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Informed Decisions

by Tara

Over the past few days, I've become increasingly uneasy about our woods cleaning project. I'm not wild about having a big, hulking excavator here, and I feel like we're "wasting" perfectly good wood in our burn piles. So far, I've rationalized away my concerns by consoling myself with the fact that we're not cutting any live trees down—we're simply harvesting what will become the fuel supply in our eventual home.

But at the heart of it, I just don't feel like we're informed enough to make good decisions about what we're doing in our woods. So, in an effort to take the most responsible course of action, I've ordered a few books on sustainable forestry, the natural wilderness of Vermont, and permaculture practices. I'm hoping these will help lead us in the right direction; I can't wait to crack them open!

Woodland Research Reading

Find your place on the planet.
Dig in, and take responsibility from there.

Gary Snyder
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The bare soil that inevitably follows heavy equipment is often the first place invasive plants move in. Also tracks are signs of compacted soil.

Removing dead wood from the forest makes many creatures homeless.
Think woodpeckers, salamanders, fungi.

Sometimes it is better to sacrifice a live tree than to take out all the debris.

Posted by ET on February 21st, 2013 at 11:08 AM
The way you two are tackling any new situations and your insatiable thirst to learn more will always impress me. I'm sure, though, that even without all the readings, you're probably the best ones to take care of this land you so carefully chose!
Continuez votre bon travail!
...Tyler told me I still can comment...so I do ;-)
...but I'm having hard time with the CAPTCHA under it, this one is impossible to decipher!!! :( Next...Refused! ??? Next...can't read it either??? Next, I think it's OK! Yeah!!
Posted by David on February 21st, 2013 at 11:16 AM
Hi friends. I'm completing a permaculture design certificate shortly. Here is a link to my instructor's website: http://www.patternliteracy.com/resources/permaculture-reading-list. He's compiled a wonderful (and lengthy) reading list on permaculture topics, including forestry. You may consider searching the term 'food forest' for some ideas on how else to use your land. Hope this is helpful!
Posted by Sarah on February 21st, 2013 at 2:49 PM
The best book I've read on sustainable forest practice is: Jamie Simpson's Restoring The Acadian Forest, A guide to Forest Stewardship for Woodlot Owners in the Maritimes.
If you look at a map you realize that our maritime area and that of New England forms a continuum on the northernmost reaches of the Appalachian Mountains and I would expect a lot of what Jamie covers is pertinent to your piece of land.
If you wish the author, rather than Amazon to benefit from the purchase, order through the website: http://www.restelluris.ca - service is prompt and uncomplicated.
Good luck with your endeavour!
Posted by janet gordon on February 21st, 2013 at 6:25 PM
I may have mentioned this before but Wetlands, Wildlands, Woodlands is a great resource and I also know and work with the authors so if you want to know anything about that book or natural communities, let me know. I can classify the natural communities on your property too.

How best to manage a forest is a hard decision because there are so many ecological and cultural factors. It won't hurt that type of forest to have dead trees all over the place, but you can take some of them out for firewood without harming the forest too. Ground disturbance is very bad in terms of bringing in invasives but hopefully your work so far has been mostly on frozen ground so that would help a lot with that. I can also help you identify the invasive plants. You can get rid of them with a weed wrench, and toss those on the burn pile (or if you have larger buckthorn in the wood stove). I know less about forest permaculture but intend to learn - depending on what sort of house/property we buy, i don't know if I will have any forest or mostly open space but either way I will be growing edible native plants as well as more typical garden plants for sure. I can't wait to see what your land looks like in the spring. Please do photograph pictures of plants this spring and send them to me, or post them on iNaturalist.org in the Vermont project, either way I will identify them if I can
Posted by Charlie on February 21st, 2013 at 8:26 PM
Do you have good plant id books? Both native and weed books are necessary references.
It's also very worthwhile to take pictures of specific places (photo monitoring) and keep a good notebook - not just the blog. Lee Valley has a great 10 year garden notebook - it can be used for land stewardship as well as gardening.
Posted by Et on February 21st, 2013 at 9:03 PM
super happy to see this post because, although I don't know as much about northeastern woods, I know downed wood is really important to the ecology here. It returns nutrients to the soil, creates habitat for animals etc and heavy equipment compacts soil structure that is hard to get back and makes room for invasives. So hope I can come visit sooner than later and help you with your stewardship!!
Posted by Eliza on February 23rd, 2013 at 7:15 PM