Seeing the forest for the trees

forestLast fall, my Dad and I were walking through our bush lot behind the farm. We hadn’t walked very far before we noticed a couple of young ash trees had blown over. In the last couple of years, we’ve noticed more and more ash trees, and not just the old ones, blowing over or dropping big limbs. Our bush lot is primarily made up of ash trees, as the ash trees grew faster and taller than the other tree species after the last time the bush was logged. In the last 10 years, the ash trees managed to shade out many of the other species, leaving only a few maple and beech trees in the entire bush. Unfortunately, in the last few years, more and more ash trees are falling, breaking or are standing-dead.

After our walk, my Dad and I discussed logging the bush. Initially, I was resistant to logging out the bush. I think my resistance initially was a response to possible change – the bush has never been logged in my lifetime, and I’ve always known it as essentially it is now. It was the place where I played in the creek, built tepees and forts, picked wildflowers, had campfires, and went for walks. I hated the thought of losing most of the trees and changing one of the places I treasure the most.

Pushing aside my sense of place associated with the bush, I began to think more about the over all health of the bush and dollars and cents of logging. The bush is almost exclusively a monoculture of ash trees, which is problematic in terms of biodiversity and disease resistance. As well, and more pressingly, the Emerald Ash Borer, which has destroyed many an ash tree south of here, is moving further and further north each year. Unfortunately, it’s almost a matter of time before that damn bug gets to this county and leaves nothing but standing dead ash trees in its wake. With the mild winter we had this year, the ash borer is even more likely to move closer yet. There are lots of ash trees in this part of the country and when the ash borer gets here there is going to be a glut of ash wood to be cut and sold.

The threat of the Emerald Ash Borer basically obliterating the bush and then having a forest full of dead trees worth almost nothing is daunting. I feel like my Dad and I are in a tough place: we don’t want to lose the bush as we know it, but we also don’t want the ash borer to destroy it and leave it worthless. It seems the best course of action is to log the bush before the ash borer gets here.

Later in the winter, we met with a local logger. The logger walked through the bush, made a rough count of how many trees were big enough to be cut and gave us a quote per tree. We haggled with him for a bit before settling on a price of $110/ash tree – many our trees are very tall and straight, ideal for making flooring and planks out of, so we felt we could demand a higher price. We also got him to agree to leave all the tops, which we will cut up for firewood. There are approximately 200 trees big enough to cut, so when we log the bush, we will get around $22,000 from the logger.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still hesitant about logging the bush. The bush will look significantly different and likely very thin after 200 or so trees are cut. There is some solace though in knowing that we’re going to get a good price for the trees (as opposed to the chance of not getting one in the future after the borer arrives) and that we can use some of that money to re-plant different species of trees to improve the diversity of the bush.

The logger will likely start logging the bush this spring. I can’t help but hope I’m not up on at farm that day to see the machines start cutting down what feels like a piece of myself.

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Categories: Farming | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Seeing the forest for the trees

  1. I completely understand! There is a large stretch of woods owned by the crown across from my child hood home that I used to run, play, and ride my pony through. In highschool, a large industrial firm came through and clear cut it. It was terribly sad. Even to this day, they must’ve treated it with something, because the only thing that will grow is the seedlings they replanted, so the place looks like a Christmas tree farm, not a forest.

    Maybe try thinking about it this way: By logging the bush, you are actually strengthening it, by removing the ash trees and allowing more biodiversity to flourish, the forest will be better able to resist pests. You and your father are actually being good stewards of that land by doing things to help it thrive for years to come.

  2. Thanks Jordann. That’s an excellent way to think about it. We’re planning on replanting with five or six different species of trees, so hopefully we’ll end up with a more resilient and diverse forest.

  3. Pingback: Country Girl = Creme Egg Girl « Cents of a Country Girl

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