Really Seeing The TreesPosted: December 8, 2013
It really is true that sometimes one can’t see the forest for the trees. After coming to inhabit this forested farm, our family was reluctant to leave any impacts on the forest. Some trees were selectively harvested to create the log cabin retirement home that each of my in-laws passed from life within, just as they wanted to do. Some firewood was gathered from fallen trees. A few Christmas Trees were taken from the land but then, we started buying live trees. On the surface, it seems to equal 2 trees – the one not cut and another one planted. However, after spending weeks indoors and being transplanted into a field in mid January, success is rarely the outcome.
Living in a forest is an interesting experience – fires, storms, wildlife, unexpected late season freezes, insects and droughts all have impacts on the health and vitality of the forested land. Man has an impact on the forest’s health, even if the choice is quite “hands-off”.
So, it came to pass that with my in-laws passing from our physical lives, we became stewards of a significant piece of forest and began to understand some practical realities. While the wild can care for itself, that does not necessarily equate to optimal health. Our domestic pets are healthier than the wild critters that sometimes eat the nightly leftovers of the backporch kitties. And a forest that is cared for is healthier than one that is left to its own devices. Humans are a part of Nature. We are the planet’s intellectual response to many on the ground events.
Back in 2001, a large storm passed through the forest to the south of our property’s boundaries. While the owner did intend to log that land, they had a gentler and more selective plan in mind. However, Mother Nature’s extreme handling left that property with 60-70% blow down. We tried to hike that area shortly thereafter and it was very difficult and slow going.
So, there was a fast salvage effort and the land was re-planted roughly without any soil preparation in a monoculture of pine trees. The trees have never-the-less thrived and grown well and without a doubt they are sequestering a lot of carbon from the atmosphere.
Then, in 2009, our region experienced a devastating storm, approx. an inland hurricane, known as a derecho that took out a very large swath of forest state-wide. In fact over the next few years after that, severe storms came almost every year. 50 yr old Oaks and Pines always got the worst of it as they were sent crashing to the ground. We began to rethink how we care for the forest.
During a long trip through the western states we saw the devastation of monoculture and overly dense forest – protected from wildfire and logging – come under attack from the Pine Beetle. This is not the first such devastating result of another part of nature – insects !!
The Forest Stewardship Council seeks to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests. While we do not claim to be a FSC-certified forest here in Missouri, we do appreciate their efforts. We share their values in wanting to consider long-term impacts on the health of our forest eco-system in every decision that we make. We consider our farm a preserve and our management stewardship. Our forest is home to a large diversity of biomes, wildlife and flora and sustains a healthy flow of perrenial watershed throughout.
Even though our farm is not FSC-certified, because truly we are not in the timber business but simply of a forest stewardship mentality, as environmentalists we do recommend that architects and designers consider FSC-certified wood when specifying green-building products for their projects.
We asked “Trees Forever” – “What Makes a Healthy Forest ?”. A forest of a mixed structure that includes ground layer, wildflower layer, shrub understory layer and canopy trees is less likely to be invaded by exotic species and insect pests. That is the perspective that we employ. Over a decade ago, we planted almost 20,000 trees in a 40+ acre riparian buffer in the watershed. We planted a broad diversity of many species of hardwood, nut trees, evergreen and flowering trees. The Emerald Ash Borer that is threatening the health of Midwest forests, may or may not attack the Green Ash trees that we planted but since these are all in small stands with other species of trees around them, they are more protected than they might have been had we focused on only one species of tree.
One of the reasons that we are doing selective logging and timber stand improvements on our forest is that if there is a forest of even aged trees, they are more likely to end up with invasive species. We consult with state and professional foresters for advice to improve the health of our forest. Just like parents seek the advice of a pediatrician to keep their children healthy. As my business partner and husband, Steve, takes time away from our recycled materials business to spend some time outdoors, cleaning up the areas impacted by necessary logging and stand improvements making brush piles, water bars, smoothing terrain and planting in cover crops, as we plan for aesthetics and practical outcomes for areas needing attention by replanting trees, we are like parents or gardeners in stewarding our forest to be not only healthy but accessible and able to provide enjoyment for any humans who might hike the natural beauty of this forest.
One of the reasons that we were attracted to offering Cork as one of our recycled materials, was the delight in being able to bring an organic, sustainable material into the assortment that we offer our customers. Trees, shelter, shade, food, purification, the Earth’s stubbly hair. Trees are easy to love and appreciate. Enjoy connecting with a tree this Christmas – indoors or out.
Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer