally, the efficient conversion rate of up to 10 acres per day allows for faster progress, reducing labor costs and minimizing project timelines, which is particularly advantageous for hazelnut growers seeking timely land conversion between harvest and new plantings.


For hazelnut orchard removal, the Mulch and Rotovate technique emerges as the optimal choice. Its efficiency, adaptability to hazelnut orchards, thorough soil cultivation, enhanced organic matter integration, environmental considerations, and cost-effectiveness make it the preferred option for hazelnut growers. By selecting Mulch and Rotovate, hazelnut orchard owners can efficiently remove existing orchards, prepare the soil for subsequent plantings, and promote sustainable hazelnut production while minimizing environmental impact and maximizing long-term economic benefits.


Agriculture, Services
When we started this we really didn’t expect blueberry removal to be one of our most useful offerings. I didn’t think it was a big deal to take blueberries out. They seem like such a small light shrub that they would be the easiest of all the crops. It turns out I was wrong, but that turned out alright for everyone involved. They have become one of our favorite crops to work on and we have put a lot into optimizing our process.

It all began fairly crude, backing over rows of blueberries with our big Raptor 800. It was a bit of an overkill, kinda, but it did a pretty decent job and won over some hearts and minds. You see up until that point everyone had to pull them out and either try to burn them or shove them somewhere and hope UFOs took them away.
The problem with pulling them out and burning them is 2 fold, first of all, it’s not like an orchard that averages 120 trees to an acre. Usually, blueberries are planted in rows about 10′ apart and around 4′ from bush to bush. That’s over 1000 plants per acre. For each plant, there is a movement of the machine, typically an excavator. For each separate movement of the machine, there is a cost involved.

So now the blueberries are pulled out of the ground, great… It turns out they have quite a root ball on them. That rootball is made up of a bunch of very fine roots that are really good at holding onto dirt, so now you are shaking each one trying to get the dirt out, even then they aren’t very clean, especially if it is clay soil. Now in that process about half the branches get busted off and maybe a quarter of the root ball is still in the ground. Now gather them all up into a good pile and light them off, make sure you let them dry a bit first. Now you have a pile of unburnt crowns left because all that dirt didn’t shake out as well as you thought. Now you hope they disappear, but they don’t.

The other option is running them through a horizontal grinder, but that still requires pulling, hauling, feeding, then doing something with the grindings.

This is what many have gone through, we had no idea it was such a big deal having never done conventional removal before.

To solve this we apply our reintegration process to put them back in the ground. It is not one size fit’s all, it is variable. Some are over 60 years old and ginormous. Some are up on a mound with all their roots above the average ground surface. Some were planted flat and all the roots are below average ground surface. Some are only a few years old with fine pliable stems.
The challenge of doing this correctly is controlling the bush and roots. Sometimes we use a flail first, then a mulcher, then a rotovator. Sometimes we go straight to a rotovator. Sometimes we only use a mulcher. Sometimes we even go in the opposite direction from normal. Sometimes we use a narrow rotovator, you get the idea… It all depends on the plant. Often a client has either tried to do it themselves or hired someone else to do it. We then get the call when it hasn’t turned out quite right. It’s not because we are awesome it’s just experience gained from doing it so often and learning from our mistakes.

Do we need a client to do anything to help us out before we get on-site? Yes, just make sure all the non-organic infrastructure is out of the way and anything you want to save is marked well and very visible. It is not a big deal for us if you have risers at the ends of the row for drip tubes, we either just need them marked really well, pinned down, or what works best is if they are buried. Burying can be done pretty fast which makes it a really clean process. If they aren’t buried we may hit a few, but not many.

Can a client help out by mowing off the plant before we get there? No, please don’t. This really doesn’t save any work and often results in a worse product as we don’t have control over the plant from the standing phase. It won’t save any money. We have had several clients do this before contacting us and then lament after they saw the process working. We can still deliver a good product if it has been done, but you’re working your equipment for nothing.
The result, when the process is done, is a plant in a million pieces, and that is probably literal. There may be a branch now and then that gets away from us. Maybe a chunk of root crown that is over baseball-sized once in a while. Overall the bush portion should be shattered into pieces less than 4″ in length, most only a few inches long at most. The root crown will be busted into pieces the size of a golf ball and smaller. The roots should be ground away down to a 1/2″ diameter or less.

There should be no problem completing standard conventional farming practices once we are done. Heck, some people don’t even work the field, they just re-mound behind us without even destroying the grass aisle way. A client can finish picking blueberries on day 1, remove infrastructure on day 2, have blueberries reintegrated on day 3, and replace infrastructure and plant on day 4. That would take some heroic scheduling but it is in theory possible with this process.

