Feral is as Feral does...what exactly do I do in the woods while Timber Cruising?

photo by Mr. Foresterman,2010
 Remember this picture from this post?

I said I was going to show you how I get those feral arms even at age 47 and counting... ?  Right?  or was that the Drugs?  I dont know, but since I have a post I can refer to we'll go with the former on this one...Tangent, drugs speaking - Did you ever meet someone who couldnt wait to have a root canal done?  You have now!  This coming Monday - ironically after a holiday thats is considered the sweetest tooth holiday EVER...Not only is my life ironic but even my mandibles are ironic -since last time they found an accessory nerve - yes they called it an "accessory" - my teeth are even more classy than me, they want to be accessorized at all times...this accessory nerve is a little tendril of a delicate thread, that extrudes extra painful sass up into my left sinus cavity and affects my entire life, as in "she's snapping like a GREEN BEAN" sass - never had I had an accessory like this; if I did I would want to let someone else BORROW IT...This also was the first time ever, that even before I left the Dentist office after they stablized my tooth for the upcoming root canal - they called my tooth "hot and sensitive", but I wasnt flattered -they gave me a 600mg of ibuprofren, stating that I was going to "need" this for the ride home... now if that isnt a warning I dont know what is, and they were right. Accessories hurt and I will never look at TJ Maxx in the same light ever again...

Anyhow, I'm going to take off my whiny Otter play pants right now and put on my  gotta be serious or die in the woods pants... ... okay... ready? Here we go!

During a Timber Cruising Contract, we work normally as long as we have daylight -  which could mean over 10 hour workdays in the woods during the Summer. Keeping ourselves in good shape year round is mandatory to do this kind of work, as we carry up to 15 to 18 lbs of equipment on ourselves constantly - while climbing hills that may have 70% grade slopes, or crossing fast running creeks that need to be negotiated , or thick spruce stands that have downed timber to climb over or under - we both need to be in excellent shape to do this safely.  There are no shelters nor rest areas; for lunch we stop, drop and eat when we are hungry. Sometimes we won't see anything that resembles civilization except for a few barb wire fence crossings during an entire day.  We have to be aware of what we do at all times, as that affects not only your safety, but your partners also.  Wild animals, bad weather, failed equipment can happen, and we have preparation plans for those instances. Otherwise, it's A LOT OF FUN!!! Really!

But before I go any further, here's another post that explains what a Timber Cruiser is...

Okay, you're back! Thanks for reading that!

Photo by Mr. Foresterman

I get to wear all sorts of fun equipment in the woods: I like these friendly accessories because they help me do my job, and make me like a warrior woman in the woods, fighting for justice against root rot, pine beetles, Oak wilt, etc.... Here I have two leather holsters; one that holds my increment borer (which I'll explain in a minute, or more like in ten, im ramblin' , on a roll, can't stop now) and another that holds pink marking flags that show where our "plot" is (our stopping point to look, examine, age and take data on the surrounding trees and forest).  In my orange cruising vest, I keep a pocket knife, lighter, lip gloss, a small first aid kit, lunch, usually 3 bottles of water, rain jacket, a roll of sprees, 2 rolls of flagging, my compass (the small square you see above) and an "otter box" (the yellow waterproof box you see above) that contains my PDA.  This PDA has a special program on it that helps us keep track of the data we see and we extract from the trees.  Mr. Foresterman does not have one of these as I am what is called the "Data Collector". Instead, he carries a GPS that has been preloaded by us with coordinates of the plots to take - kind of like GeoCaching, except we walk average 275 acres a day and theres no cache at the plots...okay, not at all like geocaching, but it pays the bills so in a way its a delayed "finding a geocache" effect and in reality we still get the same curse word affect that Geocachers get from using the GPS, especially when it takes us off course due to weather, thick tree cover, the lining up of the sunbeams, governmental upheaval in the Caribbean, or any other thing it decides to be upset about.  I hate that thing, so I dont carry it.  It's an accessory nerve to my job, so Mr. Foresterman can have some sass in his.  Sometimes in exasperation he'll try to hand it off to me, but I always make sure Im on a bathroom break, or picking imaginary burrs out of Dexterdogs tail, or counting sunbeams, anything, but you couldnt pay me to hold that accessory nerve of a GPS...even though I am paid. "Wait, I see another burr..."

Here I am holding the accessory I am friends with; the "Otter box."

Mr. Foresterman calls out  the diameter of the tree (DBH = Diameter at Breast Height), the species (we use Latin, sexy!) and overall health, and I enter certain codes to correlate to what he's saying.  In this picture I am leaning back on a hill and using my foot as a brace so I don't slide away into oblivion. You couldn't imagine the places and body contortions I've had to be in order to take data and use Latin ...  Okay, I'm trying to keep this a clean and pure blog, so lets move on, shall we?

On every plot, I get to get physical with two trees, or more. First I need to tie off flagging on these selected trees, to mark them as "site trees" or  "off site trees".  Then I get to work on building up my feral arms - I use a hand drill called an Increment Borer made especially for  taking a core sample out of  a tree in order to tell how old it is.  We call this procedure "aging trees"...catchy, huh? While I am doing this Mr. Foresterman is taking the height using a tape, and a clinometer. Gotta love these tree- friendly accessories! These Borers are made out of steel, and are very sharp.  I keep wax on hand and use that to keep the bit from getting sticky with sap.  I also use WD-40 on too for the same effect, and to clean out any residue inside. I always wear fingerless gloves when handling this item too - a must have accessory to go with the accessory!  As I twist this hollowed borer into the tree, it makes a very round stick, called a core, like this~

 Can you see the lines?  Each line represents one growing year; the same way you count rings on a stump is how we count these lines.  Or I should say Mr. Foresterman does, because after  I get done drilling I need to take it out, and enter the height data  ~

Do you see the large tree that Mr. Foresterman is standing next to?  
This Ponderosa Pine tree is over 400 YEARS OLD!
 That's a lot of rings to count! 
"wait, I think I see more burrs..."

