The grass is growing fast as hooved herbivores process the landscape. What a transformation we’re witnessing- mere grasses, forbs, and shrubs turn into prime lamb deliciousness. The sheep are entirely driven by mowing down lush green pasture, something EEC Forest Stewardship has. Though some of our pastures are transitioning into old growth forest, that shift will take generations, and intermediate care of the still open ground between plantings should be managed to ensure healthy restoration. Blackberry and grass are tenacious tenants of the land, and shading them out with trees is the slow, but effective answer.
The intact forest, pictured above, has a partially closed canopy, allowing dappled light through to the young trees below. On the forest floor, a thick layer of debris and rotting branches and logs weaves an intricate web of life, including nurse logs for young trees, the future giants of the forest. When EEC forests reach this stage, we’ll have only a few sheep tending, and light activity on the land. Katahdin sheep are foragers- allowing them to eat beyond grasses. This diverse browsing instinct mimics deer and elk more closely. Perhaps at this stage in our forest’s regeneration, elk might be wandering through.
The sheep are not only producing meat, but also playing an important role as invasive managers. They happily eat knot weed, blackberry, and canary grass. They poop out fertility for our young trees, and continue building biomass to support a climaxed forest one day. That fertility can be too much, if the numbers of sheep become too great to be supported on the landscape. Carrying capacity is crucial to understanding how stock work the land. There are so many irresponsible livestock owners who think you just turn an animal out onto a field and that’s that. It’s why so much desertification happens in ecosystems that were once rich and abundant. Mankind takes so much for granted. I’ve had sheep on the land for only two years, but before that there were goats (less in number) and throughout all eight years I’ve been here (Summer 2020) chickens and goats have managed the landscape.
Above is the earliest photograph of EEC Forest Stewardship land (boxed in green). Here, by the 1930s, all the old growth had been cut, clearing the land for dairy farms, which quickly began developing throughout the Snoqualmie Valley. Many cuts were not replanted, and so, natural seeding began. This is evident on the northern part of EEC, above Weiss Creek, also drawn in and labeled. Just to the right of our Forest Stewardship property, there is a dark grove, left untouched. This grove is still untouched today, with a few second growth giants hiding within. To the right of the old grove, there is massive disturbance- right in the middle of the creek. I’m not sure what was going on, but all evidence of human activity is covered over in alder trees today.
The 1930s aerial was taken about a decade before my northern neighbor built a dairy farm in what is now a sensitive wetland area. There are very few evergreen mature trees on the property, and most are ironically, near the farm house.
Near the living spaces of our Forest Stewardship acreage, the clearings are maintained to access what light we can for more intensive agricultural pursuits, and the psychological benefit of sky and light. Looking at the aerial photo below, it’s easy to see how eventually, the south grove of evergreens will one day breech our skyline, hemming us back into canopy as well. It will be well past my lifetime. When the light goes out, this land will have transformed back into healthy forest, and should be capable of stewarding its self. A few walking trails, with information about the restoration of the forest, will allow community a place to enjoy trees, streams, and wildlife. Till then, EEC will continue to produce clean food and healthy habitat for people and livestock; working towards the restoration of temperate rain-forest.