Thursday, February 17, 2011

Season of change

   This winter has been very busy.  So much has happened since I last posted, I don't know where to begin.  I really need to make the time for regular posting!  I am currently laid up with a (yet again) thrown out spine.  So... I have time a plenty.   The last couple of days have been spent in bed with books, seed catalogs, my laptop and knitting needles.  It just dawned on the me that perhaps I should take advantage of the down time for an update.

   Our house and property have been experiencing some big changes!  As you last saw, we have a new kitchen floor!  We also now have a new wood stove.  We took advantage of the 30% tax rebate offered as long as you purchased an energy efficient stove by the end of 2010.  So... in the classic Steve and Nicole Style, at 4:25 (5 minutes before the store closed) on December 31, we ordered our new stove.  We are still learning the ins and outs of this giant new beast.  It is HUGE compared to our old tiny Vermont Castings work horse.  And it burns very differently.  In time we will adjust and get to know the intricacies of this monster and it too will become a reliable, domesticated member of the family.  The only photos I have of it are terrible, so once I have some decent ones, I'll post them.

  The biggest and craziest changes happening around here are that we have taken down a bunch of trees. And more are scheduled for harvest.  As it turns out, we have (or, had, I should say) a lot of unhealthy hazard trees around our place.  Particularly around our landmate/tennant's house.  Around his house alone, there were nine trees identified that needed to come carefully down, before a storm brought one violently down on the house or one of his cars.  Plus, the twin to the one that fell on our house needed to come down as well, bringing the total to a nice round ten.  So, over the course of three separate days, ten lives were taken (nine actually since one of the trees was standing dead as a doornail).  I had a very heavy heart going in to it.  Three of the trees slated to fall had a very special place in my heart.  But, as the sadness crept in, I reminded myself that I do not wish to relive this:
The scene the day after the tree fell on the house in Jan '09
So, "Timber!" it was.  The tally included: one alder, one grand fir, two hemlocks, two big leaf maples, and four doug firs.  The two big leaf maples and one of the doug firs are the ones leaving a stinging ache in my heart.  On the up-side though, we now have three huge piles of chips - two softwood and one hardwood.  The softwood chips have already been getting used in new paths through various gardens and trails.  The hardwood chips are being saved for mulching projects and mushroom inoculations.  And, we now have more firewood than we can really wrap our minds around.  The wood will need to season for two years before it can be burned, but we should be set for several years once it's ready.  And we are keeping our fingers crossed that some of the maple will prove to be fiddle wood.  If so, it sells for a pretty penny and we should be able to recoup the cost of the felling and then some.  There should be someone coming out to assess the wood this week.  Wish us luck on that front.

The maples after being felled
The tall stumps on the left are being left that way until they can be assessed for fiddle wood.
   While I know all that I have told so far has been thrilling, the really exciting news is that soon we will be making some major steps in the direction of livestock!  Livestock other than chickens and turkeys, that is.  The whole reason the discussion began in the first place about the hazard trees was that we had someone give us a quote on deeply thinning the land that is on flat ground on our little hilltop.  We are going to thin the trees, establish pasture beneath the remaining trees, and finally get livestock grazing!  While I'm sure many of you reading this are shaking your heads and thinking, "What the hell are they doing?", this is something that we really, really, really want.  We've been quietly talking about it for years and we are finally going to make it happen.

  The surveyors will be out here this week to find the corners and mark the boundaries of our property.  Once that has been done, the tree crew will be back to thin the trees.  They will be taking down all the scrappy, unhealthy trees and leaving all the big, healthy ones, which should make for stronger ecosystem in the long run.  Currently our land is a badly mismanaged, overgrown second-growth forest that needs some help to become healthy again.  Hence so many sick hazard trees.  Once the trees are down and hauled out, we will be fencing and cross-fencing the freshly thinned flat land.  Once fenced, we will be planting pasture grasses and herbs.  I still need to contact our county extension to find out what species will do best in our climate/ecosystem.  Once the pasture is established, healthy and strong, up go the loafing sheds and in go the animals!  Woot!  Woot!

   The plan at this point is to get alpacas and icelandic sheep.  Not too many of either.  We plan to start with two alpacas and three sheep.  On our small acreage, we need to keep it small and simple.  The point is to improve the health and productivity of the land, not damage it!  Sequoia just burst into tears when I read her this post, because she wants horses and cows, not alpaca and sheep.  Honestly, I share her horse and cow dream.  I would LOVE to have both as well.  But, this small farmstead just can't support them.  Maybe someday we'll be on more land with a sweet old farmhouse and more pasture, but for now, those alpacas and sheep sure will make me happy.  Oh so very happy indeed!