This procedure does not hurt a healthy tree, as they will soon work on healing the gap.  
If you see a tree marked like this, you might even be able to read a core sample yourself - 
just make sure you put it back as you found it :)

 These are unhealthy trees here below; the pitchout sign of the Mountain Pine Beetle!!!!! Forests are especially being hit hard in Colorado right now, but there are many pine stands that are being affected in the Black Hills ~ and we had to make sure we notated carefully what we saw overall in the Forest...

Most people dont know this, but Pines shed like leaf trees; these needles are being shed in a normal manner - green on the tips, brown on the underside and near the trunk...but let's compare this to an infected Mountain Pine Beetle tree...

This is not normal -  a sure sign of a Mountain Pine Beetle infection - This tree is entirely brown and its dead; the beetles are moving on to the next tree, and you can see the dying trees putting out brown pine needles to match their dead neighbor. They have found that during and following a drought is when trees are very susceptible to the Mountain Pine Beetle, and the mortality rate is high; it happens in clusters as the beetle flies a short  distance to the next tree to lay its eggs. These eggs hatch into larvae, which burrows right underneath the bark....The crunching they make can be so loud, that when you stand next to the tree in a quiet, still woods, you can hear them! 


The brown needles only stay on the first year; by the second, they are all off, eliminating the potential fire danger of needles being an accelerant.  But there is a plus side to all of this - guess who likes the bugs?  The RARE Black Backed Woodpecker!  The State of South Dakota along with the University of Missouri are doing studies concerning this little guy and their rare Habitats in the US. I was quite excited when one showed right up near one of our Plots, and I was able to photograph the lil' guy in action!

Yay Black-backed woodpeckers!! You go eat them little buggers!!!


Pactola Reservoir

And that concludes this post for today!

 And Thank you for being so patient with me!


 If you have some time, say a little prayer for me on Monday, 
because - 


It's that darn accessory nerve -makes my brain snap like a green bean!


  1. Feral Wow I am impressed with your job. I love trees and you get to spend the day with them everyday and get paid,yeah. It looks like a very hard job but keeps you in shape.
    It is so nice to be able to share your day with Mr. Forester in the wilds of our enormous beautiful world. Thanks for explaining it perfectly I really enjoyed this post.
    Good Luck for Monday it will be nice to get that nasty thing fixed.
    Does Dexter get paid because he looks kind of lazy? LOL B

  2. That's a fantastic job..I'm jealous! :)

  3. this was a great post - filled with lots of neat information but also sprinkled with humor and 'sass'. :) and of course, some GORGEOUS scenes.

    wow! a black-backed woodpecker! SO neat!
    So if the pine beetles get too bad and start taking out whole sections of forest, is there anything that 'man' does to prevent complete forest infiltration? i.e. spraying pesticides (yuck!) or something?

  4. And here I was so proud because I carried four loads of recycling to the bins from the car. ;)

  5. Wow nice pics. Will be thinking of you on Monday!!

  6. I had and "accessory nerve as well in a tooth, so I know what you are talking about , only I didn't have such a nice name for it !!! Damn!!! Good luck on Monday. You work looks wonderful and interesting , thanks for the education

  7. Had never heard of a black backed woodpecker. Thank you for sharing the photo. Beautiful bird.

  8. Very timely post for me to read right now. I just noticed the little stand of trees I ride in are infected by something. The woodpeckers are having a feast but I think my little stand is in jeopardy of dying from whatever bug is taking them over.

    Good luck with your root canal. I'll be there thinking of you on Monday so you can take double drugs to cover me, can't you. That could help.

  9. Thanks for all the learning moments! Your view was beautiful! Cheri

  10. There is nothing like working outdoors in the woods.
    I use to go surveying with my dad. Found all kinds of Indian artifacts, boundary markers and unusual wildlife. Best time of my life with my dad.
    Your photo of the rare black backed woodpecker is stunning! Keep up the good work !
    Come visit the herd when you got a minute to relax,

  11. Love your post and learning more about your job. Wow...you must be in good shape!
    I had a friend who was a forester in SC. He talked about timber cruising there - his favorite days were those when he either came across a water moccasin or fell in an alligator hole! (not really.... that those were his favorite days)

  12. Great post! Your job certainly is fascinating. I love your office!

  13. WOW! What a cool job. My husband would be so jealous. I realize it must be really hard work, but such beautiful scenery.

  14. Hello Feral Woman! I just had to pay you a visit, since you left a little visit 'footprint' over at the Prairie Farmstead by choosing to follow us ~ your kind heart must have felt sorry for me! Heehee!

    I am so glad I dropped in on you ~ it seems we have quite a few things in common (not the timber cruiser part), but I am originally from SE Montana...and I am going to share the pleasure of a root canal on May 5th. Perhaps we can compare accessories at some point. Heehee!

    Thanks for being brave enough to be my 'friend' o'er yonder. I absolutely look forward to reading more of your witty writings.

  15. My brother in law is a forester, and used to be a timber cruiser; now he's in charge of coordinating the fire crews. It looks like an interesting job; certainly much better than a town job! Nice view out your office "window".

  16. wow, now that's some hard work!!!! i know i couldn't do that!!

    yes, will be praying for monday...ick.

  17. Thanks for sharing about your work - so interesting! Thinking about you today - hope that your root canal is successful and you are on the mend very soon.

  18. Great post, what an interesting job!
    We do the latin thing out here too when range monitoring, I agree, very sexy, Lol :)


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