With the gift of drone technology, EEC Forest Stewardship was able to capture a great bird’s eye view of the forest from above. Our modest collection of young 60 year groves and two large clearings at either end of the property reflect a landscape in slow recovery. The forest looks relatively healthy, considering the continued drought facing much of the west. Our western hemlocks suffer the most from a lack of deep watering, meaning we get heavy downpours instead of slow seep continuous rains that were, up until the past decade, a common occurrence in our temperate rain-forest. In response, the landscape has been altered in a few major places to help slow runoff from these heavy rains.
Our most altered part of the landscape is in zone one, or the area inhabited by humans. Five people live full time in this area, with room for up to 8. We seasonally host some travelers who drop by for a month or two in the summers, and occasionally host a WWOOFer or student at a local wilderness school. In this part of the landscape you will see large earth works projects like the pond and swales, most of which deal directly with water flow and retention. We also have two shop spaces and the animal housing, including a chicken coop, two covered stall areas for goats and sheep, and grain room. The large blue square in the upper part of the picture above, is a 20,000 gallon cistern. This pillow tank allows us to flood irrigate our swales to water a young orchard planted in the fall of 2018.
The view from above also offers a great perspective of our rotational grazing work around the property. Katahdin sheep graze field and forest after we move our goats through on tethers. The sheep are important grazers, really working on the grasses we have established in clearings around the landscape. In the picture above, you can clearly see the brown areas of short cropped pasture, versus the greener, lush parts of the pasture which has not yet been grazed down. In the bottom right corner of the right clearing, there is a larger patch of green that is completely fenced in to keep out all the livestock. It has been recently planted with young trees, including an oak grove, and deciduous trees like big leaf maple and hazel. We don’t invite sheep into this enclosure to protect the young trees and native under-story we are also establishing, like blue huckleberry.
Forests mark the boundary between an active human habitat and the wilder forests at EEC Forest Stewardship. Further south, past the animal shelters, you enter a world of towering giants, leading down to a hidden stream which hosts spawning salmon in the fall. Here there is a great wetland setback, creating habitat for wildlife and native forest. EEC Forest Stewardship hosts a CREP grant, which allows cost sharing with our local conservation agencies in our efforts to restore the canopy of green. Without habitat, our beloved old growth will never return. Even on small acreage parcels, 5 acre plots, can have a forest stewardship plan and tended native forest restoration. If everyone stewarding land would plant a few trees, we’d have a much better chance for forest in the long run, and still have plenty of room for fields and orchards.
Our back field, the southern most part of the landscape, and furthest from the main settlement of human activity, still hosts habitation. A lone wall tent has stood for two years, hosting a rather talented and experienced naturalist who loves living quite off the grid. I appreciate his presence in this far away part of the land, because he keeps an eye on the space and deters predators from predating my sheep and goats. This field will remain partially open, but in the most southern boundary of the land, we’ve established a grove of (grafted) chestnuts. This is a future food forest in action. There are also a few ponderosa pines establishing too. The bare patch across the fence on my neighbor’s land is a sign of great disturbance. It also illustrates a clear departure from restorative stewardship into chaotic sandbox for off road toys. There could be some serious sediment runoff from his land next fall. This runoff would clog our salmon stream with loose dirt, which in tern, can kill salmon eggs and endangered fresh water muscles.
With the responsibility of land stewardship, comes a great moral maze full of naturalist idealism and harsh organic truth; every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Our good intentions may not serve the greater ecological recovery in the short term, but further on down the road, every tree planted will be one step closer to rebuilding a greater canopy.