Our farm is roughly half and half fields and bush – about 100 acres of each. We have a very civilizes wooded hill at the back of our house where we go camping, picnicking, running around and such.
It is high and dry.It has good view of the farm and a 300-year old oak tree at the very top that is quite a character.
It is hollow inside, but is still going strong, spreading out its picturesque branches in all directions and providing wonderful climbing and hammock fixing opportunities to the smaller members of the family.
The forest has a shady cedar stand, lots of maples, wild blackberries, and is very well suited for fort building. Trail construction is an ongoing process. The whole forested area is only about 5 acres if that.
That’s for the upper forest. Now, the lower forest is a completely different story. It has somewhat wet feet, especially in places, it has never been cared for, and I am convinced that there’s got to be a Baba Yaga’s hut somewhere in the middle of it, we just haven’t found it yet.
Fallen trees block your passage, derail you and make you lose all sense of direction. Tree crowns block the light completely. Thick carpet of mosses covers the ground. Ben said that it’s exactly the place where Snow White got dropped off.
Up until last year we have visited the lower forest only a handful of times – really, it’s impassable. Then last fall, my daughter Kathleen and I decided to brave the forest for our horticultural projects. We wanted to know what kinds of ferns we had growing there.
Lo and behold, we have entered it in such a way, that much to our surprise we have found ourselves at a maple and yellow birch grove. Straight trunks rising to the sky, no scrubby undergrowth, dry forest floor, and every possible fern growing in the understory.
That was something to be excited about – we had a treasure buried in our own backyard for 7 years, and we’ve never come our to see it. We decided to clean up the access and try to make some maple and birch syrup this year.
Enter Jean-Claude, a friend of our who knows everything about forests and is an artist with a chainsaw. He volunteered to help us out with the forest, and now is an integral part of our farm. In under a week, he cleared a trail from one end of the farm to the other, now our Maple Lane, and has started exploring further into the heart of darkness.
We have realized exactly how bad the flooding of the forest is, what parts are affected, and how to solve the situation. We need to make trails, and drainage channels, replant some areas and thin others.
However, herein lies a problem – a heavy skid steer is about the last thing you would want to have in the forest since it will completely compress the existing drainage lines, and there are only so many logs that you can pull out by hand in a lifetime.
Thankfully, Jean-Claude has a lot of experience with draft horses, and now we have Chum, a beautiful Clydesdale and Belgian mix, who is full of energy and will help Jean Claude haul the wood out.
Jean-Claude calls Chum his son and treats him with all the love and discipline inherent in such a bond.
God willing, this year we will have maple and birch syrup galore, all the cedar fence posts you could wish for, firewood and all the wood for constructions projects.
We are hoping to acquire a bandsaw mill and a chipper. In addition to lumber, it will give us our own supply of sawdust and wood chips for all our animal bedding and garden mulching. We are also hoping to be able to use the maple and birch sap and syrup in our fruit preserves, compotes and jams.
We are likely to have enough firewood and cedar posts to sell. Our firewood will be sold cut but unsplit for customer pickup.
They say firewood warms you up twice – once when splitting it, and again when it is crackling in the wood stove. We wish to share the joy of both phases with our customer and help them save on their gym fees.
And then there are wild mushrooms. North Americans are afraid of them for a very good reason, but we grew up picking them from the age we could walk. Here my Mom, the resident expert, is transferring the lore to the next generation.