Sunday, November 29, 2020

Old men caring for trees


At your age isn't long term forest management, particularly on leased land for hunting purposes, a bit ahhhh optimistic ? ---ken

It is what I like to do.

Would you ask a silver-haired gentleman why he owns a Corvette? Or would you chide a mature man whose eyes pause on an exceptionally healthy woman for a half-a-heartbeat longer than necessary?

Long term forest management 

You can ask twenty different people to "imagine" the perfect forest and you could get twenty very different answers.

The timber producer, the gun-stock maker, the pipe carver, the wicker-worker, the ruffed grouse hunter, the deer hunter, the bird watcher, the person who gathers mushrooms, the photographer, the backpacker, the old man warming his toes in front of a blazing hearth...

None of them are wrong even if some of them work at cross-purposes at times. The timber producer wanting to add the last couple of inches to the diameter of tall, straight conifers in a woods with a closed canopy will be at odds with the deer-hunter. That same timber producer will be working in the deer-hunter's favor when he does release cuttings and much later when the light hits the ground after the trees are harvested.


I pray that I have another twenty good years left in me.

Dad was carrying ladders and kicking cinder-blocks out of his way when he was 89. OK, I exaggerate a little bit. He was carrying an extension ladder across a grassy field when his toe encountered a hidden cinder-block and he didn't quite kick it away. In fact, it tripped him and he fell on top of the ladder which put bruises on his arms. Without those bruises I never would have ever known he was still screwing around with ladders at the age of 89.

A release cutting will improve hunting almost immediately. Throw some perennial ryegrass, red clover or turnip seed on the ground where the sun will hit and BAM, next fall you have better hunting.

If the trees are mast producers then it MIGHT take three years for the trees to produce more heavily. Oak, for instance, is an early pollinator. The buds decide if they will be fruiting or vegetative the summer before they bloom. More sunlight through all of the first growing season will result in more flower buds in the second growing season and, for oak of the Red Oak clade the acorns will drop at the end of the third growing season.

Care of plantings

An Asian pear tree like Chojuro, Korean Giant or Shinko will produce nice crops the third year in an orchard. In a planting where they must compete with brush and tree roots from the edge of the opening it can take twice as long.

Persimmons take longer to come into bearing but are arguably better suited to the rough-and-tumble life out in the woods. The trick with persimmons is to get them to survive transplanting.

Some oak trees are precocious. European oaks (Q. robur/petraea), Sawtooth oak (Q. accutissima) and some strains of Bur and Swamp White Oak for example. How precocious? Documented four years between the planting of the seed and the first acorn...but in a nursery setting, not the woods.

Wildlife plantings are the classic "black box". If you put in the care you will get good results. If you don't, or cannot or Mother Nature conspires against you with a drought...well, you get to start over.

Setting an example

Eaton Rapids used to have a less-than-mediocre football team. In 2007 the varsity team scored six touchdowns in one season. That level of scoring rarely wins games.

Then they hired Mike Smith (who I was informed passed away this year) as football coach. Shortly after he was hired he took the team to post-season play.

Belladonna palled around with many of the players on that team so I got to watch those kids play.

One player stands out in my mind: Sheldon Holmes (yes, his real name). He played the line. Every time the QB cocked his arm back to throw the ball Sheldon jumped up and attempted to bat down the ball. EVERY TIME.

Most of the time the QB avoided throwing in Sheldon's direction. Sheldon was 6'2" and a good jumper.

In spite of the low probability of connecting with the ball, Sheldon kept leaping into the air.

He did succeed in getting a piece of two or three passes a game.

Every player on the team played with that kind of intensity. They played like WINNERS and even though the individual contribution may have seemed small, collectively it made all the difference in the world.*

I look at Sheldon as an inspiration. I will manage the hunting lease with Sheldon's intensity because that is the strategy of winners. And the best way to become a winner is to act like one, even if your team only scored 6 TDs the year before.

That is a best legacy to leave with the younger hunters. How to act like a winner.

*Sheldon's two-or-three successes, in isolation, probably did not win a single game but consider the effect it would have on the plays the other team would call and how the QB would execute them. They would run fewer passing plays and far fewer short passes. The effect of Sheldon and the other guys on the line extended far beyond what our eyes saw.

Maybe the owners of the lease will offer me the property when they are ready to sell or maybe the heirs will consider some kind of deal where they hunt bow season and lease it out for firearm season to our party. Those kinds of opportunities are far more likely if I act like a winner.

People love winners.


  1. I hear you Loud and Clear. Good for you !! ---ken

  2. That's a great way to look at things.

  3. Interesting to ponder when time is up for yourself.
    When God lives inside of you, it is his voice that is the determining factor on what to do sometimes. This quote from Chariots of fire has been a reminder of the order of things: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I wished I would have kept better track of the good pleasure times when I was young now that I am old.

  4. Gopher it! If you like it, who are we to tell you NOT to do it? ;-)

  5. I recall originally reading ken's comment, and interpreting it as a word of caution, rather than a "make fun of Grandpa" comment.

    Ken's comment apparently was enough to spawn this post. This post is another good one.

    And do not fret, ERJ, you are a winner.

    1. Milton, your interpretation of my comment was what I intended. I hope that is the way others, particularly Joe, also saw it. ---ken

    2. Hi Ken:
      I figure you planted more trees in your life than I did and you have a few years on me.

      Nevertheless, I thought it was a question worth answering if only to clarify my thinking.

    3. Thanks Joe. And I still plant a few trees. Two apple and one cherry last summer. Hope I get to pick the fruit. And two grafts using your technique that appear to have worked. This spring will tell. ---ken

  6. Hinge cutting works well: