The diseases that came with my ancestors to these new shores wiped out most of the people here who had long since settled into there own balanced way of co-existing with the world arround them. This was long after many large species had been wiped out by coming into contact with these same people as they spread out across the continent and began inhabiting the North East part of our country. Millenia of people shaping these lightly tended forest and fields through burning and light agriculture created a landscape I would love to have been able to have seen.
When I arrived here in the 80's (that is the 1980's) and talked to the local farmers who remembered when these hills were bare and stripped of their "natural" tree cover. I was shown photographs of huge stone lime kilns fueled by charcoal, massive log jams on the Connecticut River, and farm houses surrounded by bare fields. So the stone walls that I had found running through my woods made sense.
Come summer time, our woods, comprised mostly of trees a hundred years young or younger, are producing a lot of oxygen because of that young age. They are largely healthy. Fortunately, acid rain is not as much of a problem for the trees as it used to be 20 years ago. But now I am seeing mature ash and hemlock dying as I survey my land. It is felt that this has to do with climate change and moving insect populations.
In the woods, I work to open my understory, to clear out vines and thorny underbrush, to clear out the scrappy stuff, by taking maybe half of what is there down as fire wood and wood that gets milled. Working in the woods, I am motivated by open site lines and better movement through the woods as much as by good forestry.
So It seems, I own and manage some acres of carbon sink, if one looks at it that way. Does this make up for my modern life style of consume, consume, consume? I think not. Who do those woods really belong to? I know I am only a visitor. What I "clean up" in the woods is soon after heading back to natures default. No way could I ever keep up with my vision, especially as I am closing in on 70.
This old farm land is now some of the best "natural" land in New England. It has been left alone or lightly tended for many generations and reached it's own kind of teen maturity. I believe in "take a little, leave a lot" - the old way of living in consideration of others and sharing, harvesting and maintaining year by year. Even if I don't always live by that rule.
This blog entry pays respect to local land allowed to just exist and be left mostly alone, but still somewhat tended. I am lucky to be able to live in a part of the world where this is still possible.
Up in Maine on an island a tree grows over the handle of abandoned farm equipment.
View from above of forest I have been thinning.
A nearby bog will never be able to be farmed. That is fine with the beavers.
A closeup of a lime kiln wall
This maple tree alley was created by hundreds of years of farming on either side.
Looking south from a newly opened field.
Farm as museum, oh well.
Leaving the ferns be and mowing around them.
The same field from the top.
Removing many years of farming sin, mine and others.
Neighbor Michael and his new logging rig. A horse makes for lowwer impact logging.
Beavers shaping the land.
Previously bare hills, now mostly covered by new growth one to two centuries old.
It is sad to see these large Ashes dying, but flooring is on it's way.