Monday, May 2, 2011

Ensuring the toilet paper supply

Our normal 'weekend before fishing opener Chippewa Flowage kayak trip' was postponed this year due to the arrival of several hundred trees from the nursery. After the timber sale at the deer camp a couple winters ago, and a year to see where the natural regeneration is taking place, it was time to assist mother nature in starting some new forest growth. Podman and I headed to camp with 4 wheelers, a variety of spuds (tree planting tools as well as some Baby Reds and Yukon Golds), and a few hundred seedlings of various types.

The area in the Lake Superior watershed is pretty much red clay and aspen, encouraged by the forestry monoculture and quick and easy regeneration of the species. Clear cut, come back aspen, and cut it again in 40 or so years was the conventional wisdom for awhile. Its great for deer and grouse reproduction, two species that we find especially valuable as well as tasty, but its a boring forest to look at, almost as boring as the straight rows of red pine that the big timber companies are planting these days. When they clear cut a forest, they treat the land with herbicide to make sure none of the native stuff comes back, then plant it with row upon boring row of Red or Norway pine, another fast growing species. Our goal is to have a bit more.....cliched, politically correct term coming up.......diversity. We think our little part of western Bayfield county needs White Pine, Hemlock, Swamp Oak, Tamarack, White Cedar, and even some High Bush Cranberry. That was the mix we had and at the crack of 8am on Saturday we loaded up and headed for the select cut.

It's a little known fact but I'm a tree planting professional. My very first job at age 15 was planting Red Pine in one of those boring plantations for the minimum wage of $1.25/hr. The process has not changed much. On the way north I stopped to see TheLegend and picked up my ATV, his variety of vintage tree planting spuds, and some valuable advice on what to do and what not to do, all of which proved useful over the next couple of days. Podman and Woody had been out there two weeks before in a snowstorm planting hemlock and swamp oak. This weekend offered us a Saturday with 45F and on and off rain, followed by a Sunday with 38F and a raw northwest wind. This made us actually glad we were not on the Flowage or trolling for Coho in Bark Bay, another variant to the plan that had been tossed around.

The actual planting went just fine. The soil was saturated after the snow melt, the spud went into the ground like a hot knife through butter, and the moisture will ensure that the roots take hold. Image left has a planting spud and bundle of 25 White Pine seedlings. Like the snow two weeks ago, the rain and cold made for comfortable planting with a minimum of perspiration and zero insect companions. OK, we may have found a tick or two but this insect free window will not last. I found every swamp and puddle teeming with larvae waiting to hatch; it could be an interesting bug year on the islands. Even though the planting went well and conditions seem favorable for the trees to survive, the main enemy will strike next spring. Our overabundance of deer has annihilated a lot of the new growth aspen that's coming up. The land that was harvested a few winters earlier has White Pine planted and protected by cages. In the image to the right you can see what happens when a pine seedling pokes its nose out of its protective cage. We did find a couple wolf kills but they can't keep up with the deer any more than the bats can keep up with the mosquito population. White Cedar is especially tasty to deer and natural regeneration of that species as well as Canadian Yew is almost zero in the State of Wisconsin. We have cages in the master plan to allow them to grow past the deer's reach.

In the future we will plant more trees and cut more timber. Our goal is a good looking forest that's pleasant to walk in and inviting for those pesky deer and mouth watering grouse to live and thrive in. Timber sale dollars are a side benefit. Almost 2/3rds of forested land in the State of Wisconsin is owned by private individuals and families. The various governmental bodies own 30% and the corporations only own 11% at this point. Its pretty obvious that the private landowners have the power and responsibility to keep most of Wisconsin's forests healthy and productive. The group that we worked with on our timber sale, application for Managed Forest status, and tree species consultation is the Living Forest Co-op out of Ashland, WI. Charly Ray is the guy running the operation. Kayakers may know Charly as the head of the Inland Sea Society, sponsor of the every other year kayak symposium, 16-19 June this year.

We need more trees. Roughy 16% of the worlds greenhouse gases are caused burning and clearing the planets forests, more than all the internal combustion engines combined. Forest carbon offests, a relatively puzzling thing for a number of people including me, could be a future incentive to improve and preserve our forests. For right now however, the prospect of a healthy and attractive woodland, deer and grouse for the table, a couple bucks from timber sales, and good exercise are all the incentive we landowners on Reefer Creek need. I would encourage my fellow woodland owners to do the same.

Fine Ruffino Chianti Classico wine courtesy of the KingOfIronwoodIsland, a no show for the tree planting.


Lord Hayden said...

Everyone out here in California goes apeshit for aspen, because it's the only real fall color they get in the mountains. Which always makes me think, "do you mean those mangy clearcut groves that look like rotting white birch?"

Kathryn Johnstone Grafsgaard said...

That bottle of Ruffino Classico looks vaguely familiar.........??

DaveO said...

Yup, the acre upon acre of same age aspen, popple to we Great Lakes staters,is about as boring as trees can get. Unless you drive by the red pine plantations.
And yes, that is not actually Sam', KingIronwoods actual bottle of wine. We consumed that the first night. It was just a photo prop. I would never get him wine that good, even with the free coupon that he was rewarded for his prodigious consumption.