There are about 60 acres of woodlands at Crooked River Farm, all of them terribly neglected. The farm had last been used for grazing cattle, and the cattle were allowed to run in the woods, causing damage to saplings and native plants that live on the forest floor. Excepting occasional firewood cutting, it appears that the woods had not been touched since the last clear-cut in the 1930’s.  It will still take some time for the forest floor to recover, but it’s much more difficult to recover a recently clear-cut or high-graded forest.

Bottomland woods with skidtrail

Bottomland woods with skidtrail

Much of the woods is just natural reforestation of previous cropland and pasture or clearcut and in especially bad shape with severe overcrowding and undesirable species. But 70 years can still grow some pretty good trees, especially white pine, which were up to 2′ in diameter. And there are a couple patches of really nice woods that escaped clearcutting in at least 100 years.

So we called in the foresters for advice. They mostly just pointed to the biggest trees and talked about the value to them of cutting them – the opposite of what we had in mind. And then I fortuitously ran into Jason Rutledge, a certified forester I had met some 30 years ago, and had been somewhat following what he had been up to since. He agreed to come out to take a look.

He and his son and partner, Jagger, came out and toured the woods with me. They were completely different from the previous foresters. They were interested in talking about how to get rid of the “junk” – the dead, damaged, diseased, dying, invasive exotic, and other unhealthy trees in order to encourage the good growth, and get the forest on the path to becoming a natural, healthy, climax forest and preserve the big trees. Restorative Forestry they called it, and they called themselves Biological Woodsmen. We had found our team. And they got started right away. Here’s a picture of the initial team – some from out of town who were brought in as part of documentary that was being done on this forest restoration (with girl-friends and Annie, who was there to certify the sustainable harvest):

Healing Harvest Team

Healing Harvest Team

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