How is this all done? Well like I said above, it is all about using the right equipment for the right scenario. And beyond that, we have modified the tar out of the different machines. We haven’t found anything yet that delivers the right product as it is off the showroom floor. But that’s kinda what we love doing anyway. We won’t ever get it perfect, but we love chasing after perfection.

The bottom line is: we love removing blueberries.

Forestry, Services
Most would define the question of, “how much does it cost to mulch some brush”, as impossible to narrow down. However, over the years we have mulched our share of brush, so we are going to give it a whirl. For this article, we are going to focus on the small rural landowner type of mulching. If you are someone who has land covered in brush and you are looking to open it up, we hope by the end of this article you will be better informed about brush mulching.

Now to start- what are the variables that go into mulching? The five factors that are probably the biggest are density, environment type, species, finish quality, and terrain. As it turns out it is pretty hard to define those very well when comparing one property to another. We have found that the old adage “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is equally true as “one man’s thick brush is another man’s field”. For this reason, we almost always do a site visit before we offer an estimate. We do not want to overestimate and scare a potential client with a high price or give such a low price that we set false expectations.

Now with all that said, let’s try to break it down by each factor.


Can you walk through it? Is it over your head? Are there a lot of small stems or are there fewer big stems? When we are talking density what we really care about is how much volume of material is there per acre. It is really hard to quantify and thus takes a trained eye to get a close approximation. For example, try walking through a thick patch of scotch broom (an arch-nemesis of western Oregonians). It would seem pretty thick. It really isn’t all that dense though, it is nearly impossible to walk through it, same with a wall of Himalayan blackberry.

Now imagine a mass of wild cherry, cascara, vine maple, and wild hazelnut all intertwined with Himalayan blackberry. That’s dense! You have the base layer of blackberry then the stems of everything else that stretches to the heavens with numerous branches to about twenty-five feet in the air. We see this type of density all the time. For us, it is often fun and the most rewarding because of the huge difference we see at the end.

For sake of simplicity, we will say the above examples are on even terrain with nice soil and the project is only big enough to bring in a smaller machine like a Cat 299d3 XHP. To mulch the scotch broom is probably around $400 – $700 per acre. The thick Himalayan blackberries will be about $400 – $700 per acre. Mulching the big mess of everything from blackberries to small trees will range anywhere from $800.00 – $1,300.00 per acre. This is all to a moderate finish level.

Environment Type

When I talk about the environment type, I mean is it an open pasture? Is it a stand of young timber that has never been thinned? Is it a large mature forest with big spacing between the trees? Is there large downed material everywhere on the ground, or stumps hidden in the brush that an operator will have a hard time seeing? These factors all play a huge part in the price of mowing down a few twigs.

As an example, if we are fairly positive that an area was just a pasture or open ground before being covered with brush, we can go charging in with some assurance that we won’t slam into a stump. Can we slam into a stump and live to tell about it? Usually yes, but it is hard on equipment. There is only one guarantee with machines-they will break, so we try not to hit things too hard. It can also be hard on the operator, even at 1-2 mph, a sudden stop can be quite jarring. When we walk the project we look for clues and ask a lot of questions about what is known regarding the state of the ground under the brush. We also pull historical satellite imagery and sometimes do a drone survey.

If the project is what we call “under brushing”, which is mulching all the brush under the canopy of an existing stand of timber; then we have to duck and dodge as we work. Since a lot of our time is spent going in reverse, and we hate scarring up retained trees we have to work slower. Even in our forward passes, we won’t be able to work in a grid as we might in an open environment.

During the walk-through, you will probably notice the project manager has an infatuation with rocks. It’s not because we are in love with it, quite the opposite. It makes everyone’s day worse. At the minimum, a small rock increases the wear on the machinery’s teeth. At the most, a big rock is hard on everything- tracks, carbide teeth, knives, operators, etc. Yes, we can do it, and yes a good carbide tooth can take a hit. However, carbides do break, are expensive, and worse is that we will have to run carbides on the full rotor if there is a lot of rock. We try to run knives in the center of our drum most of the time. They make a huge difference in production, but if there is a high percentage of rock it simply isn’t worth it.

Do we still want to look at your projects with rocks? Yes, it just makes a frustrating impact on the price of mulching.

Environments like working a brush patch in an old clear cut, or under brushing in a thick stand of timber versus a wide-open known area can impact the price anywhere from around 25-50%. Rock can be even worse and in some instances, calls for a different configuration of machine like a swing machine.

Oddly enough the higher the density, the lower the effect on the environment because the density of the material keeps us moving at a slower pace. In the wintertime, there is less leaf load. Leaves or the lack thereof allow an operator to see the obstructions that are coming up, it can make a 5% difference in productivity on some sites.


Species make a bigger difference than most would think. To be honest, I still get surprised by it sometimes. What it boils down to is: how strong and how pliable is the wood fiber. The reason this makes a difference is that ultimately what a mulcher does is breaks wood fibers apart from each other and shortens them. Vegetation is a bunch of elongated fibers bound together in different orientations.

