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cutting down trees

 
                    
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First, I'd like to say hello.  This is my first post on this forum.  I'm from PA which looks to be a different region than most of you but I figured that's no reason we still can't share info. 

So I wanted to ask a philosophical question.  My girlfriend and I are discussing buying a lot with no house on it.  Most of the lots around here are wooded.  They are not huge, about an acre or less.  Some have trees that are less useful for food than others.  YES I understand every tree has some type of use.  However in my mind certain trees are A LOT more useful in an edible forest setup than others.

If I bought enough acreage this would not even be a question, but say I only bought half an acre or so.  Would you be willing to cut down trees that bear little to no food in order to plant persimmions, pecan, mulberry, paw paw or what have you in their place?  Part of me feels that's against what permaculture stands for, but part of me thinks it would be necessary to get anywhere near self sustainable on a small plot of land.  Which is what we are striving for anyway right?  In my mind permaculture means something a little different to everyone, it just seems everyone seems to think their exact version of it is the correct one    To me I would probably cut down SOME trees and replace them with more edible ones, but I could see some people getting up in arms over that...

So what do you guys think?  Is cutting down trees to manipulate the land as you see fit OK as far as permaculture is concerned? 
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20430
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I would cut the trees.  In a heartbeat. 

I have cut gobs of trees. 

Of course, I would try to do it in a rather agro-forrestry way.  But, I could see getting onto a lot and cutting 80% of the trees in the first few years for one reason or another.

I have a chainsaw and a sawmill.  So I would put that wood to use.  Maybe a wofati with the leftovers going to hugelkultur and some for a rocket mass heater and some sticks set aside for future projects.

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3360
Location: woodland, washington
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it would depend on the site.  in the unlikely event that the particular piece of land you're considering is home to a pristine and ancient ecosystem, you might be better off choosing a more degraded piece of land.  seems there's plenty of land in the world that's been cleared already.

YES I understand every tree has some type of use.


not all of those uses require the tree to be standing.  you might encounter objections if you cut a bunch of beautiful trees down, bulldoze them into a pile, and light that pile up, but I don't think many folks here would suggest you've got to leave every tree alone.  maybe just don't go overboard and clearcut the place until you've observed the role the trees are playing and how they're interacting with other factors in the ecosystem.  at that point, if you decide to cut the trees down, you'll have some idea about their particular niches and how to take advantage of the vacancy with your new trees.
 
                    
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In my opinion, it's extremely important that a house gets direct sunlight on it, especially in a humid climate like PA.  If you build your house in the woods literally in the shade of the woods, you'll have a moldy, dank mess of a dwelling in about a decade.  So at the very least, cut some trees so you have good exposure to the south. 

And then yes, replacing other trees with ones that will make food for you and other forest creatures is totally in line with permaculture philosophy.  Cutting a tree doesn't mean you disrespect the tree's right to life.  You simply have a different purpose for that tree, and a different purpose for the site that the tree occupied. 
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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I'm from PA which looks to be a different region than most of you but I figured that's no reason we still can't share info. 

  I don't think you would even have to be restricted to being from planet earth to join this forum
Welcome!

And don't forget my favorite Mollisonism,     "Everything gardens"
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1350
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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On my acerage it was forested with jack pines and ponderosa pine.
I have no problem cutting down the jack pines they blow over easily.
The ponderosas on the other hand don't blow over easily and many of them are very large.  I have been able to keep most of them. Even though I have to work around some of the larger trees I can't bring myself to cut them down. I do take into consideration on how I would fall those trees and make allowances on what I place in the fall zone should I have to take them down.
Each tree I cut down though I made a commitment to replace with another one that produces something of benefit, I plant nothing that has just an ornamental value any more.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Don't forget that trees can be useful for more than just food, and can be worth keeping around for other reasons (windbreak, coppicing for firewood/building materials, wildlife habitat, used as a trellis for grapes or kiwi vines etc.)

If you've done your research, looked at your particular needs, and there are trees on your property that you don't think are worth the space they are inhabiting then maybe you do need to bust out the chainsaw. As long as the tree(s) don't go to waste, and you plant something in that space, whats the harm?
 
                    
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man ALL very great points and thanks.  I guess my biggest hangup is that I would hate to cut down a fully grown tree, be it respect for nature, it's beauty or the fact that it has to have a better use.  But food is #2 after water in the needs of homo sapiens right? .
 
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