Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cutting Trails

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A quarter til 6 and darker than a pocket outside this morning. So far the only things that are bright today are the strings of Christmas lights that line the walkway. Someone forgot to turn them off last night but admittedly they did help me with two early morning dog walks with Karl the Wonder Dog. It will lighten up out in half an hour and then I can get going on my projects. 

For several weeks now I have been working in the woods cutting new trails, culling trees for firewood and trimming along woods roads that have grown out of control in recent years. 4-5 years ago some shear winds went through this area and in places there are living trees still growing well but growing at 25° angles. Those are all coming down no matter what species they are. 

Someone stopped by the other day and asked about how I map out possible trails before I start cutting. Do I use a GPS? Use any mapping software? I said  I don't use those tools until I am finished and they seemed disappointed. The analogy is the way I plant gardens such as the hosta display garden at the nursery. I have a sense of what I want to see as an end product and I just go for it. In the woods, I stop every once in a while and take a break and walk around to see what trees need to be taken out anyway and where I am heading. It always works for me.I know where I started and I know where I want to end when it's finished, I'm pretty much on schedule. Sometimes I'll find more or less wood when the trees are down and blocked up but that part doesn't matter. I sort the brush by hardwood and softwood and sometimes I leave it in piles for the critters of the woods. Other times I bring in the chipper and clean it up. There are theories to woodland management but in the case of our property, nothing has been done since Gail's father hired a questionable logger in 1992 to take out 25 acres of softwood. I am still cleaning up the messes that guy made. It takes time to work up wood and get the leftovers cut down to the point where it lays flat in the woods and will decompose quickly. Sometimes I'll work an area and then go back  a season later to finish the work.

Our land, like all land in the Groton State Forest area, is covered with glacial erratics of various sizes. These are boulder leftovers from glaciers that went through 15,000 years ago. Now the land here is highly acidic so all the rocks are well covered with various mosses and often with rock ferns too.  The boulders range in size and many are Volkswagon sized while others are like small buildings, 10, 12, 14 feet tall and equally as wide. This trail I am working on right now may be named "split rock trail"after the prominent rock that was split in two a long, long time ago. The trail winds along the bottom of a flat that rises above the back fields and holds a plantation of red pines that were so commonly planted back in the 40's and early 50's. Here's a picture from this past spring/early summer. The white, curvy  arrow in the next picture up is the proposed trail course on my current project.

If you have land of your own, making trails is a good way to look differently at your land, Cleaning up dead trees will bring in more sunlight, and wildflowers will probably sprout in a year or two and bring colorful surprises. Once the trails are finished it's a lot easier to get around so there are no excuses left. Your health and the forest's health can improve at the same time. Give it a try!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I'll start the day finishing up last night's tractor fuel filter change. I'm still thinking about the rest of the morning but there's no shortage of projects to complete before real snow arrives.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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And always here ot help you grow your green thumb!
Give Gail a call at 802-425-3505 if you need a gift certificate as a holiday gift!

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