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


International Day of Forests

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are so many quotes I could start off this post with; so I chose one that was simple and too the point but is also complex.  With just 10 words and a deeper thought a bigger picture arises.  With one acorn we get a tree- which produces thousands more acorns to produce more trees and the cycle lives on into thousands of forests. In 10 words- we have the world; we have clean air, clean fresh water, carbon sequestration, recreation, wildlife habitat, a friend to hug, timber, food, clothing -“we have everything”- all from an acorn.

Now, I could go on and on about the benefits of forests and the importance of them but we should all know by now how they provide us with the essentials of life… 75% freshwater, oxygen, heat… but I won’t.  Instead I just wanted to say thank you to all the trees and thank you to those who appreciate the forests/trees/and vegetation not only today but everyday because without them humanity would not exist.

The picture below was taken a couple days ago- sometimes we run into areas where regeneration like this just does not happen and we have to plant- but I wanted to showcase mother nature at her finest- volunteer baby trees! The landowner told me he talks to his trees- which I think plays a huge roll in the amount of white oaks we are seeing here 🙂

Get outside…Plant a Tree…you will be planting for the future.

Baby Oak Volunteers! 



“Normal Hike”

Is it possible for a forester to just hike like an everyday person on a hike???  Now don’t go taking that in any other way, basically when I go out walking with someone else, who is not a forester, I feel like a weirdo!  Just like if I took a walk with someone who knows rocks or who knows clouds or something along those lines, I wouldn’t know anything!

Regardless– is it possible?  “I don’t think so, Tim”- Al Borland (Home Improvement).  When I go on a hike through the woods with a friend I am still in the mindset of looking at every tree, looking at the bark, identifying the species, if it has any decay, disease or other issues.  I often find myself falling behind and looking up at the trees rather than engaging in conversation, or I become that annoying person that quizzes you at every tree! I mean if I see a beech tree and I ask my friends what it is and they get it wrong, you can bet your last dollar that the next beech tree will be quizzed!

So I challenge you the next time you go on a nature walk or walk down to your mailbox to get the mail, or walk your dog around the block to take a book, grab a leaf or take picture and Google the tree to know exactly what it is!

I think it is incredibly important for everyone, regardless if they have trees in the yard or not to be able to identify at least the basics.  Whether that just be the difference between a conifer tree or a deciduous tree.  It surprises me how many folks don’t know the difference. There are so many diseases and insects infecting trees, seems like a new one is always just around the corner; making headlines.  Awareness is key–so knowing what you have is the key to unlock the safety of that tree, and keep it healthy.

So the next time you’re hiking–think like me–What is that tree??

Answer to the post is…no; there is no such thing as a normal hike. And just because every hike with me is educational, does not mean it is not relaxing or enjoyable 🙂

Scotch PineRiver

International Forest Day

Happy International Forest Day!  One of my favorite days…

I had a site visit today- yeah on a Saturday, but that was okay since it was forest day.  I was walking along with the landowners and their dog enjoying the warmer Michigan weather looking at trees, enjoying the diversity and some wildlife that was there, A hawk and some chickadees. They had some beautiful diversity on their 40 acres of property.  It ranged from mature scotch pine, mature white pine to some younger oaks and white pine.  They even had some baby spruce trees and balsams!  Not to mention some oddly placed blue spruce and cedar trees.  I enjoy walking properties with landowners because it reminds me that there are people out there who still value the forest purely for the forest.  These landowners wanted my advice on how to just be good stewards to their property.  They weren’t just looking to make a bang for their buck on harvesting it (which is a good thing; harvesting) but they really just wanted to know what they had out there and how to best manage it to keep it thriving for years and years.  They wanted to know about all the possible diseases to keep their eyes out for based on what they had and wanted to know what exactly they had out there.  They did not claim to be “know it alls” and that they knew what they had.  It was more of a walk through teaching experience.  It was a nice humble site visit.

So as we were walking…to my surprise I nearly started running! My eyes widen and I started going off the trail towards what appeared to be a hemlock…IT WAS!!!! Now, I get excited when I see certain trees but even more to my surprise the landowners were right behind me just as excited and not even knowing why they were to be excited! I told them they have HEMLOCKS! I started freaking out and she started freaking out pointing out the little adorable pine cones.  She was a sucker for pine cones, and I was able to find a fallen cone for her.  Now its normal for me to leave a site with samples of different things and a pocket full of acorns or other things but to have some one with me collecting neat things was mind blowing!  As we continued on I mentioned to them that it was International Forest day and we should probably hug some trees.  Now usually when I mention to a landowner about hugging trees I get a chuckle, but not today.  Today the landowners and I hugged trees together.  The gentleman said he would hug his favorite tree on the property, a large white pine probably 30-35dbh, in which he called “Big Bertha”!  So I hugged a white pine near his and he referred to it as Big Bertha’s sister!  Today I not only hugged many trees but I got to do it with some other forest lovers and it was amazing.

