Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free Forest Cruise

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Almost 5 PM and the sun that hardly shined today is gone. The temperature continues to fall and has reached 8.4 degrees from the 14.6 an hour ago. The wind is a steady 7 mph and the cold strikes hard when you step out with a wonderful dog for his minute of necessity. Winter in Vermont!

There was a stack of mail waiting for me and it was a big enough stack I figured there had to be some kind of a surprise other than a bill. Gail and Alex went to Burlington this morning leaving only a chill in the house to greet me. I got the stove fired back up and settled down with a cup of coffee, a piece of quiet, and the mail. Gail has us on about every "do not do" list there is and although her work has been fruitful, we still seem to get more junk mail than we want. I have read that 95% of catalogs never get opened and that's a lot of trees if you ask me. And yes, there were still more catalogs today.

On the bottom of the stack was a large, white envelope from the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. I have to be honest, I have never been enamored with how our state forests are handled and it is not just because of the day a guy almost dropped a beech tree on my truck at Osmore Pond during a free firewood cutting program. Similarly my feelings were not totally upset during a presentation on a pilot program on the use of skidder bridges to minimize erosine and tree root degradation. In that instance, the state funded the construction of a number of portable bridges to place in temporary fashion across small streams. I asked the presenter if F&P had required the use of these bridges in all state contracts for timber cutting on Vermont lands. The response was that might be cumbersome for the contract writers. I followed up with a question about similar use on federal lands in Vermont and left the "We have been talking" answer as the best I would hear. Finally I guess was the new contact station at New Discovery State Park just down the road for me. Something like $75,000 to construct at a park where in my mind the profit and loss statement, overtime, unsoveled roofs and the number of state vehicles that go home every night needed some looking into. So my biases, hopefully unfounded, prevailed but the white envelop was a potential invitation to serve as a "slate cleaner"...a way to forget opinions and get on with new ideas!

Included was a very nice letter signed by the Director of Forests, the Director of Wildlife, the president of Vermont Woodlands Association, and the president of Vermont Coverts: Woodlands for Wildlife, Inc. The package included a former supplement to the Burlignton Free Press entitled "Get Into The Forest", a list of public agencies to provide info and assistance to Vermont woodland owners, and a resource list for private woodland managers. Best of all was an invitation card to sign up for a free visit from a local community member skilled in forest management. Regardless of your interest in the free visit, you could receive a free copy of Northern Woodlands (magazine) The Place You Call Home--A Guide to Caring for Your Land in Vermont.

This was a very nice greeting. Gail will respond that we'd like to take advantage of the visit come spring when travel uphill and down doesn't require snowshoes and huffs and puffs. As for the land guide, we received it some time ago as we have almost always had the latest issue of Northern Woodlands magazine here.

Gail and I don't know how our recent land acquisition placed our names on a Forest and Parks mailing list but that's just part of the technological activity that exists. This sounds like it is a program that has some potential and at a time when the legislature is apparently gong to cut back the land use programs, it might be a good way to cultivate better relationships with anyone who owns a piece of woodland or land they do not want to develop. That's a debate that I am not qualified to get into but factually it is another debate in Vermont.

If you have read The Vermont Gardener before you might have read about how important forests are to Gail and Alex and me. A few years back a group from down at Peacham Pond grouped together to purchase 50 acres that adjoins our land. One of the group members asked if he could clear out and repaint the boundaries. I told him to go for it and he did. If you look at the next two pictures you'll see the blue paint that marks the blaze marks from many years back. Reopening a boundary long after a survey is a chore. Our land had been recenlty surveyed and mapped but if there is ever any question, the next job will be easy. The group placed the land in trust so our neighbors will continue to be forest not houses or roads or interruptions.

There's something about forests that relaxes the stresses of today's world for me. Just looking at a clearing or a tangled mess of dead trees that needs some chain saw work draws me away from the house and into a world that needs attention and protection. If you haven't had a chance to take a woods walk lately, there's plenty of state or community forests not too far from any of us in Vermont. That's not always true of other parts of the country but during vacations or side trips, finding and exploring woodlands can be a treasure.

Sometime next spring after we have a visit from a local community member, we'll let you know what we learned. On a cold winter day, it's something nice to look forward to.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a barred owl calls out from beyond the field. I saw one yesterday on RT 232 just two miles from here. He looked odd at the top of a dead butternut tree at 3:30 Pm but I guess dinner time wasn't that far distant.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

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