It may seem strange for a farm that has so many trees to want to plant more, but trees are very important. You just have to have the right kind of trees. The ‘Christmas’ trees we have are old, straggly, and in many cases dying. These need to be removed. Our forest trees are too much of a monoculture. Most of them are new growth, according to the previous owner he just let things grow and could not be bothered to do any work. This means we have an overabundance of Sweet gum trees and not much else. Having a more diverse woodland, and in our case trees that will be more useful as medicine are important to add.
So this weekend we cleared away some of the understory and greenbrier thicket (man I hate greenbrier, it’s lethal) removed a few small sweetgums and a couple of dead or dying chokecherries and planted a few new trees. My new trees are two lovely horse chestnut trees and three Chinese apricots. Usually expensive trees we were fortunate enough to pick them up at a bargain price from a nursery that was closing and no one else wanted them. I am delighted. The apricots are lovely small trees with beautiful flowers in the springtime and medicinal fruits later. The horse chestnuts we planted are about 15 feet tall but will still be a few years yet before we get useful fruits from them.
Five trees, it does not seem as if it should take that long to plant, but when you have to clear out all the underbrush, remove all the greenbrier, clean out all the fallen branches, twigs and other unwanted material before you even start to plant it takes a while. Then we had to fix the desired position for the tree, dig the hole to the correct depth, ease the tree into position and fill the hole back up again. We had hoped to get it all done in one day but somehow it took most of the weekend. Still finally we have some different trees in our mix.
Eventually the larger sweetgums around the new trees will be removed and recycled as shitake food or logs for our winter fireplace. Our new trees will offer a better green canopy and provide a more diverse woodland at the same time.
All day long I picked up sticks. Well actually they were small branches. Annoying twiggy things, the dead ones that hang on the bottoms of fir trees as they grow larger. Especially if planted close together, much too close in the case of the ones we inherited. The result is you get a mostly dead tree, or in a lot of cases considering how close they are, a totally dead tree, with lots of twiggy branches at the bottom. These prevent you from walking in amongst the trees. Its an impossible thicket not to mention a total fire hazard.
Add to that the fact that trees planted too close together tend not to do well, especially if you don’t thin them out. This is what the previous owner of our land had done. Planted lots of Christmas trees – mostly balsam fir and white pine – then ignored them. Today we have only a few decent trees but most are skinny and spindly or dead. The last two hurricanes took a big toll on a lot of the balsam fir and they died in large clumps. So we need to get them down, well the ones that have not already fallen down that is.
So phase one of the project has begun. First we have to remove all the lower twiggy branches just so we can move around under the trees and get to the trunks. If you cant reach the trunk you cant cut the tree down. Some of the ones in the area we did today are going to stay, but others will be going. So the branches have to come off.
We spent all Saturday doing this. Steve cut the twigs off with a chain saw and I collected them up and moved them to the storage rack. This way we can actually move around under the trees (hooray finally) without having to fight through a thicket and the branches are out of the way when we come to cut down the mostly dead trees. You really don’t want a lot of stuff on the ground when you are working with a chain saw. We got all the first phase of the trees done but there are a LOT more to go. Our storage racks are already full (more on those in a later blog) so phase two is going to be a little different. There are still a LOT of trees to clear out before planting season begins.