Cutting among the longleaf

I had the option of staying home an watch TV of rioters robbing liquor stores, or do something useful on the farms.

I spent the day on the farms, mostly cutting around longleaf on Brodnax, but also just enjoying the beauty of the developing longleaf meadows on Freeman.

My first picture is me and my cutter. Next is how I make the rows and after that is what they look like before I get at them. Next two pictures are the longleaf meadows on Freeman. Picture #6 (you have to click) are the cardboard protectors I made for my cypress. I get a lot of boxes from Amazon, and may as well use them. The cardboard dissolves by next year. The last picture illustrates this. When I planted the prickly pear and rattlesnake master in the picture, I laid cardboard around and in back to control competing plants. It worked for a year but you see all those plants behind and around. Evidently the cardboard is now overtaken by the elements.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Cutting among the longleaf

Good and perfect

This technique is employed big time by the self styled “moral leaders” of our society.

We can always imagine better than anybody can achieve, so you are guaranteed to be right when you say that anybody, anywhere at anytime is not living up to standard. You can also seize the rhetorical high moral ground. The only problem is that it is completely dishonest and ends up harming everyone.

I spent my career trying to explain the USA to foreign audiences. When I gave a lecture, I would usually start by saying that anything they think about the USA is probably true. We have great examples of the good and bad in humanity within our borders. We strive to be “more perfect” which implies we will never get there. But we had to apply the “compared to what?” criterion, the only valid measure.

This was not a defensive crouch. It rather expressed a belief in diversity, progress and continual improvement, as well as a preference for the real world good over the ethereal perfection. America, I explained, is lived better than it is often portrayed, and it was not in spite of our lack of perfection but because of it. When I gave this talk before the fall of the Soviet Union, I used to digress into the Soviet constitution, which I said was much better than ours in theory, but horribly wrong in practice. It was good to be compared to such a benighted place.

Most of my talks were give-and-take, so each was different and responded to peculiar audience preference. Each was different and adaptive. In all modesty, I was very good at these things, and always got good reviews and request. I brag about this for a specific purpose here. What made them good was the give-and-take. I never knew exactly what I would say.

And I would close my program with a recognition of that. I would explain that the reason that they liked the program is that they had helped build it, that I could not do it w/o them, and that the reason we could do so well is that we were not scripted. My implication was that we were seeking something good,

Posted in My life | Comments Off on Good and perfect

Spring walk

Wonderful spring day. I went for a long walk and listened to audio books, a good combination. I also got to observe changing nature and took some pictures.

I have been thinking about lawns. We have too many “perfect” lawns around here. They are maintained by chemicals and are more like green deserts than living communities. I took pictures of three sorts of lawns. The first is not really a lawn in the traditional sense.

It is Japanese stilt grass a beautiful, but destructive invasive species. It produces a wonderful green “lawn” that prevents the reproduction of forest trees. Normally, a hardwood forest floor like this would not be so green and it certainly would not be such a complete cover.

Next two pictures are the two sort of lawns. One is the chemically maintained one. It looks like a carpet and that is not only a superficial one. The roots do not go down far. There is nothing for pollinators and little for anything else. I hate these lawns. Next is a still neat but less controlled lawn. It features at lot of clover and other low growing “weeds.” Some people do not like clover, since it is non-native. I like clover and so do bees. Its roots go deeper than the turf grass and it does not require the use of any chemicals to maintain it.

Next photos show different sorts of trees common in Northern Virginia. The first is a southern red oak. I started to pay attention to southern red oaks only a few years ago. I thought of it as a variation of the northern red oak. It is, in fact, a significantly different tree. It seems to grow faster than northern red oak, and produces a longer trunk. After that is a white oak. There are lots of big trees in the Virginia suburbs. The last tree is a catalpa. These are fairly common in Virginia, but are not from around here. They are native only to a small area of southern centered on southern Illinois.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Spring walk

Milwaukee ethnics

When you drive through the older parts of Milwaukee, you might notice the large number of churches or former churches. The reason is partly explained by this map, if you understand the underlying culture(s).

Milwaukee, like many Midwestern cities, had lots of foreign born citizens. In those days, nationality was a lot like race is today. Each group felt different and usually superior to those others around them.

Their children and grandchildren would intermarry and forget their nationalities except for some food preferences and t-shirts saying something like “kiss me, I’m …”, but back then, as my father told me, a lone Polish kid could get harassed if he wandered into a group of Serbians and the Polish “gang” would return the favor when the situation was reversed.

