I've been busy this spring and early summer on getting some trees into my forest. This is not food forestry at all. The idea is to diversify the edges or the entirety of certain groves, and to create a new growth regeneration in the understory of existing groves. I'm planting Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, as these are the species I was given for free from two local foresters. Although both of these species exist in my forest (the Fir actually being one of the dominant species), I am planting them in areas where they might do well, but are not dominant. These are mostly in deciduous groves, which are dominated by poplars and birch, but also smaller Douglas Maples, Saskatoon Berry, and herbaceous shrubs, like Thimble Berry and Tinker's Fairy Bells as well as many smaller plants. The forest is not primal by any means, a devastating human caused fire (by railway engineers to clear the land of trees for easy construction about 100 years ago) burnt much of the valley down to rock and ash, eliminating much of the biomass in many locations. On top of this, a second fired caused by a lightning strike that caused widespread damage in the valley may have come through my land. The land was also logged, but to what degree or style I'm not certain. There are also some obvious skid lines going downhill in the forest. Some of these are regenerating, but in a very different pattern than their surroundings. The only evidence beyond these skid lines is the long lasting cedar stumps with what clearly looks like felling saw cuts. I'm guessing that the logging was done some time in the 1950's and may have been for split rail fences and posts and the evidence seem to be that they were harvesting dead snags.
Although I have a nice grove of younger Cedars growing in an area near my creek, the majority of Cedars on the property died in the fire and regeneration in much of the cedar zones is sparse to non-existent. As a result there are many burnt out Cedar snags of varying sizes, and some having fallen down now. These old snags are things of immense beauty, and I love finding them. The regeneration has been slow because much of the seed bank was destroyed due to the heat of the earlier fire burning the debris and organics right out. There has been a considerable amount of biomass build up since this time, in some of the locations, but in others I have barely an inch of organics and top soils, and it is work to find a spot where my planting shovel will penetrate deep enough for the root plug of the trees to go in amongst the stones. I am planting the cedars generally on the uphill/North side of these snags, as Cedar prefers to go through it's earlier years in the shade and with consistent moisture. If the snag proves to be really solid feeling, or is quite small or short, I plant the tree quite close to it, but if it seems like it is more likely to fall over and potentially uproot the young tree relatively soon, then I plant my new Cedar a little way away from it. I figure if there is any chance that there is some reservoir of Cedar fungal action, or any related bacterial colonies, then it will be present at the base of these old Cedars. I am also planting cedars in deep organics that appear to be the deposits of already rotten fire killed snags that fell over shortly after the fire.
The only bare ground in the forest is created by animals dragging things or digging up stuff, or when a tree falls over and flips up it's stump and roots.
I also planted a line of cedars on part of the Eastern boundary of my property, as I want to take down the newer ribbon from the subdivision surveying done in 2008 (a few years before the land changed hands to me), and the old barbed wire line (some of which is girdling the poplars and birches, or laying on the ground creating a dangerous tripping hazard, from an older land owner laying out the Eastern boundary of the greater property). I was planning to do more Cedars on this line, but as I progressed into steeper ground the canopy opened up even more and I decided that a line of Fir might grow better there. At any rate, with a Cedar planted every 4 to 6 feet on the property boundary, if even half of them take the property edge will be very obvious.
I am hoping to add more diversity as I progress with this land. Generally I am planning to let the deciduous groves keep on growing without adding conifers, unless there are Cedar snags, but I am thinking that I will add other deciduous plants that are not yet common on my land. I am particularly thinking to focus on berry producing plants to increase the insect and bird species and volume. Elders and Ash come to mind.
As far as conifers in the future, in addition to more firs, I am hoping to inter-plant the existing conifer forest with White Pine, Larch, Western Hemlock, Yew, and Engleman Spruce. The latter tree I have only identified about six adult specimen.
My forest is already fairly diverse. It is dominated by Interior Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine, Balsam Fir, and White Spruce . There is the one main grove of Cedar, but there are also some randomly in the forest. Most of the forest has a nice mixture in it. In a given circle 30 feet in diameter, I can often count 6 overstory species. I have a hard time identifying or differentiating between the Spruces when they are really young, and the Firs also resemble each other when young (in my inexperienced eyes), so there may be more Engleman spruce than I can easily identify. I am getting better at this with time. In the conifer forest there are often clonal stands of poplars entering from the side, or patches of Birches and there are the odd Mountain Ash. Near the creek there are also Cottonwoods, and there are Green Alders, Red Osier Dogwoods, Douglas Maples, and Willows. I may plant pine, if they are given to me, but since I have hundreds of dead pine from the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic I do not have planting them high as a priority.
This is a fun project for me, and I do it as a 'break' from garden work. It allows me to spend more time in the forest, to get to know it, and to make more observations in how nature is working on it's own.
During my planting time I was happy to see a number of natural Cedars regenerating on the property, which leads me to think that the moisture and nutrient levels have returned enough to support the right fungi and bacterial colonies necessary for their healthy growth.
If I get some more trees, I will try to remember to get some video footage of the style of planting that I am doing, which is very different from the seven foot hexagonal planting that is done by the pros in the tree farm forest cutblocks.
