MAEAP…MAEAP

 

Every-time I use the acronym MAEAP…I think of the roadrunner cartoon “MAEAP MAEAP”!

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has had a Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program- MAEAP program in place for many years to honor farmers who are environmentally friendly; recently in the past year they have added a forestry component.  Forest, Wetland & Habitat- geared towards farmers and private landowners who have one, two, or all three of these components on their property.  Many farmers have woodlots and can add it to their list of verified components.  Farmers and landowners go through risk assessments at their own pace and when they meet all the high risk (erosion, chemicals, ect.) they can become verified.  It is a voluntary program, and is confidential. I was given permission by my landowner to talk about it.  Being a forester under the MDARD umbrella, we took on the forestry part, while the MAEAP technicians focused on the agriculture parts.

When first learning of this new program, I immediately knew who fit the bill for it.  To be apart of it, you really have to be “one” with your land and active on it, and willing to keep up with it.

Norm, young at heart, has been following the words and wisdom of Aldo Leopold.  When he was younger he read Aldo Leopold’s, Sand County Almanac and was inspired and it has never left him. He spent two weeks in Baraboo, Wisconsin at the family shack, learning the ways and Aldo’s legacy. When I first met Norm, back shortly after I started here, he was just looking for direction to update his management plan.  I figured it would be another typical walk through the woods, chatting about deer management, and a quick referral.  To my surprise, I was wrong! We sat down that first day and he showed me the plans he had written for the last 20 years, his records of his control for invasive species (Autumn olive) and other activities he had done.  He has records for putting his property into a conservation easement and the real kicker is his mission statement.  While reading his mission statement, again inspired by Leopold, I was brought to tears. It is not often I meet someone with the same values as I. I was humbled and overwhelmed by what he had written YEARS ago. A holistic approach for sustainability of all parts of the land. I collected myself and we took a tour of the property….

As we toured the property, Norm pointed out the some 60,000 trees he planted- most by hand and some by machinery. He took an old abandoned farm and turned it into a nature paradise. He put up signs with species and dates, not only for him to remember the date but for his grand kids when they inherit the property. He has his hardwoods stands marked by color for easier tree ID for them as well.  Norm is an organic farmer with fruit trees and bees and provides ample habitat with 10 wood duck houses, buffer zones along his wetlands and has even restored his section of the Cedar River back to a blue ribbon stream for great trout fishing! That first tour, I left feeling a sense of calm and happiness.

Now, trying to get a hold of Norm is not always the easiest- because he spends 7 days a week out at the property managing it, so either I have to drop by or wait for a call- but the wait is always worth it! Because, I was so inspired by Norm, I knew I had to take everyone and anyone out there whenever I could. He was always ready to share his story with anyone who would listen.  I took a group out there to verify his property with MAEAP, and just recently took a group of landowners out there for a field tour on managing your woodlot. EVERY SINGLE PERSON, left there thanking him and thanking me for allowing them to experience such beauty.

He has even been Conservationist of the Year and Tree Farmer of the year! Norms.jpg

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The Big Debate

Don’t judge a tree by it’s bark.

Winter months can be difficult when trying to identify trees, many of us rely on leaves to figure out the species.  When you get really good you can tell by the bark, buds and branching.  I will be the first to admit, and I have been doing this for some time, I am not always 100% confident.  Relying on bark alone in the dormant periods of deciduous trees can be deceiving; depending on their site conditions they can sometimes have varying bark.  Aspen on a nutrient rich site can be a bit different than an aspen on a wet or poor site.

I was out on a site visit hoping not to freeze or get stuck in the snow!! I know this landowner well so it was an enjoyable game of who can stump who the most! We would find trees that didn’t look like their typical format and quiz each other.  Seeing how it was his property and he was very knowledgeable of trees he did most the quizzing.

A couple hours into our stroll we came across this grey, smooth, hard bark of a tree…I said hey what’s this (thinking I know exactly what it is) he hadn’t a clue so I said ironwood.  Immediately, he disagreed and began to correct me! We then came across his idea of and ironwood tree  in had to laugh not actually knowing get the species he was pointing out! Mine being smooth tight grey bark and his light brown shaggy bark, one of us was terribly wrong!  We analyzed both put trees up and down, taking photos, noting the catkins on the one, the branching…all bets are on!!! We finished out stroll, hugging trees of beauty and made it back to truck.  This was not over, after carefully looking our trees up in the several books in my car we discovered we were both correct!! What?!  Both trees part of the birch family are considered ironwood- American Hornbeam with smooth bark and Easter Hophornbeam with the shaggy bark!

 

Wonders of the TREES

Ever walk through the forest and see something, stop, and go hmm?

Yesterday I was out on a 120 forested property with a landowner.  We were just cruising along, when we stopped and both looked up and went hmm.

Often when I go to properties with a lot of acreage to cover the landowners drive me around on 4-wheelers or gators so we can cover all ground and see EVERYTHING! So here we are vroom vrooming along when we had to hit the breaks.  Up above us was unlike something I have never seen before.  The tree branch was literally curling around making a doughnut shape! I thought perfect placement for a bird or squirrel nest.  Now, I have seen a lot of trees that grow around things, like a sign or nail or something like that. Trees have incredible strength to grow around inanimate objects in order to survive.  I have also seen trees that grow slanted to try and catch as much sunlight as they can, but never in all my days of hugging trees have I seen one curl around like this.  It is quite odd to me actually; what in the world  this tree branch thinking to grow like this?!

All Natural Curl Tree

To my next wonder of trees…the other day I was sent an article about trees and communication.  Whether or not trees communicate in ways underground through their root systems.  Now part of me is like yeah okay makes sense what she is saying and part of me is thinking no, competition and Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest”.  Survival of the fittest is not saying the strongest always survives. It is often misinterpreted or maybe I am the one who misinterprets it but I believe it means the ones willing to change or adapt and the ones that are “smarter” are the  ones who survive. I am no expert on this!  So when I was listening to this forester talk about the communication with trees I obviously got to thinking about her theory.  When I was at this site visit he had a lot of regeneration. BABY TREES!!!! EEEE!!! Anyways, so I looked around at these baby trees and her theory did not sit right with me..if a “mom” tree is supposed to reach out and provide for the baby trees by giving nutrients then why are there a bunch of baby spruce trees growing under oaks? Does the “mom” not have to be the same species of tree?  Are the mature oaks providing for these white spruce trees?  Now I know, seeds travel by all sorts of ways but it was just a thought I had.  I like the concept of trees working together to survive…but I also believe in competition and space with trees all the trees are out to get the amount of sun they need, water, nutrients–why would it compromise its livelihood for a baby tree that may not make it? Her theory is valid and she has much more experience and knowledge then me, but I love the passion others have about trees and learning new things…its all a learning curve for the constant change and new discoveries people uncover!

It is all just so crazy to me, but I love the constant wonder…

Baby Balsam Fir Tree
Baby Balsam Fir Tree
White Cedar
White Cedar Horizon line 🙂