The Clough City Woodlot
It probably has something to do with the way I was raised. I have always loved rambling in the woods, and have always felt the need to be grounded in the knowledge that there was a patch of trees somewhere that I could always call my own. My love for the land came from my father, who was never far from the woods, hills and streams that he loved.
Nearly forty years ago I asked my father if he knew of any woodland that might be available for purchase in and around his Effingham, New Hampshire home.
"Well" he said "you might see if your Uncle Charlie is interested in selling the woodlot up on Clough City road. He's been talking about it for some time, and you might be able to pick it up from him."
I knew that my grandparents had bought a twenty+ acre woodlot near their home in South Effingham around the time of the Great War, and that it had been in the family ever since. My father often talked about it, and one incident particular that happened there when he was a small boy (see Uncle Charlie's Tapeworm and other Effingham Yarns, in Chapter 3 - Moving Into the Red House.)
My uncle Charlie was interested in selling me the woodlot, and we worked out an agreeable price. The description from the deeds showed that it was bordered by the "new road" that had been built in the 1800's to connect South Effingham with a small farm settlement of the Clough family. From "Clough City" the dirt road continued to Granite and the Wilkinson Swamp road. Other than a few camps, nothing had changed much along the roads when I bought it.
Uncle Charlie hadn't been too clear on the boundaries of the woodlot, so one of the first things that I did was to hire Stephen H. Boomer. Steve was a surveyor from Center Ossipee and he ran the boundaries and marked the corners in July 1971. It turned out that there were actually three adjoining parcels of land that made up the woodlot.
The woodlot is roughly rectangular rising from a red maple and hemlock wooded wetland on one edge through stands of white birch and white pine to knolls with red pine, red oak, poplar and beech on them. In the spring, the understory abounds with may flowers, lady slippers, and false morels (see Morel Mushrooms in Maine). It really is a nice spot, and it is delightful just to walk through the woods.
The Tree Farms
I had learned in my Forestry classes at the University of New Hampshire about Tree Farms and the advantages of belonging to the American Tree Farm System. Now that I had the Clough City woodlot surveyed I wanted to enroll it in the system. Behind my father's house in Taylor City was a woodlot of about 15 acres which he also wanted to enroll as a Tree Farm. He and I filled out applications to have our two woodlots certified as official Tree Farms. The applications were approved and in time big triangular Tree Farm signs arrived along with smaller signs with our names on them.
It was a proud day indeed. He put up the Tree Farm sign next to his home in Taylor City. Then my father and I, along with sons Allen and Jim, nailed the other Tree Farm sign on a big white pine on the edge of the Clough City woodlot. This picture is one of very few of him with his two grandsons that I have, and I treasure it because it shows him in the environment that he loved so much - the woods. For years my father and mother attended the annual Tree Farm picnics and tours of different woodlots in Maine and New Hampshire. When my father died, he left the Taylor City woodlot to me.
The woodlot management plans that we drew up as part of the Tree Farm certification process included a schedule for thinning and pruning the white pines on the Taylor City lot and planting 1,000 Scotch Pine for Christmas trees. We also laid out a long-term program of thinning and release of white pine, red pine, and hemlock for the Clough City woodlot.
Green Side Up!
My father and I planted the scotch pine seedlings at the Taylor City woodlot over several hot early June summer days in the early 1970's. I remember that the black flies were still around, and I had to use a head net for much of the time while I was planting.
The seedlings we ordered were 3 year old scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris). They came 25 seedlings to the bunch, tied with twine. There were 10 bunches in each bundle of 250 seedlings wrapped in brown paper, with the tops of the seedlings sticking out either end and the roots together in the center wrapped in damp sphagnum moss. We kept the bundles of seedlings in the shade of the old white pine trees behind the barn and took buckets full of seedlings out to plant.
We planted the back of the field behind my folks' house, next to the woods. Planting trees by hand is fairly easy, but very routine, work. We started a line of trees by taking a sight on an object across the field and planted each seedling about 6 feet apart on this line. Thrust the planting spade into the ground, push it forward to create a small "v"-shaped opening in the ground, insert the seedling, remove the spade and kick the opening shut with your heel. Take two paces along the line and repeat the process again and again until you reach the end of the line. Move over 6 feet and plant another line next to it. And so on, and so on...
My son Jim was about 3 1/2 years old at the time, and insisted on following us around while we planted. He would take a tree from the bucket and stick it in the hole, and I would kick it closed. Most of the time he got it right, but every now and then I'd have to remind him to plant the seedlings with the green side up. "They grow better that way," I'd say.
At that age, his attention span was pretty short, and he soon tired of planting trees. He and his mother wandered off to pick berries and my father and I continued planting trees. I was just finishing a row near the house when he came running up out of the field. He tripped and fell face first on the empty metal bucket. He cut his lower lip badly on the metal tab that holds the handle on the bucket and immediately began to wail. His mother came at a run and scooped him up, and looked daggers at me. Jim got 6 stiches in his lip and it healed fine, but I lost my helper and my father and I had to finish the trees ourselves.
Harvesting the Woodlots
Wayne Jackson and Jack Wadsworth, two foresters in the Woodlands Division of the S. D. Warren Company in Westbrook, Maine, helped us develop the plans, and oversaw the first thinning of the two lots in 1986.
