Howard Perry has been a tree lover since childhood, when he used to climb trees in his parents' garden in Yorkshire, UK. Later he graduated to pruning, starting with a huge overgrown horse chestnut in Ashtead, UK. The tree grew back into a such beautiful shape that he realised that he had a talent. Even 35 years later, the tree is still there, according to Google Earth. On occasional visits to UK, he prunes the trees in his fathers' garden in Somerset to keep them healthy and an asset to the garden.
Howard is a freelance consultant specialising in the management and tuning of high performance SQL databases. He has worked in a number of countries on 4 continents. As well as English, Howard speaks German and French fluently, which has allowed him to work in those countries with relative ease. Freelancing involves downtime and from 1999 he decided to look for a property to develop his interest in forestry.
In 2001 Howard purchased his property in Glenhope East, North Central Victoria. It is located on the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range of Eastern Australia.
Prior to European settlement in the 19th century, the land was forest, which was largely cleared to make way for livestock grazing. Prior to clearing, there was topsoil several feet deep. Some of the timber produced was used in the gold rush, such as at Heathcote, 15km to the north. Many trees drying on the ground were burnt during bushfires in the 1920s and the soil suffered erosion due to the subsequent heavy rains, as there were no longer enough trees to prevent this. The land is in the catchment of Lake Eppalock, which was created in the 1960s to hold 250,000 acre feet (308 GL) of water. As part of the project, attempts were made to control erosion, which included chisel ploughing the land, spreading super phosphate fertiliser, sowing phalaris and other grasses. Possibly, imported spiny rush was introduced as well. In addition, levee banks, groynes, grass shutes and concrete structures were built to control runoff and various species of trees eg redgum, sheoaks and other acacias were planted in the gullies. Most of this work was done by the government at its expense and the maintenance informally handed over to the landowners, who were not generally aware of the maintenance required.
Plantation Forestry started on the property in 2000 with establishment of 5 landcare plantations, totalling 6ha. These plantations were low density (300-400 stems/ha). Species planted were fast growing acacias (black and other wattles, blackwood) plus indigenous slow growing eucalypts (Box, stringybark, Ironbark). The landowner had to rip the ground for planting and put up fences. The DPI provided tree seedlings and planters from Loddon Prison.
Howard established a further 10ha of trees in 2 plantations in 2002. FF1 is 8ha, primarily farm forestry containing Sugar Gum, Spotted Gum and Red Ironbark eucalypts. Plantation density was planned as 1000 stems per hectare but because of errors at planting time, the final planting density was 850/ha. FF1 is sited on a hill at the south property boundary and features slopes to all compass points. FF1 also included some remnant stringybarks, mainly around the edges, most of which have since thrived.
2002 was a drought year, so we had to water the plantation twice to help establishment. Fortunately the drought also kept the weeds away. Survival rate after 6 months was 93%. FF1 was form pruned in 2003, form/stem pruned in 2004/5, stem pruned in 2007, 2009 and 2011 up to 6.5m, Plot measurements in 2013 revealed that pruning on some trees reached 7.5 m
FF2 of 2ha was originally intended as a landcare plantation to help reduce evaporation on the 5 acre lake and contains a wide variety of eucalypts, wattles and in recent years old man saltbush, which was intended to prevent erosion of dam wall. It is casually managed as a farm forestry plantation with pruning and thinning as this makes access easier and allows the sheep in to keep the grass down and discourage foxes, rabbits etc. Pruning of the wattles reached ca 3 metres in 2005, although many have died since. In high summer it is wonderful to walk in the forest protected from the harsh sun by the forest canopy. Many of the landcare eucalypts have poor form and have had to be removed to prevent the area turning into a jungle. The trees along the road do provide a screen improving privacy.