Religion was a big part of cultural heritage and so each nationality built its own church, sometimes only a short distance from the others. My grandparents were proudly Polish Catholic. Despite their poverty, they invested in sending my father and his brothers to Catholic school at Saint Stanislaus and made of special point of getting a house within easy walking distance of the church and school.

You cannot tell how close it was if you go there today. They build the I-94 freeway through the old Polish neighborhood, putting a river of concrete between my grandparent’s house and their beloved church.

Freeway construction and urban renewal had the (maybe) unintended outcome of hastening the breakdown of the old ethnicity, the remnants of which we can now see in nice bars and restaurants occupying the extant old buildings.

One of the reasons I still like to visit and walk around my native city is that I can appreciate the layers of history, seeing what is still there and imagining what is gone but still leaves its social and cultural shadow.

Posted in Conservation & Environment | Comments Off on Milwaukee ethnics

Cutting around longleaf pine in Brodnax

Down on the farms cutting around the longleaf planted in 2016. They should soon be above the competition, but not yet. I would burn under them, but they are planted near loblolly that I cannot yet burn. So I cut.

It is labor intensive, but I do not mind doing it. It is good exercise and kind of fun the grub up the briars and brambles.

I can listen to audio books, put the earbuds under the ear protectors.

I just finished “How Innovation Happens,” that I discussed elsewhere. Now I am listening to “Rightful Heritage” about FDR’s commitment to the environment. It is a good book. FDR was a tree farmer, called himself that sometimes. He loved trees and nature, which is one of the things I admire about him.

Interesting too, however, is how yesterday’s solution is today’s problem, or at least needs different solutions. FDR managed a heroic age of conservation. It was exciting and often needed at the time, but some was wrong.

For example, FDR wanted to make it illegal to harvest trees below a certain diameter. He was applying the kind of reason you might use in fishing. It is all wrong for forestry. They call it “high grading” and it gradually ruins the genetics of a forest stand. The biggest trees are not always the oldest and the small ones might just be runts.

Another one is just an example of how science has advanced. FDR wanted to conserve longleaf pine. Great. The way they wanted to do that back then was to exclude fire, exactly the wrong thing to do with a fire dependent species.

But I should not be churlish. I know much of what I do today will be shown wrong. It is the way of all human endeavor.

The big deal was the CCC. I have always loved the CCC and I brag that my father was in CCC. It changed his life and so changed mine, for the better. Thanks for that FDR.

Pictures are from the farm. First shows my cutting around the longleaf. Next are the pines planted in 2012 and the meadow. Last is a coneflower. I just liked it.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Cutting around longleaf pine in Brodnax

Brodnax in May 2020

Videos of Brodnax

We burned on this place four separate times, clear cut 45 acres, thinned another 45 acres to 50 BA, planted longleaf and loblolly pine and are now managing part for oak regeneration.  It is probably our most intensively managed unit (just have been more things to do), but since we have had it for only eight years, it still seems a little less mine than the others.

I went down to do some brush control, but mostly to look around and make some videos.  They are linked and self-explanatory, but since I do not expect most people to watch most of them (or any) I will explain a little more in print.

In #1 I talk about the results of a May 2018 fire. It got a little too hot and killed a couple dozen good trees. We left the trees standing, although some have crashed down. Standing dead trees like that are called “snags” and they are good for wildlife. We now have a kind of ghost forest.  It is interesting to see the development.  A few lessons learned about fire.  More than anything else, the timing counts. You need the right season, the right wind and the right moisture. If you do this right, any “idiot” (I include myself) can be successful. When conditions are wrong, even the best will fail.

#2 is biochar.  Biochar is simply charcoal mixed with soil. It results naturally from fires, since the fire chars but does not consume all the wood. In this case, we have a bit more, since we piled soil to control that too hot fire I mentioned in #1. Biochar is an interesting thing. The char means that wood does not decay. It holds the carbon. The char itself has no real fertility value, but it acts as a catalyst for other nutrients and helps the soil hold water but not become saturated.  Indians in the Amazon used char to develop soils, called “terra preta” or black earth.  These areas can grow crops, unlike most other Amazon soils.  These people “made” this soil hundreds of years ago, yet it persists to this day.

#3, #5 and #11 show the effects of different fire regimes and how they change the landscapes.

#4 is a comparison of growth rates for longleaf and loblolly planted in 2016.

#6-#9 are about the challenges & joys of establishing longleaf pine on the Virginia piedmont.

