Into the Woods

MVIMG_20171214_092618.jpgSo, this is just a chatty update, but I realized that I forgot to tell y’all: A few months ago, we arranged to buy 20 acres of woods on the north edge of the farm. I’d only actually ventured into those woods a couple of times, and it didn’t usually end well. But when the opportunity to presented itself to preserve a woodland buffer (and, obviously, to further our thinly-veiled ambitions of becoming feudal land barons), we jumped at it.

Now, it turns out that like pastures, barns, farm animals, fences, ponds and everything else we’ve jumped into without putting enough thought, forest land doesn’t just take care of itself – who would have guessed? And the North 20 was long overdue for a bit of tender loving care. So, as things go on the Quimper, we asked a friend who had a friend who had a friend who knew Mike Cronin, and Mike agreed to come out and have a look.

Now, Mike is one of the last old school foresters out in this corner of the state, and he’s been trying, in vain, to retire for a while. But when a request comes from a close friend of a friend of a friend out here, well, I guess it’s hard to say no. So with me, Devon, Mark and Brendon in tow, Mike led us north through where our fence really ought to have been and into the woods.

Mike, Brendon and Devon

Coming in from the south, the understory wasn’t nearly as bad as when I’d tried to bushwhack my way through from the utility road at the other end of the parcel. The deer and coyote had established some passable routes here, and not nearly so many bushes needed whacking.

As we tromped and peered, clambered and ducked, Mike informed us that we’ve got a patchy mix of some good, long-lived species – mostly Douglas fir and Madrona – and short-lived opportunists like willow. The willows and their kith were reaching the end of their lives, falling and leaving small clearings that had been taken over by deep understories of salal brush. And the fir were often clumped uncooperatively – some growing so closely that they touched several places along their rise, each trying to angle for a slight advantage in the limited sunlight.

So we’ve got some work to do if we’re going to nurture this land towards being the healthy old-growth forest a few generations down the road. We’ve got to do some selective thinning so that our existing “good” trees don’t waste all their energy squabbling and competing for limited resources, and we’ve got to get the salal and blackberry in the clearings in check long enough to establish some complementary long-lived species: Grand fir, cedar and, oh, I’m sure there were others.

Mike says that once we get new trees in, it’ll still be about five years before they’re established enough to outcompete the brush, so we do have some ongoing maintenance. But our friend and frequent farmhand Brendon has taken on the task (or had the task thrust on him?) of local forester: he’ll begin by spending some of his extra time around the farm mapping out the clearings and establishing some paths that will let us actually get to them, and from there we get to start giving our new woods a little helping hand getting to where they want to eventually end up.

I’ll let you know how it goes…in about twenty years.

Back out of the woods into, as you can see, another dark and dismal day..
Penny’s horses in the lower brush pasture

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