Yes, our grafted chestnuts are beginning to produce nuts at EEC Forest Stewardship. This fall, 2022, we’ll be acquiring more to complete our back field nut orchard. This deciduous initial canopy layer will offer luxurious protein and a great finishing crop for pigs. Within the next decade, more understory plantings will be implemented, and diversification of plants in our transition from field to forest will be fully established. The chestnuts will eventually be overtaken by evergreen natives and oak. But these cultivars will have a good long run beyond my lifetime. These tree islands are surviving without irrigation or pruning. The protective fencing around each tree allows sheep to graze without predating the young nut tree plantings. New plantings will also need protection, so more small fenced rounds with t-post backing will appear around each baby tree. Companion plantings should also be cultivated- and we’re already planning the transplanting of comfrey out of the established garden beds by the house. Yarrow and red flowering currant will be another good pair of understory plantings also able to out compete grasses.
The back field is our next panned replanting of forest. It’s been a great tent spot for survival enthusiasts and a wonderful back field for our sheep to graze, and will continue to be a pasture and slowly morph into shrubs to brows and a mix of trees, openings, and layered ground covers. Our Cascade Katahdin Sheep are a browsing breed. Many sheep varieties- especially the woolies, graze grass, but struggle with leafy vegetation up off the ground. It’s important to have the right tools for the task, and here in the hills of Cascadia, browsing is a must to properly prune the thick hedges and brush trees. Our Katahdins love shrubs, including blackberry, and adapt well to hot summers and cold winters, like many of the species of vegetation we’re selecting towards here at EEC Forest Stewardship.
Sheep of all kinds also love to eat young trees, so the chestnuts have survived thanks to protective fencing around each trunk. We’re going to keep fencing our young trees so they get a chance to develop into strong towers of nut producing majesty. When it’s time to plant in the native forest around these nut trees, the sheep will be retired out of this field, or at least moved to part time, as the young plantings will need years to establish. A forest does not grow overnight, but it can get a foot hold in during a single lifetime. It’s an honor to be that snapshot in time where forests were invited back home to restore canopy cover here in Western Washington.