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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Check out that Norway!

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”        – Warren Buffett

Do you ever sit under a tree and think about how it got there?  Was it a volunteer, meaning did it naturally regenerate and grow there? Or did someone years ago, maybe decades ago plant it?  Did someone take the time to dig a hole and plant a seedling tree- hoping that one day it will grow up big and strong in hopes that someone sits under it and wonders or that wildlife is enriched by all the trees benefits.  Seriously…how did it get there, what has the tree seen, what kind of tree is it even!? If only trees could talk; the stories they would tell! Would you take the time to listen?

A few days ago I had a couple stop by the office carrying a large garbage bag and inside was a tree branch! They began to tell me about the tree and how they had 35 acres of these trees! I looked at it, felt the needles and said well “its a spruce, but I do not want to give exact species without seeing them”.  They had told me that the previous owner planted some 13,000 of these for a Christmas Tree Farm, but passed and the wife did not keep up with it so they just grew.  I did not want to confirm the exact species because partly I wanted to see these trees in real life and because I was not 100% certain on it, I told them I did not want to say white spruce and be wrong, in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t.  It was very bright green..but all I could think was black or white spruce for holiday trees but I just had a feeling it wasn’t because the branching and the pure green color.  In the back of my mind I am thinking can this really be a Norway Spruce and is just a young or upper branch?  But, Norway is not a common holiday tree here…  This was a brain teaser at best! I could not get it off my mind, so I talked it out with a friend…walking through all the trees it could be.

Anywho, so as I drove through the muddy back-roads to their property, it hit me like a cold snowball in the face and I yelled (all alone in my truck) I KNEW IT!! As I pulled into their driveway I had the biggest smile on my face because right in front of me, plain as day, rows and rows and rows of NORWAY SPRUCE!!!  I met up with the landowners and said, I am so happy I did not let you leave my office without setting up a visit-because these are Norway Spruce.  In shock we began to walk towards the trees and I explained how Norway’s branches droop down.  I have never seen a plantation of these species before, I was in awe.  It was a beautiful day, reaching 64 degrees Fahrenheit but when we walked into the trees it dropped roughly 10 degrees!  This beautiful, green carpet of trees stand tall all because some 26 years ago a gentleman decided to plant 13,000 trees!

Next time you pass a tree on a walk/run/bike or sit under one to cool down and take in its shady canopy take a moment to think- how did it get there? What has it seen? What species of tree is it?  If you do not know what species of tree it is, take a picture or note things about it and go that extra step to look it up!

Thank that tree for Clean Air

 

 

Let Mother Nature Take Her Course

“The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been waiting quite some time to be able to start with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I have finally been inspired by a landowner where it fit- on top of his bucket list was being able to escape the trifles of life and live surrounded by nature and being within the trees.  Recently retired he was able to finally escape the hustle and bustles of work and live out his life long dream of trees and wildlife! There is pure comfort in being able to know what you do to positively impacts the land.  This landowner was searching for all the right education to better sustain his property for the future all all wildlife that lives among it; even the families of squirrels!  Not many landowners I meet care for the squirrels!! Go Squirrels!

This landowner had just purchased the property and called me up a couple weeks prior to our visit very concerned about what previous landowners had done with logging it.  He is not against logging, but was very concerned with how it looked “butchered”.  I pulled up curious of why he was concerned…I saw no immediate concerns.  We began to talk about the property, a bit of history, and I simple said “I think it looks great”.  He took a stutter step backwards and had a huge smile on his face! He told me I made his day, I said great my work is done and jokingly acted like I was going to leave! He began to explain how this is his life’s dream, his top of the bucket list adventure, his true passion.  He was so incredibly worried about the forest and purely wanted to know everything he could do to make it better, was geared up to learn and do everything in his power to make it sustainable. We chatted about the basics- he has oaks so I filled him in on oak wilt and Asian- longhorn beetle for his maples.

We began our trek through the forest, well the sprouting of a new forest! I began to explain to him about how great it looked, you could see the baby red and white oaks covering the ground and the maples sprouting like crazy! He asked what he needed to do with everything and my answer for everything was “just let nature takes its course”.  Forests have been doing their thing for many years before us so they know what best to do naturally.  Now, if he did not have the ample regeneration he had, we would have been compiling a planting plan! Instead, we discussed adding fruit trees, hazelnut trees and some pines around the property lines for edge to enhance for wildlife and biodiversity. Forest land is so fragmented, split into parcels and one way to help wildlife feel safe in an area is to have forest edge and enclosure.

Just let Mother Nature do her thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trash to Land Ethic

 “We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
― Aldo Leopold

 

If you ever get an e-mail from me, this quote is part of my signature.  I put it on there in hopes to get as many people to read it as possible.  My hope is it latches on somewhere in folks minds and the next time they are outside they will make “better” choices than the day before.

Yesterday, I went out for a site-visit with a landowner who had just acquired the 10 acres of property next to him and he wanted to manage it because the previous owners had not.  When I say they had not…I mean they really had not. Reflecting back to the quote we see the land as a commodity to us…the previous landowners saw just that.  Because they were the “owners” of this 10 acres of woodlot, they felt they could abuse/use it in anyway they wanted because it was “theirs”.  All over this 10 acres was old dying trees, it was overgrown and unproductive but this is not even the worst of it.  Scattered all around the 10 acres were piles of trash, tires and old bricks!  I even saw an old baby stroller!  The landowner who I was walking with made the comment “maybe they did not realize the trash was picked up weekly”!  Instead of recycling or throwing away all this trash they hid it in their back yard woodlot. What they could not see did not affect them. The good news is the new landowner is chiseling away at this trash and cleaning it out and harvesting it to bring it back to a natural forest again.

This all brings me back to the Aldo Leopold quote on seeing land as community versus a commodity.  Land is more than a “object” that we own, land can give us so many resources and gifts if we treat it as something that is living with us; part of us, not that we just own it. We need to grow and think about what Aldo Leopold said YEARS ago about Land Ethic. Ethics are our standards/morals we hold for ourselves and how we apply those standards when making choices. When you throw the word Land in front; Land Ethics are the standards we hold leading to the reasons why we do certain things to/on our land.  If we do not have good land ethic the land will continue to perish.

We need to work WITH nature not against it. Treat it like family/community not an means to an end.

Aldo Leopold aldoleopold.org
Aldo Leopold- pure contentment
aldoleopold.org
Young forest
Young Forest Regeneration

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 🙂

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

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!