Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Hole In The Forest



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On my homestead, the forest is predominately oaks. Of these, there are two classes, the old guys who are 50 to 75 years old, and the young whippersnappers who are under 20.

My oaks are mostly laurel oaks. They are short-lived for an oak.Fifty to 75 years is about it for them. I also have turkey oak, water oak, chapmans oak, and live oak. I am pretty sure the live oak (named for staying green year round) is the only one of these that routinely lives past the century mark.

Besides the oaks, we also have red bay, loblolly bay, magnolia, fringe tree, dogwood, black cherry, sparkleberry, longleaf pine, slash pine, hercules club, wild persimmon, red cedar, sabal palms, cypress, sweetgum, red maple, and black willow.

When I look at old pictures from when we first bought the land, I can see how thick the forest has become. The previous owners grazed cattle on the land beneath the old oaks. The grazing kept many of the young oaks from surviving past the seedling stage so the land was more open in 1986 when we purchased it. We were pretty brave I guess. At the time we were living and working in Savannah, Georgia without a clue as to how we would get to live on this piece of ground...but, we saw it, fell in love with it, and we bought it. With some work, a few courses, and some bold career decisions, we were here two years after we bought it.

Hmmm, I may have wandered some in that last paragraph. This is about my oaks and really, it's about that dead oak in the photo. This old laurel oak has been slowly going for years. Each year there was less of a leaf out, and more young saplings of bay, oak, and cedar scrambling for the increasing light beneath it's diminishing canopy. Last summer, the pileated woodpeckers announced it's passing with loud drumming on the lifeless old trunk.

Now there is a silent shoving match going on around the base of this big dead tree. Each sapling is pushing up, trying to be the one to get the light that now reaches through bare branches. Those few who grow the fastest will shade out the slower, condemning them to stunted growth at best, and starvation at worst.

It's a hole in the forest and the race to fill it is deadly serious to the young trees below. Posted by Picasa

14 comments:

Deb said...

Of all the species of trees you mentioned, I have just one here--black cherry. We haven't owned our land for as long as you have, but we're starting to note some succession in the forest. We had no oaks before, but now we're starting to see white oak and red oak. I think when we cleared some of the alder and willow that had been growing up for maybe fifteen years, that opened up space for the oaks to start thriving.

The MacBean Gene said...

As you may probably know the oak is our national tree. We have a lot of red and white oak here in our forest as well as maple and some others I'm not quite sure of yet. But then I was never very good a botany. Your experience with finding and moving to a place that captured your hearts sounds a lot like ours.

roger said...

we have a mere fringe of forest on our property. i can id firs, alders, and cedars. there are more i'm sure. gotta get on it.

OT. i have used a wet sponge to smooth sheetrock mud. and/or to clean up after sanding. no dust!

pablo said...

I second DPR's solution to smoothing the sheetrock mud. I used a wet rag and got about the same effect. It's a whole lot less messy than sanding, and I seem to have more control of the finished surface.

Floridacracker said...

Deb,
The pictures you take along the way will show the changes. I hadn't realized how things had grown until I dug into the old pics.

Macbean,
We are the brave ones who took a chance.

DPR and Pablo,
I assume we are having a dust control discussion due to Laura's comment and my response on the previous post. Appreciate the tips, but the dust I described was wood dust that escaped the filter on the floor sander, not dry wall mud sanding dust. Your tips are useful if I am ever crazy enough to mess with drywall again. Thanks.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

It is nice for the oak to feed the pileated. Those woodpeckers are rather a noble bird.

Floridacracker said...

Hoss,
They really are and the sound they make is like an old Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movie jungle sound. He was the real Tarzan you know...

Hick said...

I have no advice for handling dust whether it be wood, drywall or hick household dust...it is always there a few hours after I dust it.

We mostly have black oaks at this elevation, but California Live Oaks are what most people are familiar with. They are truly grand old trees and there are bunches of them at a slightly lower elevation (10 minutes or so from my house.) I love those old things. The knarlier (is that a word?), the better. We do have lots of problems with mistletoe bringing them down, though.

Floridacracker said...

Hick,
Just today I was thinking about a mistletoe post. Now that it's winter the bare trees are revealing their balls of mistletoe.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

The pirate was looking through some old photos on our County's website, a fine searchable database just chock full of info. He found pictures of our place from about ten years ago. It was amazing to see how the forest had grown in that short time. We have a small, lovely view of the Olympic mountain range. It's about to be completely hidden by some very tall firs and alders. What do you think about topping firs?

Floridacracker said...

RD,
UnFIRtunately, we don't have firs down here.
I often top, trim, or mangle a tree instead of removing it if it's in the way.
I always check with them first of course...

"Okay tree, I can amputate or euthanate, what'll it be?"

Most of the time, they choose to live.

benning said...

I'm guessing you'll leave it until it falls by itself? So the woodpeckers have a home?

Since I live in a second floor apartment I have no yard or acreage to keep up or enjoy. So I'm asking out of almost complete ignorance! LOL

Rurality said...

You know there really is an old folk thing about asking an Elderberry if it's ok before you cut it? It's assumed that they agree if they're silent. :)

I love the Live Oaks. Too cold for them here though I believe.

Floridacracker said...

Benning,
You got it. That tree will slowly crumble and the woodpeckers and other critters will turn it into a condo as it does. Thanks for stopping by.

Rurality,
I had never heard that. So the beautiful live oaks of Mobile (my memory is pre-Katrina) don't reach to your part of AL?