Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Beginnings...but first....

I have decided to reinvigorate this blog but before I begin again, I must mention a very important event that occurred that greatly affected our area ecologically.

In January of 2009, we had an extremely severe ice storm. We had two days of consecutive rain in which the temperature hovered right below freezing. This resulted in a 1 inch coating on all plant life. The damage to mature trees was quite significant with many losing well over 50% of their leaf mass. During the second night of rain, one could hear large branches cracking and crashing at a rate of one every 3 to 5 minutes.

We were without power for 12 days. While I wish that we had done more to document the conditions with the ice in place, we were spending most of our daylight waking hours simply doing what was needed to, cleaning, keeping pipes from freezing, collecting ice for the refrigerator, heating water for bathing and keeping the fire going to keep the house warm, as well as clearing trees from the driveway. I was concerned about the creek behind our home flooding due the amount of tree tops that had fallen into it, thus my son and I spent an entire day cutting and clearing limbs.

During the 3 months that followed, I spent all of my free time running a chainsaw while the rest of my family dutifully carried nearly 4 tractor trailer loads of small limbs in the process of cleaning up our 3 acre smallholding. We kept everything over 3 inches in diameter for firewood, and the rest was piled for the county to remove.

We are surrounded by woods but within our actual our yard, I was forced to cut down (1) River Birch, (1) Weeping Willow, (1) Silver Maple, (1) Red Maple, (2) Yellow Pines, (1) Chinese Elm, (1) Scarlett Oak and (1) Eastern Red Cedar.

Pin Oaks, White Pine, and White Spruce did well. Being largely symmetrical, the branches were able to fold down like an umbrella without putting undue strain on the trunk itself.

Last spring, I planted (2) Willow Oaks, (1) Red Shumard Oak, (1) Pin Oak, (1) Bald Cypress, (1) River Birch, and (1) Eastern Redbud
in the yard area.

After 18 months, one can see the results on the damaged trees. Instead of the normal series of spreading branches which form a crown of foliage terminating in the spray, one sees the new growth sprouting along the main branch lines, as seen on this 60 ft. tall Sweetgum and Black Oak.

Interestingly, it is the oaks that have responded with the most vigorous shoot production, and unexpectedly, the red maples are the slowest.

The extent of the damage to the trees is still not known. I expect that more will die in the coming years due to the loss of leaf mass and disease. Though this area rarely experiences forest fires, I am concerned about the potential for them in the next 3 years while the wood is still dry. I cut up all of the limbs in the woods within my property boundaries so that they were all laying on the ground thus accelerating the decomposition process but as you can see in this picture of the woods behind my property, there is an enormous amount of fuel on the floor.

On a positive note, it allowed much more sun into our 1/2 acre front wood that lines our driveway . I had been attempting to get some seedlings going in that area with little success. Last spring I planted 60 seedlings of various native varieties in that area including Service Berry, Scarlet Oak, Black Oak, Southern Red Oak, Dogwood, and Shag Bark Hickory. But to be honest there are many more small seedlings popping up on their own. Unfortunately, the increased sunlight has also promoted the growth of the Honeysuckle and Poison Ivy, which is something that I will have to address.

You may view more pictures of the ice storm here.