If you didn’t get the chance to hug a tree on International Forest Day–its okay, there is always tomorrow and the next day and the next.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir

Scotch Pine

Urban- The hidden connection

I’ve touched on the subject of what trees can do for us before, but because I have been stuck on the topic I thought I would go more in depth on some of it.  For the past month I have really been focusing on the research and outreach of what urban trees do for us.  Sidebar, if we went to school together, we would make friendly jokes about urban forestry, but in reality in my position I bring up a lot of urban forestry topics to help my community all become intertwined with forestry.  I try to bring the landowners with one tree together with the landowners with hundreds of trees.

Okay– back to my hidden connection that trees have with our everyday life.  So to make it more believable I went out and measured one of the trees in my yard to explain. I rent a single family home here in Harrison, MI and have plenty of yard trees.  I chose the one closest to the house.  Its a norther red oak about 24 in diameter.  Besides the obvious aesthetics and wildlife benefits of the acorns and the habitat for birds and squirrels and such it is also saving me money on my heating and cooling.  According to the National Tree Benefit calculator I save $162 a year.  This one tree alone takes up 2, 535 gallons of stormwater runoff  each year.  It does this by taking in water through the leaves, roots and branches.  This in return prevents flooding of the yard and flooding around the house and under the house.  It also helps prevent soil erosion around the house and foundation.  Besides uptake of the water the tree is also saving energy for me.  It will save on average 236 killowatts/ hour for me!  It shades the house in the summer keeping my cooling costs down and helps through evapotraspiration keeping the temperature regulated around the house.  And hey, not to mention it helps block the wind!  This one tree also helps improve the air quality.  It absorbs air pollutants and releases oxygen reducing the amount of pollutants I would encounter while in the yard.  Trees reduce the risks of asthma, headaches, respiratory and heart disease but taking in these pollutants for us!  SCORE!!!

So basically, as I step down from my soap box, the moral of this post is that trees are good and we should all plant a tree this spring.  Tomorrow is International Forest Day (March 21st 2015) and we should all honor that by ordering our trees and preparing to plant for the future!

taken from google images
taken from google images


There is something magical about hugging a tree.  I often get funny looks or people thinking I am down right crazy…but in reality, they are the ones that are crazy.  Hugging a tree for a forester is beyond just hugging it because I can.  Its respecting the one renewable resource that we can use for multiple different products, its about respecting the life of the tree that gives us cleaner air, cleaner water, reducing humidity and heat, and protects us against soil erosion and flooding!  When I hug a tree I am thanking it for lining and shadowing our streets and making the neighborhood a better safer place for children and for the economy.  Trees are proven to reduce crime in neighborhoods and they reduce electric bills, energy costs and stormwater run off in yards.  Trees are just looked at like a large inconvenience sometimes and tree huggers are stereotypical people who don’t want trees to be cut down.  But this isn’t always the case.  Just because I hug trees- doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in cutting them down.  We just have to be smart..cut a tree plant 2 more.

So, if your tree is feeling blue from this cold winter…hug it real tight!!!

Hug a Tree Today!
Hug a Tree Today!

One Stuck Forester

So, remember a couple posts ago when I mentioned “getting stuck”? Well do you know how to get a forester unstuck from a ditch?!  It isn’t as easy as one might think.  Oh she’s got all wheel drive, no problem, oh big problem!!

Anyways, so I was driving out to a landowners property for a site visit.  No address just told go to the end of the road and its the brand new driveway at the end.  They are just starting to build a house on their property so its all new.  Yea…new driveway and a foot of white snow.  I found the place okay and started to drive up the driveway and a huge dump truck is trying to get out of the driveway…so I start backing up.  Next thing I know…”FORESTER DOWN”! Right back into a ditch I go.  Now, this isn’t your ordinary ditch, this was a large steep drop off, right into frozen snow.  So, unfortunately I had to call the landowner and explain how I was now stuck at the end of the driveway and I may have sorta hit one of his oaks. So he and his father drive down with the large Ford truck and try to pull me out…no luck.  To get a forester out of the ditch you need “More Power”  we waited for the dump truck to come back and sure enough with a little tug, I was free!  Car was left unharmed, but the foresters ego may have been a little hurt!

Mr. Dump Truck who saved me!
Mr. Dump Truck who saved me!

That First Moment…

Forestry…. in technical terms is the planting or management of forests.  Forestry to me, however, as well as many others in my field its an art workIt can be a blank canvas providing the endless options of reforestation or a full canvas that needs work to make it the full beautiful forest it should be– Healthy and full of diversity.  We often see beautiful photos of trees, wildlife with trees, or forests in general…but do you every stop to look at the picture and think…”What factors made that forest the beautiful forest it is in the picture?” I do- which is why my passion for forestry conservation is so deeply rooted into me and I love sharing that passion with everyone I can…

My job involves a lot of site visits to landowners woodlots.  When I first pull up to a property I get that rush and excitement of the adventure of a new forest I am about to embark on and learn about.  Not one woodlot is the same as the next, there are so many components that makes every site visit unique and exciting.

I get out of my car, pending I didn’t already get stuck, and my mind starts racing like that 5 year old girl in the candy store!  I begin to look around at the species present, age of the trees, how the are spaced/competing with each other, then I think about the wildlife that might be present if I wasn’t intruding their space. I think about weather patterns and if they forest would sustain in hazardous weather…my mind races to the point of not keeping up. Then after that split second and rush of thoughts, I ask the landowner their goals with the property.