Magazine article American Forests

The Pear-Thrips Factor; a Humorous Look at Tree Farming on a Shoestring, with Some Advice for Fellow Innocents

Magazine article American Forests

The Pear-Thrips Factor; a Humorous Look at Tree Farming on a Shoestring, with Some Advice for Fellow Innocents

Article excerpt

A humorous look at tree farming on a shoestring, with some advice for fellow innocents.

Yes, the land's an investment." My husband was trying hard to sound both knowledgeable and jocular. "In 10 years we'll need a shot to help the kids through college. Then by the time we're ready to retire, we figure the tree'll be fat and tall. Millions of boardfeet right in our pockets!"

The county forester looked us over impassively, "So, Jim," he said finally, "you're a minister, hm? Just what do you know about tree farming?"

"Well, uh, quite a bit, actually. We read a book - a couple of books. We know the cubic feet in cord of firewood, how to figure the board-footage in a standing tree; we know the best time to ..."

"What equipment do you have? Chainsaws? A wood vehicle? Four-wheel-drive tractor, maybe?"

"Um, we have two saws, the non-motorized kind." Jim smiled weakly. "One's a handy little utility bowsaw' the other is bigger, different - uh - shape ..."

A strong scent of diversion brightened the administrative group across the table. The forester winked at his cohorts. "How many acres do you want to sign up for in the Timber Stand Improvement program?"

"Well ... let's see," Jim said, pausing nervously. The hobby end of our scheme was beginning to look foolish around the edges." We have a month's vacation, plus a few Saturdays here and there. We could get up here maybe ... uh ... 40 days all told. Doesn't seem like a lot, I know, but how much d'you think we could do in that time?"

The fermenting humor came uncorked as the forester tipped his head back. "Forty days - 40 acres. Hawhaw!"

"They don't think we can do it," Jim muttered on the way out. "They think we're wimps! They sit behind the table, tough-as-nails dairy men with tan necks and white foreheads, snickering at a minister trying to tree-farm. Well, we'll show' em!"

We did show them, and after 25 years of muscling around 260 acres of Vermont woodland, we have some advice to pass along - not just to ministers but to teachers (Jim does that, too) and to word-processors (my field), and to anyone else who claims a bit of private woodland.

Lesson No. 1: bowsaws are not adequate for felling large trees, or large numbers of small trees. However, the small utility saw is an excellent tool for whipping fallen twigs and branches from trails that nobody but you may care about. A quick flick sends them sailing.

So let it be said: a chainsaw is indispensable to tree farming. Two chainsaws are equally indispensable. One nearly always isn't working; the second fills in just long enough for the first to be fixed before the collapse of No. 2. Two people working together, however, seem to have a salutary effect: the saws gain strength from snarling at each other.

Our very first chainsaw gave us an enormous sense of power, especially against bowsaws. Carrying it from place to place increased muscle power as well. We found it expedient to set its tonnage on something solid overnight- concrete or a heavy plank. Left on the ground, the saw would sink slowly out of sight, causing quite a to-do in the morning. Fortunately, bedrock lies close the surface in Vermont, so the saw never did make it all the way to the mother lode.

Yes, other equipment is helpful. You learn this after the woods close to camp are all cleaned up, forcing you over hill and dale with axes, saws, fuel, tools, insect repellent, extra clothing, first-aid goods, lunch, and perhaps a container for blackberries.

Jeeps, even old ones, are expensive but durable. They needn't be in one piece, either. Our current Jeep is held together with metal bandaids and offers the driver the extraordinary sensation of frame and seat floating off in different directions. The steering disintegrates occasionally and a wheel has been known to come off, but such shortcomings are minimized by the slow speed of woods driving. …

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