Re. your forest - When I was growing up, we cut a lot of the deciduous trees on the property for firewood. Now I look around at it and notice how homogeneous it is. Gorgeous but still very evergreen heavy. I'm planning on reintroducing seedlings around the edges and watch how they grow.
According to the foresters who gave you the trees (or anyone else, for that matter), is the planting of the Doug Fir and Cedars sufficient to regenerate the land and the natural forest ecosystem balance? As in, all other plant species eventually naturalize without human intervention?
I know some grasses and berries and such will travel there via wind/birds/animal droppings, but am wondering how strong or complete an effect that would have...
Or is it, rather, that after the trees have grown to sufficient coverage, you need to inter-plant with other trees, shrubs, etc. later on to continue fostering balance?
In my case, my forest is regenerating in pretty full swing. If I did nothing, it will either burn in a forest fire or turn to old growth, depending on both how much moisture the system contains and luck of getting missed by the fire mosaic while building up biomass on the ground. By the looks of it, if I did nothing, in the great scheme of things, there might not be any effect, but I am planning to log on the property to mill wood for building, to get firewood, et cetera, and as such there will be some need for planting, and human regeneration, particularly if I am taking out volume in one area. Some of the Doug firs that survived the big fire are a hundred feet tall and three feet at the base, some of the white spruce are similar, and the Engleman Spruce are a bit smaller, but the same age, I think. I have mature pine of the same size, but they are all dead. I have a mixed forest, and while most of the trees have regenerated since this fire, they are more in the range of 50 to 80 feet tall and 6 inches to two feet in diameter. These are of very mixed species.
I would say, as above, that what I am doing at this point is not really necessary. If my land was clear cut right now, it might feel more like it is. I don't think that foresters have any more idea than I do on what is best for land that has had such damage on multiple fronts, but is already in full swing of natural recovery from it, partially because this valley has western slope rainforest type regeneration potential. The sort of forest I have, because of the varied disturbance over time, is quite unique, particularly since I am at the transition between the rainforest biome and the boreal. I'm not saying that I know what I'm doing, but I'm not very confident that the forest community really knows what they are doing either. They are improving in their knowledge base, but the forest industry, in general, is focused, like agriculture, on volume production in the short term, rather than soil ecology building in the long term. My idea to diversify the stands, and add volume where it is lacking, resonates with the latter. When I mention what I am doing, they give me trees.
is the planting of the Doug Fir and Cedars sufficient to regenerate the land and the natural forest ecosystem balance? As in, all other plant species eventually naturalize without human intervention?
If I chose to purchase trees, I would not buy Douglas Fir. I have lots of them on the land. I would be focusing on Tamarack (Larch), White Pine, Engleman Spruce, Hemlock for instance... that are not yet present in volume or at all. But Doug Fir is like a weed; it grows on all soil types, and will produce biomass or rocket stove fuel in relatively short time lines, so it is actually a good choice, and it is naturally regenerating in the deciduous stands.
What a wonderful project you've engaged with! I know the area (born in Prince George) and I'm always shocked to see the dead standing-wood after-affects of the Spruce and Pine Beetles.
You say you have Spruce.
Did you know you can eat the fresh spruce tips in the Spring? I age them in sea salt and use it as a flavouring, or you can use them fresh to add a citrus note to salmon.
Locals peoples up here (yukon) used to grind the bark and make a flour like substance... having tried it I wouldn't recommend it pure, but mixed as a stretcher into a fried bannock dough it's amazing.
The gummy sap was used as an antimicrobial on cuts and abrasions... also as a chewing gum.
Birch is great too.
You can tap birch to get the thin Spring sap. If you want to make syrup it takes a bit more reducing than maple- it makes a great tonic, high in iron- if you drink it as is.
The white powder on birch bark is a natural sunblock, maybe a SPF 15.
Rough Stem Bolete mushrooms grow symbiotically with birch roots. Delicious when dried. BUT! Be aware they interact badly with alcohol. Don't drink for a day after a meal of these.
Thank you for planting trees!
Thanks for your encouragement on my project. It's one of many, and I'm really glad to have finally gotten some of it started (well I planted a few trees last year, but not a substantial amount). I'm super stoked to see how they develop over time.
actually, this is new info for me.
I age them in sea salt and use it as a flavouring, or you can use them fresh to add a citrus note to salmon.
I love those Englemann Spruce. Beautiful and majestic trees, but yeah, a bit of a slow grower, even more so here in the arid Southwest.
They naturally grow at a bit higher elevation here in New Mexico. We're at 7100 feet I see them more at 8000 feet.
I also deeply appreciate your writing style.
We've been homesteading on the forest edge for twenty years and working our forest for 45. Smiles, it's a wonderful lifestyle.
I have a tiny piney wood,
My trees are only fifty
Yet give me shade and solitude
For they are thick and thrifty
And everyday to me they fling, with largesse undenying
Fat cones to make my kettle sing and keep my pan a'frying
Go buy yourself a piney wood
If you have gold for spending,
Where you can dream in mellow mood, with peace and joy unending;
Where you can cheerfully retreat, beyond all churchly chiding,
And make yourself a temple sweet of rapturous abiding.
O Silence has a secret voice
that claims the soul for portal,
And those who hear it may rejoice,
Since they are more than mortal.
So sitting in my piney wood
When soft the owl is winging,
As still as Druid stone I brood . . .
For hark! the stars are singing
Have you seen alder there? Anywhere we had alder when I was a kid in the west was likely a productive area, they were one of the few nitrogen fixers of any size other than russian olive. They don't grow here, and I miss them.
I miss the smell of the dry pine woods. Was an amazing place as a kid.
What are your main book resources for your knowledge, if you don't mind me asking? Or is it largely word of mouth with other folks interested in the same stuff?
For more coastal rain forest I have to admit that I'm mostly self taught leaning heavily on the Lone Pine guidebooks, but defiantly I learned a lot from many many people more knowledgeable than myself.
For The boreal forest I'm still learning the basics- I've only been up in the Yukon for 8 years. but there is a fantastic book by a local lady: Beverly Gray's 'The Boreal Herbal" is an awesome resource.
Here's a link the her shop's page: Aroma Borialis
Yeah the lone pine books are great, aren't they? The Plants of Coastal B.C. was pretty much my bible for a few years. I have a few others. I also have read most of Nancy Turners work. I am familiar with the boreal herbal, and it's on my wish list. I've never been to the Yukon. I would love to sometime but, for the most part, my project will keep me local for a while.
I'm mostly self taught leaning heavily on the Lone Pine guidebooks, but defiantly I learned a lot from many many people more knowledgeable than myself.
For The boreal forest I'm still learning the basics- I've only been up in the Yukon for 8 years. but there is a fantastic book by a local lady: Beverly Gray's 'The Boreal Herbal"
Yes. There are green alder (or some called it slide alder, or mountain alder). I'm very familiar and love the red alder that I grew up with. Mostly the alder here grows in disturbed areas. My roadside ditch has alder in it, mixed with willows, birches, and dogwoods. There are not a lot of alder in the forest here... YET :D I have hopes to get around to seeding some out and then transplanting them on the edges of deciduous/conifer transition zones, and throughout the conifer areas. I have seen red alder growing sporadically more like a shrub in the understory of big old growth stands on the coast, so I figure this green alder can probably tolerate going in the under story of my conifers here.
Roberto,Have you seen alder there?
My phone charger port has bought the farm, so to speak. I'm a phoneless and thus without the tool to take pics at the moment. I'm heading to the city sometime in a week or so, where I have a friend who is looking into finding someone who can replace the USB port in my phone while I'm in the land of service. I have a few major errands to take care of in the city, like getting a new foot on my prosthetic leg. My place is pretty remote from such services. I'll endeavor to get some photos of the forest and the trees that I planted, and maybe some video of it too. It's super crazy busy for growth in the forest in the summer here, and this year in particular since we have had consistent rain. I was hoping that my forester friend would be giving me some more excess trees (but this doesn't necessarily happen on every contract; it's actually really rare, and it's not supposed to happen), but the last big contract for their work fell through, so they are done planting for now and are brushing with gas powered saws now. He's hoping to get some fall planting contracts, so here's hoping.
so, Roberto, where are the pics? :)
I did a bit of brushing myself in the last week. Counter to the title of this thread, I probably buzzed down a thousand trees in that process, but it was not in the forest proper, it was on the edges of my meadow. I'm brushing poplar and cottonwood, as they have the tendency to turn the meadow into forest. Both of these species spread vigorously as clonal colonies, so I haven't actually killed these trees at all. They will sprout up from the cut trunks/stumps. I'm thinking that they will make excellent ramial wood chips, but I don't want them to continue getting bigger and then spreading/eating up more of the meadow.
The edges of the meadow, and elsewhere in the meadow, I'm hoping to do agro forestry/silvo pasturage bands, but these will not include poplar and cottonwood, or any tree species that spread by clonal roots.
I will be planting some of these bands of trees with species that include those that:
A.) Do not spread by roots.
B.) That flower (to increase pollinators and birds and insects that enjoy that particular species) and fruit, for the same reasons.
C.) That can be coppiced for rocket stove fuel, biochar, ramial chipping shoots, et cetera and these processes will also reduce the possibility of excess shade on the non forested strips (which will be grains, veg, pasture... all herbaceous).
D.) That provide craft wood (such as basket weaving willows, yew for bows, roses for arrows... etc.
E.) That provide food.
F.) That provide medicines (like .
G.) That provide nitrogen (like alder).
I was huckleberry picking with friends on some recently made logging blocks in the local community forest, and noticed a lot of very young alder (perfect for transplanting) on the disturbed road side. :) I'll be getting me some of those, for sure. Interestingly, the forester that is in charge of the community forest will have to pay someone to brush these down with a machine as they grow fast and take over the road. I wonder if I can get him to pay me to remove them manually (with the ulterior motive of taking them home to transplant. ? I'll ask him. He's a pretty cool guy, who might see that as a good option.
Have you seen alder there?