Saturday, February 10, 2007

Taxes And The Treasure Of Twig Forest

Last week, I turned the JEEP down the dirt logger's road that twists into Twig Forest. I had not been out there for a while and 8 inches of rain a couple of nights earlier had me hoping that there would be some sloppy, muddy potholes to splash the JEEP through.
Alas, there was minimal mud due to someone's tractor work breaching the potholes so they drained off the sandy track.
They must not own a JEEP.
Just to refresh your memory, Twig Forest is a 20 acre triangular planted pine plantation that neither we nor our partner (my big brother) can afford, but we bought it anyway as a joint agricultural endeavour.
It's about 3 miles away and in the middle of nowhere as is Pure Florida HQ.
Twiggy is planted in row after row of straight 13 year old pines, DBH's average a good 7-8 inches. Our goal is to manage it for timber harvest as well as wildlife habitat.
I parked in my usual place and walked into the property. It was dry, which is a good sign after such a wonderful rain event.
The road I had cut just a few months ago was already disappearing under a new flush of palmetto and gallberry foliage. It was still easy traveling, but the "roady" outline was softening and would soon be gone. At the rear of the property ... at the angle opposite the hypotenuse ... there are some cypress intermittent wetlands. The wet area was holding good water and promised excellent spring breeding for the frogs and flatwoods salamander types that no doubt inhabit Twiggy.
You can see these wetlands and more in the web album to the right.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PHOTO, FC? !!
The photo shows what might be our first commercial product from Twig Forest.
The upper left and lower left photos show a few of the abundant "lighterknot stumps" that litter Twiggy. These are resin impregnated "fatwood" portions of long gone pine trees. There simply is no better kindling wood for a fire or fireplace.
The upper right photo is a sliver off of one of the stumps. I wish you could smell it's rich piney aroma. It's wonderful.
The bottom right is a sliver alight of course. It's amazing stuff and hard to find anymore.
The stumps are hard as a rock due to the resin, but they can be split into nice kindling lengths with a little work.
So keep your fingers crossed, instead of Google ads, you may see a homegrown Pure Florida add in the future hawking real fatwood kindling.
I did not stay too long at Twiggy that day because my DeepWoods Off was not in the JEEP like it's SUPPOSED TO BE. There weren't many mosquitoes, but I always spray my sneakers, ankles, and jeans to keep the ticks from getting all symbiotic with me.
Twiggy was on my mind that day, because I had received the property tax bill for it and it was just under $1000.00. That bill would have been ALOT less if I had applied for Agricultural exemption last year, but being a new tree farmer, I missed the deadline. OUCH!
So, one of the things I accomplished while being home sick for 2 days this week was writing a forest management plan to prove we are real tree farmers and not Miami investment bankers.
There was a good model plan at the Florida state forestry site, so all I had to do was think a little and tweak it to make it ours.
I put the application for Ag exemption and the forest management plan in the mail yesterday.
I wish I had been this smart last year.
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23 comments:

swamp4me said...

Fatwood, lightern wood, lightern, fatpine, and light wood are just a few of the names we hear it called around here. Good luck with your venture!

(Now I am holding my breath...I have not been able to post comments to your site lately and it is very frustrating!! Well, here goes.)

First try was a bust -- I'll try again...

Floridacracker said...

Swampy,
You made it!
I keep a little in my Jeep just in case I ever have to get a fire going for some reason.

Rurality said...

Hmm $1000 for 20 acres does not sound that bad to me. Our taxes in this county are not bad but just north of here it's over $700 for less than 4 acres, if you're not living on it. Ack!

pablo said...

YES! A post about the twig forest. It's been too long. I take a lot of encouragement from your posts about land management, which is something I am also trying to do at Roundrock.

Those lighterknot stumps remind me of something called "river teeth," with are surviving parts of trees that have fallen into rivers but survived the scouring of the water. They may be all that is left of the tree, but they are the hardest part. I can envision purchasing a quantity of these lighterknot stumps to kindle some fires in my Missouri forest.

As to the business of spraying insect repellant on your clothes, I will repeat my assertion. THIS DOES ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD. The DEET must react with your skin to create the repelling (actually disguising) cloud that does the work of protecting you from insects.

I just checked on my property tax for the 80+ acres that I call Roundrock: $297 annually. But I'm not in prime development area (intentionally). Fallen Timbers is only $91 annually.

And how's the pond doing after that rain event?

Floridacracker said...

Rurality,
I guess this is Florida, land of crazy real estate. We don't have a state income tax... I wonder if that might be a factor?

Pablo,
That one was for you. I know you love a good forest tromp-a-long post.
The Deepwoods Off on jeans was for you too. What can I say? I know if I don't do the sneaker,sock, jean spray ... I get ticks and redbug bites. If I do I don't.
I have to go with what seems to work.
The pond (thanks for asking) is recovering nicely. The entire bottom is covered where it was totally dry a few weeks ago.
Long way to go to full tho.

vicki said...

I'm thinking with the money you save with the Ag exemption you could put Christmas lights on those trees, put up a ticket booth and barricade and charge people to drive down the access road. Just thought I'd suggest it before Hoss does.

