Monday, February 27, 2012

Stewardship of the Woodlands

 One thing has always been clear, there is a connectedness, a sense of the the past and of the future, a sense of home - when you are in the woodlands. I am not a Girl Scout. I grew up in the city, well, Louisville, KY. I wasn't taught about nature, wildlife, or forestry growing up, so when we considered having our land logged, we had to look for help. In order to be the best stewards of our land, we took the first step of consulting with a "Landscape Restoration/Manager" (he is managing the restoration of about 700 acres of previous field to woodlands), and walked our property to learn and identify some of our trees and plants. Not only did we learn about our plants and trees, we learned some other historical facts about the area, that led to a greater connection to the land.  This made the thought of cutting down any trees, even an "improvement cut", all the more difficult.

Our property is located in the Hoosier Uplands , much of this area was cleared for fields of corn crops, thus leaving few trees. One side of our property, was a field not so long ago, and now has filled in with cedar trees. There is a dried up pond, with a very small shelter for a farm animal, and rusted bound up bob-wired fencing. We learned this was home to pigs, as pigs are often prescribed to repair a failed pond. Since pigs root in the mud with their noses, they can potentially work the clay, and repair the leaky pond. Pigs are not only smarter than dogs - they repair ponds! How awesome are pigs?

The other half of our property is untouched, healthy, woodlands. My husband and I knew this area was special, as we had already referred to it as "park-like".  Healthy woodlands also means diversity.
We learned that we have the following trees on our property: Sycamore, Black Walnut, Tulip Poplar, Red Cedar, Black Cherry, Elm, White Oak, Red Oak, Dogwood, Beechwood, Hickory, Persimmon, and Sugar Maple. There are not many Hickory or Oak in Indiana, even though that was the composition of the native woodland. When the forest were cut down originally, these slow growing trees were squeezed out by the faster growing Cedar, Beech Wood and Sugar Maple, which are able to sprout even in the shade. The fact that we have many Oak and several mature ones, I feel very blessed. I am grateful, these were passed on to us, and that we will be able to pass them on to future generations.

Our intent is to be stewards of the woodlands. Stewardship involves managing the land with respect for all parts, the trees and all the inhabitants. Therefore, it is important to consider nut and fruit bearing trees and plants for wildlife.

The consultant hesitated to offer any advice towards removing trees and explained the process would be somewhat "ugly". However, he did share that if we were to remove any trees that from his perspective in restoring landscapes to the original Indiana Woodland - he would keep the Oak and the Hickory which would mean removing it's competition, Sugar Maple and Beech Wood - but not entirely.

Finally, he recommended taking two steps in the logging process to ensure the greatest integrity and a separation of interest.  1) Have a Forester mark your trees to be removed  2) have a Logger remove the trees. We actually took a third step by hiring the consultant and we are better off for it. We have a greater perspective of all the life on our land and how our decisions will impact the landscape now and in the future. 


  1. Will you put the pond back? Were you planning on clearing the land for grazing/growing hay? I kind of like the idea of growing an oak forest so the (future) pigs can run around and munch acorns, but I guess that would take a while.

  2. Seana, I am not sure about the pond at this point. Initially, we did want a pond, and was excited that we may have a ready made one.
    We have a few acres that are clear now for potential pasture. However, that is also some of the area that gardens will have to be planted due to soil quality and such.
    We did think that we may clear or semi-clear 5 acres or so of the cedars. We were told by the consultant, that the lay of the land may be a bit of a challenge to create pasture. I love the idea of pigs running around munching acorns too! There are a few Oak by the pond currently.
    There may be the possibility of acquiring additional acreage that would be a PERFECT pasture! That would be the ideal situation.

  3. This is so interesting and exciting to read about Michelle! I can't wait to talk with you about when I am back at EFC. This is all in my area of interest with conservation biology and environmental management, it is so cool to read about things I'm learing in action by someone I know!

  4. Madeline, I can't wait to talk with you either! I am learning so much and widening my perspective everyday. How fascinating that you are studying environmental management - it is so interesting how all the systems work together.

  5. "Hoosier Uplands" sounds like "Lower Mordor" Look out for golems ;-)

  6. Ha-Ha... the Hobbits are invading....