The density of the original landcare plantations, EP1/ EP3/ EP4, was increased in 2003 with forestry species like ironbark, sugar gum, spotted gum. We also planted 75 Jarrah in EP4. Survival was a problem, despite there being more rain than 2002, due to enforced absence during hot periods in mid to late spring . The result was that only 7 jarrah survived the spring and summer. By the time the rains came in 2004, 4 of the 7 Jarrah were just short bushes which didn't survive the sheep being accidentally let in. This has left 3 reasonable form Jarrah, which have been form and stem pruned and are growing well, although slower than other farm forestry species.
Form and stem pruning of FF1 and FF2.
Stem and form pruned Jarrah. Stem amd form pruned FF1 plantation, where trees were up to 13cm Diameter at Breast Height and up to approx. 9 metres high
Stem Pruning and limited thinning of FF1 and FF2
New Plantations established at Northern end of property. Commercial Environmental Forestry intended to replace noxious weed juncus acutus. Species included Spotted Gum, Sugar Gum, Saltbush, Salt tolerant hybrids. Growth to March 2009 significant, despite dry spring, summer and autumn.
Stem Pruning to 4m and partial thinning of FF1
Stem pruning and partial thinning of FF2
More thinning of Ironbarks in FF2 due to waterlogging caused by heavy rain and filling of main dam
FF1 thinning of Ironbarks.
FF1: Pruned to 6.5m height Thinning to final stocking of 200 stems/hectare via stem injection
Tree diameter in FF1 up to 26.5cm DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) . Tree heights up to 12m
FF2: Some pruning. Thinning via stem injection
EF1 & EF2: Form & stem Pruned Sugar, Spotted gum and Grandis hybrids to 2m. Early thinning.
EF1: ca 0.5ha stems fell over due to waterlogging resulting from heavy rains in summer 2011. Waterlogged stems cut at base with expectations of coppice,
EP2: thinned via stem injection.
FF2, EP2, EF2: Trees on power line easement stem injected. Easement allows vegetation to height of 2.7 metres
Top diameter tree in FF1 has DBH of 28.3cm
FFI, FF2, EP2, EF2 stem injected trees in various stages of dying. They are losing their leaves from the top down.
EF1 - trees cut down due to waterlogging, harvested for firewood. Form & stem pruning started. Leaders 13cm DBH.
Subdivision compliance received from Council.
Lot 1 containing EF2 & EF5 now 210 Wickhams Lane,
Lot 2 containing EP1, EP2, EP3, EP4, FF2, EF4 North
Lot 3 containing EF1, FF1, EF4 South now 260 Wickhams Lane
Top diameter tree (Spotted Gum) in FF1 has DBH of 29.2 cm
Started removing stem injected trees from FF1 and FF2 - cutting and splitting for firewood or cutting to 3m lengths for fence posts.
Firewood stored in shed. Started research and consideration of Firewood Processors.
Received confirmation of registration of Plan of Subdivision at Titles Office.
About 20 pruned trees in FF1 have cracks in stem and leaves turning brown. Mainly spotted gum, probably due to long dry period since Aug 2012 and shallow soil
Death of thin stem injected spotted gums appears to have accelerated in places A number of Bluegums in EP5 similarly dying
Arranged for Ian Rankin to bring his harvester to cut down thinnings, strip foliage and split into 3-4m billets. Started to mark trees to be removed. Ringed in white, blue, red. First used spray paint then chalk. To mid March, covered SE, SW, lower North sections of FF1 plus most of FF2. Upper North, West and East sections to do.
Plan to thin EF1 and EF2 using stem injection.
April to May 2013
Stem injected all hybrids in EF2 and some in EF1. Leaves changed to brown within a couple of weeks possibly due to being done at end of a very dry summer. This was much sooner than with FF1/FF2 injections.
July, October, December 2013
Machine thinning carried out in FF1 using 6 ton excavator with harvester head. Required 4.5 days. A few areas, which could not be thinned by machine due to steepness of slope or rocks, are now being thinned by hand with a chainsaw. This is very much slower than with a machine, 10 vs 100 trees per hour.
Thinning of FF1 completed. Remaining stems approximately 200/ha. A few additional losses due to winds removing crown. Harvested 5 cubic metres of firewood with chainsaw and electric log splitter.