Fat wood- yes! Harvest and sell- a better way to "make your pile". Since arriving here we've only had the furnace on briefly twice but we do like our fireplace.

(The half year tax bill just came on the Chicago townhouse; you can not even imagine the tax rate on 25 x 62.5 feet. Truly, you can't.)

Floridacracker said...

Pablo (again),
You got me wondering (thank you) so I went to the CDC site and they are advising that DEET be applied to skin AND clothing. I'm not sure of your source, but I trust the CDC.
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm

Vicki,
Hey, I like that idea!
No, I'm sure I could not imagine urban Chicago tax property taxes.
I like it that way :)

Deb said...

I'll get in line to buy some of your fatwood--I use it all the time starting fires.

robin andrea said...

Very cool about that property tax exemption. We just learned about one here in our neck of the woods that's geared to seniors! Woohoo getting old has its perks. Prop 13 in California kept taxes pretty low (if you bought at the right time!). But here the assessments occur every four years, and our property is being assessed this year. Taxes are set to go way up. We also don't have a state income tax, so property owners definitely foot the bill (that and sales tax, of course).

roger said...

it has been some years since i burned wood for heat, and i don't recall exactly what species of tree it was, maybe fir, that would sometimes have sections of trunk that were so saturated with pitch that a piece could easily be lit with a (small) match. we may switch from propane to wood heat, so i'll have to remember all that stuff. i used a 16 lb splitting maul back then. maybe a lighter one will suffice now.

about commenting..i have found that it goes much better if i am signed into blogger already. ok. here goes

Aikäne said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. As a boy I spent many hours chopping wood for the fireplace - the only source of heat in a house built by my great-grandfather in the Florida Panhandle.

The family farm was surrounded by woods, including many old pine trees from the turpentine days of earlier decades. Digging and chopping fat lighter'd stumps was a routine in the winter months - fitting nicely in between school and tending the animals. One warning from my experience (which you probably don't need): if you go digging around the old stumps, beware the snake dens.

Congratulations on your tree farm. I'm jealous, and would love to get back to living in the woods one day.

For another sad note on losing our way of life in Florida, see a story I blogged today: Highway would split 7-generation homestead.

Floridacracker said...

Deb,
I'll let you know when I have my ducks in a row.


Robin,
Glad to know you earned a tax break. I hope the increase is not too bad.

roger,
these slivers are used to ignite your cleaner burning hardwoods. you wouldn't want a fire built soley of this stuff. ferocious!

Aikane,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
That highway story is a sad tale that's happening too much in Florida.

Hurricane Teen said...

Ah, I hear so much about "fat lightered" but I have never actually used to stuff. I'll try to find some when I'm at Olustee next weekend.

Floridacracker said...

HTeen,
Is it Olustee Battle time again?

Hurricane Teen said...

Yup, this coming Saturday and Sunday. I am posting about this soon.

kathy a said...

i spent time with yuppies in the bay area in the early 1980's, and remember a friend being *really* excited about buying fatwood from a catalog.

the kindling came in a neat bunch, every piece about 1/2 inch thick and maybe a little wider, cut to 6-8 inches, and -- here is the moneymaker -- tied with a nice ribbon -- in a bundle about 4 inches diameter. he paid some ungodly amount, and was proud of it. so, your fortune is assurred.

SophieMae said...

Oh, I remember that smell! Fat lightered is one of my favourite childhood memories! It's been a while since I wandered through the pine farm next door. Reckon that's where I'll be tomorrow. 8-]

Cathy S. said...

Taxes! Don't we all work for taxes? $5,000 for three acres and a house in Manatee County near the water, but not on it. That is after homestead and the cap because we have been here a long time.

threecollie said...

Good luck with your cottage industry. I'll bet you will do well...and good for you going for that ag exemption. They ought to give you some kind of break for keeping the land green.

Kristen said...

I am adding you to my blogroll. Should have done this when I first found you!

Great blog.

Floridacracker said...

Hey! MY comment disappeared!
Blooger!!!

Again ...

HTeen,
Looking forward to that post.


Kathy A,
I know just what you mean. The first time I saw the price of a tiny bundle neatly packaged in a gardening for yuppies catalog, my jaw hit the floor.

Sophie,
Take your camera!
It do smell good, don't it?

Cathy S,
YIKES!! That's a great example of the developer/property appraisal system conspiracy. Price out the small resident so you can build condos.
Cedar Key is getting hammered with this now.


ThreeCollie,
You're right. Green should equal green $$.


Kristen,
Thanks so much. I am honored.

Aikäne said...

Hey, I'm loving your blog! Thanks for the welcome note. I went back to the beginning, but one weekend is not enough time to catch up. You're documenting so many of the things that make Florida worth preserving. My sincere thanks.

I have a few of the old cookbooks as well. My favorite is one my mother's family put together several years ago. One branch of her ancestors was in the 1830 Washington County Census (latecomers!), so some of the recipes must have been around a while.

The cookbook I'm still hoping for, though, is one that a Cedar Key cousin does by hand, an arts/craft thing. She's retired now, but promised to make one for me - recipes like a palm cabbage salad to die for, and pecans in everything, of course.

Floridacracker said...

Aikane,
Wow, I hope your Cedar Key cousin comes through. There's good food on that island!