Treenut Home | projects | reforest | 1998


Winter 1997-98: Finish planting 60,000 Walnut Seed (we must be nuts):

The corn was still standing in the fields over winter (one big 40-acre field) because our renter couldn't get it all harvested in the fall - or didn't have space to store it. This field was yielding record breaking crops which were over-taxing his resources to process and store. We continued to plant walnuts between the rows of standing corn. Roland had collected truck-loads of seed from the streets in River Falls and he would provide these by the bucket to anyone we could talk into walking these rows with us. I'm afraid he ended up walking most of those rows that fall, winter and spring. We were planting every fifth corn row. We'd drop the seed every pace or two and press it into the soft group</nd with our heal as we walked. It would take about one pickle pail full of nuts to compete one row. These rows ran between 1900' and 1500' (running North to South) as we planted beginning on the East edge of the farm and moving to the West. Roland did most of the work planting these Walnut seeds with whomever he could coral into helping. We helped out whenever we were there. Every trip we made during that winter was dominated by walking these rows with pickle pails and heeling in walnuts. .

The winter of 1997-98 was fairly mild and the fields stayed relatively 'open' to planting late into the fall and spring thaw was fairly early.

Spring 1998 - First transplants from DNR Nurseries to interplant 1997 planting.

Our objective in buying these trees was to interplant the rows of walnut that we planted last year in the pasture land. We were trying to plant a plot that had pine as nurse trees for the walnut.

Tree order for delivery in April 1998:

  • From DNR Nursury
    • 1000 Red Pine
    • 2000 White Spruce
    • 500 White Cedar
  • Seedlings from other sources:
    • 100 Red maple
    • 100 Birch & Aspen & Poplar
    • no longer needed by a UW Research project.

Summer 1998: Hire forestry agent and logging company to thin a 50 year old pine and spruce windbreak. Big mistake!!

May 6, 1998:

The object is to plant the pasture land where we planted walnuts a year ago. I borrowed the neighbor's tractor and plowed a furrow half way between each of the walnut rows going east to west. This should satisfy the forester when he comes to inspect the planting for compliance with Forest Tax Law compliance (those walnuts aren't showing up too well yet.

What a day! Me, Debi, Jordan, Roland, and Erwin planted over 2000 trees by hand. This was a long day for all of us. The red pine were very big and Roland and Erwin took a bundle and planted along the old field road that ran along the top of the strips (North to South).

May 7, 1998:

The remainder of the transplants we planted along the north side of the bottom field. We planted cedar next to, and south of, the cedar windbreak that runs east to west just south of the house. I don't think any of these survived the dense grass down there in that rich bottom land.

We also planted some of the remaining in and around the old windbreak. The loggers really rapped this woodlot and left gaping holes in the remaining stand. We thought that we could just fill in these gaps with transplants. We were wrong. I don't think any survived the invasion of underbrush that took over after those trees were gone (mostly white elderberry).

On a completely different note: The Windbreak.

Very soon after moving to the farm in 1945, my dad planted a windbreak on the hillside north of the farmstead. He planted a mixture of white pine, white spruce, and red pine. This windbreak amounted to about 3 acres total and grew very well over the years. As it grew, my dad carefully pruned the lower branches so the trees would grow straight and tall. I remember him talking about selling them for telephone poles someday.

As i was growing up I remember how open this wood lot became and how you could walk through it and it was just like walking in a cathedral with the tall pillars and the roof overhead. I remember laying in the snow and looking up into the pine branches that closed over my head and just listening to the whisper of the wind through the pine needles. There was no other sound (and my young ears could still hear things like that). I had a heavy snow suit and I could lay there for a long time before getting cold. The edges of the windbreak were still closed in - branches hadn't been self-pruned or 'dad-pruned', and my folks had been careful to plant new trees to the north so as not to loose the wind stopping 'wall'.

When I took over management of the farm, I brought in the County Forester to advise me how to properly managing this 'wood lot' and expand it enough to qualify for management assistance, and a reduced tax rate, under the provisions of the Forest Tax Law. We were trying to find ways to improve our stewardship of this land in a way that wouldn't 'break the bank'. My number one priority in assuming management of the farm was that it would support itself and always at least break even, financially. (Note: so far we have succeeded).

The first thing the County Forester noted was how dense the trees were in this windbreak. They were far too close together for how tall they had become and the woodlot was long overdue for a thinning to keep it healthy. Actually he said it was critical to thin it before a wind came along and blew the whole thing over (or some disease attacked and decimated the trees). He actually said it might already be to late and even thinning might leave the stand to weak to withstand a good wind and it would take years for the remaining trees to build up the necessary strength.

He gave us a couple options. First, we could just go through the stand and cut down selected trees and let them decay in place. Or we could find a logger who would come in and harvest selected trees for pulp. He said this was an awfully small plot and it would be hard to interest loggers in spending the time for so little reward - unless they were located close by or there was another job that brought them into the area.

The first mistake:

I was new to this and I figured that if we could get even a few hundred dollars it was better than letting so many trees go to waste. (I would pay dearly for this naivety)

So we asked him to mark the trees that should be removed and give us the names of some loggers to contact. Long story, short; we contracted with Bee Logging to do this work and waited for the day. The forester had simply marked every third row for removal (now we know better than this as well - thinning selection should be MUCH more granular than this).

The second mistake:

We live in Madison - 300 miles from the farm - and on the day they were scheduled to do this logging we couldn't make the trip (for some reason - probably because we both had jobs and the kids were in school). It took the loggers one day to do the job. That night we got a call from the renters. They were like; "Do you know what you are doing here?" and; "This is terrible, they cut down the whole windbreak!!!" I said that they were only supposed to take every third row. She said they must have had a mix up because there are big holes in the windbreak where you can see all the way through it.

When we finally made it up to the farm, I discovered that she wasn't exagerating (about the holes, anyway). They hadn't taken the whole thing but it was obvious that they pretty much selected the trees they wanted and left the ones they didn't (the junk). This is called 'high-grading' by foresters and is the absolute worst way to manage a sustainable woodlot. I took a closer look and it became obvious that loggers took the unmarked rows and left the marked (took every to and left one) - perhaps an honest mistake. And where the rows didn't go straight through, they followed the rows with the best trees. So there wasn't much of anything good left in the windbreak. Just a bunch of spindly trees with large gaping holes.

( I have pictures of this somewhere - I'll post as soon as I find them....)

Over the next few years there were a few strong winds and much of the remaining windbreak did blow down. It is heartbreaking to see. Some lessons come at a cost that is very dear indeed. One of my older brothers told me one day that our Dad would be rolling in his grave. That's hard!

This County Forester left the state service soon after this and I believe he went to work for this very logging company.

If I had it to do again (WHEN I have it to do again), I'd just go through and whack off the weak trees. They would rot and add to the fertility for the remaining strong trees (the ones we no longer have). A lesson well learned and now practiced!

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