After 40 years and nearly every tour or workshop held here on the ranch, I’m asked the question: “Is there any piece of equipment or practice that you would do differently?” My answer is always, “YES – except for chain saws (we’ve worn out 40), shop tools and an occasional new truck or stock trailer, all the big stuff was bought used for pennies on the dollar.” I believe the best buy was a D6 Catepillar bulldozer with drag scraper for $20,000. ~ Leroy has put 14,500 hours on it doing clearing, tank and road building. That’s $1,250,000 if you hired it done and you know that dozer would sell for more than $20,000 today!
Dozer Picture. Photograph taken by J. David.
Here’s my testimony. “If you have a tolerance for frustration and inconvenience, used equipment can save you 100,000s of thousands of dollars.” Now everyone doesn’t need a bulldozer. If you have a small ranch – under 200 acres – you can with a plan, time, small tools and physical work easily restore your property to nature’s balance and while doing it restore your mind and body.
Well back to my story . . . . I’ve experienced and learned a lot about land restoration, about water, wildlife, grasses, wild flowers, birds and people. I wish now that I would have bought a used commercial chipper and ground up the bulk of the cedar and other woody species that instead we burned. The thought never occurred to me then, although we eventually did windrow large amounts to help control run off and we did fill many canyons with brush. Both of these practices were very successful, but it took many years to prove so. One example was that Madrones came up through from the canyon floor, protected by the brush, now long gone. Wildlife habitat was created in those 10 foot tall windrows, but in the hundreds of piles of burned brush nothing but scorched earth remained. Flying over it looked like large sunspots. The soil was sterilized and all this through my ignorance. The first plant life in these burned spots emerged after 3 years. It was Horehound and our honey bees loved it as all our honey for 3 years tasted strongly of it. Now, there are practices learned today you can do to mitigate the sterilizing that comes with burning. Scott Gardner at Browning Ranch did research on this and has developed the practice. But just think how much biodegradable material went up in smoke! It could have been chipped and distributed back onto these barren caliche hillsides where it was sorely needed and the composting, the returning to the earth sped up by 20 years.
In the fall of 2004 as I was driving through Blanco, Texas, there at a business sat a Vermeer 625 chipper. Just what I’d wished for! I recorded the serial number, number of hours on the machine, looked it over carefully and vowed to come back for an equipment auction and buy it if it was to be a bargain. We verified everything through the very cooperative manufacturer. In today’s market, it sold new for $14,000 and with a low number of hours it should bring $8,000 to $10,000 at auction.
The day of the auction, I had a role to play in a workshop here on the ranch so I enlisted Scott Grote, our Ranch Operations Manager who also is a very good negotiator, to attend the auction and bid on the chipper, but “do not go over $5,000.” At mid-morning, Scott called to say, “The bid is $5,200; what should I do?” I said, “Come home.”
Some years ago but after I quit smoking, a friend said to me when I bummed a cigarette, “Damn it, Bamberger, you’re rich! Buy your own.” – I replied, “Well, you don’t get rich buying cigarettes!” Also, you won’t get rich if you’re casual about how you handle money. Develop a philosophy about money and live by it. You can do everything on your land that we did here irregardless of how much money you have in the bank – believe me!
Six months pass and I’m driving through little Blanco, Texas and my head does a turn ~ there on the same lot is that very same Vermeer 625 Chipper with a for sale sign! The gentlemen said that some fancy city guy bought it here at an auction, but it was too much for him to handle. He asked us to sell it for him. “What’s he asking?” “$2,000,” he replied! Patience? Luck? At any rate we now have a very useful piece of equipment that fulfills a valuable role here on Selah.
There are smaller models of other brands, but if you have a lot to do and a period of years to do it, this is an ideal model. Maintenance is important to cut down on frustration! Photograph taken by J. David.
We learned the hard way! The chipper sent a missile through the truck window! Expensive lesson. Here, Steven Fulton makes sure that doesn’t happen again. Photograph taken by J. David.
Who would have thought that the chipper would find another way to strike? A missile took out the outside rear mirror. Another costly lesson! Now, it’s folded in before feeding the chipper. Photograph taken by J. David.
You can’t feed the chipper until you prepare its diet! Steven Fulton handles the chainsaw. Photograph taken by J. David.
Justin Duke feeding cut limbs, trunks and branches into the chipper. The very valuable wood chips fill the truck bed. Photograph taken by J. David.
The truck is full. It took about one hour to cut and grind this much once we arrived at the job site. The shack in the background of these pictures is a whole new blog story soon to come.
Justin Duke and Steven Fulton unloading at one or our trailheads. Valuable mulch that we also use on new tree plantings. Photograph taken by J. David.