– by S. Pearce Browning, III, M.D.
First, every forest or woodlot is unique. They vary in size, soil types, tree population, amount of brook and wetland, the access roads, the impact of prior natural catastrophic processes, and lastly, what the landowner’s preferences and goals are.
At times, the articles in the Newsletter, I think, have had an emphasis on selling logs. I personally am not interested in selling any logs, as I regard the forest as the storehouse of wood for my projects, which include timberframe construction and furniture. AT age 75, if I sell a log, I can’t grow a new one in my lifetime.
I have a steady supply of wood in the species I like, which results from taking down trees that have to come down anyway. The number of large trees in my woodlot (16” DBH) is not that extensive due to the 1938 Hurricane. The blowdown in the 1938 Hurricane was so bad that one logger put a portable sawmill on site and spent nine months cutting up the fallen trees. I can appreciate this, because it took almost two years of part-time work to clean up the fallen trees after Gloria.
As a result, a lot of the forest is in younger or smaller trees. The larger trees are white pine, simply because a 75-100 year old white pine can be of significant size, whereas it may take a red oak 150 years to get there. Management practices I have followed include nbuilding roads for fire access, as well as getting the trees, following practices described as cleanings and removing trees of undesirable species and also those that are crooked, bent or which do not make useful lumber. An example of the latter is black birch.
My forest contains very little white oak, some ash along the roadside, much more red maple than sugar maple, minimal amounts of paper birch, beech, and white pine. Recently I had a gift of large sugar maple logs where it was possible to cut boards 18-24” wide, and these will eventually be used in furniture.
I have a friend with a Woodmiser LT40 bandsaw who comes in about three times a year and saws all the logs we have accumulated. I have another friend who has his own bandsaw sawmill and he has sawed enough white pine to build a 20 x 24 foot shop.
Felling cordwood on the stump I feel is not helpful because they leave a mess, and it’s easier to let my friends cut cordwood for free and then they have to clean up carefully.
If at times you want to clean up all the deadwood on the floor of the forest, letting a group of Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts camp out is good, because they pick up all the deadwood and burn it in the campfire. I’m glad to do it, and it’s amazing how much small dead wood 10-15 Scouts will pick up and burn in a weekend.
There are a number of landowners who enjoy and make a special effort to encourage wildlife. While I don’t make a special effort, I have no shortage of wildlife.
Lastly, the one thing that you can’t put a monetary value on is wandering through the woods and just enjoying them. I find this much more rewarding than any payment from a sawmill or logger.
I’ll be interested in what the comments of some of the other landowners are.
This article originally appeared in the December 2003 ECFLA/WDLT Newsletter.