Some species like cherry and oak have incredibly strong fibers, which are bound very tightly to each other. Others like pine and hawthorn are very weak. About the easiest way to determine how something will mulch up is to try to break it. Whenever I encounter something new I try to snap a limb. If it just keeps bending it will probably be difficult to get a nice breakdown. If it snaps, but not all the way, and keeps fraying out, it will probably be moderately difficult. If it completely snaps in two pieces easily, you know you’re going to have a fun day of mulching since those kinds of wood shatter fast and progress to a fine finish pretty easily. If you can tie it in a knot and swing through the forest on it, well, you’re in for some chewing. The best way to mitigate this is to up the game by running knives and or a higher top speed. Often times after someone has mulched with dull carbides in this type of material, you will see frayed stumps sticking up everywhere like upside-down brooms. This is because of a lack of edge on the tool being used. If a person doesn’t care much about how it looks then this may not be an issue, it just takes a little extra time and being particular about the method.

The most stubborn you will come across in the Northwest is the Viney Maple. The easiest is something like ponderosa pine. Himalayan blackberry, although very pliable is not very strong and scotch-broom is really brittle. The mixture of trees, bushes, and vines like we mentioned, make up the catch-all term “brush”. The difference in species can generally account for about 30-40% discrepancy in the price of mulching.

Finish Quality

The finish is a function of time when it comes down to it. Another way to put it would be passes over the material. As I’ve outlined in this article,

“Why is he going backwards all the time? A technical look at the material breakdown”

each time the mulcher goes back over the material it is drawing it up through the housing and reducing it more and more. The higher the number of passes, the finer it will become. Some materials with more brittle characteristics won’t take many passes at all; some may take 3-4

A really rough pass can be done with a forward pass as a Sunday drive through the woods. It won’t look very good, but it might do the job. This is sometimes requested for a simple reforestation job, where the only goal is to kill material and get it down to where a person can walk through, plant a tree, and treat it with spray.

Finish level varies from super rough like I outlined above, to extremely fine and beautiful, which is often referred to as a “Park Out”. In other words, we are going to make that mess of brush look like a park you will want to play frisbee on. In fact, we did a frisbee golf course not long ago. Most sites can be made to look like a park, it just takes time, energy, and an operator with some finesse.

The time it takes to blow out the ground to a really rough finish versus a fine park-like finish can be double. Yes, a 200% increase. It just depends on what you want.


Last but not least, is the terrain. The terrain or topography is one of the only things that can really make a person say, “This can’t be done”. Let me be clear, the way I look at things is that anything can be done. But is it really feasible and worth the cost? We can do some crazy stuff with a helicopter and a rock climber, but there would have to be an extremely good reason.

The most difficult type of terrain we run into is when it is really steep. Luckily, we can usually work on steeper ground than most people think. It might require using a different machine though. A typical forestry skid steer with rubber tracks on it can hang onto a 45-degree slope in optimal conditions. We rarely see optimal conditions though. The factor that we look for when assessing a site is how stable is the soil. A lot of time hillsides have very soft crumbly soil, which can limit the machine. The biggest factor is how wet is it. It doesn’t take much rain to make the soil surface slippery.

When we aren’t sure if we can handle a hillside or not the tipping point for us is if we have an escape route or not. Most operators prefer to work from the bottom of a hill toward the top, that way if it gets too steep gravity is helping you get back onto already worked ground, instead of pulling you into unknown areas. As we work, the layer of mulch on the ground can increase the traction of the machine as well.

It may be that we just have to schedule the job for when it is dryer or bring in one of our specialized steep slope machines.

The other most common terrain challenge is soft ground. Most of the tracked mulchers you will see are somewhere between 4.5 – 8 psi. When all my weight is on one foot I’m putting about 6 psi on the ground. So I usually figure if I can walk on it then I can probably mulch on it. What will compound this though is how many passes we will have to make. The soil compresses and expands every time pressure is applied and removed. This compression and expansion in wet soil are what makes mud. The other factor on PSI is how it is distributed. A set of tracks that can move independently of each other, like some of our machines means that pressure is spread more evenly over the uneven surface of the soil.

Again wet soil may mean that we just have to use a different specialized machine. This may ultimately mean the difference between being able to do the project or not. Much of the time wet ground is associated with Riparian areas or wetlands that may be illegal to work in. However mulching is often used to restore this type of ground, so it is a case-by-case basis.


I hope this has given you some idea of what to expect, and what we are looking for when we do a site visit. As I said above, this was tailored to a typical small rural landowner, but it also gives you a glimpse of all the factors in any project. It is very difficult to narrow down the price, but I hope I have helped give you a general ballpark of the project cost.

