Working With The Forest: Clearing Trees For Our Future Farm

August 7, 2015

When it comes to our land, we have all sorts of idealistic views around maintaining as many of the trees as possible. But of course, not all of them can be saved. Not all of them should be saved. But how do you decide which trees live and which trees live on as firewood, hugoculture logs or lumber for our home?

  1. Hire someone who knows far more than you.
  2. Take your time and do things in stages.

On Monday we received our topography map for the southern 2.5 acres of the property. We know that this end of the land will be where we want to establish our homestead and the eventual dairy, so it made sense to start there. Given how thick and unruly the brush is right now, we would have been paying 3x as much for them to just be chopping through bushes and brambles to try and get a clear line of sight in order to survey the full 10 acres. Not the best use of money. Knowing that they will be able to work far more efficiently once the leaves fall (plus it gives us time to actually see what the land does through a couple more seasons) were factors in a very easy decision making process.

Map in hand (or on iPad rather) we ventured over to the property with our arborist (and friend) Jeff to discuss our options and make some decisions. Neither of us know much about this side of things. But even by simply having such a knowledgeable person walking with us it became easier to see where the easy opportunities are and much more difficult areas live. Problem trees (half rotten falling down trees wedged into other trees that could fall very unpredictably), nurse logs (old, decaying logs that play host to several baby trees), tedious alders just begging to be pushed over, magnificent maples that could simply do with a little branch clean up.

It’s a different way to look up and evaluate the forest.


Eventually, we want there to be meandering paths throughout that allow the goats to munch their way through an afternoon. Creeks to be preserved and expanded into multiple ponds. Swales to capture water and offer important growing spots for our own sustainability and cultivation projects. And of course, a well thought through primary homestead to be both where we raise our kids and raise a barn for the future microdairy.

It would be easy to look at our time crunch and think it’s unfortunate or messy or inefficient to be breaking up the excavation into stages (i.e. we’ll be clearing approximately .5-1 acre to start, then circling back with the excavator at the end of September to tackle another acre or two, while ponds and other landscaping items will possibly wait until the Spring) but I think we’re fortunate to not be able to rush too much. To have to sit back and really experience the land before we try and mould it into something it perhaps doesn’t want to be.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself – as the positive spin seems to keep the momentum up and perspective light through big decisions, bigger dreams and even bigger invoices.

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  • Reply Chrisi August 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    When we moved here, to the nine acres we currently live on, my dad advised us to just wait and watch. He said if we finished big projects now, before experiencing the place, we may regret it. We were pretty gung-ho, however and did not heed his warning. While most things have worked out, there are definitely times I wish we’d just been patient.

    All that to say I think it’s wise that you’re taking your time with the bigger changes to the land.

    • Reply rachel September 22, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      It’s so hard to be patient though, isn’t it? I want it all…now! But thankfully our dollars will only extend so far so the waiting game is partially by choice, partially by budget design. 🙂

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