Tree farming on acreage big & small

You cannot be a true tree farmer on an acreage small enough that you can just take care of it yourself using hand tools. On the other hand, it is profoundly gratifying to work with your trees on small acreages, where your efforts make a difference. I have developed a compromise. Most of my trees are out of my hands. I will manage the land, but do little in the way of personal work. But I have a few areas special to me. They are small enough that my muscles and primitive tools and diminishing muscle can be effective, but big enough to be significant.

My pictures show one of my areas of special interest. This about five acres. It is mostly longleaf pine but there is some loblolly. I want to make this an open woodland of the sort once common in the south. The longleaf pine ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the world, since it includes an over-story of widely spaced trees and a ground level that is essentially a type of prairie. Mine will not be that way for a while. In fact, it will happen only after I am myself compost or too old to know I am not. But I am present at the creation and working toward a goal.

The first picture show the longleaf. They were planted in 2012 after the land was burned. It is a nice plantation. My work consists currently of whacking down hardwood and loblolly competition. It is a little sad for me. Anywhere else, even very close, I would welcome these volunteers. I have personally knocked down scores, maybe hundreds, and still they come. Notice the woods in back. Those are loblolly and they do proliferate.

The next picture shows the longleaf and the loblolly we planted. They are the same age, but notice how much taller the loblolly of the left. Loblolly grows faster for the first 20 years. At around 20, the longleaf and loblolly are about the same size. After that, the longleaf are bigger. But the longleaf cannot compete well in the first few years and would be eliminated absent fire or somebody like me wielding a machete. We will burn underneath the trees probably next year.

Next is the grass and wildflowers. The red flower is a butterfly weed, important to pollinators.

The last picture is inside the forest you see in the background. This is a stream management zone. We want to protect the water and so we do not cut. It is a well-evolved ecosystem. Notice the large tree near the right of the picture. That is a loblolly pine probably around fifty years old. It grew when this was open. Since then, the forest floor has become shaded (notice the shade-loving ferns) and pines will not grow there anymore. That tree may live another 100 years, but unless there is some natural or man-made disaster, none of its offspring will grow anywhere nearby. The new trees are mostly maple. Maple seed fly in the wind and can reach far. I did not see any beech. They will establish only later.

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