To consolidate this all, we rarely see projects of this nature below the $400.00 per acre mark and rarely over the $1,800.00 per acre mark.

Ultimately the three biggest factors in completing a job at the expected price point are:

1. A project manager that takes the time to understand the client’s needs, the challenges of the project, and the ability of the individual machinery.

2.An operator that understands the goals, how to manipulate the machine, and most importantly cares about providing the best job they can for the customer.

3.The right machine for the job is outfitted with the correct hardware for that specific project.

You might have noticed operators are going backwards almost as often as they are going forward. This isn’t just because they like looking through a little camera screen. It also isn’t because they are pretending they are Mater from the movie, Cars. Although Mater was correct when he said, “Ain’t no need to watch where I’m going. Just need to know where I’ve been.”

There are two different primary functions in a mulching operation. First is the rough breakdown, that takes place going forward on most all front-mount mulchers, such as your typical forestry skid steer. Then there is the secondary breakdown, which occurs in the backward direction.

As the machine is moving forward the rotor is spinning simultaneously in a downward and forward direction. This motion drives the material down toward the ground, out under, and behind the machine. This is why it is generally a bad idea to stand directly behind a mulcher; you’re probably going to get something thrown at you.

During that downward and forward rotation, the material is not broken up very much, since it is just bashed against the ground and ripped backward. It is enough though that it allows the machine to keep on advancing. There are a few factors that can influence how much the material is broken down during that motion. The main factor is the type of material. Stringy material will tend to grab onto the teeth and hurl out under the machine without many breakdowns. The more brittle the material the more the tooth will break it into small chunks, instead of throwing it out under the machine.

So while the forward pass is necessary, it is not where the big value comes from; the back pass is where it all happens. During the back pass, the rotor is rotating upward, this lifts the material into the mulching chamber. The mulching chamber is the area from the back lower edge of the mulcher to the front upper edge. There are usually some type of fixed knife, solid bar, or “fingers” that stick out from the frame inside the mulching chamber that the rotor smashes the material into. Once the material enters the chamber, there is nowhere for it to go but continue through the maze and be thrown out on the other side.

Because the material is trapped it keeps going through a repeated series of getting hit by a tooth, then slamming into a fixed finger, then it gets slammed by a tooth again and hurled into another fixed finger. This rapid series of changes in velocity is what accomplishes the highest percentage of the breakdown of the material. The efficiency of an operator is ultimately based on how quickly they can get the material broken down into small particles.

Because of all this, you may even see an operator driving forward without engaging the head with the work at all, then they will drop it down and go backwards. This is because the time driving forward can be used to get the rotor back up to speed; thus storing energy. Then when it is dropped down and backpass, you get the highest degree of reduction possible with the energy available.

The backpass is also what gives that beautiful smooth look to a job. As the operator is moving backward, they can manipulate the door and or angle of the head to spray mulch from dense areas to areas where the mulch isn’t as heavy. This evens everything out, gets a better distribution of material for decay and breakdown, and covers the tracks.

There are a lot more factors that contribute to material breakdown, but the direction of the machine is probably the most noticeable to the outside observer and plays the biggest factor in turning big growing things into small particles of matter.


Agriculture, Services

Farmers here in the valley know this well. For those just driving around, you have most likely noticed, that hazelnuts are getting planted everywhere in the valley.

Hazelnuts have had a long history in the valley, dotted here and there, breaking up the monotony of grass fields and the occasional row crop. In the past decade with industry fluctuations, and innovation on how this nut can be used; the market has expanded.

More and more old orchards have been replaced and thousands of acres have been converted from a different crop into hazelnuts.

Most new plantings are installed in a double-density pattern. This means that ultimately there are twice as many trees per acre as the mature orchard will have. This is done so that production will be higher earlier in life. The orchard pictured below was put in at 10’x20′ spacing with the goal of a 20’x20′ mature orchard.

We first started working in and around this crop in the renewal process; removing old orchards that were stricken with blight, so that a new resistant variety could be planted. We have renewed hundreds of acres now. 


In addition to full removal and land clearing for new orchards, we thin more and more acres every year. Every client is different in what they want for a final product. Some clients want the tree shredded extremely fine to be ready for harvest, while some just want it coarse so they can continue flailing on their own time. The end particle is generally directly correlated to the energy put into it along with other factors. Some clients just want the stump flush with the ground, some want most all the roots completely ground out, and some just want the center of the stump removed.

Wider spacing and square patterns let us fit in larger equipment to be more efficient. We have found that modifications and custom equipment are necessary to get the perfect result; at the right price point.

Overall it is a highly variable process and we treat every orchard and client as an individual; to get the result they are looking for. We love working with these farmers. They are understanding and team oriented. They have the attitude of “a rising tide lifts all boats” and “let’s all pull in the same direction”. I admire their resilience through uncontrollable markets and weather.