#10 shows a gas pipeline.  I am not against pipelines or power lines. If properly managed, they can provide a great conservation of grasslands and pollinator habitat. You can see what I mean on the pictures.

#11-13 Are about stream management zones and protection of water resources. I think Virginia forests do a good job of this.

#14 & 15 are musings along the trail.

#16 is me talking about oak regeneration plans.

#17 is my tired but content end of the day

#18-20 shows that I did not really end the day, but took advantage of the dying light to take a look at the meadows and SMZ on nearby Diamond Grove. Also looked at the old homestead place, no longer extant.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Brodnax in May 2020

Bottomland forest

no pictures

Took part in this seminar on bottomland forests. I call it a success because I came away with two ideas I can use.

First regards planting cherry bark oak. I didn’t even know what they were until today. They look like southern red oak, and I just always thought I was looking at that. the cherry bark is like the southern red oak, but it likes to have wet feet. I am planning to plant a bottomland on Diamond Grove 2021 springtime, and now will add cherry bark oak to the mix. I already called Arborgen and ordered 100 of them. Since I plan to plant them by hand and do it myself, I can choose the micro-biome. According to the webinar, a difference of a few feet make the difference, i.e. if I plant on the little humps, the oak trees will be okay. I can go with cypress when it is a foot lower.

Second is more a curiosity than actionable information. The presenter was talking about cherry bark oak competing with sweet gum. The sweet gum grow faster and more profusely, but after 30-40 years, the oaks win out. How?

It is physics. The gum grow in a more conical way, so they spread out at lower levels. The oaks spread higher. Over the years, the oaks shade out the gum. Beyond that is the effect of wind. When the wind blows, the branches bang up against each other. The oaks are stronger and denser and they break off twigs and buds from the gum. Who knew? But it makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Anyway, my webinar participation will result in a small, but interesting change in the bottomland along little red-bottomed Genito Creek.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Bottomland forest

Visit and videos of Freeman

I took a bunch of videos at the Freeman place. The link is here.

Link to the Freeman videos.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Visit and videos of Freeman

Visit to Diamond Grove Forest

I have been caring for this land for fifteen years now. I made a series of videos at various places around Diamond Grove.

The videos are self explanatory.

This is the link to they YouTube.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Visit to Diamond Grove Forest

Forest visits May 2020

Chrissy came along to our socially isolated farms, so I have pictures that are not selfies to give perspective to my trees.

Rocket stage

First is a longleaf from the generation planted 2016, which means it is going into its fourth growing season. This one is through the grass stage and I think will do the rocket stage this year. My guess is that it will be a bit taller than I am before the end of August. My picture shows my estimate. I will be back to see how it did.

Trees die; the forest abides.

Next picture is from our beechwood SMZ on Diamond Grove. I am very fond of the beech trees, even if they have no commercial value. Those two trees are mostly hollow. They were damaged by a fire probably about twenty-five years ago. It burned off the bark on the uphill side. The wounds mostly healed, but they let in the decay. Hollow trees can be good for wildlife. I think these trees will probably outlive me. If one or more of them blows down before then, I will be sad, but there are plenty of successor trees ready to take their places.

Whiskey and oaks

I did not take a picture, but I found dozens of young-mature white oak on Brodnax. This is very encouraging, since I have devoted about twenty-five acres to oak regen. I was inspired by the “White Oak Initiative” that seeks to grow the next generation of white oak.

All bourbon barrels must by law be made from new white oak. When you taste your favorite bourbon, remember that all of the color and most of the taste comes from the good oak. Fifty years from now, maybe some bourbon drinker will be tasting the flavor of the forests we are growing today.

Longleaf pine of the Virginia piedmont

Last picture is my 2012 generation longleaf. These trees are going into their eight growing season and they look like they are doing fine. We burned under these trees last season and in 2017 (February). We also burned for site preparation, so you can say this was burned two or three times, depending on how you want to count.

We lost some longleaf to brambles. Lesson learned is that you have to control brambles if you want longleaf. Brambles are NOT well controlled by fire, at least not in my experience. You have to go after them with cutters and/or trample them down. The bottom line is that a bramble patch will kill grass stage and bottle brush longleaf. Don’t let them.

Brambles are no longer threats to these trees. I still am cutting some brambles so that I can get into the woods. I do not like brambles, but I recognize that bobwhite quail do, so leave some brambles, but not where you want longleaf.

Posted in Conservation & Environment, Conservation & Environment, Virginia forestry | Comments Off on Forest visits May 2020