In 1995 Jack got in contact with me about reinspection of the woodlot for tree farm status. Jack was no longer with S. D. Warren and was doing consulting forestry from Hiram, Maine as Wadsworth Woodlands Inc. The Clough City woodlot has been inspected regularly, and was last recertified at Tree Farm #889 in November 2000. The certification is good through 2005.
In August 1996 Jack got in touch with me again. In his letter he said "Would you believe it must be 15 years since we thinned [the Clough City] lot! The lot is ready for another thinning. There are Hemlock and hardwood trees that can be harvested at this time..."
He and I discussed my management goals for both the Clough City woodlot and the Taylor City woodlot, and how they looked today. We walked the two lots, flagged the property lines, and settled on a moderate harvest for the Clough City woodlot focusing on hemlock, birch and maple. There was a knoll on the north end of the woodlot with heavy coppice growth of beech and oak, and we decided to have the logger clear cut it. I would later replant the area in red pine.
I told Jack that I wanted to remove the scotch pine from the Taylor City lot, but only do a very light thinning in the white pines. "I've never done anything with the Christmas trees, and they are now over mature and starting to die." Our grandiose plans for a Christmas tree farm never worked out. We were living in Maryland at the time, and never were able to get up to do the required shearing to shape the scotch pine. They grew tall and scruffy looking, and 30 years later were over mature and starting to die.
He agreed and suggested making chips of them since there was little market for posts at the time and they were not suitable for sawlogs or pulp.
"Could you also take a look at our Sebago woodlot?" I asked. "It is an old pasture that has grown up into white pine, but there are a lot of pasture pine that should be removed to release the better formed trees." He agreed, and we signed a contract for the thinning of all three woodlots. Jack marked the trees to be harvested, as we had discussed, and he arranged to have the logger come in to cut.
Khiel Logging from Denmark, Maine has done a lot of work for Jack, and he recommended them highly. They set up landing areas for the three woodlots and were in and out in record time. I was amazed at the ease with which the big feller machine operated, snaking through the woods to seek out and cut the trees that Jack had marked with a spot of blue paint. The operator would grasp each marked tree in a set of pincers and a retractable sawblade cut the tree off at the ground. The whole tree was then laid down for a skidder could haul it with others to the landing for cutting into sawlogs, pulp, or chips. There was little scarring on trees to be saved for future growth, nor erosion of the forest floor. It was a very clean, quick, and effective operation overall.
Khiel also chipped the Scotch pine Christmas trees turned wild into biomass when they were thinning the rest of the Taylor City woodlot.
The species that we wanted to encourage are coming along nicely after the thinnings, and it is now at the point where some pruning of the white pines is in order. That will probably be one of my retirement projects.
Planting in the Rain
Over the years I've planted a lot of trees, usually with my Scouts as part of reforestation service projects our Troops did in Maryland, Michigan, or Colorado. Now, it was time to plant some trees for my own Clough City woodlot on the knoll that had been clear cut. This area of not quite two acres had been forested with thick coppice-growth oak and beech which were never going to grow into mature timber. Two years after the harvesting, I was ready to plant it to pine.
I picked up 750 red pine (Pinus resinosa) 3-0 seedlings at the Western Maine Nurseries in Fryeburg, Maine the end of May. The trees came in three bundles of 250 trees each, individually tied in bunches of 25 trees each. They were nice healthy looking trees, about 9 to 15 inches tall with a good root system developed.
Merlin Bahr agreed to help me plant them, but had track meets to go to on the two days I suggested. He would be free on the next Sunday, he said, so we planned to get an early start on the tree planting. The two days of his track meet were wonderful sunny and cool days, but Sunday dawned cold and wet. The rain started early and was with us the entire day. Both of us had rain suits on, but by the time the last tree was planted in the ground we were soaked to the skin. The only good thing about the rain was that it was heavy enough to keep away the mosquitoes and black flies for most of the day.
I had picked up some 12-12-12 Fertilizer root starter tablets at Western Maine Nurseries. These were planted with the trees to give them a little boost. These tablets looked like a fat mint candy, but were really a slow release fertilizer tablet designed to supply nutrients needed by starter evergreens for up to two years. One of these went into the hole with each tree we planted.
We planted the red pines in rows across the clearing spaced 8 feet apart. There was very little regrowth of the oak, birch or beech, and very little undergrowth, so the planting was easy. Only the persistent heavy rain made things disagreeable.
I remembered my first boss when I worked as a Forest Technician with the US Forest Service at the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon. "Boys," our boss said when we started work, "I can promise you a picnic in the woods every day you work here!" He was right - rain, snow, heat wave, forest fire, mud or whatever - we managed to have our sack lunch picnics in the woods every day. That is just part of working in the woods - sometimes you have wonderful luck with the weather, and sometimes you don't. But you are still out in the woods, and that is the important thing.
The trees all got planted, and I had a few left over to plant around the farm in Sebago. The wet weather that we had all spring and into the summer has given the trees a wonderful boost. Even though we planted late in the season, the survival of the trees should be fairly high thanks to the wet cool weather. I'll go back and check on them this fall.
In another 35-40 years this knoll will be a beautiful grove of red pines. I hope to be around to see it and stroll through them, but if not, then one of my boys will have that pleasure. That is the wonderful lasting legacy of a tree farm.
Last updated August 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003, Allen Crabtree
Copyright © 2003, Allen Crabtree