Forest restoration takes many lifetimes, which encourages the continued planting of trees here at Leafhopper Farm. The western white pine Pinus monticola pictured above was put in a year ago and continues to grow amongst alder fences, which protect against deer predation. Nearby are shore pine, twin berry, and even a wood rose Rosa gymnocarpa have been planted. These modest small plantings will one day turn into well established forest, with towering pines and thick forest cover for wildlife. These small patches are being cultivated across our ten acre parcle, and will help to reestablish the canopy, as well as the diversity of flora and fauna Leafhopper Farm wishes to cultivate.
Red elder Sambucus racemosa , which has been browsed down by both goats and deer, is finally getting a chance to come back in this restoration under-story system. Established natives on the landscape are coming back with great success. Our farm would like to establish blue elder Sambucus cerulea on the land too. This shrub is not often found in this particular ecosystem, but is native, so we’re re-establishing this tasty berry bush on the landscape for wildlife and human enjoyment.
Wildlife, such as black-tail deer, are common in our forests. A choke cherry with cambium stripping happened this winter, when the snow was on the ground for almost a month. The deer utilize the young fruit tree inner bark as a source of food during the tough winter months- when they happen in our region. We’re working to broaden the diversity of plants in the environment, to encourage more browsing options, cover, and accessibility to food and water within the landscape of the farm. This is also a win for livestock, who will have more forage in pasture spaces too.
In “the back 40” we planted 10 chestnut trees, all grafted verities which have been cultivated up north near the Canadian boarder. Our young trees have been in for about five years now, and the 8 that have survived are doing splendidly. In the picture above, you can see an expansive field with a lot of grass and very few trees. In future. this area will be filled in with massive chestnut trees. Right now, it’s hard to see, because the young trees are still under six feet tall. But they will grow, stretching out long branches into a woven canopy of nut trees. Deciduous trees which will drop their leaves in fall, let brief winter light come through the the ground. The dropped leaves will also offer great mulch and long term fertility in the grove.
Our back pasture will continue to have open ground, with plenty of grass for sheep, pigs, and other livestock to enjoy, along with open sky for people to enjoy, watching stars, or laying out on a sunny afternoon in late summer. But the field can also give up some of its scope to the return of forest canopy. This way, we bank more moisture in the soil, and create a rich habitat for our larger community of plants and animals who need space too. As people stewarding the space, we can choose what trees and plants fill in the canopy, allowing for the planting of nut trees, and other edible plants that might not be native, but still fill a role in the restoration of the environment, and benefit to human habitation as well. This is an important underlying principle of permaculture.
Ponderosa Pines Pinus ponderosa are not often found in western Washington, but they do occur, and we’ve been cultivating a small patch of trees in the back field, which are finally beginning to take off towards the sky. In a few more years, they will be fully established as a self supporting stand of pines on the farm. They will produce long needles for basketry, sap for food and medicine, edible bark, and even pine pollen, which can be harvested and used as a health supplement.
Another more recent addition to the back filed forest rejuvenation is sour cherry Prunus cerasus. This fruit tree will one day stand at over 40 feet tall. It will be dwarfed by the ponderosas, but still gain a large canopy presence in our back field transition. There are two of these in the back field, and they have both been left without deer portection for a while to see how they fair with the deer. I would much rather have the deer enjoying these trees, than the pine or chestnuts. Sometimes it’s good to have a few sacrificial plants on the landscape for wildlife; especially when you are first establishing a new forest or planting of any kind. Planning is key.
No forest will return without help, especially in highly settled areas like suburbs or even small farm acreages like Leafhopper Farm. People can either leave an area untouched, allowing native species like alder to come in and begin the restoration of forest slowly and organically, which is fine, or you can put energy into designing a forest that work on several levels for people and the environment, adding a richness that mother nature could not produce on her own. That’s part of the fun we have in replanting our forests here at Leafhopper Farm.