i-Tree is a website designed to help property owners decide which tree species they want to plant and where they should plant them in their home or commercial property landscape. I-Tree was developed by some of the big players in U.S. tree care as an educational and practical tool, and is FREE to use. Combining data points and technology, this website can tell you actual benefits of planting a tree in a specific spot in your yard.
The defined practice of forest bathing is relatively young, but the intuitive act of healing in nature is nothing new. We evolved in forests, and forest bathing has been shown to decrease levels of stress hormones, improve the immune system and mood, and increase creative problem solving. I am certainly not the first to write about the benefits of spending time outdoors. In the words of John Muir, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”
Here are some of the highlights of our recent log salvage adventures. I call them “adventures” because it would be much easier to chunk the log up into firewood and throw it in the back of the truck, but who likes to take the easy road? Although salvaging the trees we cut down can sometimes be an onerous task, it is a huge honor to turn the trees folks are “throwing away” into beautiful pieces of heirloom-quality furniture to be enjoyed for generations. We are proud to undertake this work.
This photo below shows a white oak log we had to cut in half the long way to get it out under a fence and around a house. Jeff from Jeff's Portable Sawmill and his brother came out to rip the two logs in half and we loaded them up on his trailer for further processing. Jeff has retrieved many of our logs and turned them into huge slabs, decking, and dimensional lumber.
There are endless uses for urban salvage wood if you are willing to put the extra effort into finding what you need and then likely paying a bit more for the material. After all, salvaging a log in a backyard is a lot harder than clearing a forest! In my mind, urban wood has a lot of interesting character to it and is worth the extra cost.
The next image shows a red oak log from a property off Nakoma that Jeff is milling into slabs. This tree was a perfect specimen with no structural issues whatsoever, but it died a quick death due to oak wilt. While it is sad to see perfect trees die quickly without warning, I am glad to see salvaged pieces put to good use. While writing this I returned to the yard and found Jeff and the gang milling the logs. They managed to get 15 gigantic slabs from the trunk. They were 12' long, 3-4' wide and 3.5" thick. Lumber this large can easy become a handsome dinner or banquet table for a very large dining room!
The stack of lumber below is another project we worked on with Jeff on the outskirts of Fitchburg. My daughter couldn't resist being in the photo, she is on top of a stack of oak and walnut boards. The client had a couple standing dead trees and a couple other walnuts that he wanted to thin out. We were able to do all the removals on a Thursday and by Saturday night, Jeff had it all milled and ready for drying. We are not always this efficient and timely, but sometimes the stars align.
Lastly, pictured below is a stately white oak that perished in the Monroe Street neighborhood. Garrett is in the tree making the final cut to get the tree to a safe height to fell. Once on the ground, we could see the trunk base had a little rot, but nothing too bad considering the log was around 40" wide at the base and over 20' long! This seemed like another excellent candidate for salvage and we were able to get a number of large, healthy planks of wood out of this tree.
The people salvaging urban wood are important players in helping us create greater connections to our trees. When logs are diced up for firewood, we miss out on all those awesome tables and desks made from one slab of wood! While many tree services would rather get a tree out of a yard the fastest way possible, we think it's wasteful to simply cut big, old trees into chunks, to be burned as firewood. We are interested salvaging urban-sourced trees in the most responsible manner possible, even if it takes some (often a LOT of) extra effort.
This last photo is our clutch of logs from the winter. Amongst them, you will find oak, ash, elm, spruce, pine, maple and hickory trees. Believe it or not, we do more pruning than removing on an annual basis but even when you don't focus on removals you end up with a lot of logs!
If you are interested in purchasing salvaged urban wood for a project, there are a number of places you can look in Madison. The Wood Cycle of Fitchberg hauls and mills logs that end up for sale at Habitat for Humanity Restore on Monona Drive. Jeff's Portable Sawmill also offers salvaged timber slabs and lumber as well.
Have you ever wondered about the big trees in Madison, Wisconsin? Towering oaks with gnarled branches and thick trunks are scattered throughout the city. If you think these trees are unusual, you are correct. Some of them are hundreds of years old and have witnessed many generations and historical events. These old oaks are also significant because they are the last remnants of the oak savannas that used to cover southern Wisconsin.
Southern Wisconsin looked very different 200 years ago. Today, when we drive around Dane County, we see forest patches in between farms and towns. Before European settlement, however, this area was a landscape of vast prairies with oak trees here and there. Treeless prairies and oak savannas are found in dry, sunny regions, and they used to cover millions of acres of land across the Midwest. These plant communities are fire-adapted: they rely on yearly low-intensity wildfires to burn up dead grasses, fertilize the soil, and kill most sprouting trees. Oaks have deep roots and thick bark that enable them to be the lone survivors of such fires. Grown in open savannas without competition from other trees, oak trees can stretch their limbs wide, forming the classic oak silhouette.
In the 1800s, settlers turned southern Wisconsin’s flat, fertile prairies into farms while suppressing wildfires to protect their crops and towns. In the absence of fire, trees like Red Maples eventually took over former oak savannas. Oaks don’t compete well in thick forests because other tree species are more effective at accessing water, soil nutrients, and sunlight.
Today, conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy try to promote oak savannas because they offer unique habitat for rare songbirds and because their acorns feed a variety of small mammals. Conservationists use controlled fires to burn off competing tree species to make room for oaks to grow. The savannas in the UW Arboretum and Picnic Point are great examples of such efforts. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to support young oaks in urban areas where fire isn’t an option. The big oaks around Madison are slowly succumbing to age, disease, and storm damage. If you have oaks in your yard, make sure to give them the TLC they need. We strongly recommend careful pruning and inspection for decay pockets.
Do you have space for a new tree, or are you looking to replace a fallen one? There are lots of great planting options. Burr oak, white oak, pin oak, red oak, swamp white oak, and regal prince oak are attractive trees that can grow into majestic giants with the right care. At Heartwood, we’re passionate about helping you through all steps of the process, from safe removal of old trees to new planting, aerial inspection, and conservative pruning. We love old oaks, and we want to help you maintain these trees in your landscape for years to come. Contact us if you need help with your trees or if you simply have questions!